Downtown Dichotomies

by Galvin Chapman

with photos by Max Deeb

They say that all great urban cities are the same. That no matter where you are, tunnels of wind burst between skyscrapers, brushing the roofs of cars that represent the frustrated and anxious beings that operate them. That big business booms and the shattered remains are the only items some have to claim as their own. That faces are just faces and yours is just another face to the faces who see your face. And perhaps it’s true. I certainly wouldn’t know, what—with my eight hour, Monday through Friday job, cooped up in an office too high to even see—much less experience—the depth of the people and culture that makes Los Angeles what it uniquely is. Fifteen floors of walls, businesses, and people protect me from the streets where business people and the homeless walk side by side, but not in solidarity. This is default scenery for them, because as much as they despise one another, one can’t exist without the other. 

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Across the street from the building in which I perform mindless duties is another skyscraper (much like the one next to it) with the large, capital letters, “TCW,” at the top (whatever the fuck that stands for). At the foot of this skyscraper a large, beautifully designed fountain poses for all those who don’t notice it, including myself had I not noticed this particular situation on this particular morning. It was an extraordinarily hot summer day in the city, the type of day where men insist on wearing suits that they drench in sweat as they walk earnestly through the streets as if they have somewhere more important to be all the time. I was out on my ten minute break (defined in great detail set forth in my employment agreement) having my fourth cigarette of the day. As I was fantasizing about the day I quit cigarettes, I noticed the water in the fountain across the street splashing and spilling out onto the sidewalk. I immediately concluded that birds were bathing beneath the beautiful architecture when a fully clothed woman nonchalantly stepped out of the fountain. I watched her as she wrung her hair and took a seat on the edge of the fountain, bathing in the sun as if she had just gotten out of the pool in her own backyard. Now, in downtown Los Angeles there is never no one around, particularly on a main street like Figueroa. I hardly feel comfortable adjusting my belt in the back alleys for fear of being seen and possibly perceived as masturbating in public. Yet, with the lack of acknowledgement from everyone around you, it almost feels as though no one really is there. Never alone, yet undeniably lonely. This being said, I imagined two scenarios taking place as a result of this woman’s act of liberation. 

I initially adopted the fantasy (in sanguine thought) that others would happily join this woman. That the floods of people who were clearly experiencing the detriment of heat and stress would throw everything in the air and realize that none of it matters. People ripped off every piece of clothing realizing how ridiculous it was to ever start wearing clothes in the first place. They all rejoiced in the fact that to be free means to live in the now, while concurrently splashing each other in acts of facetiousness. They clinged to their childhoods; a time when they anxiously awaited their future and had no past to regret. Orgies broke out, not only in the fountain, but on the streets and people realized that one of the main reasons why they’ve endured it all for so long was for the sex. Each individual began singing their very own favorite song in unity with other people’s very own favorite songs and the mismatch resulted in pragmatically terrible sounding harmonies and polyrhythms, yet harmonious nonetheless. Normal, sane individuals began talking to themselves and everybody at that moment finally admitted that they all talk to themselves in their own heads (in public) and out loud (in private). At some point, someone brought out a piñata with an outline of a human face and the words, “Paste your bosses face here!” and hung it from the tallest building in downtown while every employee had the opportunity to take a swing. People began pissing and shitting in the streets and were no longer embarrassed about their own excrement, because they realized that everybody excretes. Individuals opened bottles of tequila and finally admitted that they like the drink because it gets them drunk, not because they actually like the taste and that, if they were being perfectly honest, they hate the fucking taste. And, of course, people watched from their offices at the top of the skyscrapers, but in a matter of seconds no one was watching anymore, only joining the madness.

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But, unfortunately, this did not happen. More realistically, I imagined a sort of social and legal shunning. As the fully clothed woman stepped out of the fountain and began to wring her hair, people attempted to tear her down with disgruntled faces. Some, in fact, laughed in discomfort and enjoyment at the same time. In no time at all, she was approached by two security guards from the TCW building asking her to leave, using the little authority they had. They realized that they couldn’t physically do anything about the situation when she started screaming, “GOD IS A FUCKING TERRORIST!” at the top of her lungs. The guards then proceeded to call the police, but by her own volition, she walked away cursing the birds and bees underneath her breath. As she disappeared from my line of vision, she continued running into people on the sidewalk who did not acknowledge that she was running into them.

Of course, though, that didn’t happen either. Instead, nothing happened. Nothing. Nobody even cared to glance over at the situation. No security guards, no acts of liberation (besides her own). No laughing or pointing. Nothing. Once again I felt alone in a sea of faces to be the only face that witnessed such an amazing occurrence. Never alone, yet undeniably lonely.

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