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quilted with knit and umbrellas and scarfs and
A MILD UNDERSTANDING OF IRONY.
I take two buses to and from school each day. On average my bus trip takes anywhere from 1 hour to 2 hours to commute giving me all the time in the world to reflect upon my day and the people and places I encounter everyday. I’m very fortunate that my current bus route takes me through the most beautiful and the ugliest portions of the Los Angeles metro area, constantly giving me something to reflect on. When I leave South Central LA (South Los Angeles) every morning, I feel my spirit lift, my physical body take a big sigh of relief.
I hate to be one of those people but I feel very uncomfortable by those less fortunate than I am and it is not because I simply think that I am better than those who do not have the means to do better, but I simply feel a string of emotions for them knowing that I simply cannot do anything for them in the physical. I have to walk 3 blocks to my bus stop, placing me in a very interesting environment to get use to and to explore. I walk past a 99 cent store that the same elderly gentlemen come out of every morning at exactly 10:25 a.m. always giving me a warm, “Buenos días!” as I wave at them on my way to the bus stop. There’s a lot of trash floating down the block, a common image in the lower class neighborhoods in many big cities, and many homeless people sitting on corners and walking around with shopping carts they’ve stolen from the Ralphs a few blocks down.
The first time I had to walk in my neighborhood I felt increasingly paranoid, the homeless people not so much my worry but the men my biggest worry as they are well known for yelling at you and stopping their cars to try to speak to you, and even so much as honking and yelling at you from their cars as you cross at the light. Of course since my first day of living in South Central I’ve adapted, walking with my head held high, and my posture on the brink of perfection. Some of the women have given me a hard time, “Who does she think she is?” as I’ll walk past them, but I’ve become quite used to it, usually ignoring them completely.
I long for my second bus, because it in a way is a transition for me from the poverty ridden confines of South Los Angeles to the upper class haven that is Beverly Hills & West Hollywood. I must admit that I feel kind of guilty for longing for the Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Hollywood, and Santa Monica areas of the Los Angeles metro but I feel safe there. I realize that most of my fears are based on stereotypes, word of mouth, film, music, but these fears are not simply rooted in my mind but also rooted in the communities of South Los Angeles.
On my way home today I found myself asking why do I feel safe in one area and feel so overwhelmingly horrified in another? What changes so drastically that I feel as though I must constantly watch my back? It wouldn’t take me long to recognize that there are many things that contribute to my feelings of safety and the main one plays on the surplus or the lack of development in an area.
It’s quite safe to say that there area plenty of booming businesses in Beverly Hills and the areas surrounding it. When you enter Century City you see the FOX studios, golf courses around Ave of the Stars full of well to do white males who drive Mercedes with California licenses plates that say things like “DOCTOR” and other things that easily assert their superiority in society. People are everywhere in Beverly Hills, younger and older people walking down the street on well lit sidewalks that lead into expensive boutiques and major chain stores.
So I had to ask myself then what was it that made me feel so uncomfortable once I took my seat on the back of the big red metro bus. It took me only minutes to realize exactly why I felt so uncomfortable. As my bus stopped at the corner of Rodeo and La Cienega I could smell a scent that had become very noticeable in my life. While this scent was not one you could go in the store and buy at a perfume counter it was one that is very synonymous with a lot of big cities and my mother had always called it “the smell of poverty”. The scent she use to tell us as children was the smell of desolation, political corruption, the smell of homelessness, and the smell of those who simply could not on their own do better for themselves; of course it’s easier now to equate the smell as being a mixture of “urine, sour milk, and spoiling food.”
It’s easy to notice housing in the style of what I can only describe as jail blocks, bars covering the old windows, no landscaping, nothing but row after row of decaying architecture in the middle of a big city. I want to call these homes projects but being from the south side of Chicago I dare not call these homes projects as these are way better than the projects that once stood across Chicago (and are now million dollar condos); however, people of low economic status populate these apartments, these small one bedroom apartments, and drugs are not only being sold by the young but also the old too.
With each day I feel increasingly out of place, especially watching some of the youth who wear name brand clothing and speak in slang that not even I can understand. They seem to lack a respect for the elderly,for those who are older than them, and ultimately for themselves. I hear a group of boys talking and one states that when he becomes rich and famous after he gets discovered for his rapping abilities, he’s going to buy a truck so he doesn’t have to ride, “this lame ass bus with these fucking people who stink.”
I understand why I long to leave, it’s because there is a certain air of importance, of wealth, of power that floats around the further I go West. I also understand why I come back every night, it’s because my family is here, my home is here, a part of my heart is here, and a part of my soul is now embedded into the framework of this community. I know that as I leave this neighborhood, as I move to a bigger home, a more peaceful community, that I’m not becoming any better than those who live here right now but I will simply once more become an outsider looking in on a community that needs help. Financial, Economic, and Emotional help from inside and outside.