I walk around my neighborhood with a long-handled socket wrench now. The metal has a comforting heaviness.
I live in the Arts District in downtown Los Angeles, and two guys dressed like gangbangers robbed and beat me just past midnight a week ago Sunday. The wrench is for protection, and I wish I had it that night. I won’t make that mistake again.
When the sun goes down, I get tense. I can feel the veins in my jaw pulsating whenever I reach a dark corner, especially the one where Traction Avenue turns into Merrick Street. It was near that corner that two Latino guys with shaved heads, dressed in white T-shirts and beige pants, hit me on the back of my head, took my phone, wallet and keys, and left me bleeding on the sidewalk.
Except for the fact that it happened, it would be almost funny. They looked like ’bangers out of central casting, pure stereotyped evil, down to their dress and diction.
They hit me with the butt of a gun. As least, that’s what I think: Police say two similar-looking dudes robbed a pair of students from the nearby Southern California Institute of Architecture by gunpoint the following evening.
I was not badly hurt. The paramedic on scene — who politely informed me I would only be charged if I decided I needed to go to the hospital — said scalp wounds generally bleed more than other types of cuts, and I was fine despite my horror-show visage.
My stuff is easy to replace. My credit cards were all canceled and replaced within a couple of days, my passwords changed, and I have not been a victim of any fraud. Replacing the iPhone hurt the wallet I had to replace, but that was pretty much it.
But I am prone to fits of anger, have repeatedly snapped at my wife for no reason, and have become otherwise surly and withdrawn. I’m told this is temporary, and it will pass.
The bastards who did this to me have not been caught. Perhaps they never will be, though this is not a reality I feel I can face right now. In brighter moments, I want to use what happened as a rallying cry for more police, more streetlights and more …anything … to prevent this from happening again. Other times, I check the real estate listings in South Pasadena.
The Los Angeles Times wrote an article a few days ago about my neighborhood, referring to the area as “edgy” and “in transition.” I suppose so. The scabs a few inches behind my left ear surely attest to that.
Donna and I moved downtown about six months ago, tired of suburbia, tired of neighbors who were closed and insular, and tired of feeling like we didn’t quite fit in. I don’t mean to say all of Burbank is like that, as many in the Media City live in close-knit communities. But it wasn’t like that on our street, and wasn’t likely ever to be that way.
I know my neighbors now. I like them. I spend time with them, and feel the commonality that only comes from living in a dystopian paradise.
They have reached out en masse, have assured me that this spat of robberies is a fluke, and are rallying public officials on my behalf to make sure it remains so. I also plan to keep the pressure on. I’m pretty good at that.
But what does this have to do with Burbank, Glendale or Pasadena? Some people — including a local politician — have suggested on Facebook that such incidents would never happen in their cities, and I should look into moving back.
They must not read our crime reports, as similar and worse incidents happen nearly daily. Even in Glendale. Also, people: Don’t blame the victim. It makes you look stupid, mean or both.
I don’t know how I’ll feel in a month. But right now, through the anger and the tension, I still feel like I have finally found a home. I just have to clean it up a bit.
DAN EVANS is the editor. He can be reached at (818) 637-3234 or firstname.lastname@example.org.