When You’re a Bum and Life is Wretched and Homely, There’s One Place to Go: Downtown

Ihave worked on Main Street for three-and-a-half years, and I’ve lived in the general area all my life, so I know what I’m talking about when I say that Main Street is beginning to resemble a ghetto, except that no comical television programs have ever been made about people living on Main Street.

From time to time, I look up from my extremely complex work (which usually pertains to answering the phone and putting people on hold) and look out at Main Street through the window. From that vantage point, I see anything from a tightly-clad hooker, to a stumbling drug addict, to any one of a large assortment of people whose pianos are missing a few octaves, if you know what I mean. It’s no wonder downtown business is falling off.

The City Council has noticed the lack of customers on Main Street, and It’s decided that It should alleviate the problem NOT, as one might suppose, by eliminating the two-legged scum, but by dressing up the storefronts. This is akin to telling a man with severely violent mental disorder that he can get a girlfriend by wearing nice clothes.

So They spent approximately one and a half hillion jillion dollars making the stores look old, ignoring the foolish people who insisted they were old, all in the hopes of attracting customers to Main Street who aren’t afraid to get out of their cars and actually brave the sidewalks.

Once the storefronts had been redone, the City moved on to the next step in the “Lake Elsinore — Hot Dang!” program. This step involved putting round-looking sidewalk protrusions on one block, which reduces the amount of parking in that area. This means that people will supposedly be attracted to downtown businesses, but they won’t be able to shop at them because there won’t be anyplace to park, which probably won’t matter, since it’s unwise to leave your car unattended on Main Street anyway. What we need are some good drive-thru businesses.

So what is the solution? Funny you should ask. I think the city councilors need to get their collective heads out of their collective armpits and acknowledge the fact that Main Street attracts transients the way the Lotto attracts people on welfare and that THAT is why downtown business is waning. Once they’ve acknowledged that, they need to take all of the — for want of a better word — people who can’t prove that they are currently employed in some legal, non-chemically-related occupational field and give them one-way Greyhound tickets to Vancouver. I don’t wish to sound cold and heartless, but I’m growing weary of calling the police every other day because the “residents” are doing something obnoxious, like spreading roofing tacks all over the place, or harassing some poor fool who thought a nice after-dark stroll along Main Street would be a pleasant change of pace. (Change of FACE is more like it.)

But maybe that system won’t work. To quote my grandfather, who owns a downtown business: “I can just see the ACLU coming down and saying, ‘You can’t do that! You can’t violate these people’s right to break my windows and urinate in my parking area!'”

Gramps doesn’t care much for the ACLU, and he’s somewhat bitter about his problems with the locals. Maybe he should be grateful he still has a parking area.

This was a topic of major concern in those days. Main Street was getting worse and worse. It wasn't particularly dangerous; just dirty and full of people whom you at least THOUGHT might hurt you, even if they rarely did. And there were a lot of drugs and prostitutes, too.

So a lot of people thought the city's attempt to dress up Main Street was a waste, that all it would do is give the drug dealers a few nice benches to sit down on, and that people would still be afraid to go downtown. That's certainly what I thought. After I submitted this to my editor, though, he suggested I go talk to the mayor and see what the reasoning was behind everything. Remember that this was only my 10th column, and the point was still supposed to be my opinion on current affairs. The editor wanted it to be an informed opinion; he later stopped caring whether I expressed any opinions at all.

So I interviewed the mayor and some others, and the results are in column #12. This column here was never printed, because some of the facts changed after I did some investigating. Still, this column serves as documentation of how I and many others felt about the "downtown people" at that time.

(Oh, and if you're wondering, Main Street has changed some since then, but not much.)