The Different Ways I've Initially Described Compton to Different People, and Their Initial Reactionss

We talk differently to people depending on circumstances, and how we anticipate they'll respond to us. 

With the way Compton has received an infusion of cultural capital in the past year because of the movie re-hashing NWA's rise and fall and Kendrick Lamar everything, you'd think it'd always be something to proudly declare, but not always so, particularly with people I don't know. 

Generally in everyday conversation with acquaintances and people I don't immediately know, I try to show "alignment."  That is, I just try to see where they're coming from and then "show" how similar I am to them. 

With "people whom I've met only briefly", the conversation is all about getting to know a person, and "where I live" would be a primary question.

By "showing alignment", I am likely not going to mention that I am from Compton, unless they ask, but in a way that doesn't seem like they'd think any less of me and/or disregard any of my future opinions. 

For example, when meeting new people, for me it's really difficult to tell white people who are generations before me because either they are outside of California and do not know the reference to Compton, they are from California and are probably likely to associate Compton with negativity.

In contrast, "people with whom I am in regular contact", we have an established certain pattern of interacting.  Were beyond introductions and more about talking about whatever we've established talking about and updating each other on aspects of our lives.  "Where I live" would usually be a question embedded within an established history of conversation.

So, here's a sampling of different people I've encountered over the past three years, their demographics, the circumstance in which I've introduced my town, and my relation to them divided by race.  I divide on race, because in one-to-one interaction, it is the one attribute you can't really do anything to hide unless you're talking to a room of blind.

I don't think that we are inherently "different" as peoples of different races.  I don't think "white people are a certain way, black people are a certain way etc.", but depending on your race (as well as class-gender-ethnicity-etc.), you will have associations, knowledges, and behaviors ascribed to your race.  We as humans all carry very arbitrary, imperfect associations, knowledges, and behaviors of different races and ethnicities.

As you will read, those associations, knowledges, and behaviors constrain how both any given individual views and is viewed.  

TO WHITE PEOPLE WITH WHOM I AM IN REGULAR CONTACT (OR USED TO BE):   With these older people, I haven't really talked about where I live.  I avoid it, or were too deep into the relationship talking about other things that where I live hasn't come up.  With younger folks, I talk about it and it's not an issue after that.

To a blue-collar male co-worker in his mid-50s living in Orange County:  I wrote about this guy here.  Though I've developed a pretty good working relationship with him, I still avoid the topic as much as possible.  I have not mentioned at all that I live in Compton.  He thinks that I live in Long Beach, because I'd mentioned that I was "still" in Long Beach when I was running late one day.

To a college-educated male co-worker in his mid-50s formerly living in Culver City:  Unlike the guy above, I would actually talk to this guy.  He'd even met my wife and has seen my baby.  He would talk about old Los Angeles, things he'd done on our job around LA, and trips he'd taken across the country and abroad.  I never mentioned living in Compton, but it wasn't because I did not want to tell him;  the topic just never came up.

To a graduate-school educated male lawyer in his mid-30s living in New England:   Last time I saw this guy was my wedding.  I warned him, told him, he drove in with his wife.  Great times had.

To a some college female co-worker in her 40s-50s living in West Covina:  I trained this person on a project.  She was friendly and asked about my baby.  I met her for the first time right after the shootings in San Bernardino and she said that she had ties to the facility.  I was trying to feel her out based on how she was reacting.  She never really asked so I never mentioned that I live in Compton. 

To a some college male co-worker in his mid-20s living in Venice:  This guy I'd actually consider my friend.  I actually had him visit the house in Compton, on a Friday night.  The first thing he did was call his brother and ask him, "hey guess where I am?"

 TO WHITE PEOPLE WHOM I'VE MET ONLY BRIEFLY:  I'm very guarded against older white people and try to get a feel for their political leanings.  With younger people, I usually just try to lay cultural references thick on the "millennials."

To a college-educated female "co-worker" in her early 30s visiting from Washington, DC:  She was there to observe me for a job, specifically for jobs in Compton.  I told her that we'd be visiting the area.  She seemed somewhat indifferent even as I was trying to make the rap references which seemed only vaguely familiar to her.  She had the company-rented car and didn't mind leaving her car in a Compton neighborhood, a very suburban-Lakewood-ish-appearing area south of Rosecrans on the West side.

To a some college immigrant realtor in her 50s living in Upland:  She was curious about the job I was doing.  I explained my job.  We got into a deeper conversation about children as she was carting around her grandson. 

I initially told her I live in "Los Angeles."  As the conversation snowballed and knowing her realtor sensibilities, I got comfortable enough to reveal that my wife.  As I expected, she remarked that "buying" and "owning" is better than renting.

By "black people", I mean "black Americans."  Black Americans usually know what Compton is and what it means.  Despite living in Compton, I don't run across many from outside who would really question the experience.  I think I garner more of an "oh really?  Cool"  sentiment from the very few that I know.

To a college-educated male former roommate and postman in his early 40s living in Long Beach:  This guy was a transplant from the Midwest, whom I described on my former other blog.  When I first told him bout my new digs in Compton, he told me to invite him over.

To a college-educated female birthing midwife in her late 40s-early 50s living in Upland:   We told her kind of hesitantly that we lived in Compton, attempting to hint at the fact that it was a more Latino neighborhood in which there had been a hate crime.  She responded in a way that said, "really, you think I'd be scared of Compton?"

TO ASIAN PEOPLE WITH WHOM I AM IN CONTACT REGULARLY (OR USED TO BE):  This is pretty much family members and friends, so on one hand, I know they're supportive, but sometimes they might drop subtle cues.  Also, since they're family and friends, I likely told them some two years ago in 2013-2014.

To a college-educated female immigrant nurse in her early 60s living in Santa Clarita:  This is one of the aunties from my mom's class who seems to like me a lot.  She actually visited me one time.

To a college-educated female nurse in her early 30s living Culver City:  I went to grade school with her, she was a year behind me.  We both ended up graduating from the same college, though I transferred from Slug Nation.  She's a nurse now, and is still close to one of my close family friends.  When I told her that we were living in Compton, she asked, "straight up?"  The kicker is that she is going to marry a guy with whom I went to high school with and also was a year behind me, and also ended up at the same college.  So I had to explain further, "yeah, it's the cheapest place to buy a house!"

To a college-educated female teacher in her early 30s living in Eagle Rock:  This is the "close family friend" whom I mentioned in the synopsis previous to this one.  She's been more like an older sister.  She was supportive, after all she'd worked very close to the area.  Though she did wonder, if I'd ever be able to sell the house that we'd bought.

To a college-educated male counselor in his early 30s living in the San Fernando Valley:  This is my best man.  He's a big fan of the wire and hip-hop, and especially Kendrick Lamar.  I try to let him know about significant locations here.

To a college-educated male engineer in his early 30s living in Orange County:  One of my groomsmen whom I've grown up with and told to visit, but he hasn't visited.  But I think it's mostly because he's busy.

A graduate school educated female pharmacist in her early 30s living in West Covina and a graduate school educated counselor in her her early 30s living in Pasadena:  I remember the conversation when I revealed to her and another friend that we were living in a house.  I came off already apologizing for our location.  I said something like "It's Compton, but..."  They replied at different times saying essentially, "...but it's a house!"

TO ASIAN PEOPLE WHOM I'VE ONLY MET BRIEFLY:  Like with older white people, I also am guarded and try to get a quick read on their political leanings.

To a blue-collar male welder in his late 60s living in Torrance:  I met this guy while on a job in a beach city.  He was seeing me doing my job, and was bragging at how he had been a veteran, and for a long-time an expert welder.  He talked about his trips to different places.  He encouraged me to go to school for welding at El Camino College so I could "better myself."  I did not mention the city I live in to him.   

To a college graduate female graduate student in her mid 20s living in LA:  I met this girl while doing a big project.  We found similar academic interests.  She was from San Jose.  I was kinda trying to get a feel for how she'd react but I let out that I live in Compton...but for economic reasons.  She appeared to show alignment and understanding of my reasoning.

TO LATINO PEOPLE WITH WHOM I AM IN CONTACT REGULARLY (OR USED TO BE):  Similar to the situation with black folk, I don't really have any issues telling any of them regardless of education, class, gender, or age that I'm from Compton.  Usually I can joke with them about it, and/or comfortably invite them over with no issues.

To a blue-collar male co-worker in his early 30s living in South LA:  Dude I'd consider the homey.  He regularly comes to drop work off.  He even has a girlfriend in the area.

To a blue-collar male co-worker in his early 30s living in East LA:  Dude I'd consider the homey.  He doesn't come to drop work off.  We still joke a bit. 

To a blue-collar male barber in his early 70s living in Gardena:  This guy's my barber.  He collects clocks and stuff from the '50s, which is displayed prominently all over his barber shop.  I only recently started really getting close with him after my 3rd or 4th haircut, especially after I found that he's actually Mexican (thought he was some Italian guy from New York), and after a roving vendor with socks tried to sell me socks and called me a "verga" for pretending to be interested, when I was just trying to be nice.  Anyhoo, I didn't really have much issue telling him that I was living in Compton.  He told me he was from Watts, and the conversation went on and on from there.

To a some college female immigrant superior in her early 30s living in West Covina:  Now this person is kind of my boss, but she's pretty cool.  After a few projects under our belt, we've developed a pretty close working relationship.  Our conversations are really always about work, but sometimes we deviate and talk about our families.  I'd never really mentioned the city to her, except for job purposes.  I don't really talk about it because I don't know how familiar she would be with any of the cultural references.


To a blue-collar male in his mid 20s living in South LA:  I was working with this guy who had some punk rock T-shirt on all the time and was supposed to work with the company.  He told me that he lived in South LA.  I told him I lived up the street. 

My Secret to Escaping the Sunset-Barrington Intersection That Everyone Is Complaining About

And by "Everyone", I mean some residents of Brentwood.

Other than a taxi, Uber, or Lyft driver, I don't know how many people drive the variety of routes that I do in and around Southern California.  

I've actually had to go directly to Brentwood on Sunset before 7 AM on a number of occasions.

It's about 20-24 miles from me, so I leave my house in Compton at about 5:30 AM and usually get there with plenty of time to spare, sometimes at 6:15 - 6:30.  Coming from the 405, I don't experience such a crush of traffic, especially when it's still dark outside, and that's just my point. 

When I absolutely need to, I leave early and get to where I need to, including that Sunset-Barrington, corridor.  That's the secret!

But then again, that's just my own thing, which probably won't make for a good broad design solution to the problem for everyone.  Also, I'm coming Eastbound from the 405, usually childless, as opposed to Westbound from the 405, which seems to bear the brunt of the complaint.

On the way home, usually at around 9AM, I also have been subjected to this "one-mile, one-hour" traffic in the morning, but it never registered as seismically different from my many other traffic experiences on the 605 North in the morning or the 605 South in the Evening, the 105 East during rush hour, even getting to the airport when you think people are away at work.

I don't know of any other viable-all encompassing solution. 

Though tolls "might" work because theoretically demand is high but supply is low, but I'd think the affluent who probably make up most of the drivers will probably still pay to go on without any second thought.  The poor people like me, who work there, will be the ones feeling the hit. 

After that solution, I'm not sure how much changing traffic signal timing and street markings will do.

I've read the comments on the Facebook pages of KPCC and LAist about how they should've allowed transit to be built or how they should just bike. 

Yes, they should have allowed transit, but not much they can do about the situation now. 

A fraction of them can bike (though biking Sunset west of West Hollywood is really scary), but that won't work for those who carry cargo and/or kids.

I guess the only real solution is to make that area very unpopular and undesirable so no one will traffic the area;  that's the thinking behind writing this blog here!