Friday, June 12, 2015

Chapter 2: Unemployable in Pacoima

Chapter 2: Still unemployable

In the last chapter I mentioned that my dad was critical and overbearing. That was a bit of an understatement. I'm not trying to sound like a victim, or trying to blame all my problems on my father. I don't think that I – let alone anyone else – can understand why I've had so many issues with work, and consequently so many short-lived jobs, without exploring my relationship with my dad. That is potentially the most painful aspect to this little project, and the one which has kept me from starting this much sooner (to say nothing of finishing it). Soooo...maybe we'll talk about that a little later.

To continue with the history revue: Right at the start of the '70s, when I was about ten, my dad got a job in southern California. He was working on-site, maintaining the trucks and dirt-hauling trailers that were helping to build a new freeway. I don't know if this was a Madonna contract, or if something had happened to end my dad's employment there. I was pretty in-the-dark about my dad's work situations, as I suppose kids would be. I've never really understood so-called autobiographies or memoirs wherein the author seems to have had an adult's understanding of the events surrounding his or her child self. It makes me wonder if I was an unusually obtuse child or if those writers were embellishing a bit.

So I made a sudden transition from the small-town life of San Luis Obispo to one of the many San Fernando Valley suburbs of Los Angeles. It had the bucolic name of Lake View Terrace, but it was hard by Pacoima – a name which seemed to cause a shiver of fear in those who were familiar with the area. I remember it being kind of run-down looking, but not particularly scary. However, it had quite a reputation for crime and gang activity.

On moving day, I remember having to drive through miles and miles of what looked like endless city just to get to our new home. Our new house seemed quite fancy and modern compared to our modest home in San Luis Obispo. It had a gas fireplace in the living room, and sliding doors onto the covered patio, which had a brick barbecue. It had a detached garage which opened onto a paved alley behind the house. The back yard was fairly small compared to what I'd had in SLO. My new school was only about a block away, and was easily accessible via that amazing alleyway. The street ran fairly level, but the houses were built on a slope, which got higher as you went from the school toward our house. Our house had a fairly long concrete staircase to the street, which seemed like the height of glamour to me.

I soon replaced poor Billy M in the best friend department with a neighbor and classmate. I wish I could remember his name, so I'll just call him Edward (some memoir, eh?). It was a new kind of experience for me because Edward was black. There had not been a lot of black people in San Luis Obispo, so I didn't have much opportunity to get to know any. My parents must have done something right without my even being aware of it, because race didn't seem to be an issue in our friendship.

Edward's brother however, who was only about a year apart from Edward (whether older or younger I also can't remember), did not like me, but I'm sure it wasn't because I was white. I think he may have been jealous of my friendship with his sibling, or he may have just been a jerk.

One time when I was leaving their house, Edward's brother (whom I shall call Jerkface) said he wanted to show me something. He led me to the edge of their yard, overlooking the slope to the street. Without warning, he shoved me from behind, and I tumbled pell-mell down the hill. Fortunately, their yard – being closer to the school than mine – had a fairly low gradient. As it was I ended up with a sprained wrist, and had to wear a bandage thing with an aluminum brace inside for a couple of weeks. Jerkface never seemed to get any consequences from that. That a peer would want to willfully hurt me was kind of a new thing to me, so maybe I didn't give it enough due. I guess our parents chalked it up to boys being rowdy, but I kept my distance from Jerkface after that.

That was just the beginning of the troubles that I began having with some of the residents of my new neighborhood, particularly at school. More on that next time.

P.S.: According to Wikipedia, one of Pacoima's notable residents was Danny Trejo: 

A product of his environment?
Maybe a young Machete was one of the scary-looking individuals I sometimes saw when we passed through that community. How cool would that have been?

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