I'm at LAX on the way to Sydney, Australia via Auckland, NZ on Air New Zealand.  I thought it would be fitting to write about 2 interesting events that happened last time I was in the area.

These events both happened within 1 week of each other on a trip to LA in 1999-2000.  My girlfriend at the time and I were staying in Redondo Beach with her cousin, which was about an hour on trains to Hollywood.

On their own these stories are short so I've combined them into one longer post.

Part 1: How Not To Get Shot For Your Shoes

Late December, just before New Year's 2000:

Making our way back to Redondo Beach after sunset from a long day in Hollywood we had to get off and switch trains in Watts.  Home to the Watts Riots of 1965 and with more than 500 homicides between 1989 and 2005, Watts isn't known as a particularly safe city.

But we'd made this trip a few times before so I didn't expect this experience to be any different.

There we were on the train platform with 30-40 others waiting for our respective trains when across the platform I noticed a kid, about my age, staring me down.

I ignored it and continued talking to my girlfriend.

But I felt the eyes still staring at me so I did one of those "hey, there's a girl checking you out, so turn around and look but don't make it seem like you're turning around to look" moves.

He started walking towards me.

My first thought was "OK, no big deal, he's probably not even walking towards me."

Within a few seconds he was within 12 inches of my face staring into my eyes.

I didn't know yet what to think, but this kid did not seem very happy to see me, and as far as weapons go all I had was my hands.  (Which, fair enough, are LETHAL!)

"Nice shoes, what kind?"

Taken aback, I looked down at my shoes, because I had no idea what they were, while simultaneously thinking "Oh sweet, I'm about to get mugged."

"Oh, New Balance running shoes."

Still staring laser focused into my eyes he said, with a very serious tone, "I like them."  Then he turned around and walked away.

I'm still not sure what this experience says about me.

I didn't feel uncomfortable being one of only a handful of white people on the train platform until I was approached rather ominously.

But why did I assume I was going to get mugged when the kid asked about my shoes?  He was obviously just a big fan of shoes.

That said, had he been more cheerful it might have helped to ease my tension.

Part 2: If A Cop Offers You A Ride, You're Probably Not Safe

"I don't need a map, I know how to get there."

I'm going to speculate that those 11 words have resulted in quite a few good stories over the years.

Here's mine:

We decided to spend the afternoon at the California Science Center near downtown LA in Exposition Park.

We'd been in that area a few days earlier so I knew the correct train stops.

After breakfast in a nice little Redondo Beach diner we headed out.  The first train station was a 15 minute walk and, as luck would have it, the train arrived at the same time we did.

As per usual for our sojourns to LA from Redondo we switched trains in Watts and headed on our way to the California Science Center.

After riding on the train for a few stops I decided the upcoming stop was ours.

We got off the train.

And we were the only 2 people to get off the train.

That seemed a little odd, but nothing necessarily out of the ordinary.

Walking away from the train into a neighborhood I didn't feel sure this was the correct stop anymore. Maybe it was just my mind playing tricks on me.

The neighborhood looked so normal I can't even describe it well.  Normal looking stores.  Normal looking streets. Normal looking houses.

Except for one minor detail.

There were no people in sight. Anywhere.  Nobody in the stores, nobody in the streets, and nobody outside the houses.

We'd been walking for 10 minutes and we were completely alone somewhere in Los Angeles.

But we pressed on.  The California Science Center had to be somewhere around here, right?

A few minutes later I spotted a gas station down the road and made out an LAPD cruiser.

We hurriedly walked to the gas station, I walked up to one of the Officers and asked, "Excuse me, do you know how to get to the Science Center?"

He gave me a once over and responded authoritatively, "Get out of here."

"What?" I responded, a little confused.

"You shouldn't be here."

"Well, then how do we get to the Science Center?" I still didn't understand what he meant.

"You shouldn't be here, do you want a ride?"

Oooooohhhhhhh.  That's what he meant.

"Uhh, we'll just walk back to the train."

"That's probably a good idea, but be careful."

"OK, thanks, bye."

I guess I didn't know the correct train stops.

And we never did make it to the Science Center.


Your turn: Any good "stranger in a strange land" or "wrong place at the wrong time" type stories of your own?  Comment or shoot me an e-mail.  Just please don't shoot me. ;)