A shuttle bus takes me to the LAX metro station, where I enter the green line to get off in Willowbrook. In order to reach Hollywood, I need to take the blue line next. But in which direction? I forgot. Long Beach? For a moment it makes sense to me. But once I enter the train and the doors close, I remember that Hollywood is in the opposite direction. Well, that's what happens when you haven't slept properly for over thirty hours. No problem. That's not a big deal. I can simply get off the next station. Hopefully the train to the other direction is still running. As the train begins to slow down, I look out of the window, trying to spot some signs on the dark streets. Okay, this is definitely not Hollywood. Where the hell am I? The train stops, and it seems like I am the only person that gets off this station. Exhausted I drop my luggage on the ground, where I spot a dark millipede. In front of me I see the sign of the station, and shake my head in disbelief.
In the first moment I feel euphoric, accidentally ending up in the home of a number of legendary rap artists that I have been listening to since I was a kid. Only after taking a low quality picture that perfectly reflects my condition after this long and exhausting trip, I conclude that it is not the brightest idea to walk around and take pictures right now, having just arrived in one of the world's most famous ghettos at midnight with my heavy luggage, a city with a reputation of suffering from exceptional gang violence. In the eighties and especially in the nineties, the situation in Compton became internationally known through legendary rap artists such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, musicians who revolutionized popular culture forever by spreading the realities of Compton and the surrounding area.
For a while I keep standing on the same spot, looking for any people. At this hour, Compton feels like a ghost town. The eery silence is being interrupted by a sound to my right, where I see a man sitting on a bench. Apart from that millipede on the ground, he is the first animate being that I see in Compton. The strange thing is that he is white. Never would have thought that the first person that I see in Compton would be a white guy, especially not a white guy who is here all by himself at midnight. Maybe he is the one I should be wary of. Maybe he has a death wish. No, he must have gotten off here accidentally like me. The guy is even carrying a bike with him. Once he starts talking to me, I can read concern from his face and get the certainty that he ended up here because of the same reason as me. The white guy introduces himself as Gabriel, who also wanted to go the other direction. Together we look for a timetable in vain, hoping that we haven't missed the last train to Hollywood. "Well, I just came from New York and had some talks with locals about the Bronx. From what I have heard, even the Bronx is not that dangerous anymore. Things have probably changed here in Compton as well", I try to be optimistic. "Nothing has changed here", Gabriel replies, destroying my optimism. Silence. "Have you ever been to Compton before?", I ask, even though the answer is easy to guess. "I've never had a reason to be here." Silence.
At least the murder and crime rate in Compton has decreased in recent years. Different measures are being taken to continue this trend, such as increasing the presence of sheriffs and establishing initiatives like the "Gifts for Guns"-program, luring people who possess fire weapons with money to get them to hand in their guns. And the rivalry between the Bloods and the Crips, two of the biggest American gangs that have terrified the people of Compton for years, found its peak many years ago. The situation in Compton is improving, albeit the FBI still considers Compton to be one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, and the atmosphere here tonight does not give us a reason to think otherwise.
A pimped car pulls up in front of us. Loud music with heavy bass is coming out of its speakers. While feeling a mix of curiosity and uneasiness, I see a train approaching. It is the last chance to reach Hollywood tonight. Feeling both, relief that we can get away from here and regret that I will not be stuck in Compton to learn more about this place, we enter the metro, where after just a few seconds a young, drunk local who reminds me of a character from the movie Menace 2 Society walks over to us, staring at us like a zombie. This rather unstable black dude with attitude starts talking to us. The longer our conversation goes, the more we learn about his fascination for guns, but he also talks about Gabriel's bike while occasionally looking at my luggage. The suspicious guy then hastily pulls out an object from his inside pocket. Because I have watched too many gangster movies in my life, for a split second I believe that he is pulling out a gun for real: "You want some?", he asks me after taking a big sip from the small bottle of liquor he just pulled out. I kindly refuse.
Half an hour passes until we arrive in Hollywood. Gabriel has offered to find a motel for me, so I get off where he gets off. And our new friend decides to get off where we get off. As we walk up the station Hollywood/Vine, it doesn't take long until we spot young women who generously show off their physical assets, trying to impress the doormen of a club, hoping to meet some celebrities or wealthy people inside. The drunk black man no longer cares about us, is turning into a soft romantic trying to hit on some of those girls. Not much later, after finding a Motel and exchanging phone numbers with Gabriel, I check in and lie down on the bed. Before falling asleep, I go outside again, realizing where I am. Despite the long and exhausting trip, the euphoria is bigger than my tiredness, as I spot a street sign, switch on my camera again and take another miserable picture. The night ends in the middle of what is known as the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams".