The corner of 6th and Gladys Street in Downtown Los Angeles is much like any other in this teeming city. Lots of traffic, lots of pedestrians, and lots of dirt and grime.
But this one corner is also very unique. A magical corner, almost. And somewhere at this intersection in both the richest and poorest city in the world is a story.
Let’s see if I can tell it.
In Los Angeles, “Skid Row” is the common name for a six square-block area of downtown that provides clothing, food and shelter for thousands of the most downtrodden residents that have chosen to call L.A. “home.”
These men and women battle with alcoholism, drug addictions and homelessness. Many others suffer from mental illnesses that range from simple depression to full-blown schizophrenia. These castaways from what we call society wage a daily war against a combination of all of the above, if they have the strength or the resources to fight at all.
“Cardboard condominiums”, sleeping quarters made from boxes, paper and trash line the side streets. Down here on the “Row” the number of liquor stores far outnumbers places of employment. There are more opportunities to score crack cocaine and heroin than there are for training or medical assistance.
The men and women that make up the population of Skid Row are not recent immigrants, nor are most of them people who have chosen to live on streets and in alleys.
They were our neighbors, friends and schoolmates. They are our veterans. Some are our brothers and sisters. Before they fell this far some of them were called still other names; Mom and Dad.
At this intersection of Hopelessness and Despair the soup kitchens and detox centers are rarely lacking for customers. AA meetings are held each evening and twice on Sundays in a park that is a park in name only; some concrete and a few old trees surrounded by a very high metal fence. The far lines of fence form a point that ends where our magical corner begins.
But just as a magician must be experienced in person, so must 6th and Gladys St. Visit during daylight, so that you can see it clearly and experience it immediately. Come see how the other half really lives. And as you walk towards our magical corner do what its residents almost never do.
When you get to the bus stop that borders the concrete park, surrounded by the grim realities of life for those on the other side… stand there for a moment and look around at what we’ve become.
And then do what its residents can’t afford to do.
Look up, and read.
Read the sign above the bus stop that says, “MTA 460-Disneyland.”
You see from the corner of 6th and Gladys, from Downtown on Skid Row, is a bus ride directly to The Magic Kingdom, The Happiest Place on Earth.
Except “The Happiest Place on Earth” isn’t a destination for those that live here.
Somewhere, somehow, someone made a very big mistake.
And while it may not be magic, it is most definitely a trick.