This started off as the scariest Halloween that I've ever experienced. I'm not scared of very many things. This is a list of things that scare me:
The party was at a historic hotel next to MacArthur Park. I knew the park for its lake, and gang-related drug warfare. After finding hearing the location of the party, I developed a plan to avoid all trouble. Run up Alvarado, to Sixth, and dash into the party, without getting murdered. Easy-peasy. But things changed when we were invited to pre-party on Alvarado and 11th.
Alvarado and 11th is the heart of MS-13 territory!
I'm not one of those white people who is terrified of all gangsters. Heck, earlier in the day, some Sureños were hanging out at the little grocery store next to my house. I could tell they were banging because they had tattoos on their heads. But they weren't mean, they were just shootin' the shit, eatin' popsicles. After I bought some apple juice, I told them to have a nice day. They even reciprocated the compliment.
But MS-13 are different. They're known for killing anyone. Like I bet if they were in their eating popsicles, they would have shot me for complimenting them. I've heard stories about them jumping onto buses and killing every passenger. Their tough dudes, whose only goal is to kill all haters.
It makes sense that they'd be tough, they're refugees from a brutal civil war. The dozen year Salvadorian civil war, left 75,000 people dead. These war children made their way to the barrios of Pico-Union, and the notorious gang was formed. (Those on the Right, critical of 'violence perpetrated by illegal immigrants' should consider that Ronald Reagan supported the violent regime that caused the exodus.)
So back to the pre-party in Pico-Union. As we waited for our ride outside the MacArthur Park station, I imagined the worst. MS-13 gangsters could jump out of the park, enacting the ultimate gentrification tax, murder. I thought of kids dressed as grim reapers, chopping off my head.
Then a masquerading Marla Singer, pulled up. She picked us up and drove us to her boyfriend's house. As we drove down Alvarado, I realized that I'd walked this route before. I'd been in MS-13 country, and absolutely nothing happened!
We got to her boyfriend's beautiful mid-century home. He answered the door as a Babe-Magnet (Barbies stapled to his outfit.) After several quick drinks, we walked a mile to the park to celebrate Halloween.
Because I personally visited. I have empirical evidence to suggest that this neighborhood is no longer scary.
This is when someone might say: "better safe than sorry." I think that utterance is part of the same fear-mongering conversation that local news talks about to make Halloween more scary.
Irrational fears about Swine Flu, poisoned candy, or flammable costumes, scare us from leaving our homes. I think that it's thoroughly important to decide if these fears correspond to reality.
My fear about getting murdered by MS-13 in northern Pico-Union, no longer correspond to reality. In 2005, MacArthur Park had the highest reduction of crime statistics per resident in the United States. New efforts to revitalize the downtown core, have dramatically reduced crime in the surrounding neighborhoods. So walking down Alvarado in Pico-Union at night isn't as scary as it was before.
As realities rapidly change, our fears about them should move at the same rate. We should constantly be asking ourselves why certain things scare us.
I've done this, and that's why I'll got to parties in MacArthur Park, but stay far away from shark-infested waters.