February 3, 2007

Drive By

My neighborhood is quiet. Couples take midnight strolls without fear of masked villains. Elementary school kids walk home unaccompanied. Our police spend most of their time supervising movie shootings rather than worrying about gun shootings. It's one of the many reasons I adore our chipper little neighborhood nestled in the middle of big, bad Los Angeles County.

I was almost home when I heard the sirens. A clump of emergency vehicles clogged the street through our historic downtown and cars were slowed for blocks. The city firemen were on the scene as well as an ambulance - its lights spiraling in the late afternoon sun. Cars filed by the scene one by one. When I finally came up to the blockade I craned my neck to see past the police cars circled protectively in front of Jake's Ice Cream Shop.

I learned soon after moving to Los Angeles not to watch the local news at night. Any gaps between the gang shootings are easily filled with images of kidnapped children, hit and run reports or warnings of renegade arsonists. It was more than my fluffy head could handle and I chose instead to blow a fantastical, rainbow colored bubble around my world. I've held my breath for three years to prevent its delicate walls from bursting and am on the verge of believing in unicorns again.

Despite my denial, I couldn't stop my mind from racing over possible scenarios. A student from the yoga studio had a mental breakdown while attempting Scorpion pose and had burst onto the street to assault children with her yoga mat. The soft, odorous owner of Attic Antiques had been crushed by the hundreds of glass chandeliers hanging from the beams in her crammed shop. An slow-footed passenger was struck by an oncoming train at the metro stop. The espresso machine at Starbucks was overtaxed with the demands for caffeine and spontaneously burst into flames, gruesomely burning the operator. Anything was possible.

As my car rolled by the stern officer directing traffic I caught a brief glimpse between the police cars.

An old gentlemen sat lazily on the curb, splay legged and smiling. A white-coated medic applied a small band aid to his knee. The patient was laughing and chatting with three attending policemen who smiled endearingly down at him.

I cleared the blockade. The man probably lost his balance and had taken a spill on the sidewalk. Two firetrucks, one ambulance and four police cars later he went home with a fresh band aid and a supportive pat on the arm. I contemplated faking a fall the next time I was out walking to see if my community would show me the same over generous response. Then out of the corner of my eye I saw something slip behind an azalea bush. I could have sworn it was a unicorn.


Sarah said...

Let me be the first to say this post is disgustingly schmaltzy, but please forgive me. Try as I might, I can't be bitter and sarcastic all the time. I'm only human, people!

Janell said...

I have it on good authority from Wendy's marketing that if you try one of their 99cent crispy chicken sandwhiches you'll see unicorns.

Frankly, I wonder what they're putting in those sandwhiches to induce hallucinations of fluffiness.

Lisa M. said...


I love it-

doug said...

Sarah, I would think that if you wanted to help maintain the secure innocence of your charming community, posting things like "Elementary school kids walk home unaccompanied" on the internet probably doesn't help.

However your post brings up some interesting memories... as a kid we'd range all over town on our bikes, crossing major roads, miles from home... and as long as we were home in time for dinner there wasn't a problem. If my kid leaves my sight for more than 30 seconds I go into cardiac arrest.

Adrienne said...

So, what you're saying is that basically you moved from Highland Park, TX to Highland Park, CA. They just call it "Pasadena" to give it a more costal flavor. Got it.

stupidramblings said...

Dear ms. Flakes. Would you please advise me as to the location of the Unicorn?


Lord Voldemort.

AzĂșcar said...

I'm of the opinion that our neighborhoods are probably a lot safer than we think they are (with some exceptions, naturally.) I'm glad you're enjoying your little oasis.

citymama1 said...

I heard gun shots the other day in my neigborhood. I wish we had unicorns.

s'mee said...

In our nieghborHOOD, believe it or not, folks actually do "see" unicorns, pink elephants, and bright slow moving flowers that bloom from their fingertips. We hear "fireworks" pop every month, and wonder at the "police escorts" that our nieghbors get on a regular basis. It's a cozy, first name relationship we share with the local authorities!

Not everyone can live here, just us fortunate few.

Ang said...

I am still baffled by something that happened on our South Pasadena street. Rollin Street is narrow, tree lined and quiet but one evening there were 5 fire trucks and a couple of other emergency vehicles glogging the road.

Of course we immediately went for a "walk" to see what was on fire. Alhambra and South Pas fire fighters were entering a flameless house. There wasn't even smoke from a hidden wall fire.

They were there for a good chunck of the evening and we still don't know what it was all about. Maybe they found a family of Unicorns and their magic set off some sort of imbalance in the perfect air surrounding them.

Katherine Shirek Doughtie said...

Lovely post, Sarah. The ending gave me the chills!

May our little town always stay on the sweet and innocent side.

amanda said...

Loved the post. Loved the comment from Lord Voldemorte.

We learned from first hand experience that calling 911 sends just about everybody to the scene of the accident/crime. We called when our baby had a seizure, and the fire medics were the first ones over, complete with a full sized fire engine with lights flashing and the whole bit. Then came the ambulance in case we needed to transport the baby to the hospital (more flashing lights). Then the police came because they have to file a report on every 911 call (3rd pair fo flashing lights). Our neighbors all thought that our house had exploded and we were all dying or something, but our poor little baby was over his seizure and recuperating by the time they got there and didn't even need to go to the hospital. D'OH.

The poor old man probably fell and couldn't get up for a few minutes, and someone called 911 thinking he needed help. Glad it wasn't a drive by shooting.

clyde said...

Did you see some pink unicorns? I need three of them for my girls :)
I like the purple ones.

luckyzmom said...

Too cute.

Bex said...

The other night I was in our parking lot and noticed a bunch of police cars. I was pretty scared when I saw they had some guy in cuffs, sprawled out on the ground. I THOUGHT my neighborhood was safe, but is it really? You just never know...these things can happen anywhere.

Next time I'll keep an eye out for unicorns.

Jill said...

Oh, how I love South Pasadena!

Sue said...

Yesterday two ambulances, a fire pick-up truck thingie and a police car showed up when a five year old across the street dislocated her leg falling off the trampoline.

The crime wave, it's a bit slow around here.