Guest blogger Dani Klein Modisett: Today at 4 AM, I was awakened by the sound of a helicopter circling over our house a la "Apocalypse Now," and a white beam of light stabbing me in the eyes. "This is the Los Angeles Police Department," boomed a voice from the sky. "Stay inside and lock your doors. We will let you know when it is safe to come out. Assailants, you have one minute to come out, or we are coming in after you."
What the ...?! My heart was pumping like it does whenever I take a home-pregnancy test. I don't know why, but I always forget that the crime in L.A. is real. Even after living here for 20 years, I still think the real criminals live in N.Y.C., and that these guys are just actors. Right? No -- clearly they are not.
Ever since my teenage years in Connecticut
, I have always loathed suburbia. The keeping-up-with-the-neighbors lawns, the oppressive quiet and all of the false pleasantries between people who really hate each other are just gigantic turnoffs to me. I've always preferred urban grit, and knowing who your enemies are because they tell you when you walk past them on the street. Fortunately, despite wanting to move to the San Fernando Valley
(where people who prefer peace to gang tension dwell), my husband indulged my need for some daily adrenaline boosts and agreed to live in the quaint-yet-right-on-the-edge town called Atwater Village
It's not like Atwater
is South Central; no one's writing rap songs about our little town. But a cosy enclave of picket fences and Labradors it's not -- which of course I love. There are real tacos and real Vietnamese food and a crazy bird store with an obscenely large multicolored parrot painted on the faces of two buildings. There are still quite a few signs written in Spanish, a block-long India
Spices store with up-to-date Bollywood
hits and, on the very fringe of town, a Starbucks. If it had beachfront property, it would truly be the best of what L.A. has to offer.
Except that just beneath the "see-how-we-all-just-get-along" faĆ§ade, there's an equally strong web of drug- and gang-related violence. It gave the area some intrigue when it was just my husband and me. But the other morning, as law enforcement literally "let the dogs out" on two fugitives seconds from my kids' bedroom window, I had to finally yell "uncle" on my preference for an edgy lifestyle. Just because I need a thrill when I walk outside my door doesn't mean I can risk my kids getting bullets through their heads as they lie in bed.
I'm being dramatic, and I'm not packing to move yet. But look out, cul de sacs of L.A.: There's an artsy-fartsy weirdo and her family in your future!