Living in Los Angeles was fun while it lasted. Crowded, pretentious, phony, pricey, and absolutely polluted. I lived in the city proper for five years before pulling the plug. One day it was doable and the next I felt every fiber in my being pleading “Go and go now.”
But to be fair, I never wanted to live in a city, let alone a sprawling, traffic-choked beast like LA. When it came to cities, my heart was in places like Paris or Amsterdam but even then, just for a visit.
Shortly before leaving Los Angeles three events occurred that made me feel like I made the right decision. First, a drive-by shooting that happened at night within a block of our apartment. I wrote about this little event. In fact, it was my first ever blog post, dating back to 2002 if I remember correctly. This post was picked up and syndicated to over three hundred outlets around the country.
Then a run-in with a gang family a block in the other direction. Let me also remind you I was living a block south of Beverly Hills, so not exactly a “rough” area. I somehow offended the father who was driving their vehicle and before I knew it the entire family was throwing gang signs at me with the windows rolled down. Even the small children in the backseat were shouting death threats while throwing signs with their tiny fingers. (People love me.)
And finally, what you see here on this page. Another drive by shooting but this time in broad daylight. A stolen car, two rival gang members, fully automatic weapons, the subsequent crash, etc., etc. A friend’s child was visiting our house when the shooting started. The apartment next door stitched its entire width by stray rounds.
I ran to the scene to make pictures, seconds after the shooting stopped, and was greeted by another photographer already on scene. (He had the shooter run past him still holding the machine pistol.) The police arrived but wanted no part of the scene, situation, or any responsibility. A jogger arrived and said, “Hey, one of the gunmen is hiding in the bushes a block away.” The LAPD officer looked at the jogger then asked for his ID. The jogger said, “I’m not joking, he’s RIGHT THERE.” The cop said, “Nothing I can do, if you want to clean up this neighborhood it’s on you.”
The truth is these events did not force us out or even really tarnish the situation and THAT is precisely why this is so dangerous. You become immune because you know they aren’t shooting at you.
Wow! I always hear stories like this about America. Scares me. Still would love to do the great American road trip oneday though. England has the same gang problems but with knives not guns. Not sure which I would prefer… being shot or stabbed!
Japan is crazy safe, the police in my city Okayama have nothing to do. A kid shoplifted some candy once and 3 police cars rolled up. I thought someone had been shot in the convenience store but after I asked what was going on I found out it was just a kid shoplifting. I couldn’t believe it.
The only time you get multiple cars is if a celebrity is involved.
That’s a pretty scary story. It’s inevitable that living amongst such criminal activity is going to make you feel seriously uncomfortable.
I live in South London and we have our share of gang crime, and as Kurt posted, it’s knives here. I’ve often felt I should move out, but it’s always young gang members who seem to be the victims, most of them teenagers…. tragic. I’ve never felt uncomfortable in LA but that’s probably down to naivety, it’s not always obvious to an outsider where the dodgy areas are. I think the most intimidating place I’ve been is Johannesburg. I do though worry about the USA. The recent election has given rise to some unsavoury behaviour and I’m wondering where it’s going. On my BBC news last week, the reporting team were refused permission to film a particular rally, I think you can imagine which one I mean. They were told ” No foreign press.” The rhetoric and unbelievably crazy accusations are very troubling.
Your stories are always interesting, although this one is a bit scary! Living in Leiden, a city just 35 km south of Amsterdam, I cannot even imagine what living in a city like LA must be like, let alone having this happen just outside your appartment, but I can totally understand your desire to leave. It is amazing to see your journal page from that particular day displayed, thanks for sharing this bit of your life!
the story I wrote said that this happens so frequently you become immune and hearing and seeing these things barely even register. How many of my friends who live in LA say things like “We don’t have much gang violence,” or “Oh, the air here isnt’ really polluted.” We convince ourselves of just about anything.
One of the characters in an old Tom Robbins book said the “missing link” was never extinct but is alive and living among us. I couldn’t agree more with that, and probably most of them prefer to live in big, urban jungles.
I think you did well to listen to your fibres.
Japan is safe from a certain type of crime – mostly gun-related violent crime.
They also like grossly under-report their crimes.
Given that the country as an almost unfathomably 99% conviction rate (cops, lawyers, and judges all in cahoots to convict), people have been known to confess to crimes they didn’t commit, there is definitely no due process of the law (habeas corpus hahaha that doesn’t exist).
That being said compared to certain parts of America, Japan is incredibly safe.
The only time I had to deal with cops in Japan, was when one of the tried to flex on me and ask for my “gaijin card” (I showed him my military id card and he went away), and when I stopped a man from continuing to beat his gf in front of a crowded train platform while no one did anything – minutes later 10 cops showed up and questions ME – while he was long gone.
But I remember not too long ago seeing flyers in Yokohama for a missing foreign hostess bar worker (Russian) whose body was never found and never really got any footage in the news.
We all have our secrets. Japan, us. The cloest I’ve come to being shot was here in the US. I’ve been held at gunpoint elsewhere but it was never that threatening. Here they were shooting at me.