PART TWO
STEVE LOPEZ / POINTS WEST

A Corner Where L.A. Hits Rock Bottom

"I'm not a prostitute," she claims, playing coy. "I give God's word in there 99.9% of the time. Of course, there are those occasions ... "

And on those occasions, her portable toilet serves as "the head office" of her bustling enterprise, T.J. tells me. T.T. is second in command, she adds, because "she thinks like me."

What do you do if the johns get rough? I ask.

She yells out "Daddy," T.J. says, and a big bouncer comes hauling up San Julian Street, where, generally speaking, heroin addicts encamp on one side of the street and crack addicts on the other.

T.J. also has gangbangers watching her back, she claims. Not that she needs cover. Some call her Little Miss Tyson, she boasts.

It all began five years ago, by her accounting. She drove out from Ohio with a beau who got drunk, the rotten snake, and dumped her on skid row, never to be seen again. T.J. did what she had to. She's a survivor, a pro.

She runs this corner.

T.J.'s chief associate is now limping into the street and calling out to a regular as he walks by.

"Hey, baby," T.T. sings, trying to lure him into her lair.

At least two of the toilets are in action, with someone bumping the inside walls of the one next to T.J.'s. A middle-aged gent is taking a young woman by the hand now and leading her into another toilet.

"That's my daughter," T.J. says proudly.

Your real daughter?

"No, that's what I call my girls."

I ask T.J. if it's true she lives in the outhouse.

No way, she says. She's got an apartment in Inglewood.

But sure, if it's late or she's tired, she stays in the portable toilet. Maybe 15 days out of a month, she sleeps in there. Why not? She's got a pillow in there and all the comforts, she says, letting me poke my head in for a tour.

"This is my closet," she says, pointing out some clothes and a hanger on one wall. "That's my library over there."

I see two books, including a Bible.

She's even got a stereo, and T.J. flips it on to show off the wrap-around sound.

The rats don't bother her, T.J. says. Sometimes they'll pop in as if they're her roommates.

"They're cute," she says.

How does she sleep in such tight quarters? I ask.

You pile the clothes over the toilet for bedding, T.J. says, and then curl up sideways.

Or you roll onto your back, prop your feet up on the wall and close your eyes, home sweet home.

*

Reach the columnist at steve.lopez@latimes.com.

BLOGS

Jump to a blog