Down but not out

Downtown L.A. 1984

The Rainbow Hotel in downtown Los Angeles was next to the Church of the Open Door.*

The church was famous for its huge ‘Jesus Saves’ sign on the roof. The hotel and the church were on a section of South Hope Street that dead-ended at the Public Library.

Guido Michelini had stayed at the hotel before. The room cost $70 a week. The shower was down the hall. There was a phone in the room. It hardly ever rang. It went six days without ringing. Guido only left the room to eat and drink at a bar.

He had sold an op-ed piece to the L.A. Times but the paper hadn’t paid him yet. He didn’t have the money for next week’s rent.

On the seventh day the phone rang. It was the housekeeper wanting to know if he wanted his sheets and towels changed. Guido told her no, never. She said okay and hung up.

When you get kicked out of the Rainbow Hotel you know you’ve hit bottom.

Guido and his canvas suitcase went to the library at the end of Hope Street. He sat down with a book. A woman sitting across the table said, You look beat. He looked at her. She had seen better days.

You look good, he said. Do you live around here?

Not far, she said.

Saved again.

*The church was demolished in 1988.

Down but not out

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