- Letters to the Editor
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Now that Del Rio Lanes appears to have given up on its standup comedy nights, where do you go in Downey for comic relief?
Me, I can’t wait to boogey on over the bi-weekly city council meetings to catch the opening hour, where the entire council and members of city staff sit like the Washington Generals waiting around for the Harlem Globetrotters’ Meadowlark Lemon to work his comic routine on the crowd. Except in this case Mayor Mario Guerra is the headliner.
Oh, the gush, the cheer, the bluster, the weigh-ins! The breathless topics of the day, like that sister city business with Roscommon that nobody asked for and left the general fund five grand lighter-while city manager Gilbert Livas still visibly pales at the thought of having tossed city workers onto the unemployment heap in the name of bone-deep budget cuts. Most people in town still don’t know if Roscommon is a city in Ireland, A Rastafarian snack or a rare disease (“I’m so sorry to have to tell you this, but he’s got Roscommon’s.”)
The good news, fun-seekers, is that you don’t have to shave and pull on a pair of pants (or fix up, gals) to make it over to those prime-time meets. You can savor hizzoner’s latest inspired perorations in the Downey Patriot’s Mayor’s Corner, in the privacy of your own home. That’s what I did last week, and boy was it a gas!
The thing to remember is that we’re not talking actual yuks here, as in jokes. Mario has no talent for that, as captured audiences at the Furman Park concert series painfully discovered over the summer. I’m talking more in the vein of political satire, or parody, which is heavily buttressed by reality, only skewed to a slight degree, like a comedy by Gogol or Chekhov.
Let’s take the last installment, on the theme of “the soul of the city.” (Hm. Wonder where he got that phrase.) Good start, you’ll have to admit. Small town feel, check. Quality residential areas, check. Good schools and city services, check. Rich aerospace history, check.
Other notable attributes make the list. But halfway through, the wheels begin to wobble on Downey as the Little Engine That Could. I wouldn’t list a Coca-Cola bottling plant as the soul of anything. The art scene is still iffy, if you consider that the Downey Museum of Art remains closed, the Downey Civic Light Opera will probably never re-open and the Symphony can’t afford more than three concerts a year at the Downey Theatre (its school series is privately funded). Rare species enjoy more sightings. I hope Val Flores can hold his good core of people together to take the Stay Gallery to its next level, and that the principals of the Downey Arts Coalition learn to get over themselves and the aromatherapy of self-aggrandizement. In the meantime, take a ride downtown any night of the week. Bring along the visiting househunter who wanted to call the place Debbie Downey (talk about a brand!). Could you really say this place is jumpin’?
The Tierra Luna or Promenade project, whatever you want to call it, won’t rival The Grove if big box outfits like WalMart get in, as contemplated-they’ll define it. And anyone who thinks a five-star hotel will go up to offer a penthouse view of the Handimart liquor store and grimy strip mall on the corner of Lakewood and Stewart & Gray needs a field sobriety test.
Those 8000 new jobs? Let’s break that down. There are no major corporate, industrial, educational or government headquarters situated in Downey, which means no CEOs, upper echelon execs or professional class to occupy the place in numbers and raise the median income (most of the doctors at Kaiser don’t live here). Which means that most of those jobs are in the service sector, fast food joints, retail outlets, etc. The current median in Downey is a bit north of $41,000 per family, pre-tax. The average home in Downey lists at $382,500. That’s a $1500 a month mortgage, plus insurance and tax. Throw in a car payment (insurance there too), utilities, cable, credit cards, and gas, and you have less than a $400 per month cushion for luxuries like, you know, food. Got young kids? Forget it. Ditto if you’re single or live alone (the median there is $30,000). Sorry, that house in fabled Downey is out of reach.
Incidentally, am I the only one who detects a note of arrogance in this Character Counts tag, along with all the other scoutmaster oaths of Trustworthiness, Respect, Fairness, etc., that make it seem as though the very air and waters of Downey transform its inhabitants into morally superior beings, far nobler than those base wretches doomed to live out their miserable days in dog patches like Cerritos, La Mirada, Whittier and Long Beach? Almost all of our 92 churches are of Christian denomination. Isn’t humility high on the list of Christian virtues? Guess not.
Well, the rule of comedy is, Always keep ‘em comin’ back for more. I’m outta here. Listen, Mario. I don’t mind that you stole my theme for the Patriot’s summer series on Downey’s existential state, such as it is, without credit. I’d steal something back from you, if there were anything you have that I want. You’ll be termed out in thirteen months. It’ll be back to dullsville around here once you take your act on the road. We’ll miss you.
Or maybe not. It’ll all depend on how hard reality bites.
Published: Oct. 10, 2013 – Volume 12 – Issue 26