Now, the Compton Chronicles

So, a bunch of hilarity has ensued since grad school started for me 3 years ago.

3 years ago, as a 26-year old, the world was wide open, but I hadn't done much.   I could barely land a job interview, pay rent to my godsister who graciously permitted me to stay in her Long Beach condo with her and her-then boyfriend (now husband) on Monday nights.  I was also feeling the effects of a break-up.

3 years later, as a 29-year old, the world is still wide open, but I feel like I have done a little more.   I'm proud to have been part of a memoir, part of getting someone a job at a major university, and done a little tutoring, mentoring, teaching, and research.  I now have 2 part-time jobs in research (which is still not ideal), and along with my fiance, a Kindergarten teacher, will be making our first mortgage payment on November 1, 2013 for the new living quarters that I am typing from in Compton.

Nowhere in my dreams from 3 years ago did I ever envision the near-future containing any one of: proposing, house-buying, going to church, and/or moving to Compton..


We here.

Just finished my 3rd night here in my house in Compton.

We've been going back and forth here for the past 2 weeks ever since we practically emptied out a large portion of each of our own savings accounts to close out the deal.  But we figured, if there's anything to empty it out for, it would be a house, right?

Life's been great the past few months, but I know to be cautiously optimistic.

Looking at the pile of bills to pay and thinking of all the imaginary ones that will need to be dealt with from property taxes to student loans, I today experienced a different edge to the phrase "making ends meet."  The edge felt a little more engulfing, and gripping. 

However,  I think about how her immigrant family of 7, sometimes on the back of just one income-earner, made it work.  They are now thriving in Wilmington.  And the kids?  They are alright.  Every time I think of their family trajectory, I realize that I am with someone who makes (good) things happen.  

And so...

Cautiously optimistic.

About the city of Compton as well.  I am cautiously optimistic.

Yes, to a large extent, Compton still seems to be defined by outsiders the emergence of NWA and the ubiquitous, iconic gangsta rap.  

But I think they've been trying to change it for a long time.  Their signage before you cross a city boundary, at least on the Southwest end bordering Gardena and Carson, says "Birthing a New Compton."  I'd seen that motto when I did a homeless count a few years ago.

I'd even attended some kind of city committee meeting one time, thanks to the work of a former partner.  Turns out she was helping to build bike infrastructure for me!

Just over the past few years, they'd also put up a new sign at the Compton stop on the Blue Line.

I'd also heard on the radio sometime in July that after years of corruption, they'd just elected a new mayor, Aja Brown, apparently a  fellow "outsider", who is around our age.

Initial Impressions?

At first, cautious.  We didn't imagine moving to Compton.  It was actually supposed to be a condo in Paramount.  But that quickly fell through.

After we'd closed on the house, I tried to learn more about the area through its online reputation, starting with LA Times Mapping Neighborhoods, Wikipedia, and looking for grocery and convenient stores, parks and libraries so that we may resume life as we knew it in Long Beach and Wilmington, respectively.

Our grocery stores:  Food4Less, 99 Cents store, Ralphs, Target. 

Most everything we need is functionally reachable.

However, we do like getting stuff from Trader Joes, the closest of which is 10 miles away from us, all the way in Torrance. 

The roads however, are rough for the most part.  Our main North/South thoroughfare is Central Ave, which has some (thin) bike lanes, a big plus, but sadly I've yet to see it put to use, at least in the night time.  There is very little lighting and there's probably still the stigma of "not being out too late" in the hood.  Even the Starbucks near us closed before I got there at 9PM.

One of the parks near us is Tragniew Park where the reviews consist of someone shouting out a set and some guy demanding in Spanish that the tennis courts be open.  My best man and sister laughed when they saw that.

I was also a bit shocked to learn through Wikipedia that once upon a time Compton was the place for middle-class black folk.  Given that information, and its iconic reputation, it begs the question, what happened?  

The answers probably won't be apparent in the immediate future, and I guess this will be an ongoing project.  Hence, Compton Chronicles!

Getting to know the neighbors has been key to the optimistic part of "cautious optimism."  Mostly older immigrant families.  My fiance speaks Eh-spanish and has been able to get good not only with the previous owners but with our next-door neighbors.  

A few days ago, I was able to talk with my neighbor --- a lifelong resident of the block, hovering around our age. He told me that things were OK in the area despite the reputation.  He was very aware of the reputation of the city, and did his best to de-construct the area around me.

Just like my fiance's area in Wilmington, this area we moved to had been "really bad" during the 1990s.  There used to be tree branches in the area that would hide drug dealers.  The trees were then mostly chopped down for increased visibility and transparency, which brings to mind a juxtaposition of images of the Beverly Hills houses hiding behind lots of greenery, and then drug dealers (power doesn't want to be touched).

He also said that the FBI were sort of stalking the area, so nothing would happen.  Wood-knocking.

Aside from this past, he made it a point that lots of people liked to get together and show solidarity with each other.  They'd have barbecues, they'd hang out.  Just like any other neighborhood. 

And just like any other red-blooded American tradition, he invited me to watch football on Sundays.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

So, do you watch football or what!?!?!?