15 April 2010

Death Takes a Holiday ... Not (Redux)

Death is all around us. And, unlike Brad Pitt in Meet Joe Black, with his one-off holiday vis-a-vis Anthony Hopkins's swanky world, death seems to be working overtime in our senior living centers, foreign war zones, and unfortunately, certain neighborhoods here in Los Angeles. I live in one such area in L.A. with nightly gunshots and the ubiquitous crime scene taped off around the liquor stores aplenty on every block. The police helicopter becomes this mechanical vulture illuminating the presence of a fresh kill or that police units are in hot pursuit. You never quite get used to the constant reminders of your mortality, the way one takes it for granted living in the suburbs from whence I hail. Maybe that's why there are five-times the number of churches in L.A. proper.

A few months ago, a young man three doors down from my house was shot and killed. He was standing with a group of young men and women early in the evening when the unnoticed coward walked up and fired at point-blank range. While everyone scattered for their lives jumping behind walls and cars, the killer jogged to the awaiting van and was driven away leaving an all-too-common scene for a heart-broken father away on a business trip to come home to. The police said it was an initiation killing and that our neighbor was in the wrong place, etc. There are just too many etc.'s in our inner cities today. Perhaps President Obama should propose a war on domestic terror and pull a few billion out of the "stimulus bill" where it might actually do some good by hiring extra police and specially trained gang units. Now there's some hope and change I'd like to see become a reality.

I have witnessed or come across three such murders while here in the 'hood, and my brothers and friends are constantly telling me to move away. But, I remind them that when I lived in the safe suburbs, my little brother and I watched early one morning as the coroner's office took away our neighbor, Mr. 'D', who had kissed his daughter (with her friend over for a sleepover) and son goodnight, sat himself down late-night in his car parked with the engine running in their closed garage, and drove himself into the afterlife. We sat there in our side yard not 10 feet away from the coroner as he wheeled Mr. 'D', who was covered in a blanket or bag, into the back of the station wagon with its windows blackened. We knew that he was dead, like kids just know or divine the truth out of a situation without really knowing. You know?

Just a few short years after Mr. 'D's departure, I went to see Rollerball, starring Jimmy Caan -- my older brother James took my little brother and me. Driving back home up the hill that leads to our parent's house, we were stunned to see bodies covered with blood stained sheets in the driveway across the street from our house. This was the aftermath of a murder, attempted-suicide (the murderer later died in a coma). Thankfully, our neighbor Mr. 'C' and other members of the family (our young friends) survived. He later remarried and has been blissfully happy for the past 25 years. But, that night, in the safe suburbs, my brother Gil became a hero. When bullets were flying, and an off-duty cop's revolver was jamming, my next door neighbor Mrs. Glenn tried to stop the onslaught; it was my 14 year-old brother who tackled her, knocking her into the bushes, and dragged her back to safety. Death doesn't take a holiday, and when it's our time, we should all be ready to give an account for the life we're living, whether we're in Happy Dale sanitarium, Afghanistan, or Beverly Hills.


9 comments:

One Ticked Chick said...

Firstly, be safe, JG. Do you own a bulletproof vest by any chance? I think residents of the inner cities could benefit from real hope, rather than campaign slogans, along with quality schools and jobs.

Julia Christie said...

I'm with One ticked chick - invest in the vest post haste! Cripes, but you have stories to tell JG! Makes you value each and every day!

Thanks for the nice comment about the chap. from my novel. I really appreciate the feedback.

Smiles

lisa golightly said...

Wow, you do have stories to tell ! I left a neighborhood similar to yours 8 yrs ago, to be in one of those "Happy Dale" types of places. Or so I thought. ( think opening scene to the show Weeds ) Little did I know it was our high school that had the highest oxycontin abuse in the nation ... lost 2 teens on my block alone to it last year. Not much is as it seems. You just never know. Bravo to you for choosing such a positive outlook and not taking life for granted ! Take care of yourself !! Lisa

Toad said...

Suicide is one thing, but gang initiation pops are another matter all together. get vests for your kids too.

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Goodness Jg .. i worry about gang crime escalating over here.. but it is nothing compared to what you have described.... perhaps just more fear than reality over this side of the pacific.... So... this will sound cliche .. but i thought that only happened in the movies... well not really.. but you do think it is removed from the average neighbourhood....or restricted to the worst areas... Don't you worry about your boys? or are they young enough to be with you at all times? Enlightening post.. and very brave of your brother to jump in like that...Stay safe!!! Julie

Sashindoubutsu said...

I was out of the blog world for quite some time and I must say I missed reading your posts, and OMG... you stay safe always.

Barbara said...

Well honey, we can't be entirely safe. Our plane could crash. We could be hit by a drunker driver. happens anywhere, everywhere. A neighbor could kill himself.

However, you can make YOURSELF as safe as possible.
Move out of there.

Dumbwit Tellher said...

I agree with Barbara & good advice from 'One Ticked Chick'. Perhaps a you can get a tailored Burberry Bullet Proof Vest? Seriously, I'm worried for you and for your boys. I agree whole heartily it happens everywhere, just some spots more than most. There was a "initiation" type killing here in Katy right before we moved. After we moved into our neighborhood I found out the high school student was driving down a main road past our development with his girlfriend and a car pulled alongside & fired a bullet into his head. He managed to pull into the housing development & his car came to a stop up against the curb just down from our home. I was mortified to hear it, & have never told my daughter. I so agree, funding for a war on gangs/crime/drugs is beyond needed. It's a crisis.
I also agree with Lisa. People/kids need hope. I must not forget you have an incredibly brave brother in Gil. He gets a free pass straight into those pearly gates. Great family Jg.

PLEASE...take much care x

Len♥reNeverM♥re said...

Crazzzy time indeed~ major crisis in my city as well! Do take care...
PEACE*