A Jew in Inglewood

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A Jew in Inglewood

By Amy Dresner 08/05/15

“You’re living in Inglewood?!” a sober friend asked me. “Isn’t that a little close to the rock?”

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“Honey can you please do your food shopping in the day time? Will you call me when you get home so I know you’re safe?” my mom asked.

“Mom, it’s Inglewood, not Watts. Calm down.” 

“Well…ok. What are you buying at the market? Healthy stuff like yogurt and berries and greens, I hope,” my mom says.

“Mom, I’m 45 and I’ve been in six rehabs. I used to smoke meth and shoot cocaine. You’re worried about what I’m eating? Really.”

Suffice it to say, my mom’s maternal instinct is alive and well now that her woman-toddler is out of sober living and living solo for the first time in almost seven years. 

“You’re living in Inglewood?!” a sober friend asked me. “Isn’t that a little close to the rock?”

“The rock is always close if you want to find it.“ I said. I sounded so program I wanted to slap myself.

Here’s the deal: I’m subleasing my friend’s place for two months while he’s in Maine. I’m the only white person and definitely the only Jew wherever I go. It’s eye opening to say the least.  

His place is pretty sparse: white tile floors, white walls, no TV, quiet. There’s a meditation pillow that I’ve yet to use. It’s like a monastery…where you can have sex. And after two and a half years in sober living, you bet I take advantage of that fact.

The neighbor, a young muscle-bound kid from Nebraska made sure to tell me he overheard me. “Thin walls,” he winked.

“Oh God.” I was mortified.

“It’s all good. I’m friends with lots of very sexually liberated people. When I heard you, I thought, ‘get it girl.'“

I smiled awkwardly. 

“Want some weed?” he asked.

“Oh, I’m good. I’ve been in rehab half a dozen times.”

“For…sex addiction?” he asked in all seriousness.

“Umm…no.”

My first night in Inglewood, I hugged a crackhead. Let me explain. I headed to 7-11 for a late-night snack snoop because I have no curfew now and can do whatever the fuck I want whenever I want! A very skinny black guy with glossy eyes sporting an unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt, asked me for money.

“Hey, excuse me, miss. Can I get 65 cents for a hot dog?

I hand him a dollar and say, ”I used to be a drug addict. I get it.”

A huge smile comes over his face.

“Thank you for your compassion. Can I get a hug?” 

So I hugged him.

One day, I go to get some spare keys made at a nearby kiosk. This guy is stocked with everything you’d need if you were up to no good: druggie bags in every size, stun guns, pepper spray, batons, handcuffs, fake police badges, ropes, pipes.

“Quite a selection, brother,” I say impressed.

He laughs. “Variety is the spice of life.”

“Wish I’d known about this place before I got on the straight and narrow,“ I said. 

I join the local 24 Hour Fitness. It’s not my swanky West Hollywood gym with free towels and wifi and pretty actors. The weights are left everywhere. It’s 99% black. And you check in with your fingerprint. Uhhh, ok. Every time I go to workout, the black guy at the desk fistbumps me. I’ve never felt so stupid or white in my life. There is also a security guard in the cardio room. I guess there are a lot of brawls and stabbings on the treadmills? I’m confused and a little terrified. Nobody fucks with me though. I’m invisible here. 

The only person who has come to visit me down here in the first month is one person I’m having sex with, so make of that what you will. It’s fine. I have lots of time to write and to clean, which I’ve begun doing for the first time in my life. I’m so grateful to have my own space after sharing a room for almost three years that I keep it impeccable. I quickly realized that cleaning is weirdly therapeutic.  

My best friend texts me: What are you doing?

Me: Mopping.

Friend: Dear Lord, are you okay?

Okay? I’m better than ever. However, I must admit, I go to way less meetings staying in the hood. My secretaryship is over and my homegroup is easily 45 minutes away. But I feel good. I call my sponsor. I have a slew of sponsees who, God help them, want what I have. Suckers. 

The other night my garage door got tagged. Just mine. Jack, my alcoholic vet neighbor, who has a daily garage sale with three vacuums and the one chair he’s refinished, told me it hasn’t happened in years. The last time it happened across the street, somebody got murdered. 

“Us tokens gotta stick together,” he says. 

“No joke,” I answer.

While I’m examining the damage, a black kid on a scooter comes rolling by and sees it.  

“Oh shit. That's a gang sign,” he says.

“What does it mean?” I ask him. 

“I forgot.”

“Does it mean ‘Kill all skinny white Jews in Inglewood?’"

“Nahh, man.”

“Are you sure?” I question.

“Don’t worry,” Jack says. “I’ll call the graffiti removal crew. They come and repaint it for free. I guess it’s part of a court-ordered community service program.”

“Uh, yeah. Unfortunately I’m very familiar with it…long story.”

I smell pot in the building. A lot. And I hear the tinkly music of ice cream trucks. I routinely watch this huge black guy with dreads down to his waist do flies with free weights on a plastic chair on his porch next door. No markets nearby stock Yerba Mate, my newest addiction, and there are no vape shops. It’s a whole other hipster-free world. Well, aside from the pot.

Despite the “thin walls,” my cellphone reception here is terrible. Nobody I call can hear me. I thought it was just the partial deafness of my mother but everybody complains. The phone doesn’t even ring in the bedroom at all. I’ve taken it as a sign that this is supposed to be a quiet time devoid of distraction, a time for reflection, productivity and dancing around alone in my underwear at 4am to bad '80s music.

Amy Dresner is a columnist at The Fix.

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