Thursday, January 19, 2012

Why I love LA!

There are maps to the stars homes (even though most of the stars have long since moved or died, or both), tours of Hollywood studios, tours of Hollywood, tours of “old Hollywood”, tours of Beverly Hills, even tours of Hollywood cemeteries. But now comes the best! And this is not a joke. This is REAL.

You can now tour LA’s slums. That’s right. See the street gangs, crime, squalor, graffiti, and violence that marks tropical South Central. I’m not making this up!

An enterprising company is now offering bus tours of the inner city. Driver Alfred Lomas, who is a former gang member, takes you through a guided tour of his crib. Other former gang members are on board with you. You can get your picture taken with one, but he probably charges more if you want to hold his AK47.

Now, correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t vicious street gangs somewhat particular about who enters their territory? So the Crips and Bloods will literally kill each other if they should enter their neighborhood, but it’s okay for tourists from Iowa to swing by?

Hey motherfuckers, please check out our visitors center/gift shop, next to the roped off crime scene.”

Who needs to write satire when stuff like this actually occurs? Lomas wanted to offer T-shirts reading “I Got Shot in South Central” after the riders would have been shot with water guns. But for some inexplicable reason he scrapped the idea.

Among the stops are the Los Angeles River, which contains more graffiti than water, and the Los Angeles County Jail, where 120,000 gang members have visited at the state’s request. I’m not sure if the home where Marvin Gaye was shot by his father is on the tour but it should be. And what about the house where Patty Hearst’s captives were sprayed with bullets? If I’m paying good money for a tour it’s not enough to see some graffiti and a drive-by murder.

And you're not allowed off the bus.  You can't shoot hoops with members of the Florencia 13 gang.  

Again, true fact: Passengers must sign a release form stating that the tour is inherently dangerous. This eliminates the possibility of any Jews ever signing up, and it cuts in half the number of Girl Scout troops who would do this as a field trip.

But this is just one more reason why I love this town. I think Frank Lloyd Wright put it best:  

Tip the world over on its side and everything loose will land in Los Angeles.

I land today in Australia.  Okay,Sydney, I challenge you -- I hope your ferries and beaches and opera house and world-class attractions can stack up to Compton. 


Helena said...

Hilarious. Why watch the news when you can get close to the action and see it for yourself. The only thing you risk is getting yourself killed, and hey, that's nothing.

Chris said... you can sell cocaine on the street in Brazil if you're into this kind of thing.

RCP said...

My tour of the old movie houses on Broadway last time I was in LA doesn't seem quite as cutting-edge now.

Pacific NW Corey said...

This is off-topic but would you take a few minutes of your time "down under" to answer an age old question...Doestoilet water really circulate clock-wise?

Breadbaker said...

Clearly, I got shot in South LA should be on a picture frame of the souvenir photo. And you can sit out on the curb while you decide if you want to buy it. Yeah, right here . . . .

John said...

In New York for $2.25 you can just take selected elevated lines through some sections of the outer boroughs and see the same thing (I recommend the 2/5 trains through the South Bronx or the Beyonce-free J/Z trains through East New York for your best downmarket sightseeing enjoyment).

Rays profile said...

This is right up there with the tours of Haight-Ashbury during the 60s. The hippies used to run alongside the buses holding mirrors, so the riders could see "who the real freaks are."

WV: hexine - Spray-on curses!

JJ said...

Too good not share and I am via Facebook.

Mike Barer said...

LA--Where the Rams and the Raiders are making noises about moving back. Maybe for another 10 years.

Unknown said...

I have a similar story.

The village I grew up in has no higher education schools so I went to school in the town I live today - Bielefeld, Germany. It has a part of town that specializes in care for the mentally disabled - a whole part of town dedicated to integrating them into society, treating them as equals. And I went to school there (with mostly healthy people). But on the streets, in the facilities all around our school, in the stores and shops you always got into contact with people who had down syndrome or epilepsy. With the more challenged ones of them not being able to go out themselves the really tough cases of course we never encountered. But in 9th and 12th grade we had three week seminars to get into contact with those stronger affected people (I don't see a reason to call them 'patients' because they were living basically just living there).

The part of town is called "Bethel" and was started and lead from 1867 on by Friedrich von Bodelschwingh. While I was going to school there we had visits from the Pope and the japanese Tenno and his wife. Bethel relies on donations so they thought it would be helpful to visit to make people aware.

Fun thing is anyone who reads what I write about this and every single time someone feels the need to point out to me that I am not wording "it" right.

But in fact the problem usually is the other way around. All of us going to school there learned that having epilepsy or down syndrome is normal.

Now back to topic: because people donated money there are, of course, some of them who want to visit. Like the Tenno, like the pope.

And now imagine us going to school in the morning or to the bus later that day to get back home when those tour buses drove past us with 70 to 90 year old women in them, looking out of the window aghast, pointing fingers, hands in front of their mouths... look Elsa, that's who we donated for... aren't we good people?

Usually we made fun of them by pretending to have a limp or crossing our eyes just to run down the street a second later, pointing back at them laughing.

On the one hand it's nice when people donated and helped and showed an interest. On the other we really didn't think they would get into contact with any of the people they donated money for and we saw that for them even talking WITH "one of them" was something special or unusual. And that making fun of that was "evil".

Still today, every day, when it happens that I walk through downtown and someone with a leather helmet on drops to the pavement in spams people stop and just stare while others like me just take a short look if the man or woman is biting their tongue or if they have their helmet on correctly to intervene in case they are about to hurt themselves.

You can't imagine how often people tried to stop me or my brother from holding someone to stop them banging their head on the pavement or using their piece of rubber they usually carry to put it between their teeth. Ok it was maybe three times but still. Because they think it's wrong due to some idiotic documentary.

So in the end this tour bus might could be bad. I most likely agree. But on the other hand I know documentations about South Central where people who live there show the viewer that it's not more dangerous there than in other parts of LA.

Mainly because you get shot just as much in other parts and that you should compare it to downtown Bielefeld to find out that there's something wrong with gun laws in the US not with South Central in particular.

But if you're just there to stare at people get the f*** outta there, a**hat.

Johnny Walker said...

While I can see the funny side, closer examination reveals something else, so please allow me to show the other side of the coin: LA Gang Tours is done with all the right intentions. Alfred Lomas may be a former gang-member, but he's also an ex-Marine, and is now better known as the guy who runs the charity, "A Better LA".

He's profiled here: LA Times: Promise and Peril in South LA"

The "Gang Tours" thing is designed to try and improve things in the poorest areas of LA. Or, at the website puts it: "Our goal with LA GANG TOURS is to use the profits from the tours to create jobs and provide opportunities for the residents of South Central, Los Angeles. We believe that educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions is a vital step towards a peaceful existence."

In other words, it's NOT run by a bunch of thugs trying to make a cheap buck, nor are they trying to create a spectacle of the damaged lives of the people who live in South LA. You can read more about their hopes and aims here:
LA Gang Tours

If anyone wants to educate themselves about the problems facing inner-city America on a daily basis, I'd highly recommend reading David Simon's non-fiction books "Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets" (later turned into the hit TV show "Homicide") and "The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighbourhood" (later turned in the HBO mini-series "The Corner")...

Or, if you don't want to dedicate that amount of time, or fancy something more entertaining and less depressing, then just watch "The Wire" (also by David Simon and company). It also happens to be, in this humble viewer's opinion, the most enjoyable, engrossing, and rewarding TV experience ever created.

(How a TV show inspired by inner-city problems can be so damned entertaining is another question entirely... don't let the subject matter put you off!)

Johnny Walker said...

Sorry, I got a bit didactic there, didn't I?

I do heartily recommend THE WIRE, though.

Unknown said...

No no you did good. It was exactly what I expected and I bet Ken thought it was a possibility but he's a comedy writer so it's ok to look at it from that angle and make us laugh about it.

I bet he expected his thoughtful audience to dig up the info that put the tour into perspective.

So if he can be funny you can be as didactic as you want (as long as you aren't an ass about it ;-) )

We have a funny word for it in German - "Erklärbär" (Explaining bear). It rhymes ;-)

Mary Stella said...

Are the tour buses bullet-proof?

This tops the underground tour of Seattle.

Johnny Walker said...

Thanks, Sebastian, and may I just say: Wow, what an interesting town you live in. Once again I'm amazed at how different everything could be with a little education.

Monty B said...

OK, I've just gotta know. Did you mean to say "Patty Hearst's captives"? or perhap captors? Although captives is much more humorous.

the same chris said...

Straight outta compton,
crazy mothafucka named Ice Cube
From gang called N. W. A.
Are We Done Yet
Yeah i starred that
Produced a TV Show based on that
Are we there yet
called it so witty

Please feel free to improve

Dan Tedson said...

I "gakked" a "busta" and all I got was this stupid "gear."

Hope there's a shark cage round that bus.

Phillip B said...

For years on the other side of the continent, there have been successful Sunday morning tours to the churches of Harlem -

The fee for the tour does not include what you'll put in the collection plate, of course....

WV - proffer

Iain said...

We've had about 8 drive-by-shootings in Sydney over the last two weeks (there'll probably be another one over the weekend.) -

But I don't think we'll be able to get a bus tour organised in time. Better luck next visit.

(oh - and have a great time whilst you're here. Just don't turn on the television under any circumstances.)

Paul Duca said...

Question for Ken or anyone...what was the title and main plot line of the CHEERS that aired October 14, 1982? During my travels around YouTube, I came across the end credits of that day's episode of THE DOCTORS with a voice over promo for the Thursday prime time line-up saying "The Cheers gang talks baseball and Carla gets three hits"--is that the one where she attacked the Yankee fan who came into the bar?

WV: "treat"---how often does someone get an actual word Probably the same odds as being dealt a royal flush.

Dan Tedson said...

Imdb says that's the one.

Dale said...

Welcome to Australia Ken. Beware of sharks if swimming at the beach. Many sightings and attacks of late. Swim between the flags and listen for alarms.
You can find good restaurants at Circular quay across from the opera house, if you like the sights.
If you get a chance try out our seafood. Ask your concierge to direct you to a good restaurant close to your hotel.
If passing a bookstore, try to find a copy of A fortunate life, by Albert Facey. A great read about a remarkable Australian life.

John Hauge said...

good stuff. a mutual friend sent me. i think the patty SLA house went up in flames on the night of the bust.
too bad. gordon ramsey could have turned it into a fine dinning joint. i'd take the tour but only if i can pack heat.

Anonymous said...

HI There. Johnny, good info, but Pete Carroll runs A Better LA (not Alfred Lomas).
Ken - too bad you weren't with me writing while we were filming cuz that really would have been the comedy.

In any case, check out this documentary on Gang Intervention (reducing violence) and the story behind the LA Gang Tours. Alfred is one of our key subjects. I have been working on this very important project about reducing violence and gang intervention on and off for over a year. We are now ready to pick this up again

We just launched a kick starter campaign to raise 'next step' funds for 'A Violence Disrupted' We have 17 days to raise all or nothing of $10K and if we don't make it they don't credit anyone's cards for money. : (

This video is just a little over 2 minutes. Then scroll down for any answers you might want to know.

Thank so you much.