Columnist Steve Lopez Discusses “The Soloist”

Angelica Fraire

Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez drew a full house in the La Cañada Flintridge Library’s board meeting room for a discussion of his book, “The Soloist,” on Oct. 24.

Member Kay Bahrami of the OneCity/OneBook committee said, “It is just nice to have real readers, who a lot of these people are, get to meet an author and get to hear him and find out what he writes and why he does what he does.”

All who attended the free event were happy to know that after the discussion they would be able to take pictures with Lopez and have him sign their book.

Lopez’s experience with Nathaniel Anthony Ayers, a middle-aged schizophrenic man living in Skid Row in downtown Los Angeles, has made the columnist almost an advocate for Ayers’ cause.

“[It’s] unbelievable science … [I] feel a duty and a privilege [to advocate] for permanent support housing,” Lopez said.

The scene Lopez is speaking about is of the prostitution, and drug dealing found on Skid Row, and of homeless people with mental and physical disorders.

Lopez describes Ayers as a “lucky guy. He found his thing.” Ayers’s joy comes from playing music. According to Lopez, Ayers does not see playing as a job but as “pure joy.” Ayers plays a one-string violin, which is one of the reasons why Lopez found him inspirational.

Lopez spoke of Ayers as an inspiration to him because “he had me trying to find out what the definition of home is … what my mission is, what are my accomplishments.”

Ayer, who attended Juilliard School, who could have had the chance to further his career as a classical musician according to Lopez.

However, after years of unsuccessful psychiatric treatment, Ayers ended up on Skid Row.

Lopez’s book portrays one of the few cases of mentally ill individuals who suffer on the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

Ayers’ story allows readers and viewers to come to understanding of what it is to be a homeless person with duo illnesses.

Lopez’s book was made into a movie this spring that movie illustrated the suffering that many homeless people go through day-to- day basis.
Lopez said, “Some improvements have been made to Skid Row but an increase in demand [for permanent support housing has been seen]. more women and children are seen there [because of how the economy is doing].”

Lopez mentioned that “I’ve never been the big brother, I have never contributed to anything,” and playing his guitar with Ayers was worth something. However, “He (Ayers) quickly looses interest,” Lopez says.

When Ayers was a young student, he found himself not knowing who to tell about the fact that he was losing his mind. However, his mental disabilities do not prevent Ayers from enjoying Mozart and Beethoven.

According to Lopez, “Ayers’s story brings acknowledgement to the many homeless people’s lives all over the world, which like him carry no I.D. or a driver’s license and are in need of help. But most importantly, it illustrates the fact that it would be less expensive for the government if these people were helped out.”