This is a story about two cities and, perhaps, how different they are.
Sunday the Las Vegas Sun published a first-person essay by Rodger Jacobs, a longtime L.A.-based journalist, playwright and documentary film producer, who moved to Las Vegas to care for an ailing mother, who has since died. The simple yet powerful headline: "I am frightened." He describes how through poor health, the Great Recession, a horrible run of luck (not the gambling kind) and a few bad decisions, he and his girlfriend Lela were on the verge of homelessness, with eviction coming Tuesday. His opening exhortation seemed simple enough: Citing the classics, he asks the reader to walk a mile in his shoes. And so the people of Las Vegas did. And they basically spat on him.
Here's a small sampling of the venom, which careens from finger wagging to beating him over the head with their conservative politics to outright hostility:
For someone who can write in a very moving way, Rodger sure has made some poor choices.
In many parts of the world this man would be rich.
I think there must be more to this story.
The guy has to stop buying cigarettes for starters....its time for a career change.
What a sob story. His girlfriend needs to get her butt out to McDonald's and find a job.
Come on. Bad choices were made all along that got you to this point.
And a personal favorite, for its religious meaning: After reading the essay and then attending church, the commenter writes: Then I went to church, but thought about Rodger's situation some more...The sympathy I felt after reading this story the first time has drained away, and I have read it twice more since.
No doubt, they made a bad decision or two, and sure, the nicotine addiction is a bit off-putting, but for the love of God, they're about to be homeless.
Of course, it's impossible to know if these commenters are in Las Vegas, but they are among the first of the hundreds of comments and were likely regular local readers of the Sun and so probably many, if not most of them. are local.
The drubbing got so bad that the paper's editor had to jump into the comments and defend the guy. Jacobs tried to defend himself as well.
Then something happened this week -- in L.A.
Griffith Park Wayist linked to the story and gave PayPal information for donations, with a second post linking to a WitnessLA post. Southern California Public Radio and LA Observed also noted Jacobs' difficult circumstances.
Help has arrived in lots of different forms, though it seems mostly from publicity generated here in L.A. Jacobs and his girlfriend have been able to move to move into a cheap weekly motel -- not ideal, but better than homeless.
It would be patronizing and pompous and unfair to make judgments about L.A. vs. Vegas based on this single episode. After all, Las Vegas, home to a noted food scene in recent years, is currently hosting "Restaurant Week," a fundraiser for Three Square, the city's food bank. No city has been hit harder by this recession, and many in Vegas remain generous despite having lost most of their savings due to the collapse of the real estate market.
So, yeah, not fair to judge the collective compassion of two giant cities with this episode.
But having lived in Las Vegas for four and a half years recently, let's say the comments weren't surprising in the slightest.