by Dan Johnson
Stop me if you’ve heard this joke before: Downtown Los Angeles is the next Manhattan.
It’s funny, see, because New York City is a dense Eastern seaboard maritime metropolitan area spanning two states with mass transit, infrastructure, culture and established urban history dating back to 1624.
Downtown Los Angeles, on the other hand, is a five square mile zone at the core of a centrifugal city that moved horizontally for the better part of the last century, which is why we’re here now in the rebuilding stage, because the sort of density-giving continuity that made New York City into an enduring urban icon jumped the shark here in favor of freeway suburbs.
We’ve just survived another first week of the month in Downtown Los Angeles, so there should be enough Schedule A drugs floating around to facilitate whatever hallucinations of grandeur you need to transform our unique city into NYC. Failing that, I invite you to head down to the scenic “Desperately Wishing It Was New York” District on 7th St between Broadway and Hill St.
That lone block has everything you could possibly need to pretend your city is another generic knock off of New York. Looking west down 7th St, the new Wilshire Grand Tower obscures the street’s vanishing point, thus lending the impression that the street continues on and on in a parade of urban density.
For symbolism, look no further than the Statue of Liberty mosaic at the mouth of St. Vincent’s Court. The curious aesthetics of that L-shaped alley with its hat-doffed-to-democracy sensibility will have you feeling like you’re in the Big Apple.
Need something a little more visceral? I recommend the alley between the crystal-endowed psychic storefront and the GNC. That stretch of abandoned Downtown smells as bad, if not worse, than any piss pot corner of New Amsterdam.
Still isn’t hitting? Why don’t you check out the New York Jewelry store at the corner of 7th St and Broadway. It practically screams “Home Alone 2.” Maybe you’ll be lucky like me and catch a glimpse of the man in the fedora trying to break into the case at the watch store by the bus stop only to have the store’s two clerks come swat at him between foul oaths spat in heavily accented english.
Finally, for the cherry on top of the NYC-sycophancy sundae, I recommend Corleone’s Pizza. Apparently it’s been around since 1984, which makes sense given that the guy who has his face on the menu spends the entirety of my meal smoking on the patio staring off into space.
To be fair, New York and Los Angeles (and most major, drug-addled cities) have this particular phenomenon in common—stay long enough and you’ll be able to readily identify someone who is high as a kite without having to feel like it’s your problem.
When a tweeker rambles up to get in Don Corleone’s face, the good boss just shrugs and keeps puffing. Expert stuff here. Take notes. This is how it’s done.
Alas, all is not well at Corleone’s Pizza. Set up directly across the street is Pizza Italia (Free Delivery!!!). I like to imagine they’re the bitterest of rivals. It’s plausible. Both slices look nearly identical. Although Pizza Italia is slightly less sweet and comes in at a mere $2.75 instead of Corleone’s $3.
Wow. Two pizza joints on one block! Maybe I am missing something and we truly are New York City 2.0. Cue up “Empire State of Mind.” Could this be our collective opportunity to buy booze until 4am? Do I now have carte blanche to be an asshole to complete strangers? Does this mean we get our very own Rudy Giuliani?
Sadly, it is not to be. The presence of Tacos Mexico in the “Desperately Wishing It Was New York” District ruins a lot of the magic. How could it be NYC with palatable and affordable Mexican food nearby?
Look, I love NYC. It’s a great place. If you’ve never been, you should go immediately (well, maybe wait for May). If you want to find yourself living in New York City, live in New York City. It’s kind of a shitty thing to move someplace just to willfully pretend you’re living somewhere else. It’s like dating a waifish Instagram model and insisting on calling them “Linda Hamilton circa Terminator 2” during sex.
For our civic boosters who keep trotting out the NYC model as a cherished ideal for Downtown’s future, that’s well and good. New York has a lot of admirable qualities. Do you ever worry, though, that you’ve set up an unattainable goal and are showing a desperate want of imagination when you cluck about a unique city three thousand miles away from the unique city you call home?
I award Corleone’s Pizza and Pizza Italia each a “1” on the binary and thank whatever twisted deity it is that runs this world that Boston Market has yet to invade Downtown.