Photo by Kevin ScanlonDowntown Los Angeles has been calling my name for years. Shooting me up with lofty ArchitecturalDigestinterior imagery — from a dirty syringe. I dismissed her call and moved to the Westside, but when my landlord doubled the rent on my canyon cabin, the siren call of downtown was as piercing as Whitney Houston on a three-day crack run. When I tracked the voice to its sordid source, the stench of human suffering in the homeless zoo on San Julian Street between Sixth and Seventh, right around the corner from the loft I was considering, nearly made me turn back. Nearly, but not quite, and my new Skid Row digs are a score at a thousand bucks a month — a big open raw space on the sixth floor with a great view. The only problem, besides the sometimes-malodorous breeze coming in off San Julian Street, was the 30 days I had to kill before I could occupy my new arty loft in the Toy District. I needed to find a temporary squat to fill the void until the previous tenant vacated. I wanted to stay downtown and settle into the neighborhood, so I went online and checked out Hotels.com. They gave the Checkers Hilton on Grand a four-star rating, and both of the 907-square-foot penthouse suites have amenities like entertainment center with 27-inch remote-controlled flat-screen TV, VCR, surround-sound stereo with CD player, fireplace, separate bathtub, marble shower and a dramatic view of downtown. Perfect! But at $1,500 a night (depending on total hotel occupancy and availability), it was out of my reach. The New Otani Hotel on the corner of Los Angeles Street and Second got three and a half stars, and it was right near my new Skid Row–adjacent digs, but again, the 1,836-square-foot Royal Suite at $1,800 a night was just out of my range. A month in that little palace would set me back more than 50 grand (depending on total hotel occupancy and availability)!