A strange day in LaLa Land

As I write this I’m sitting in a Starbucks in Murrieta, California, a nowhere noplace nothing town about 1 1/2 hours away from Los Angeles. I’m here because, for one of the few times in my journalism career, I had to drive to a subject’s house and knock on his door—without a heads-up phone call.

Of course, I loathe doing this sort of thing. And, in this case, I loathe it even more—because the person wasn’t home. So I left a note, asking him to call me. Which, I’m 97 percent, certain, he won’t. Which means I drove for 1 1/2 hours to have an iced tea/lemonade combo at Starbucks. Three words: Not worth it.

Earlier today, in another rarety, I visited a jail. I’d rather not get into details of the assignment I’m on, but this may well be the first time I’ve sought out a behind-bars interview. The person I came to see has been in jail for a few months, and I was told one can, spur of the moment, stop by and see if he’ll talk. So I stopped by to see if he’d talk.

I got there at, oh, 11 am, and waited on a line of about 200 people. It was hot—89 degrees in the shade—and unpleasant, until I met two women, Lita and Mary, who were visiting an inmate. Lita’s husband (actually, she’s her boyfriend. But they’ve been together for seven years, so she calls him “husband.” Who am I to quibble?) is in jail for driving without a license—and for doing so with a lengthy criminal history. She was a lovely woman … 50, mother of six, grandmother of nine. She first got pregnant when she was 14; watched her father get run over in a fatal truck accident; has put two kids through college and (sadly) one into jail. She served time, too—three days for something little. Her friend also served time—three days, drug related. As we waited and waited and waited, we chatted and chatted and chatted. Both women were Hispanic, and they spoke of the despair in their communities. No jobs, lots of crime, little hope. I wanted to hug them, and toward the end—although we merely shook hands—I think Lita wanted a hug. Sigh.

Anyhow, the above photo was taken about 10 minutes ago. I was thinking, of all the bad jobs this world offers, there may well be no worse than streetcorner sign holder. On the one hand, it’d be nice, every so often, to go unchallenged and just chill. But this gig seems to suck in all realms: Low pay—check. Hot as fuck—check. Brainless—check. Little respect—check.

Hope the guy comes inside ASAP …

10 thoughts on “A strange day in LaLa Land”

  1. There is no way you can’t categorize what minorities are going through in America today as anything but an economic depression….and yet Washington dithers…I really fear this country.

  2. Why is it necessarily Washington’s fault when a person can’t get a job?

    Take a random minority – if he goes to school, works hard, gets into college, chooses a good major and works hard there, then he will be far more likely to find a job.

    A person who didn’t graduate from HS and who cannot find a good job isn’t exactly surprising, nor is it a politician’s fault.

  3. “A person who didn’t graduate from HS and who cannot find a good job isn’t exactly surprising, nor is it a politician’s fault.”

    I think the system is to be faulted.
    Not everyone is oriented toward a white collar job.
    Our educational system doesn’t prepare people to learn a blue collar trade.
    Kid gets out of school with no interest or qualifications for college.
    Kid tries to find a job and they all require experience.
    We should realize some people are better suited to doing some kind of apprenticeship while in High School so they can get a job somewhere else other than Carl McWendy’s.

  4. Many of the apprenticeships and blue collar jobs are long gone. Unless you want to pay American workers $0.57 per hour with no health benefits (see China, India, etc.), then they’re not coming back.

    If kids aren’t interested in college, then that is their fault, not the government’s. Today’s job market is incredibly competitive and often requires an education and/or work experience. Either wake and take school seriously, or work at Carl McWendy’s.

  5. There are plenty of jobs that don’t require an education. But do require a skill.
    Truck driver
    Furniture maker – not MDF furniture
    You get the picture

  6. Out here in California what is known as ROP (Regional Occupation Program) is available to all. Similar certification programs are run through the state supported junior college system. Everything from auto mechanic to nursing assistant programs are available for low/no cost. If you can’t find and get trade training and certification out here…it is your fault, not the system.

    As for Jeff…sorry you didn’t enjoy the Inland Empire, man. I know Wildomar, Temecula and Menifee aren’t all that exciting but referring to Murrieta as a nowhere place is low of you. Also, if you’re doing stuff in the IE, fly into Ontario next time and save yourself the drive from LA County…

    1. you’re right, asherdan. i apologize. i came back a second day—it’s beautiful country, actually. again, my apologies.

  7. No problems, we’re good. What I really feel for is the people you mention like Lita. Our low income communities out here are full of people that are trying, and there are resources for them, as I mentioned above. The big but is, there is a lot of drag on them from surrounding circumstances. When you couple those community issues along with the inertia of despair…it’s rough.

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