Category Archives: Los Angeles

Cleaning up

So last night at the gas station, my friend David (who lives under the freeway) told me that things were tough right now for him. He said that the cops were really hassling him a lot because of the upcoming elections. I wondered at the accuracy of his observation and considered how incredibly active the police have been in our community of late.

Just last night there was a little rendezvous with a cruiser and two motorcycle cops (who I never see around here) who were discussing a meeting location on 37th. Doug said that they must be getting ready for a bust. Sure enough, less than five minutes later, two helicopters painted an area just south of us (we are on 30th) and were there for most of an hour. This is one of many such busts we have heard about recently.

It is interesting to consider how many factors, seen and unseen, work together to influence how much we see the police and what kind of response is given to gang activity and crime in our community.

Too few

I saw my brother last weekend, and he told me that thirty-two people had been shot in a single weekend in Chicago. Due to the dramatic number of shootings in such a short amount of time, the shootings received significant media attention. The reality is, had only a handful occurred, it is likely that no one would have heard anything about them. Well, maybe the one involving the AK-47 would have made the news cycle. Maybe.

Last night I checked the Homicide Blog and saw that a young man had been shot and killed a few blocks from here while riding his bike to the store on Friday evening. The shooting took place at 7:45 pm. It was not yet dark. We didn’t hear about this killing, and we live so close. Another death so easily ignored.

Monday night our good friend Jade was here, and we got talking poetry and ended up with a bunch of my poetry books out. We were flipping through and reading aloud some of our favorite authors. In an anthology edited by South African author, Wole Soyinka, titled “Poems of Black Africa”, I read these lines by Gambian poet Lenrie Peters:

Isatou died
When she was only five
And full of pride
Just before she knew
How small a loss
It brought to such a few.

The last line made me cry when I first read it. I am haunted by it still.

Extra, extra!

This past weekend, the Haub family had the very fun experience of being extras for a short film. Mercy and Aaron were excited to tell their friends at church on Sunday about “playing action”, and they actually did exceptionally well for the duration of filming. Of course Elijah spit up all over me (and poor Karla), Mercy charmed the crowd and Aaron required a spit bath (yes, I am now that mother) between every take due to his uncanny ability to cover himself with dirt. Oh, and the final takes did require some form of bribery involving small bite-sized pieces of red vines. But overall they exceeded my expectations in how they handled the whole thing.

It was fun to experience a very tiny piece of an industry that touches so many lives here in Los Angeles. It was great too to contribute in a very small way to the sincere artistic endeavor of some very talented friends. And as always, it was touching to see strangers become friends through playful engagement with my children.

One of my favorite moments of the day was when Mercy walked past the lead actress for the first time and, looking down at her turquoise and white pumps (her wardrobe was intentionally awkward and 80′s-esque) looked up with wide-eyed admiration and said: “Pretty shoes…”

Nicole burst out laughing and went out of her way to engage Mercy for the rest of the afternoon.

I was reminded throughout the day of the ways Dick Staub has reminded me over the years about the role of art and beauty and creativity and storytelling in the life of a people of faith. It was great to see, from the inside, how a group of friends are passionately and joyfully pursuing those things.

Matt, Matt and Aaron: we wish you all the best in bringing your vision to completion. Thanks for letting us be a part of it.

Deliver Me

Living in L.A., it is not uncommon to see people with clothing or accessories bearing logos from different film or television productions. So many people here have some connection to “the industry”, and their baseball caps and messenger bags and bomber jackets let you know it.

Yesterday the doorbell rang and I was greeted with the UPS guy and a package from Banyan Productions: inside was a black backpack with a little footprint logo and the words: “Deliver Me”, as well as a DVD and a little bib for Elijah bearing the inaccurate words: “I was delivered on Deliver Me”.

While Doug and I were filmed for this show leading up to Elijah’s birth, we were not interested in having his actual delivery filmed (a decision I was most grateful for when his complication-laden birth actually took place). As a result, the producers could not have us as one of the central story lines for the show since the birth-moment climax kind of makes the story. Regardless, it was fun to watch our footage and touching to see our three amazing OB’s in action.

And now we can proudly walk about L.A. with a logo on our backs.

The Garden

garden.jpg

Today we went to one of our favorite little getaway spots here in L.A.: the Huntington Gardens in Pasadena. We are members and we love strolling through the Desert Garden and letting the kids run like crazy through the giant fields and talking to the lion statues that guard the entrance to the Japanese Garden. Today we visited the brand new Chinese Garden that has been under construction for quite a while. It was beautiful, and the kids especially loved all the water and bridges.

Favorite moments from the day include:

Mercy carefully laying Camelia flowers on the paws of the two lion statues that stand at the back entrance to the Chinese Gardens, and gently asking for permission to enter;

the lady who stopped and offered me her tweezers to remove the cactus spines that were stuck in my pants from walking too close to the edge of the path in the Desert Garden;

finding a “hairy” cactus and a bunch with bright red “tongues” sticking out;

Aaron demanding to be carried through the Camelia garden because he was afraid of the tigers (???);

the kids spotting the “green Valley” and running toward it with all their might;

walking past a collection of nude male statues as part of a large group of people and having neither Mercy nor Aaron make any reference to their anatomy.

And my all time favorite moment (in that “is it bad that I am totally laughing at this?” kind of way): Mercy was running downhill on the path that led to the Chinese Gardens when all of a sudden she face planted in the dirt. She cried for a second, and was mostly just upset that the flower she had been carrying had fallen from her hands when she fell. She got right up and we were about to resume walking when all of a sudden she cried out again: “Mom, help!”

She was wearing a new pair of boots today that we got as part of a set of used shoes we bought on Craigslist last week. They are brown suede with fur lining and long laces with brown furry pom-poms on the end. I looked and saw that a pom-pom from her left boot had wound around a pom-pom from the right one, and her boots were now tied together and she couldn’t walk. Her fall suddenly made a bit more sense, and I laughed hard as I unwound my daughter from her predicament.


This is my now

This past week I have repeatedly found myself driving around parts of L.A. that are a bit unfamiliar. Saturday I wound my way through the hills up to Rancho Palos Verdes; Sunday we drove to two different residences in Hollywood. And last night I ventured out through the hills and canyons of the Valley. In each of these places, I was overwhelmed by one thing: the sheer volume of luxury vehicles around me. And it wasn’t the standard L.A. black Mercedes fare: I was surrounded by Bentleys and Maseratis and Ferraris and Rolls Royces (and the really crazy Mercedes that cost an absolute fortune).

Getting gas in the Valley last night, I found myself sorely out of place in our dirty, black, 1994 Nissan Altima. Moments before, a white Rolls had been parked where my car sat filling, and it was a car straight out of a music video: totally pimped out, unlike anything I had ever seen on the streets. The three young men gathered around the car were laughing and smiling beneath the fluorescent lights.

Or on Sunday, it was the black Mercedes in front of us: the kind that makes you turn your head and stare. I was just beginning to take in the glamor of the car when another one, almost identical to it, drove up beside it, and then raced off. And in that moment the stop and stare standout became unoriginal.

As I mentioned earlier, I have been struck recently by the by and large disbelief I think most of us have that the Beatitudes as recorded by the gospel writers could actually be true. I remember the giant uproar caused by some comments made by Tony Campolo many years ago regarding whether or not Christians should own luxury vehicles: he was uninvited to conferences after that and had speaking engagements canceled. Communities that genuinely witness to belonging to a kingdom where the least are the greatest are simply and sadly not what most people think of when they consider the face of Christianity.

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep.”

We are the rich; the well fed; the laughing. Can we really hear these words and say with belief: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Smitten

castle.jpg

We did it.

My parents flew down for a long weekend and today they treated all the grandkids (and parents!) to a day at Disneyland.

I told Mercy that we were going to meet Cinderella. I told her other things that we would do there, but I don’t think she heard anything after that. She wore her special Valentine’s Day dress to show Cinderella and she even had a “happy cry” in the van as we pulled up to the gates this morning. When I asked her what she wanted to tell Cinderella when she saw her, she thought about it and said: “Welcome to Disneyland!”

The Disney commercials are a bit misleading. They always show the characters wandering the park, kneeling down to talk to kids and hug them. We didn’t see any characters anywhere the entire day, other than the Alice in Wonderland Queen racing past the Dumbo ride on her way to a break. But in our brochure we read that there was a place you could go to meet the princesses, so after a few rides, an overpriced lunch, and some rigorous Jedi training for Mercy’s cousin, we made our way to the “Princess Fantasy Faire.”

There was a line to get into this little area where three princesses awaited to meet and greet our little ones. I asked one of the staff and found out that indeed Cinderella was inside. And so we waited. And waited. It was easily the most slow-moving, annoying line of the day, and we all made comments at various points about whether this was even worth it. Mercy’s cousin was a trooper and stuck it out, as did my sister (though her husband drew the line at princesses, and he and my dad took their other little boy to meet Mickey). Jordan, Aaron and Elijah were the only boys in the entire line.

When we finally made it to the entrance area, we spotted our first princess: Jasmine. Aaron could not take his eyes off her glittery midriff, and Mercy was eager to tell her about the Jasmine doll that her Uncle David had given her for Christmas.

Next in line was Mulan. Her hair was amazing and she was very sweet with Mercy, but Aaron kept his distance.

As we said goodbye to Mulan and turned to go, we spotted the final princess: there, in all her blue-dress glory on the floor, sat the one and only Cinderella. Mercy took the next few steps in almost slow-motion and then she stopped. Then a giant grin covered her face and she ran full-speed and jumped into the seated princesses arms. And as cheesy as I think the whole Princess thing is most of the time, my little girl’s raw delight made me cry.

But it was actually Aaron who stole the show. As Cinderella talked with them, Mercy made sure to tell her “welcome to Disneyland”, and Aaron listed off all of his favorite Thomas the Tank Engine Trains for her. Then she invited them to sit down on her puffy dress for the requisite photo opp. Now Aaron has a very goofy smile-thing that he does when you take his picture. He squints his eyes, sticks out his chin and makes this pained look. But as the photo shoot progressed, his silly grin started to morph and his eyes actually started to close and his head began to bow. By the last photo, he was in full prayer posture.

When it was time to get up and say goodbye, Aaron still refused to open his eyes. Cinderella put her hands on either side of Aaron’s face and gave him a big lipstick kiss on his forehead. He stood there, frozen, head bowed and eyes closed, hands clenched on either side. And he did not move. For a long time. This totally cracked Cinderella up, and pretty soon people were coming over to see the little boy who had been frozen by her kiss. Finally, she raised her hand to high-five Aaron, and he lifted his own to meet hers. And he smiled.

And every moment in the annoying line? Forgotten.

Why We Can’t Wait

Last night Doug was working on planning the worship service for today while I finished cleaning up the day’s play in the living room when suddenly our apartment was filled with the sound of a helicopter circling overhead. Our living room was shaking, we could hardly hear each other speak, and I went to the front window to see where they were searching. I couldn’t see the helicopter or the light until I was bathed in it.

“What are they looking at?” Doug asked.

“Us.” I answered.

The helicopter continued to hover over our apartment, and the light was shining through our windows when all of a sudden I heard people running right below the window I was looking out, down our driveway to the back of our house. They were shouting and swearing and running very fast. Moments later I could see guys on foot behind them with flashlights: “Drop the gun!” I heard someone screaming, and I realized our apartment was now surrounded by police. I hit the ground, and yelled at Doug to do the same.

“They’re right outside our windows!” I shouted. I crawled closer to Doug and we sat there, huddled in the middle of the living room floor, paralyzed. “Did you lock the back door?” Doug asked me. I had just been finishing laundry and was sure that I had. Our third barrier, a kitchen door that locks between the kitchen and dining room, was open and I told Doug to go and lock it. And then we sat, holding hands, on our floor. I started to cry.

I don’t know how long we sat there. Eventually we could hear mostly police radios and the voices of officers, and we could see their flashlights sweeping all parts of our property. Deciding that the danger had passed, we looked out the front window and saw that they did have a guy in cuffs up against the cruiser, and there were officers walking up and down our driveway, and searching our front and back yards. They took the guy to a different cruiser, and there was a call over the radio and someone said something about “around the corner” and everyone took off.

Maybe fifteen minutes later, there was knocking on our door, and we went, together, to talk to the officer at our door. He wanted to know what we had seen and heard, and he informed us that they had been chasing a gang member with a gun. They had been able to apprehend the guy and it turned out he had dumped the gun around the corner from our house on Raymond.

When he was questioning us, he asked how long we had lived in this apartment. “Six years,” I answered. “Ever had any problems?” he asked? Doug and I both just stood there, looking at him: “Um…yeah. Lots.” I said, wondering if he was ignorant or checking to see if I was. “I mean, here on your property specifically,” he clarified.” “No, not right here.” I answered. He told us he might have to get back in touch later, we thanked him and said goodnight. At some point during our exchange, our landlord drove up into the driveway and stopped when he saw us in the doorway with an officer. He got out of his car to find out what was going on, and I felt better knowing that he was home.

We went back inside and Doug resumed work on his powerpoint and I finished cleaning, but with a distinct heaviness in both our spirits. It was hard to go to bed last night: that tension between wanting to listen for every sound and wanting to stop hearing noise outside long enough at least to fall asleep. Lots of sirens continued throughout the night, and I dreaded my middle of the night feeding with Elijah that would put me out in the living room alone.

Today we are honoring the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in our worship service. I am at home with the kids, all of us sick, while Doug is there leading. Before all of this happened last night he had asked me: “what should I do for my invocation?” I am wondering what he chose to say to invite our community to enter God’s presence this morning. The words that haven’t left my brain this morning are the title to one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s books: “Why We Can’t Wait”, a theme so poignantly addressed by King in his famous Letter From the Birmingham Jail.

As I think about Doug and me last night, overwhelmed and overcome by fear of gunfire outside our windows, I think of those words: why we can’t wait. As I think of the young man, armed, running through the streets, I think of those words: why we can’t wait. As I think of my kids, sleeping gently in their bedroom while police officers scurry beneath their windows, I think of those words: why we can’t wait. As I think of our church, a church in and for this community, gathered in Jesus name a few blocks from here this morning, I think of those words: why we can’t wait.

Fear

For a while now, Doug has taken over the bedtime routing for Mercy and Aaron. Bath, teeth, jammies, clean-up and stories read and told, this is his domain. Last night he was in their room lying in Mercy’s bed with her, telling them one final story in the dark. I have been successfully bumping Elijah’s bedtime earlier and earlier each night, and we are now at the point where I am doing his final soothing while Doug is finishing up with the big kids. Last night I was walking Elijah when I spotted something out of the corner of my eye.

My sleeplessness has decreased enough to where I no longer see dark, shadowy creatures that don’t exist scurrying through the apartment, but at first I was not sure if I had imagined what I saw. I stepped back and saw that no, indeed there was a gigantic spider, legs flailing, scaling the dining room wall. I stood there, paralyzed. It was too high up for me to reach, not that I would have had enough courage to do so. I knew that I needed Doug to help me, but I was terrified to walk out of the room in case the thing dropped and disappeared. The only thing worse than a big scary spider on the wall is when that spider escapes to God knows where in the house.

I can remember one night, I think I was in high school, when I sat in the hallway for more than an hour staking out a spider’s location, making sure not to lose it, until my dad came home. It was only recently that my dad confessed that there were indeed times when the spiders got away, but he would just pretend to catch them so that I could sleep that night.

I finally decided to go to the kids’ room and tell Doug that I needed his help. I rushed back to my post, and as I stood there watching the spider, it suddenly lost its footing and dropped to the floor. I jumped and inhaled so strongly that I made Elijah cry. Thankfully the thing just sat on the floor where it fell, and by the time Doug came out I was able to easily point it out and Doug quickly caught it and took it outside. Doug does not kill spiders. It is amazing that we are married.

After it was all over, I realized that I had felt especially afraid, so much so that I had almost started to cry. And I also realized that that probably had more to do with how stuff feels in the neighborhood right now and less about my actual fear of the spider. My ability to cope with feeling afraid is not very great right now. With the recent shootings, heavy cop presence, and the new threat of a rapist who has attacked twice, the outlet I found to express my anxiety was a stupid spider on the wall.

Another Friday night

Whenever people come into our neighborhood, we tell them if they hear gunfire to hit the floor. It is one of those things that sounds like a no-brainer, but it is surprising how non-instinctual it can actually be. I’ll be honest, though, and admit that I do not get down on the floor every time. Some of that is probably because we are in a second floor apartment, but more than that it is a level of confidence in discerning when gunfire is actually close enough to warrant that response.

Last night I hit the floor. Thankfully the kids were sleeping, and Doug and I were sitting up watching a movie in the living room when the shots rang out. They were loud and very close, and I crawled over to my desk and reached for the phone to dial 911. We didn’t hear any car tires squealing and there were no screams, but we did hear the response team come and they did not leave quickly.

I don’t know much about guns, but I know that the kind fired last night was the same as the one that fired the rounds of seemingly endless shots one night this past summer. This sound, this particular gun, scares me a lot. Last night I dreamt about walking down Raymond with Aaron and passing a man holding a large gun. Realizing what I had seen, I crouched down behind a car and held my son close. I woke this morning with the heaviness of that dream still clutching after me.

We spent a good portion of our day today in Santa Monica with our dear friends who just had a baby, and it was one of those days where the miracle and majesty of life just gets in your face and all you can do is marvel at it. Our church is renewing our commitment to the youth of our community in some exciting ways right now, and I am grateful for the chance to be a part of that answer to the echoes of hopelessness heard far too often on our streets.