In November of 2010 I moved to Glassell Park, which is a neighborhood in North Los Angeles surrounded by Atwater Village to the South, Glendale to the West, Eagle Rock to the North, and Cypress Park to the East.
Now, I am officially moved out.
My original roommate, Kyle Mabson, found the apartment on Craigslist and we jumped at it because it was totally huge but priced at way under market value for LA. Part of the reason for the low price is because the apartment building is an aesthetically-unpleasing slum that is falling apart, but another big reason for the cheap living is that this neighborhood was only recently one of the worst centers of gang crime in the entire United States.
A couple of years before we moved in, the feds and the LAPD joined together to clean things up and did a fairly good job. Most of the really bad gang people went to jail right before we moved in – I actually get the sense that that’s why our apartment was vacated in the first place.
In the time that I lived there, everything was relatively peaceful. I kept my head down for a while, but I eventually stopped being afraid of walking around by myself at night. There were frightening things, occasionally, and nights when I was stirred from sleep by the sound of a search helicopter overhead. But that’s just city stuff.
Probably the most annoying people in the neighborhood, though, were the Little Gs.
All the big gangster dudes were carted off to jail in the police sweep, which meant that the only people left were the ones who were too young to have serious warrants yet. For these kids, the police crackdown was an attack on a social structure and way of life. And they were grumpy about it.
The Polynesian slur leads me to believe it was aimed at someone else.
This created a palpable tension, but the Little Gs didn’t really do much but scowl, have Noz parties all night, play music really loud, and spray-paint retarded shit on the walls of apartment buildings and the adjacent cemetery. No big deal.
They must’ve gone through a lot of cans of spray paint during the time that I was there. Everything would get painted over within a couple of days, sometimes hours, from when they put it on the walls. But they’d keep spraying. Usually it was just the name of the gang or the nickname of somebody who had died, like Lolo.
Anyway, there was only one time when their shenanigans really got out of hand. That was in January of 2013, a few weeks after Christmas.
As part of their whole “juvenile badass” schtick, the gang kids observe an annual holiday tradition of torching all of the Christmas trees that are left out in the street. It’s tiresome and foolish, but for the most part it is also harmless — they have enough sense to move the trees into the middle of the street and away from plants and cars.
But one night, as Sarah and I came home from Pehrspace at 4:00am after a marathon session of painting the place for her Saccharine Surreality show, we noticed something that was not harmless – a tree on fire on a sidewalk right next to a lot of dry brush and only few feet away from a Ford Explorer. No person was around.
I don’t know if an explosion was imminent but it could’ve been and that wasn’t cool so I did what I hope any of my rational neighbors would’ve done and I called 911. The fire truck took about 90 seconds to arrive and put the fire out very easily. I went to sleep content in the knowledge that a potential catastrophe had been averted.
The next morning, when I was pulling out of the parking garage to go out, I saw a new graffito on the cemetery wall. It was positioned precisely so that it would be seen by people pulling out of my apartment’s parking garage, and it read: “FUCK SNITCHES, 187!” (For those who have somehow never heard Snoop’s “What’s My Name?,” “187” is cop code for murder.)
So I wrote this song about them, which is mean and unforgiving. But I was pissed. And it took me a while to record, but I finally did that. So here it is:
For the record, calling the fire department to prevent potential loss of life and property is not “snitching.”
Anyway, I’m out.