by Joe Shea
American Reporter Editor-in-Chief
June 3, 2003
Fare well, Los Angeles, and farewell. Along with my wife and daughter, I am leaving tomorrow after a 27 year-run that has been incredible. I don't know how you'll get along without me, but you didn't have a house or an apartment in our price range in all your 468 square miles, so we're going to Florida to live for a pittance.
This decision probably proves that our ultimate loyalty may be to our economic health. We were not willing to cough up all our savings and fork over $19,000 as a down payment on a 400-square-foot, $193,000 shack fronting on an alley in a rundown Hollywood neighborhood where even the gangs watch their back. I thought about it, but in the end - well, I'm just not that crazy.
Your low-cost housing programs were too full of catches to catch us in the "safety net," and your landlords were too greedy. In a month that has seen my teeth pulled and my car wrecked and my LAPD press pass denied by a judge, I also had my home of 22 years sold out from beneath us. My long years of labor to improve this neighborhood have cost me my home; a drama school from New York is moving into our apartments come September. We didn't fight it because our landlord has been a very decent man to each one of us. We want him to enjoy his $15 million, a sevenfold increase since he bought the property in 1979. None of us are mad at him.
After spending $120,000 on rent here, and risking my life a dozen times to keep it safe, they are giving me $4,000 to say goodbye. Two people have been murdered in the neighborhood this month - one a block from me and another four blocks away (for his spinning car rims) - but after them, I'm hurting worse than anybody in town. All of the two dozen old, middle-aged and young people in my building and the next one south, and all those businesses in the eight-story tower behind us, are hurting with me. One of my neighbors has gone deaf from the stress.
For the last two weeks I've cried in church, where I'm usually happiest, and laughed on the grim streets. I've sorted through the immense debris of a great life that has seemingly come down to 26 40-gallon plastic storage crates (and a small mountain of the cardboard kind), two paintings, a bench, a table and two lamps. On Tuesday, Councilman Tom LaBonge is going to give me a commendation in front of the City Council, and I'll treasure that, too.
As president of the community association and the neighborhood watch, and as your editor, I have neglected my life and my wife to try to make a difference without making a salary, and while I have won many battles (and lost a few), my better half has suffered. Now we are going to do something about that; we're taking our savings, moving into a golf course condo my parents have given us, and we plan to get rich.
(TO BE CONTINUED)