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Community Essay : Oh Give Me a Home Where the Bullets Don't Roam

Even confirmed urbanites can get fed up with grittiness.

February 17, 1996|TERESA YUNKER | Teresa Yunker is a freelance writer

An urban planner on National Public Radio has taken suburbanites to task, saying that rather than wanting their own yards, they should be content with public parks where they would experience "urban diversity."

Urbanites, my husband and I picnic in Elysian Park, next to Dodgers Stadium. There we get to enjoy urban diversity--drug dealers lurking in their cars, teenagers coupling to the insistent thud of portable radios set at piercing levels, colorful groups having colorful celebrations after which they leave all their colorful garbage.

It is true that the suburbs are more fussy about such things. Drug dealers are far more discreet. In Winnetka, the Illinois suburb where my husband and I grew up, a party that played loud music after 11 p.m. was shut down by the cops. "Don't the cops have anything better to do?" we'd snort with teen-age disdain.

Los Angeles cops do have better things to do, as I was informed when I once called for assistance. An individual--drunk, on drugs, in need of psychiatric attention or merely very, very upset--was directly in front of my house, screaming epithets at invisible enemies. "Is he armed?" the police officer asked, sounding bored. I didn't know, but since he wasn't overtly waving anything, the officer sighed. "This is Los Angeles, ma'am," he said. "We have plenty of real problems going on."

The police weren't so bored the time gunfire suddenly erupted on our street. Usually I pretend that the distant popping sound is simply firecrackers, especially when nervous suburban visitors (like my parents) are over. But to actually hear bullets within immediate range was a little alarming.

And while I give money occasionally to the people outside the grocery store, the pharmacy, the Laundromat, the car wash, I draw the line at those who stand right next to someone else attempting to sell oranges or roses. The contrast just isn't in their favor.

So sometimes I take a suburban holiday. When I visit my in-laws, still ensconced in Winnetka, or my parents, who have retired to Newport Beach, I revel in the quiet. It's also pleasant to get in and out of my car unmolested by whoever needs my money more than I do. And when a car window rolls down, the occupant is merely asking for directions. Why, people leave lawn furniture outside without a thought.

While I'm sure some would declare that suburbanites--come the revolution!--need to get down and dirty like the rest of us, I am thankful that our aging parents, after a lifetime of hard work, have found themselves a piece of peace.

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