So, I’ve officially been living in LA too long. I use “the” as a prefix to every freeway, my car’s been broken into/stolen 3+ times, I don’t even remember what constellations look like, and someone pointed out to me that I hardly ever say “hella” anymore. What’s happening to me?!

Well, I’m glad you ask, because I’ll tell you. LA has become a not only the place where I go to school (both undergrad and graduate), or work (too much driving!), or even the place I live (in 10+ houses/dorms/apts the last 5 years alone), it has become my HOME. I know, shocking. LA has become my place of residence. No more going home for the weekend to Mom’s house, or taken summer vacay to chill with the ‘rents back in suburbia, LA is homebase & headquarters for all Helmsian adventures.

So I figured, if LA is my new home, as I am slowly beginning to accept the truth, I might as well soak it up, right? It’s a social mecca, nucleus of entertainment and frivolity, plethora of sin and profligacy to the likes of which have rarely been seen in the history of man.

Thus, I might as well take a few notes, learn a few lessons, and write a blog or two about my experiences living in the belly of the beast—Echo Park, Los Angeles, Califonia.

Smoggy Bottom Boys

What follows is a numerical list, in no specific order of importance, of things I have learned, or at least observed that have stood out to me since LA has officially become ::shudder:: my home…

1) Smog. LA is really smoggy. Like…really. I’m usually the first to defend it as fog, having come from the Bay Area, but nope, it’s nasty down here. The day after you wash your car, it’s covered in some grey/green/brown “dust” that is, well…really gross.

2) Public Transportation. I’ve taken it in Boston, San Francisco, San Diego, Chicago, St. Louis, and now Los Angeles. And let me tell you, LA’s sucks. It’s horribly. And not because it’s not trying hard, because trust me, it’s trying really hard, but LA’s just too damn big for public trans to be that effective. If I want to get to school using public trans, what usually would take me 30-40 minutes driving Stacie (my gold, 1999 Saturn SL2), takes more than 2 hours, and easily up to 3 hours. Sorry Mother Earth, Al Gore, and future generations, but that’s not efficient. That’s anarchy. (Don’t ask me why…just accept it.)

3) Homeless Population. There are a lot of homeless people here in LA, especially downtown. There’s an estimated 80,000 homeless persons just in downtown LA. And in order to make way for tourists, businesspeople and people from Orange County (who are obviously lost), has done something very…progressive? They somehow managed to take just about all 80 grand and stick them in a 5 block radius in a downtown neighborhood called Skid Row. It’s just east of the impoverished garment district (or “fashion district”, and yes, I’ll get to that next), and just north of South Central—one of the highest percentages of gang violence neighborhoods in the country. So it’s a lovely part of town. While there are dozens of missions, food banks, and other non-profits that help out that community, they are like small ripple in a large ocean, making little to no impact on the overall population. In fact, the government is taking little to no action to address the homelessness issue, despite claims of the exact opposite. In fact, a great summary of the local LA government’s “handling” of the situation, comes from a report by the US National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and the US National Coalition for the Homeless:

Since the beginning of 2007, among others documented in this report, measures taken in the following cities stand out as some of the worst examples of cities’ inhumane treatment of homeless and poor people:

Los Angeles, CA. According to a study by UCLA released in September 2007, Los Angeles was spending $6 million a year to pay for fifty extra police officers as part of its Safe City Initiative to crack down on crime in the Skid Row area at a time when the city budgeted only $5.7 million for homeless services. Advocates found that during an 11-month period 24 people were arrested 201 times, with an estimated cost of $3.6 million for use of police, the jail system, prosecutors, public defenders and the courts. Advocates asserted that the money could have instead provided supportive housing for 225 people. Many of the citations issued to homeless persons in the Skid Row area were for jaywalking and loitering—“crimes” that rarely produce written citations in other parts of Los Angeles.

4) Sweat Shops?! I know companies like American Apparel … have been praised for not  exporting their manufacturing to countries like China, Thailand, India, Vietnam, and Singapore, they have instead just transported their sweat shop conditions from overseas to right here in Los Angeles. “Los Angeles is the largest major manufacturing center in the United States, with 500,000 workers in manufacturing activities,” and over 68,000 just in apparel (thank you,

These companies not only utilize undocumented immigrants in their factories, but also underpay them enormously, to the point that many workers need to work what anywhere else would be known as overtime, in order to make rent, feed families, etc. While it may seem good for the economy to keep jobs in the U.S., companies like American Apparel save millions each year by keeping their manufacturing here, because it’s a lot cheaper to underpay someone in Los Angeles, than it is in Calcutta.

Btw, the most offensive thing you see today… an American Apparel shirt making fun of sweatshops.

5) Palm Trees. Amidst these dark, confusing, and sometimes depressing issues within the LA beast, it still has palm trees, gorgeous beaches, and some beautiful mountains. I suppose most people have a love/hate relationship with this city (besides Randy Newman and Rilo Kiley…), and despite my best efforts of hating everything about it, I’m still here aren’t I?

So I guess it’s hear to stay, and so am I. Thanks for listened…reading…skimming my first blog post of the new site. I hope you at least nodded, laughed, or vomited a little. Feel free to leave comments praising/criticizing/hating on me. For those of you who live in LA, enjoy your day! Don’t forget your surgical masks out there! And for those of you who are currently not living here, I’ll seeya real soon. I leave you with this…

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