How Dangerous Is Compton - Can a Brotha (and a Motha) Get a Little Peace While Jogging?

Ignorance is bliss.

A hackneyed phrase that probably describes my way of getting by here. I really don't know anything,

I don't know who the gang members are, I don't know who the families are --- I feel reasonably OK.

But again, maybe that's all because I really don't know anyone here. I was even about to take and post videos of Christmas lights adorning the houses here. Some people really take pride in it, and you would think that we were in Torranc---well maybe Azusa. My wife and I have been getting by just fine, except yesterday, Christmas, when the action cut close.

The getting fine had been going on for a while now, probably about a good few weeks or months. It was even extending on the walk we took around the neighborhood where we were able to strike up a conversation with a guy and saw a few houses put up for sale during yesterday's Christmas morning.

The part where I stopped being fine was after our morning walk.

Me having developed an ear distinguishing between fireworks and gunshots and being a vigilant follower of the news, I heard about 5 gun shots. Then a car speeding off. It sounded a bit far away from me.

It's not the first time I've heard shots, maybe about the third.

Then I find out that the shooting and killing is in an area that covers my running route. It's really a heartening time given my co-worker's recent death, my school classmate's violent death in South LA near a Ralph's, and now the latest story near where I live. Not unexpected because hardy har har har, Compton, but it hits a little bit to know that tensions are still active at the same time that me, a person from a middle-class immigrant family completely unexposed to violence, is around as well.

I'm not scared because I think I would be an intended target but more so, because I would not want myself nor my wife nor anyone around me to be the victim of a stray bullet. It makes me think of how my next door neighbors, who speak no differently than other college-educated friends, have endured their entire 30+ years of life living here.

Previously, I know that I've blogged about being able to develop a jogging routine. I have been able to do roughly 2-3 times a week, though I've allowed work and schoolwork to interrupt any regularity in it. My jogging/running habits are nowhere near the level I would like because of not only my work but the limited amount of daylight in a day, especially during Winter. My wife generally does not want me running at night. I've seen people jogging around Greenleaf and other streets at night so jogging isn't a completely alien activity here. I occasionally see people at nearby Tragniew Park getting their jog on at twilight, but I honestly haven't been paying too much attention the past 6 months since Summer ended.

In my younger days living with my folks, I could run miles and miles. I had a routine of getting at least a mile or two in the morning. This was in Silver Lake and Panorama City. I've been wanting to re-hash that routine, which included lots of early morning and late night runs.

The most I've run in Compton at the 7 PM twilight is about 2 miles --- for reference, I used to run along Sunset Blvd from Silver Lake to West Hollywood for a distance of around 10 miles total.

Most importantly I really want my wife to be able to be active. But her biggest concern is safety. Safety. Safety. It sucks enough to be a woman in public space, but being in a city which is still considered a symbol of urban violence isn't helpful either. It's one thing for me to not care as much, but it's an entirely different thing. I want her to be able to go out by herself, but she would never do that here.

Hoping for that day when she could unconsciously start being active outside not because her personality changes but because the environment does. I'm not calling for gentrification or something to rip at demographics, but you do wonder why famous people from here and got famous out of talking about survival here probably don't want to actually live here whether it's Dr. Dre, the Williams Sisters, or even the "non-materialistic" Kendrick Lamar.

The Life of a Words with Friends/LA Public Transportation Master

Life is rather short, and I'd like to take a acknowledge one of my co-workers who passed away.  He was a great user of the public spaces in LA, heavily relying on Metro buses and Metrolink to get to the many places required in our line of work from all the way in Orange County to places in Santa Barbara.
According to updates on his Facebook profile, Jim died on December 19th, 2014 at the Greyhound Station in LA. He attended Hollywood High and apparently graduated Hollywood High in 1980.  I believe that he stayed somewhere around Boyle Heights or Atwater Village.

At work, he was kind of known by other co-workers for his "rough" external appearance.  He looked like a homeless guy.  He appeared to wear the same brown hoodie most of the time with dark pants.   Quite frankly, the smell he gave off was not pleasant.

First time I saw him we were at the office and he was talking about public transportation.  He could be loud and expressive, but not in an excessive or boorish manner.

First time I was formally introduced to him was at a job in Boyle Heights with 3 other veteran employees, himself, and me.  Our job was to survey a large parking structure.  During one of our breaks when we were parked outside on a sidewalk outside a big parking structure;  one was smoking a cigar in the car, one had pulled back his seat and was passed out, one was in the backseat with the door pulled out.  Jim and I were on the Sidewalk;  I was reading the book Traffic, incidentally, he was laying out.  LA County Sheriff getting a glace at the spectacle of the five of us lounging around this busy parking structure gave us a thorough questioning, which forced us to call our boss, and ended up in a 2-hour delay.

Definitely a hassle at the time, but hilarious to look back on.  One of the employees, the guy who had pulled back his seat, blamed Jim in part for the grief the cops gave us that day for "looking as crazy as he did."

We worked near schools --- people would come up to me and ask me if that "homeless-looking" man was part of our operations.  We worked in residential neighborhoods --- people would get angry and usually call some type of law enforcement, and I'd hear about how the company got yet another call about Jim.  It was almost part of the deal for every project for him to be harassed, though he wasn't really the type to be incensed to the point of rage.

We all wondered behind Jim's back about his living situation;  he carried a duffel bag with him at all times --- he had a laptop, which got stolen at one point, a Samsung phone, which he lost, and another replacement phone.  His eating habits apparently consisted of constant stops to Jack in the Box.

Maybe his appearance was all a ruse to filter out unnecessary people in his life.

Many times while out in the field, people would question him and his presence --- most of us veteran employees had come to expect that someone would mention him in a police call.  I could see that he tried to groom and take some care of his appearance occasionally getting haircuts, but his smell was still there.

For as much as most co-workers nor I wanted to be near his physical presence, he was someone who could be quite entertaining to converse with.  I've known him for about 3 years now --- sarcastic, rather sharp wit.  He would often joke about other employees, in another character who liked to puff.

He knew a bit about places in LA;  he definitely wasn't a fan of the LA Central Public Library because he's lost stuff there, he teased me about living in Compton.  I would occasionally see him on the Blue Line or Red Line.

He was one of the longest tenured workers at the job.  While on the job, he would launch into dialogues about all kinds of hypothetical surrealistic fantasies about our job. Occasionally our job requires counting cars.  For a while our conversations centered around hypothetical fictitious stupidities like "the Counting championships" or "Making the front cover of Counter Magazine".  It was all in good fun, and definitely kept us occupied for our more mundane tasks.

I worked with him on numerous projects, whether it was counting cars, walkie talkie-ing with him, surveying parking lots.

When he really opened up was when I challenged him on the game Words With Friends. I challenged him and he eventually started calling me by my user name. He was always my toughest opponent, but I wondered why his average was always so low. I went 1-4 against him. The one win I got I was so proud, I interrupted his 46-game winning streak.  In fact my second to last text to him was talking about that time I beat him;  we both scored 400 points, which to us was a lot.
He was a good sport about it. In the meanwhile, we would always be talking about opponents he was beating.  Last I heard he had 96 wins and 6 losses, a record I could not even come close to equaling percentage wise.  He was an absolute master at that game.

I think his mastering of the game spoke to the hidden genius he had inside which betrayed his outside, external appearance, which always led people to discredit, disrespect, or become suspicious of him.

Last time I saw him in the flesh was around November during a project at Boeing. It was almost expected that he would be harassed while at site.  I walked with him to give him an extra vest that I had.  Sure enough, I heard security guards describe a man who fit his description.

There's a lot about him I don't know and won't ever know.  I know that he had a daughter, currently in her 20s, and he was hopeful that he could be a grandfather some day. 

I just hope that he can play Words with Friends from wherever he is.