The Milieu of Watts: Imagination or Reality?

Three times I've gone to Watts, three different images in my consciousness.

I've had education in anthropology. Basically, I see people as humans subject at any time to streaks of idiocy or genius, villain or heroes, bad or good.

In areas of low-income residents, I always want to see the best in people. Folks are mostly good. So perhaps folks in Watts would mostly be good.

One of my favorite local rappers was from there. My godsister teaches there.

First time I went to Watts was to see the Towers. Right after the underwhelming re-opening of the Griffith Park observatory. The two ladies who accompanied me were scared shitless. I spent the half-hour we were there trying to convince them of the humanity and normality of the Watts Towers and the Watts milieu.

Second time I went to Watts was earlier this year to pick up my mom from some kind of nurse's convention at Jordan High School. I passed through some public housing that reminded of the departed TV show...The Wire. The school looked like an example of a police state school.

Yesterday comprised the third time I went to Watts in anticipation of the Day of the Drum Festival. This was by far the most nervous I had ever been in any area of Los Angeles.

The tension started with car problems or the fear that I was going to run out of gas. My tank was already lit up, and I felt a lag on the vehicle.

Phew! Thank god for that Central Ave. Shell Station off the 105.

Saw essentially the same brown and black people at the gas station that I might see in Panorama City, but this was Watts!

I parked really far from the festival site, about 4 or 5 blocks over, thinking that this was going to be like the Central Ave. Jazz Festival in South LA.

Big mistake (or not, depending on what you think I gained).

I ended up parking near another recreation Center over on 109th street. What was odd is that this recreation center with a basketball court, tennis courts, green open space, playground, was empty. Not a single soul in that public area. I could hear the drosophila getting their groove on.

This was very strange for a Saturday afternoon, least for me. I'm used to seeing coming from Bellevue Rec Center in Silver Lake, Panorama's Rec Center, or even Macon St. basketball in Glassell Park.


I walked down past a school, and the metrolink tracks. However, not before I went through another Watts oddity.

A group of teenagers and/or young adults sitting on the street with a foldable chair. One kid had a crowbar in hand and was wacking a tree.

Nothing wrong with a group of young adults hanging out in front of an empty school...if they had skateboards, I wouldn't have made a deal of anything.

Instead, they all looked on as the kid was taking hard swipes at the tree.

I didn't want to show my fear, so I walked right in the middle between the tree whacker and the group of teenagers. The guy could've wacked me with his crowbar if for no reason than for pure enjoyment or for crossing where I wasn't "supposed" to cross. I did this quickly and unconsciously.

A Latino guy passing me by muttered something to me to which I said I didn't know.

When I crossed through this area back from the Festival, I went across the street from the school.

Someone called out ominously "Do you want to die?" I looked forward and didn't see who said it.

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