Straight into Compton

A shuttle bus takes me to the LAX metro station, where I enter the green line to get off in Willowbrook. In order to arrive in Hollywood, I need to take the blue line next. But in which direction? I forgot. Long Beach? For a moment it made 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 for one and a half days. No problem. That's not a big deal. I can simply get off the next station, which is being announced a minute later. Did I just hear correctly? The train slows down. This place certainly seems to be far away from Hollywood, I notice once more after looking out of the window. The train stops. It seems like I am the only person that gets off this station. I drop my luggage on the ground, where I spot a dark millipede. In front of me is a sign of the station. Dear God, you must be kidding me. It says "Compton". 


While realizing that I accidentally got off in the world's most famous Ghetto at midnight, in a hood that has had the reputation of suffering from exceptional gang violence, an issue that became internationally known through legendary rap artists coming "straight outta Compton" such as Ice Cube, Dr. Dre and Eazy-E, musicians who revolutionized popular culture forever by spreading the realities in this hood. Although I feel a little bit uneasy, I grab my camera to take a picture of the sign. As I take a second look at this blurred low quality picture, I feel like it perfectly reflects my condition after this long and exhausting trip. And like a typical tourist I try to find some fotogenic spots, but in vain. Then I realize that maybe it is not the brightest idea to take out my camera in Compton at midnight. 



A sound turns my attention to something else. To my right I see somebody sitting on a bench. Apart from that millipede on the ground, he is the first animate being that I see in Compton. As I get a little bit closer, I can't believe my eyes. He is white. Something must be very wrong with this guy. He is even carrying around a bicycle. Is he out of his mind? This can't be. He must have gotten off here accidentally, like me. Once he starts talking to me, I get the certainty. As expected, he had no intention to get off in Compton. His name is Gabriel. We look for a timetable. Nothing. We can only hope that the metro is still running. "My uncle in New York has told me that even the Bronx is not that dangerous anymore. Things have probably changed here as well", I try to calm us down. "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.


Although the FBI still considers Compton to be one of the most dangerous cities in the United States, the murder and crime rate has indeed 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, in which people who reside in Compton receive money for handing in their fire weapons. 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, but the atmosphere here tonight gives us a reason to believe that there is still a long way to go.


We have been waiting now for quite a while, hoping that at half past one a train will stop here. A car pulls in the parking lot. Loud music with heavy bass is coming out of its speakers. It is quite obvious that we cannot expect a loving and caring father to get out from such kind of a car at this time. For a moment I have to think about Toni Morrison's novel "Paradise". If a mean gangster will now get out of the car, he will probably shoot the white guy first. With me he can take his time. 


In the same moent we can see a train approaching. We enter the train before the individuals of the car get out. Our relief after entering the train lasts only for a few seconds, as a young drunken black man walks over to us, staring at us like a zombie. He decides to sit right next to us. Apparently he is up to something. Gabriel and I keep calm and continue talking with our new friend, who is kind of unpredictable, speaking calmly in one moment, and uttering loud and expressive words in the very next moment. As we continue listening to him, I figure out that he seems to have a special fascination for guns, but he also talks about Gabriel's bike while occasionally looking at my luggage. It makes me wonder, whether this young man feels inspired by the hood film 'Menace 2 Society', or whether the producers of that movie felt inspired by individuals like him. At some point of time, the suspicious man is about to hastily pull something out of his inside pocket, in a way that I have only seen in Hollywood movies, right before the film characters pull out a gun. But he only pulls out a small bottle of liquor. "You want some?", he asks me after taking a big sip. I kindly refuse. The more we talk to him, the more he turns out to be just an attention-seeking guy.


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. But our new friend decided 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 and hoping to meet some stars inside. The drunken black man softens up, and he obviously finds these women more interesting than us. The gangster character turns into a romantically minded character. From here we go separate ways. Not much later, after finding a Motel and exchanging phone numbers, Gabriel bids farewell. Before booking the room, I take a look around, realizing where I am. Despite the long and exhausting trip, my euphoria is bigger than my tiredness, as I spot a street sign, grab for my camera again, and take another miserable picture. The night ends in the middle of what is known as the "Boulevard of Broken Dreams". 

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This summer in theatres: "Straight Outta Compton" is telling the story of the futile seeming developments in Compton in the 1980s, and the rise and fall of the controversial rap group N.W.A that would change the music industry forever.