Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Gooks In The Wire

The Gardena I grew up in was about as diverse a population as you could find, with roughly equal representations of Blacks, Whites, Asians and Hispanics. Generally, an OK place to live; a well run city that for the most part did a decent job at keeping things in check, with a responsible and respectable police force that knew how to drop the hammer, as well as when not to.

No, it was not all unicorns and butterflies.
There were some neighborhoods that a wiser man of lighter complexion would fear to tread. Gardena was bordered on two sides by less desirable regions belonging to the City of Los Angeles, with is subsequential ethnic/cultural run-off.

We lived the heavily Asian central region; same neighborhood as city hall, the library and police/fire departments. Asians, in this case, meant Japanese (Nisei and Sansei). They could be irritatingly cliquish at times, but they knew how to behave themselves personally as well as socially, holding many leadership/political positions in the city. For the outsider, their influence is readily noticeable in the city's architecture and landscaping. (For what it's worth... every stereotype about these people is true. I'll just say that now,OK?)

A few blocks to the south, things got 'browner'. Lots of Mexicans of varying social classes. Safety wasn't too big of a problem. An occasional fight/stabbing among the Cholo class here and there. Or a wedding. It was often hard to tell the difference. (No, I'm not joking.)
Many families from this part of town had been settled since the 1910's or 20's, and had become, in a sense, social clans. Five to eight kids to a family, and after three generations, you got a real tribe forming, ya know? Good people, active in the Church, Little Leagues and local VFW.
It was into this neighborhood that my family first settled in 1967. Relationships formed here among the Cholos kept me in good standing when a situation in 'the streets' threatened to get sticky. (I personally knew Spider, Guido, Droopy, and Gato when they were little kids without tattoos and rap sheets.)

The north end (known as Holly Park) was considerably darker. Black, to be specific. Not too unlike any other working class Black neighborhood with all of it's economic issues and social misbehavior. Most people here were getting by the best they could, hoping eventually to move on to Whiter pastures. But still, where there are Blacks, there are issues. This made the north Gardena the 'other' Gardena, and more dangerous. This is where the strip clubs, hookers, and muggings became the social fabric, especially along the unincorporated county corridor. I had some friends from school (private and Catholic) who lived there , and my folks used to always worry about me going to hang with them.
They much preferred to host at our place, but it didn't usually work out that way. I went where I wanted, wherever my bike or skateboard would take me.

Gardena took great pains to limit the cultural run off of our bad neighbor, the City of Los Angeles. (Now, do you see where my deeply rooted bias against anything "L.A." comes from?) From extensive 'take-no-shit' policing, to neighborhood activism, various programs and what not...

The local high school was always in a battle against the various pressures. Trying to keep the place as safe and decent as it could while obligated to house the darker elements of it's student population. There were always issues, but nothing rising to the inner city level. As for me, I went on to the Catholic high school across town, to the west. Everything 'west' was nicer than Gardena, and is where I spent the majority of my teen years.

Self propagation is the nature of social decay. The city's efforts, and those of it's namesake high school, have been more successful than not considering the mixed bag of trash deposited in it's yard. I always said it was just a matter of time before Gardena could no longer hold it's perimeter.

It appears that time has come:
Shooting at Gardena High School Injures 2


Bike Bubba said...

Hey, if Colorado, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona can't keep LA out, what chance did little Gardena ever have? :^)

Gino said...

but we fought the good fight!