The Last Days of Los Angeles # 11 (Part II)
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The Last Days of Los Angeles # 11 (Part II)

The Zone (2 of 2)

 Luis Rivas
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 Luis Rivas
The Last Days of Los Angeles # 11 (Part II)
by Luis Rivas  FollowFollow
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Luis Rivas lives in Los Angeles, California. He was a telemarketer, construction worker, flower delivery driver, fast food cashier, sales clerk,...read more non-profit canvasser, adult store and strip club manager and package handler/zip code sorter. His work has appeared in the following publications, some of which he contributes to regularly: Zygote in My Coffee, Unlikely Stories, My Favorite Bullet, The Hold, Cherry Bleeds, Corium, Rural Messenger Press, Thieves Jargon, Origami Condom, Outsider Writers, Full of Crow, Counter Punch, Gloom Cupboard, where his is Poetry Editor and Red Fez, where he is author of the Last Days of Los Angeles column. He dropped out of Los Angeles Valley College where he was studying journalism to work full-time at a porn shop. Then he got fired. Now he has gone back to school, continuing his studies in journalism and Chicana/o Studies at California State University of Northridge and Los Angeles City College. He is currently building up his own literary website, peaceisillegal.com and plans on publishing a book on his youth. Once upon a time, he grew a beard. (There is evidence on the Internet.)
The Last Days of Los Angeles # 11 (Part II)
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“Listen to the cry of a woman in labor at the hour of giving birth - look at the dying man's struggle at his last extremity, and then tell me whether something that begins and ends thus could be intended for enjoyment.” - Soren Kierkegaard
MATT WAS SHAKING ME OUT OF MY BLACKOUT VIOLENTLY. Everything around us was on fire and destroyed with glass shards (from broken beer bottles and busted window panes) on the ground, our shirts torn, thin crimson lacerations on my forearms and chest from an earlier fight coupled with immediate alcoholic fits of self-mutilation.
Eugene was looking out the window. The police helicopters were directly above us, with bright blue spotlights shining down around the building’s perimeter. My mind was reeling back into consciousness and through the slow-motioned tunnel vision I could see Matt’s lips form words but the sound was muddied.
“We gotta get the fuck out as soon as possible,” he said.
Eugene was already leading the way. Everyone else already had left and was hanging out at Joe’s apartment across the street, completely abandoning concern for us, not out of intentional disrespect but merely drug-addled negligence.
I think our entire youth can be summed up and defended by that very premise: drug-addled negligence.

Joe preferred to be called Suicidal Joe, not because he was suicidal necessarily but because his favorite band was Suicidal Tendencies. But we never really committed to calling him by that name. It never stuck. It was always just Joe. He was home-schooled and our age, around 17 years old. He lived with his mom and her boyfriend, but they were accepting of his alcohol and drug intake just as long as its abuse was supervised. On occasion, Joe would punch through a wall or bedroom door or threaten suicide and the mom would scream JOSEPH, THAT’S IT, NO MORE FRIENDS OVER, NO MORE BEER N DOPE, JOSEPH, THIS SHIT’S GOTTA STOP. But then Joe would apologize or manipulate her as only a cunning only-son could, and all would be forgiven.
The entire family smoked several packs a day. The house was always filled with smoke. Our metal and punk bands would practice there, much to the dismay of all the working class Latino neighbors of a two-building radius. Joe’s apartment was known and widely accepted as a safe haven for kids on the run—either away from a bad situation at home, the law or existential boredom. It was also know—and for these exact purposes we were regulars—as a safe house for us to dope up and drink.


At The Zone I was vaguely anxious and scared. Not that I was brave or anything; my mind was still—slowly—coming out of the ultra-dehydrated, asphyxiated self-induced consciousness coma. This was a desirable state of being. It was repeated as often as possible. People often mistook this as courageousness but it was authentic ignorance.
We walked out the back of the building. I turned around to glimpse at the destruction we—high school students (with the exception of Matt, who was an older squatter punk we befriended)—had caused. I wanted to see the gravity of our situation. And I wasn’t impressed. The fires were small and already dying. An occasional blue light would shine down on the asphalt, nervously scouring the ground like a hungry and blind animal.
After we twisted, contorted and pushed ourselves out from the chain link fence we were immediately and loudly ordered to STOP, GET ON THE GROUND, NOW!
We were surrounded by LAPD police officers, their guns drawn and aimed at all of us. At first we thought, ok, what’s the big deal? So what if we destroy an abandoned or at least non-maintained building on Sepulveda Boulevard? The only people we were hurting were ourselves, each other, willingly, joyously, perversely. The only things we were destroying were forgotten drywall, useless windows, claimed private property, securely severed from people, from occupants, from us. The only things we were destroying were massive amount of brain cells, feeble adolescent memories, genius and poetic potential. The only things we were destroying, essentially, were ourselves which we had a right to do since no one asked our permission to be imposed with existence, with families, a dreary, loveless, godless life. It was our way of reclaiming, asserting control over our lives. By destroying them.
The cops, however, didn’t share our revolutionary ideology of anti-property and deconstructive nihilism. We were forced to our knees, with our hands behind our heads, our fingers interlocked with each other. A police officer got behind each of us, grabbed us by our thumbs and hoisted us up, asked if we had any drugs, weapons or needles in our pockets, no sir, we did them all, we are empty, nothing remains. And then we were promptly handcuffed and escorted to the curb. One by one we were interrogated separate from each other in order to verify if we were lying.
But the cops in their state-sanctioned violent and arrogant wisdom failed to comprehend that we categorically rejected any remorse, emotion, compassion and therefore we were free, truly free from blame or empty moral accusations. Yes, we destroyed the building, by us, by our skinny arms and violent, angry, unloved, scarred bodies; yes, we set it on fire—because it existed and nothing should exist; yes, we threw bottles at oncoming cars; we reject life; we up-hold the ideals of death not because of morbidity, but because of laziness; destruction is easy so we do it. Living, that’s the hard part, and, so, we must avoid it all times.
They gave us brooms and pans and we were made to sweep up all the shattered glass off Sepulveda Boulevard. We cracked jokes, comparing cops to Nazis, both being empty, clean, duty-bound and disciplined state instruments. We laughed, swept up as best as we could all while we were drunk. Afterward, they let Matt and Eugene go and gave me a ride to my parents.
The officer knocked on the door, handed me over to my half-asleep parents still in their pajamas. I walked in, stayed in the background while the officer informed them as to what I was doing with the rest of the kids. My mother gasped regularly in stereotypical Mexican Catholic disbelief and disprovable. My father clicked his tongue against his mouth disapprovingly, internally feeling conflicted with his natural hatred of the cops and his almost-equal disturbing embarrassment for his son.
After the officer left, I walked to my room. My father attempted to ground me but it didn’t matter, nothing did. My mother looked at my arms and asked what happened. I said we were fighting and there was glass all over the ground, a sort-of truth. Not wanting to tell her that I cut myself, intentionally, have done so steadily for a good year or two in high school; in my nihilism, and total rejection of everything and anything, there was a spark of guilt, which I tried burying over and over again with ample amounts of speed and alcohol, but the spark was tenacious in its annoyance. It made me hold back and cushion verbal blows against my mother and sometimes father. No, mom, I don’t cut myself, it was an accident.
The very next day in school I saw Eugene and the rest of the gang. We exchanged stories. Apparently I had rammed my ex-girlfriend’s head through the drywall during my blackout. Apparently my fingers were knuckle-deep inside a girl in one of the rooms, but this, unlike the head-smashing, was consensual, aggressive but mutual. Later on Joe told us about The Zone being torn down only a few weeks after that night. Months passed and eventually a Target was built in its place, which still remains till this day, right across the street from Joe’s apartment.

Years later Joe died.
About a month ago I had learned about Joe’s passing through a late-night text. An overdose, apparently.
Most of us have grown out of that lifestyle, some of us having stared families, raising dangerous, intelligent and beautiful children of our own (dangerous because they will surely break our hearts), getting married (occasionally to descent people), graduating from university, or returning back to school, reconciling relationships within our families and close friends, and some of us even found God.
Joe eventually moved out with his mother from the shithole slum apartment on Sepulveda Boulevard to a nicer place, a house, in Burbank. He became a born-again Christian, and eventually embraced sobriety. But that peace did not last.
Eventually, something happened. He moved out of the state to somewhere in the south and overdosed on methadone and Zanax. Only that much is known.
There are many unanswered questions: was it suicide, was he recovering from Heroin and mistakenly overdosed? No one keeps in touch with his family. We will most likely never gain that closure. Only a handful of us even sincerely care.
The list of dead friends from these days has been growing. Death is catching up to us, angry and offended that we somehow, miraculously, defiantly, escaped its grasp in our youth. And now we are dropping like flies, being reclaimed like overdue property, like marked men and women, like disease-ridden soldiers having come home mortally infected with numbered days. In my naiveté I had thought it was done, that we—our once-nihilistic-collective—that we had matured out of it. But, alas, not all of us did.
The realization here is that we haven’t stopped fucking up, and certainly more of us will die. Yes, compared to the ultra-destruction of our youth, we have balanced out somewhat. But our criminal records are slowly fattening, our futures looking bleaker with a hazardous economy, our ability to love and care growing old and tired and grey and unimaginative and soft.
In our mistakenly romantic shift in embracing life, love and order we have mortally exposed ourselves to the very thing we sought to conquer in our youth: life.

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