A couple of days ago, I had to reup out parking permits. Yes, in many neighborhoods of LA you have to pay for a permit just to park on your own street. You can buy them through the mail, but of course I had let ours expire, so I had to go down to the place. Anyway, I was sitting there at the permit office for ages, waiting for my number to be called, and I kind of started eavesdropping on the two young men seated next to me.
These two guys were what the cops on the news would refer to as "youths" - I took one look at them, and immediately labeled them as gangbangers. They had the haircuts, the clothes, the lingo, the tattoos. One of the guys had his entire neck tattooed. They seemed to know each other, but hadn't gone down there together, they'd just run into each other and were catching up.
At first, all I really caught from their conversation were a bunch of "Yo"s and "bitch"s. And then I heard...
You still in school, man?
Yeah, I'm out at Cal State Northridge.
Why aren't you at UCLA?
Hmmm...this was intriguing. I paid better attention.
Ah, UCLA is so expensive, you know. So I'm getting my undergrad
from Northridge and saving up my money to go to UCLA for grad school.
I figure it's smarter to spend the cash on my masters.
"What the what?" I thought, inside my head.
Yeah, that's smart. How's your lady? Where's she studying?
She's at the Stella Adler Studio.
NOTE: Stella Adler is a respected acting school in Hollywood.
Turns out, these dudes were ACTORS. What's more, they seemed to be pretty serious, and were working regularly!
When I think about it, there must be a huge market for actors to play the gang guys in movies and tv shows! I mean, they're not hiring real drug dealers to play the parts on Breaking Bad or NCIS: Los Angeles.
So I am thoroughly humbled. I always consider myself an open-minded and non-judgmental person, but I clearly needed to learn a "don't judge a book by it's cover" lesson.
But really...only in Los Angeles.