My dictionary defines barrio as follows: a part of a large U.S. city, esp. a crowded inner-city area, inhabited chiefly by a Spanish-speaking population.
Last Sunday, I had plans to meet a fellow blogger for lunch. Margaret and I have communicated via email almost since I began Twenty Four At Heart, but we had never met in person. She had plans to be in L.A. We decided to meet halfway between L.A. and South Orange County, in Long Beach.
Even if you don't live in California, you've probably heard of Long Beach. The city has been on national news for major problems related to gang violence. Also, there have been issues of police brutality and corrupted politics. When I think of Long Beach, I picture the manufacturing facilities I see as I drive through on the freeway. They spew tons of pollution into the air. Also, the gang violence in Long Beach always makes me hope my car doesn't break down there as I make return trips from LA.
Obviously, I don't have many positive thoughts regarding the city, but it was a good halfway point for us to meet.
Recently, one of my friends moved to the Belmont Shores area of Long Beach. I know Belmont Shores is a very nice area. I called her and asked her for restaurant suggestions. She was very helpful, and my plans were set to meet Margaret at Bono's for lunch. (Bono's is owned by Sonny Bono's daughter.)
Sunday morning I printed out directions on Google Maps. They were a little confusing, so I decided to run the location through MapQuest also. I noticed Google Maps and MapQuest gave conflicting information. One said I should turn right on Studebaker and the other said I should turn left. I laughed about this with Briefcase before I departed.
Turns out, it really wasn't so funny.
And oh yes, my car does have a GPS device, but I didn't program it when I left because I was running late.
Well, you can guess what happened. I drove and drove and eventually I found myself at Studebaker. I decided to go right.
I shouldn't have.
I drove for awhile, and as I drove I noticed very quickly, my surroundings were becoming kind of scary looking. The businesses and homes were run down. Windows were covered with bars, and many windows were broken. The streets were littered and dirty and a good number of people were just hanging out in the streets.
They didn't look like nice people either. They looked like gang members. They looked scary. They glared at me in my nice, shiny, SUV as I drove down the street and I felt immensely out of place. I was smack-dab in the middle of inner city Long Beach.
At one point, I thought, "Wow, here I am lost in the middle of the barrio."
Not thirty seconds later I saw a sign, "Barrio Park."
I'm not even kidding.
It would be funny … except it wasn't.
I wanted to pull over and take a picture of the Barrio Park sign just to prove to you I really was lost in the barrio. I didn't though, because honestly? I was worried about getting out of the barrio alive at that point.
My fear had something to do with the
gangs young men standing all over the street outside of Barrio Park. Particularly the one holding a length of chain in one hand. I wish I was joking. He glared at me as I drove past.
"Hmmmm …" I said to myself. "This is a place where I really don't want to be."
A few blocks later I found a place to turn around. I called Margaret and told her, "I'm lost somewhere in the barrio, but I'm sure I'll be there soon."
I was going to discuss my funeral preferences, but I didn't want to alarm her.
I proceeded to drive past Barrio Park again. The same chain wielding
boy man still stood on the street with the rest of his gang friends. I refused to even look in his direction, but I could feel his eyes on me as I drove by.
For a fleeting second I thought about asking him for directions to 2nd Street, but I decided I'd be better off finding it on my own. Something about the chain he was swinging was a little disconcerting.
Eventually I found my way out of the barrio and had a wonderful lunch with Margaret. We chatted for hours and really had an enjoyable afternoon. (Belmont Shores is delightful, by the way!)
Isn't it fun to finally meet someone in person who you've gotten to "know" through the Internet? Over the course of the afternoon Margaret and I exchanged stories and information and answered each other's questions.
She wanted to know how I type with my bum arm. (With a laptop on my lap. I can't raise my arm to type if the keyboard is on a desk or table.) She also wanted to know why I don't have curtains on the back of my house. (We have an amazing view.)
"Why did you ask about curtains?" I inquired.
"Well, you know, since you keep flashing people," she laughed.
Jeez … one or two ** completely understandable ** incidents, and I already have a reputation?
Have you ever gotten lost driving and found yourself someplace where you didn't belong? How did you find your way back? Has your car ever broken down in a place you knew was not safe?