Saturday, May 5, 2007


The first one, we paid no attention. It sounded like a backfire. Close by. Loud. But not unfamiliar, and therefore not alarming.

We were sitting on our balcony, enjoying a glass of wine, the calm of the early evening, our grand view of Hollywood, and we hardly paused in our talk. Then came the second, followed by a half dozen more, in rapid succession. Loud, angry shouts. The sound of vehicles roaring off down the street.

Gunfire. No doubt about it. Ellie wanted to get up and look over the balcony to see what was going on. I restrained her. The sounds were close enough to worry about stray bullets. Could it be, we wondered next, that there was something being filmed at the studios below? We look down over the old ABC studios, now the Prospect studios, since ABC was taken over by Disney. The sounds came from that direction.

After a few more seconds of silence, we did go to the balcony. Moments later, the sound of sirens, the approach of emergency vehicles, lights flashing...

Curiosity overcame us. We decided to walk down to where the action seemed to be, right outside the studios. Neighbors had already begun to gather when we arrived, chatting quietly amongst themselves. Yellow crime tape was strung across the road, closing off two whole blocks, but pedestrians seemed to be wandering in and out without hindrance from the police. One of them asked us, as we approached, whether we had seen anything at all. Cops swarmed everywhere, searching the ground for evidence, taking notes from witnesses. Our guy seemed to have time enough to stand around and chat. His theory--subsequently confirmed in an email from our neighborhood residents' association--was that rival gangs had met and clashed, probably Armenian and Hispanic. One had showed up, with two companions, at a local hospital shortly after the event, with a gunshot wound. The three were arrested.

Well, ours is generally a peaceful neighborhood, and it's disturbing to have violence erupt so close to where we live--no more than a couple of blocks, really, down the hill, and in plain view of our balcony. But then you have to remind yourself that there are neighborhoods not far from our own where gunshots are pretty much routine, and where rival gangs shoot and kill on a near-daily basis; neighborhoods where it's not so safe to sit out on your balcony or your porch, and where those whose do are actually killed by stray bullets.

All of which brings home the urgent need for us to be more mindful of ourselves, of our own families, our own neighbors. We neglect our young people at great risk to the fabric of our society. We permit them access to lethal weapons at great cost to their own welfare, and ours. Anger, rage--these are deeply human emotions, so radically engrained in our nature that we cannot hope to erase them from our genetic inheritance. Understanding their sources, however, and depriving those most likely to resort to violence of easy access to lethal weapons seems no more nor less than common sense. And if we pooled our resources and our knowledge as a society and approached the issue with compassion and dedication, we could surely do a lot better in offering our youth alternative and more life-affirming paths than the plague of street gangs.

Another night with no appreciable pain in the hips, by the way. I took note of what was happening in my right leg as we drove down here to Laguna Beach. There's still a good deal of tingling in the foot, but the discomfort that I have grown used to experiencing in my read end when driving was noticeably absent. These are promising signs...


Mark said...

That's a really interesting story. Thanks for sharing. It reminds me of a quote I read on a wonderful site. You should check it out. It's entirely ecumenical. Anyway, the quote goes:

If there is to be peace in the world,
there must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
there must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
there must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
there must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
there must be peace in the heart.

I think it's got a lot of relevance to our lives as buddhists and as humanitarians.

Cardozo said...

To be so bold as to suggest an addition to the quote:

If there is to be peace in the heart,
there must be peace in the conscience.

If there is to be peace in the conscience, there must be joy.

PK said...

Mark and Cardozo, very lovely quotes. Too bad no one has printed them overseas... Peter, it seems you now know what it is like as an everyday thing, even in the best of neighborhoods, 'over there'...

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the violence is due to a fight over drug territory. Just seems like if drug dealers had to find a
different distribution model, pay some taxes, some of this violence would disappear.
and some peace could come back to the 'hood'.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks for this response, Anon. I believe that all drugs should be "legalized," and properly sold, and appropriately taxed. That would solve a great number of problems--not least the overpopulation of our prisons with people who should never be there in the first place! Cheers, PaL