Homelessness dominates local media, echoing the concerns of Angelenos across the board. While we debate over who should lead or how to help the homeless, we forget to bring up the fact that Los Angeles has quickly turned into a concrete trash dump.
“What separates two people most profoundly is a different sense and degree of cleanliness.” —Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil (1886)
My main method of travel is on foot. I lived on the East Coast for a number of years and learned to depend on the transit system with few exceptions — like taking my cats to the vet or hauling big groceries home. When I moved back to Los Angeles, the habit of taking the metro had already taken root. I like to walk the city. It’s good exercise, and I get to enjoy the landscape.
In the last few years, however, it seems L.A. is getting … dirtier.
I’m sure to the vehicular commuters, the accumulation of garbage lining the streets and freeways hides in plain sight. But walking is another matter. Pedestrians encounter smells and, unfortunately, textures.
“I spent over a decade working in health care and smelled things I cannot to this day describe in words, all of them pale in comparison to the rancid smell of urine baking in a metal elevator that’s warmed by the sun all day.”
Sources for the various smells range from rotting garbage in the streets to rotting piss in the elevators at the metro stations. The Hollywood/Vine station on the Red Line regularly smells like a piss factory that’s been inspected by someone lacking their sense of smell. I spent over a decade working in health care and smelled things I cannot to this day describe in words, all of them pale in comparison to the rancid smell of urine baking in a metal elevator that’s warmed by the sun all day.
The textures are worse. At the Westlake/MacArthur Park station, the platform sticks to your shoes, not the other way around. They were once clean, the matte off-white tiles now marred with streaks of gray slime, black splotches and red … something.
Other times, you step in something squishy. We won’t go into that. An experienced pedestrian knows to watch the path in front of them, the rest of you can use your imaginations.
One of the culprits should surprise no one: lack of rain. Unlike cities like New York — which also boasts its own place on the skank scale but for different reasons — it simply doesn’t rain enough in the Southland. Rain, aka Mother Nature’s car wash, does an amazing job of cleansing the city. Mother Nature just doesn’t give us rain very often — why would she, we treat her like crap.
So the burden falls on the local governments and their citizens. Many of us cry about a lack of leadership and cleaning crews in various areas; that issue has many sides.
“We as a community don’t do enough to catch water when it does fall.”
To start, we are in an almost constant state of water conservation due to drought, but the drought can only take some of the blame. We as a community don’t do enough to catch water when it does fall. I’m an apartment dweller, so I have limited options in that area. But homeowners and city officials don’t take enough advantage of rainfall when it does come. We need more reservoirs and rain collection systems. Collected rainwater can be used to clean a lot of things.
The guiltiest party is also a no-brainer: us.
Some complain that there we’re lacking in trash bins around the city, and this is true depending on where you are. In Westlake, there were a series of fires set in trash bins around MacArthur Park. Although this happened a few years ago, the bins were never replaced and garbage has accumulated ever since — especially now that street cleaning regularly sees the chopping block when the city budget gets thin.
But to complain about the lack of trash bins is a cop-out. I’ve carried plenty of trash in my hand or stuffed in my pockets until I found a place for it. Tossing it on the ground just to get rid of it simply doesn’t exist as an option in my world. I see enough crap in the streets — sometimes literally — and I don’t want to contribute to it. Many people have the philosophy that their one piece of trash isn’t going to make any difference, but when tens of thousands of people have that mentality … damn … I shouldn’t have to spell it out.
“If we can afford to overpay the City Council Clowns, we can afford to keep our city clean.”
We need to each take responsibility for the mess we’ve allowed this city to become. We need to demand more clean-up from our City Council. They get nice salaries and healthy retirement packages, so, obviously, the city isn’t broke. If we can afford to overpay the City Council Clowns, we can afford to keep our city clean.
And if you as an individual leave your litter lying around, I hope you’re the next one to step in something squishy.