7/2/99 - Today was most likely my last day of taking my 100 minute commute to work.  I'll probably ride it home tonite, but for I'm done with it as far as the morning, that's for sure.  It's my last day of being the only white person on a bus driven through one of the most infamous neighborhoods in America: Compton.  It's my last day of riding the train through Watts.  The last day of seeing poor people who don't have cars on their own, making the same, if not longer, journey that I have to make everyday.  Single black mothers with their children.  Groups of two or three older Latina women on their way to work at the same factory or shop.  Teenage kids who live in one of the more deprived neighborhoods in this country, yet who wear diamond earrings and FUBU gear. 

I remember after my first day of work last year, the bus ride was jam packed full of school kids.  The train ride home that day had this screaming child whose mother seemingly followed me whenever I moved to get away from the kid.  I even switched trains, but the mother still carried her kid into the train with me.  It was worse than being chased by an undead psychopath with a hockey mask and an ax.  I was so wracked with tension that I called Ray to give me a ride home from a train station, and then I went with him to a bar and got some drinks.  I remember telling Ray that I had to find a better way of getting to work.  I never did; I just wore headphones.

I never gave much thought to the bizareness of my commute -- being the only white person on a bus packed with black people and Latinos, driving through Compton.  I never worried about getting jacked or pickpocketed or harassed or anything, and I never was.  My headphones probably helped -- I wear these big headphones that do a terrific job of keeping the music from leaking out, and the outside noise from getting in.  No screaming child has bothered me since I started wearing them, which was probably the second day of work.  I know I look like a doophus in them, but hey, who the fuck am I trying to impress?  I'm not a social person, so I didn't mind not talking to anyone.  I just wanted to be off in my own little space to listen to music, or read a book, or think perverted thoughts about women I know. 

Whenever people from the LA area e-mail me about my journal, they inevitably say, "I don't know how you live in LA without a car."  Well, I don't really consider it living; I'm such a hermit and so dependent on other people that it's not much of a life.  But I think about the other people on my bus, and the shit that they go through just to make ends meet and raise a family.  Those people got it tough, so I try not to feel sorry for myself about my commute. 

But it's been an experience.

Now my commute should be cut in half thanks to the Santa Monica Blue Bus Express, that makes it to downtown in about 45 minutes.  Even when I get my car, I'll probably still take the bus, b/c it's faster and I don't have to worry about the recockulous parking expenses in Downtown.  I've ridden it a few times to Santa Monica from downtown; it's not as crowded, and has lots of student-types on it, maybe commuting from Loyola Law or St. Mary's or from internships.  It's a different breed of bus riders, that's for sure.  They're not coming straight outta Compton.

Speaking of feeling sorry for myself and other people, something I read yesterday reminded me of how easy it is to blow your chances.  My last year of high school in San Diego was 1992.  That year, a small exclusive prep school in La Jolla, La Jolla Country Day (LJCD), had an amazing football team.  The school was so small that they normally fielded 8-man teams, instead of the regular 11, and they played in an 8-man league.  But LJCD had two amazing players; Rashan Salaam was a running back who went on to the University of Colorado where he won the Heisman trophy and was a first round pick of the Chicago Bears.  However, their kicker, Eric Abrams, was the best player on the team.  He was voted the Parade Magazine player of the year (the only kicker ever to be so honored), so he essentially was the best high school player in the country, and was on the same team as the soon-to-be best college player in the country (well, we're talking about sportswriters making these decisions of course.  Their toughest decision is usually choosing between glazed or jelly donuts).  LJCD was unbelievable that year.

So Abrams went to Stanford, where he played four years but never matched the potential that his high school years had shown.  Still, he graduated from Stanford. 

Eric Abrams, 25, was convicted Wednesday of several sexual abuse charges against minors, and is looking at at least two years in the fun house.  He had lured high school players to his house under the guise of being a scout, and had them get naked for him and he photographed them.  There might have been other offenses, I don't remember,  but the story got a one-line mention in the LA Times.  This guy with such amazing potential and opportunities let a mental sickness bring down his life, as well as screwing that up of some dumb kids.  It's not that I feel exactly sorry for Abrams; but when I read that he was convicted ( I remember the allegations had been made some time ago), it just took my breath away.  This guy had everything, and now he's got nothing for the next two years, except what is going to seem like a lifetime of pain from his fellow inmates.

It's really amazing how our own mind can be our best friend and our worst enemy.

Have a happy 4th, people, and a belated Happy Canada Day as well. 

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