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'My Worst Fears About the City Were Confirmed'

To an apartment-hunter from Agoura Hills, the North Hollywood bank robbery was one scary thing among many.

March 08, 1997|DANIEL BEN-MOSHE

I had outstayed my welcome at the folks' house in the suburbs and I knew it was time to search for my own place again. As a struggling writer I have never been able to afford a real apartment rental in my affluent Santa Monica Mountains community of Agoura Hills, and I scorned the idea of living in a shabby rented room of someone else's house. The time had come to head for that big American-dream-gone-bad called L.A., or at least its nearer suburbs.

I found an ad for an affordable apartment in the homey community of North Hollywood. On the way down I tried to persuade myself that it wouldn't be too bad. I had read that the wonderful home of the TV family "The Brady Bunch" had been located in North Hollywood. As I was approaching my exit, I turned on the radio. It was time for the news. The announcer informed me that there was a major bank robbery and shootout in progress in North Hollywood. I got off the freeway to head for the rental apartment and saw police cars speeding down the street toward me, weaving in and out of traffic. I pulled over to get out of their way. Helicopters began circling the area.

Once I reached the building, I made small talk with a couple of residents who had been living there for a while. I wanted to get a feel for the neighborhood. They assured me that it wasn't too bad but they recommended that I buy a car alarm and stay home after dark. I went outside to the front steps of the building to sit a spell and sample the local flavor. There were a number of intimidating-looking people walking by with shaved heads, angry scowls and tattoos. By this time I was definitely one confused hillbilly. Wasn't this the Valley?

Despite the negative vibe, I decided to check in with a local employment agency to find out about possible jobs in the area. I straightened my tie and re-created the part in my hair, then I found that the door to the place was locked. I tried it again, and I noticed that the people inside were looking at me with fear in their eyes. They finally opened it and explained to me that the bank robbery situation had them a bit "on edge." When I finished up there, I hit the road again and almost immediately I witnessed a vicious exchange between two motorists screaming out their windows.

It seemed as though all my worst fears about the city had been confirmed on this visit. My head was spinning.

I can't afford a car alarm and I am accustomed to taking a leisurely stroll every night after dinner. I don't want to be a prisoner of a studio apartment. How can people live this way? The thugs seem to have won the battle.

I sped back to the 'burbs with my tail between my legs. Suddenly those room-for-rent ads in my local paper were starting to look attractive.

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