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Main Street, South L.A.-Style.

12:58 PM PDT on July 19, 2012

When election seasons heat up, politicians are often quick to assure constituents that they represent Main Street, not Wall Street. But they way they conceptualize of "Main Street" has very little relation to an actual urban Main Street, such as ours. Wouldn't you love to see Mitt Romney getting a bacon-wrapped hot dog from a street vendor? Or stopping in a 99-cent store in the heart of South L.A.? Or Obama popping into the soul food place that bears his tagged-up visage? Where are those photo ops?

I was thinking about some of these things as I rode down Main St. to Century Blvd. yesterday. I had spent the afternoon speaking with Jamecca Marshall of the Advancement Project about the possibility of supporting their efforts to reduce gangs' vice-like grips on the housing project developments in Watts and needed to blow off a little steam.

I figured Smokey the Bear could help clear my mind a bit. There are at least four billboards within a twenty-block stretch along Main where he accusatorily finger-points at residents and informs them that only they can prevent wildfires.

Which is ironic, given that South L.A. is distinctly lacking in both trees and parks.

As I rode, the many colorful, hand-painted storefronts that mark much of South L.A. lightened my mood. I recalled a piece by the folks at OnCentral that was rather dismissive of home-grown storefront signage in the area. While I understand where they were coming from, I disagreed with the larger argument that such signage could be bad for business. In contrast, much of the home-made signage brightens and adds character to streets that the City often neglects. I find many of the places much warmer and more inviting because of the care that owners have taken to decorate their stores.

I'll let you be the judge.

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