I used to live in a relatively safe community. It's still safer than other areas of Los Angeles, but urban sprawl and decay spreads into my town. Which means danger and the chance of violence increases.
The need for self-protection is more important and a fact of life even in my once quiet, family-centered community.
Last Friday, I took a long lunch to recharge the mental batteries. We got a break in the rain so I took my kids to the Balboa recreational area. One section of this massive park has a huge lake that you can walk around.
It was nice getting some fresh - after the rain - air. Some sunlight peeked between the clouds. Plenty of ducks, waterfowl, and pet dogs out for a walk, too.
It felt good.
After one round I decided to walk over to the "new" watershed area they built about five years ago. This was a massive and expensive project at the time.
They took a small creek and dug it deeper, wider, and longer.
When it was new it was awesome. It had a trail on both sides, on the trail they planted native plants and trees that thrive in that environment, at various rest stops along the trail they placed large placards with information about the trees, plants, and animals you see in the watershed area, and they built three bridges that crossed the man-made creek.
It was idyllic.
But it was also five years ago when the whole project still had the "new car smell."
Today, it's a piece of crap and not safe for kids to play around, women to jog through, or to walk alone.
The plants and trees have grown into thick brush. You can't see the creek unless you get close to the edge, but then you risk falling in. Today, a chain link fence blocks off half of this area with warning signs posted telling you to stay out.
Curious, I decided to take a closer look with the kids. Not my best idea.
We crossed one of the bridges to the other side and started to walk the trail. No chain link fence on this side.
It turns out the thick brush is a perfect hiding spot for drug addicts and thugs. We saw two camp sites. The living quarters for vagrants or people stashing their illegal paraphernalia.
I wanted to get to the next bridge and take a deeper look. The kids followed.
We were the only people on this secluded path. When I quickly realized what I had done. This was the perfect area for an ambush, mugging, or worse.
My 'spidey-senses' immediately jumped onto high alert.
We found the bridge. And this once beautiful bridge was completely vandalized with graffiti. And I couldn't see what was on the other end, not because of the length, but because of the thick brush.
We heard thug music playing and a number of male voices, but I couldn't see anyone.
"Great. Just what I need," I thought. Cross the bridge with my two kids and either get mugged or worse, or deal with a few hot heads trying to start shit.
Our little hike ended there. We turned around and headed back to the car.
It sucks. This park and recreational area exist for the community and families. The natural vegetation should be areas where families and children explore, but instead, these have turned into hiding spaces for vagrants, thugs, drug addicts, gangs, and delinquents.
All I know is that if anyone tried to jump us I was ready to make them non-functional.
If you don't feel 100% safe when you're out for a walk in your neighborhood, you should get these self-defense videos and book, How To Survive The Most Critical 5 Seconds Of Your Life:
Seek the straightest path,