By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Duke finally felt like she was arriving. She had aced her finals, and she was walking back to the Canadian feeling so good she started singing Sinatra’s “I Got the World on a String” out loud. She turned the corner on Main just in time to see a guy erupting diarrhea. “That kind of deflated me, and I went home.”
Duke thinks of the places she still wants to go and the star tattoos, like passport stamps, she’d collect. She’s been eyeing the Pacific Northwest, but when she thinks about leaving, she starts to cry.
“It’s just that,” she says between sobs, “there’s never going to be another Winter Rosebud in Seattle. There’s never going to be another Liz McGrath. They took care of me when I could have easily been left behind. They are the people who, in a sense, raised me, and it’s hard to imagine life without them.”
Dina Chang was all set to move in. All she had to do was deliver the signed lease, and the run-down dirty loft would be hers, all 2,000 square feet of it. “You’re still moving in?” the manager asked from his apartment, eyebrows raised. “Didn’t Valerie tell you?” he asked. “That someone shot himself in that apartment?” No, Chang was not aware of that. Michael Franz was an artist who had lived at the Canadian for years. He used to work off his rent by fixing things around the building. But then the work ran out and he was asked to pay a modest amount of rent, which he refused to do. When the Sheriff’s deputies finally came to evict him, crowbars in hand as they marched down the hall, Franz put a pillow to his chest and shot himself. He left a note blaming the building’s owner. There’s a bullet hole in Chang’s kitchen, but she thinks that one came from the outside. It doesn’t faze Chang.
Prior to moving in, Chang had been living across the street at the Hellman, before Tom Gilmore bought and polished it up. Back then, it was only slightly more glamorous than the Canadian. When she quit her job in postproduction to pursue her dream of becoming a pastry chef, she knew she wouldn't be able to afford the $1,050 monthly rent for her 800 square feet in the building whose hallways flooded when it rained. One day at Banquette, the little coffee shop down the street, Liz McGrath mentioned that she thought a space was opening in the Canadian. Chang got the loft. Rent was $550 a month; there was no air conditioning, no heat or gas. She had to buy and install her own electric stove and refrigerator. It cost her close to a couple thousand just to paint the place.
“People have this romanticized view of lofts,” Chang says. “They come in after we’ve all put thousands of dollars into them. Not to mention the love and hours and hours of work. It took me three days just to clean and disinfect it. I had to literally hose it out and suck the water out the window.”
Then there are the fair-weather friends who now want to come hang out in Chang’s place and coo about how “lucky” she is to live there. “I get resentful,” says Chang. “It’s like, where were you when I needed help moving four years ago? When did downtown become the epicenter of cool? When I moved in, it was the epicenter of hood.”
She left a 400-square-foot apartment close to the beach in Venice for downtown because she wanted to be in the middle of nothing. “It was peaceful,” she says. “It felt postapocalyptic when I first moved here. The bankers went home at 5. There was nothing but tumbleweeds and crackheads. My friend Jason and I would ride bikes in the middle of the night and it was like we were the last two people on Earth.”
She recalls the night she was driving home at 3 a.m. after a night of partying and saw the flashing lights of cop cars. As she approached the scene, she could see glass everywhere and then the body, covered in glass. She looked up and saw the broken 12th-story window at the neighboring Rosslyn Hotel.
“Someone must have been pushed,” says Chang. “Usually when someone commits suicide, they open the window first. There was so much violence at the Rosslyn that it gets to a point where you get used to it.”
On Fridays, Chang and her friends would play a game called Hipster or Hobo. They’d guess whether the stringy-haired skinny dude was homeless or a hipster from Silver Lake who’d come down in his beat-up old Benz to score his weekend crack. They’d pour a drink and sit there watching doctors pull up in BMWs; once they spotted a tow-truck driver, with a car still attached, stopping to make ?a score.
“I’ve seen every type of person smoke crack underneath my window,” Chang laughs.
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