If you ran into this man at Dodger Stadium would you think for a moment he made his money holding a sign at the 405 off-ramp?
How about when you go to the store? Do you ever think the clerk who helped you pick out a bottle of wine lived in a garage? With a roommate?
People hanging on at the margins of the economy are beginning to occupy the spaces we traditionally understood to be the domain of derelicts. Cratchit-ville and the Favela are merging.
Our parallel worlds: Civility in the neighborhood, enforced by gentle pleas and social shaming; feral disorder on the boulevard.
A state of nature and an oasis of calm separated by a distance as short as a frisbee toss.
The blessings of freedom may be enshrined in the Constitution but are enjoyed differently, depending on how you feel about personal responsibility and whether you act on it.
Would a billboard which read: “Feel free to smoke crack elsewhere” have a salutary effect? How about “Smoke faster, get it over with”? Or “God loves you and wants you to be sober”?
Mark Zuckerberg has called for a universal basic income, welfare for all, offered unconditionally. The rise of artificial intelligence and robotics will, as a matter of technological determinism, eliminate many jobs currently held by Americans. A UBI would preserve the Social Contract. “So that we may have roles we find meaningful…and that everyone may have a cushion to try new ideas.”
Would it? If you were told you didnt need to go to work tomorrow because you were being replaced by a seven-armed anthropomorphic device wirelessly operated from a server farm, but not to worry, your paychecks will keep coming courtesy of the US government, unto death, what would you do with your time?
“I’d go surfing every day,” said my coworker, when I put the question to him. “I’d surf and I’d bake and I’d take pictures.” And why shouldn’t he? It would be free.
But for how long could this immunity from labor be sustained? Binge watching Netflix might not feel like freedom after awhile. One might begin to miss the leash. The UBI people may begin to envy the clock punchers. Jobs might be hoarded like property, to be passed on to heirs like a family estate. Because we’ll all be compelled to remove moral judgements about idleness (robotics!) anger will be misdirected everywhere.
We might drive up Sepulveda looking at the guys smoking heroin at the car wash and think….those aren’t derelicts, they’re Early Adopters.
It is possible in Los Angeles to list your apartment on AirBnB on Friday afternoon, crash with friends or lovers until Monday morning, pocket the cash flow, and in the right sort of neighborhood prize the rent without a day job. That’s one kind of gig.
There’s an app you can use to clean the place and handle the next booking for you. That’s a gig for the cleaners. Also, the bookers.
If the guests can get hungry, they can scroll through their phone, and someone will shop for them, then dash to the door with food. That’s a gig for the dashers.
If your guest gets bored she can press a button on her phone and a car will arrive at the door in minutes and take her to the club. Driver gig. Or side hustle, to borrow the corporate sales pitch.
Her boyfriend can beg off, stay in the house and go online. “Take off your underwear,” he can text, and somewhere on the other side of the city or the planet a woman will remove her underwear, slowly, to keep the meter running. The sharing economy, in action.
More of us are working, but fewer us are employed. Our world is rounded in 1099 forms.
Uber has been extraordinarily good to me. So good I don’t have to consider renting a room in our house on AirBnB. Everyone knows what it’s doing to the taxi business. Few know Uber has become so ubiquitous in the past two years it has displaced rental cars as the most commonly utilized ground transportation, even among corporate clients. Last week Hertz disclosed massive losses, and may default on its bond debt. Its fleet of aging cars are flooding the after-market. The inventory spike will put pressure on the dealerships to unload inventory, which makes for a buying opportunity if you want a new car to drive for Uber.
Whole Foods has been good to me, but its formerly dominant position in organic foods is under extraordinary price pressure from all sides and it may not survive another two years in its current form. Uber has been selling rides at a loss since arriving in LA, with no plans to stop doing so. Amazon and Etsy are slowly strangling Fashion Square. On the other hand, the Century City mall is expanding, upscale. Our economy is bifurcating into hyper-luxury and dollar stores. Concierge service or waiting at bus stops with street people. UberPool is getting cheap enough to displace Metro riders. Soon, perhaps only derelicts will ride the bus.
Steve Jobs’ bicycle has democratized capitalism. It means MacLeod Ale can rise out of an auto repair shop, find a clientele, and prosper where retail never could. It also means 100 people are simultaneously gripped by the same fever dream of selling biscotti made from their kitchen. Ninety-nine of them end in tears. But they can console themselves by renting out the spare room. Unless there isn’t one. Then they make themselves scarce while tourists cavort in their bed and rifle their drawers.
It’s an extraordinary time to be grinding out a living in Los Angeles. Unless you’re not.
Perhaps we should hedge our bets, like my friend Johnny.
Marisa told me her foot was infected from a spider bite. Shoeless, she gingerly picked her way through the debris. They had two dogs living with them.
Both sides of the freeway were cleared out only a few weeks ago, everyone pushed off of State of California property and onto the railroad tracks (the county’s problem) or onto a tiny patch of ground next to the Roscoe Blvd offramp, two feet from traffic (the City’s problem). They’ve slowly trickled back, in pairs. Nature abhors a vacuum.
In the chaos of moving day, there were lost connections.
Mrs. UpintheValley, who did not vote for Godzilla, has been obliged to avoid Facebook, the vitriol and emotive accusation has been so intense.
Now, in the name of tolerance, the call has gone out for the assassination of the non-President, the week after the election.
Bullet in the forehead, bleeding from his, wherever….
And I thought my apolitical blog was going to go back to being apolitical.
He hasn’t even taken the oath, people. Tell me how this movie ends.
Banksy has his own view. He of course has made millions doing something which is technically illegal, but clearly changes how things are perceived. Or tries to. Otherwise what would be the point?
What begins in wish fulfillment, ends as all Pygmalion-like creation myths do. Carve a woman from marble and your feverish longing, and you will fall in love with her. You will leave a bloody handprint.