Now that it’s been an official year since I’ve moved my jig to LA I can say that the city is uh, you know, like, I don’t know, eh, cool? Yeah, let’s go with cool. Once I’m making enough money to be able to twirk on the rooftop of The London to UGK on my own dime then I’ll try one of the L-words to describe my feelings on the city.
However, one thing I don’t like about California is that it’s as a desperate as the groupie section of VIP at a given club during All-Star Weekend. I’m surprised the state motto hasn’t been changed to, “I’ll suck yo dick…if you can help balance the budget.”
Seriously, I know they say you can’t knock the hustle but I surely can knock some of the ways the state and its citizens try to make some much needed cash. No worries, I’m not about to rant the two tickets I wrongly got and will be contesting (the meter was broke and I didn’t run the light, you liars).
No, instead I’m going to highlight something my sister brought to my attention yesterday.
Say there, Angelenos (thank God for Google and Wikipedia – I didn’t know what to call ya’ll), is there really a tour bus for the gang scene out here?
Indeed there is and for $65 you can tour South Central, visit with Bloods and Crips, and treat yourself to a real LA-gang life experience.
My initial reaction to the idea of paying to take a field trip to the hood was:
Then I wondered just who the hell would pay for this?
Silly me, why even ask when you know: The melanin-challenged and their color-limited friends with thick accents of various European origins.
“You go to Paris to see things and understand that culture … and this is so close by,” says Bert Rietveld, who is Dutch but has lived in Los Angeles for years. Still, he has never ventured into South Central.
“Probably because I always thought, well, you can’t really go there on your own,” Rietveld says. “It seemed too dangerous. I once took a wrong turn off the freeway, and I ended up in some neighborhoods where I thought [I’d] better get out of here as quickly as possible.”
Safely seated on the air conditioned bus, Rietveld is eager to learn the ins and outs of thug life.
“What are the Crips, what are the Bloods, what is grafitti?” Rietveld asks. “I had never thought about what is graffiti. I just thought it was weird paintings on the wall.”
Another tour passenger, Daniel Auld, is a young backpacker from Australia. He has been traveling for nine months.
“I spent a lot of time in India, and I lived in an orphanage for a few months on this trip, so it’s just a natural extension to see this part of L.A,” Auld says.
So it’s like a documentary on wheels for these people.
The tour’s organizer has responded to some of the criticism accordingly:
In response, Lomas nixed his original plan to take the tour through housing projects and give passengers a T-shirt reading “I Got Shot in South Central” after they would have been shot at with water guns.
Still, Lomas uses the supposed danger of the tour as a marketing tactic and encourages passengers to get their picture taken with the ex-gang members he has recruited to sit next to the tourists on the bus.
And like any good salesman who wants to make sure customers know they’ll get their money’s worth – apparently, unlike those Hollywood tour buses.
“If you take a Hollywood tour, you’ll probably see Brad Pitt’s house, but you’ll never really get a chance to take a picture with Brad Pitt,” Lomas says. “Here, you have an opportunity to take pictures, to meet and interface with individuals that are influential in their gang communities but have made that effort to change.”
Since I live close to Melrose (no Ciara stants, ye ain’t gon’ find me), I’ve seen plenty of tour buses beating down the block looking for a stray Kardashian.
After I paused (pause) to spend another second thinking about it, I’m not completely mad at this.
Our goal with LA GANG TOURS is to use the profits from the tours to create jobs and provide opportunities for the residents of South Central, Los Angeles. We believe that educating people from around the world about the Los Angeles inner city lifestyle, gang involvement and solutions is a vital step towards a peaceful existence. This project will create opportunities to contribute to the economic health of South Central and the tools needed to access the American market.
I abhor gang culture, but I get the systematic forces at hand that help gangs seem so appealing to people. So, given the government isn’t about to do anything to really combat crime (education, job growth, rehabilitation) I can’t fault a couple of folks who’ve seen the error of their ways profit off the curiosity of out of touch white people (no offense, my lighter readers – but this is the biggest clientele) and try to help their community.
But will be sitting on the tour bus as asked yesterday?
I have seen plenty of gang activity from K-12 and I’ve already had an uninvited gun in my face before. I’ll pass.
Ya’ll let me know how it goes.