The first time I moved to downtown LA, I felt like Shackleton. The Heroic Age of Independent Exploration. I was recently separated from a 10-year marriage and wanted to get far, far away.

Luckily, if you live across the city from each other, the odds of an awkward run-in are significantly reduced.

Unless you go to Bed, Bath and Beyond. Another story.

Downtown had always appealed to me. I’ve realized I love looking up. I love seeing some history, even if it’s a little grimy. Okay, in some cases, a lot grimy.

Los Angeles is a city that can feel fueled by flawless image. I love living in a neighborhood where there are no billboards, and the messiness of being a human being isn’t anesthetized by photoshop.

Downtown, people are pretty raw. Yes, I’ve seen someone poop on the sidewalk. That wasn’t a good day. But there are so, so many beautiful days. Downtown, most of the people are some kind of brown. That’s LA, baby.

There are sirens and shouts and drums on the corner and laughing late at night. There’s a woman who makes the most amazing tacos and quesadillas steps from where I live. There’s a man who stands outside his suit shop and watches people like a hawk.

My dog is a little spooked by the buses – which look and sound like giant monsters, I’m sure – but he also runs happily to any animal and any person.

In this photo, taken during the Nimrod expedition, Shackleton’s face appears burnt, toughened, and completely happy. On January 9, 1909, they managed to come within 112 miles of the South Pole. As recorded by his wife, Emily, when asked about not reaching the pole, Shackleton said, “a live donkey is better than a dead lion, isn’t it?”*

Downtown is the only place in LA where I’ve truly felt at home. I make a point of learning people’s names. I like feeling connected. I like feeling ownership of an area. I like landing on the coast of this place, fighting my way across the ice, and somehow, thrillingly, surviving.