The first signs of perception dawned on me by the age of five. At six I was well aware of my surroundings. My thoughts mused over some new realization I made. There was a sense of curiosity that actuated me. As a young boy, I wanted to imbibe all I could possibly retain. My mind was fast developing, and I craved newfangled views. It was 1981, and the summer had come. The month of June brought in hot weather. At its inception, my mother decided to take my brothers and me to the park. It would be my first outing since my arrival back in the state of California. We were walking down Coldwater Canyon Avenue. Our residence located on this same street was a small modest apartment. I watched it slowly fade from sight as the four of us progressed. We moved along on foot in a lackadaisical manner. Proceeding further, my mother suddenly turned to me, flabbergasted. It was a mocked expression she exhibited whenever I delayed the proper speed. She then placed her hand on her mouth. This gesture emphasized the fact that I was lagging behind.
I would often fall to the rear of her to observe some foreign object. I was coming in contact with things not yet familiar to me. I wanted to explore the various scenes of interest. In the remote distance the California Mountains’ seemed to peer through the open city. It stood like blue transparent ice. The hue of those summits appeared derived from the pristine sky. Tall green trees swayed lightly from a gentle breeze that came in frequently. As far as my sight would lead, I saw an array of elegance in every direction. I also detected by ear the multifarious sounds of city noise: cars zooming by, buses humming in the distance, and work crews drilling away sections of concrete with jack hammers. The diversity of views and tones fascinated me. Finally, my mother beckoned me to run to her side. I reluctantly hastened my approach to catch up. Upon reaching her, my brothers and I clung to her waist.
Coming to a crosswalk we paused at a stop signal for pedestrians. Here, Coldwater Canyon Avenue and Basset Street meets at a minor intersection. When the light turned green we scurried across. On the left of us was Coldwater Canyon Elementary School. Upon commencement of fall, my mother would enroll me there. I had completed pre-school while in Mobile. Soon I was to begin my first grade year as a kindergartener. My brothers would follow me later. It had not taken long for us to reach the shopping center in the vicinity. My mother, siblings, and I walked to the plaza often. It was not too far from the district’s elementary school. The first establishment stayed open throughout the day. It was a liquor store which closed around early evening. Owned by an individual of Arab ethnicity, few customers frequented the place. In close proximity was a nail shop. Fashion oriented females who desired a pedicure, manicure, or both accepted professional services.
The proprietors of this lucrative line of work had of late opened to the public. They were Chinese I believe, although I could not tell for sure. In any case however, the owners could be considered of Asian identity. Adjacent to the nail shop was a bridal company. Immediately following this a clothes cleaner, supervened by a donut franchise. Sometimes our mother would treat my brothers and me to those dainties within the local donut shop. It had been previously known as Dunkin Donuts. Presently, the restaurant is entitled Jolly’s. Whenever we approached this place, the scent of lightly fried dough emanated from the restaurant. It was quite inviting to three growing boys. Looking inside we could see those ring shaped cakes. Some were glazed with confection sugar on top. Others had a varied form of sprinkles, though of the same substance.
My brothers and I earnestly begged our mother to buy us one each. She rarely turned down our pleas. She could hardly resist the urge to savor one herself. At the far end of the shopping center was an outlet. As we egressed, my mother, brothers, and I strolled down Van Owens. This was the main thoroughfare that intersected with Coldwater Canyon Avenue. My mother usually avoided crossing over at the traffic light. Instead, she remained on the same side of the street. It would be about four blocks down before she finally crossed. All along we saw apartment buildings. In front of each one lied green grass. The full colored blossoms of dandelions sharply contrasted with its nuance of shades. When stroked by the wind these flowers appeared lively. They swung back and forth, the stalks bending every which way. The bright pedals seemed to illuminate like sun flares.
Each flower titled gracefully as they inflamed the ripened spires. Besides the yellow tinged blossoms were white globe shaped cluster of seeds. The scientific term is Taraxcum Officinal. As children Wallace, Marcus, and I knew them simply as dandelion seeds. We often plucked them by the stem. Blowing these tiny germs in the air, they fell like miniature parachutes sinking into the grass. It would not be long before another dandelion grew. Finally, when the traffic was clear, my mother hurried to the opposite side of the street. My brothers and I was in tow. We passed an area that had hydrangeas. Each seemed an explosion of intense beauty. Through a chain locked fence they protruded forth. Black Jacket Wasps or Bubble Bee insects could be seen flying close to their lush blooms. They landed delicately on them to perform pollination.
I disliked ambulating along this way when I was young. The buzzing sound coming from the invertebrates’ wings scared me. I would panic when I perceived them flying close by me. At length, the park was within prospect. Walking beneath an overpass we emerged from the other end. There were only a few feet before my siblings and I came to Laurel groove; hence, Laurel Canyon Park. At this point we ran ahead of our mother. We dashed through the water-spurting sprinklers. Fizzling aground, the valves released cool burst of hydrogen. This refreshed my brothers and me from an oppressive heat of a mid-morning day. As we advanced towards the back, situated in close range was the Valley Plaza Center. This facility was used for recreational purposes, and daily opened to the populace. It sat parallel with a street curve. People whom were health conscious frequently went inside to exercise. Every so often my brothers and I could be found within the center’s confines.
Inside, there contained an indoor swimming pool. Normally, women, men, and children swam for pleasurable pursuits. However, some engaged in vigorous swimming laps. In addition, the building held weight equipment. Males and females both made use of the varied weight sets available. Upon reaching the rear of the park, my siblings and I would hurry to the playground. My mother followed us at a distance until she too came to the same area. Locals from the surrounding vicinity often frequented Laurel Canyon Park. Crowds of individuals sat in the open, panicked, or simply enjoyed amusements. Adults watched their children frolic on the swings, slides, or merry go round. Wallace, Marcus, and I played among the other kids some. We mostly sported together however. The three of us swung the hours away on the swings. There was little time we had in the company of our peers.
My mother did not let us mingle with other children often. She kept us together that she might watch us with a close eye. In Los Angeles, strange acts of violence were committed on boys and girls almost every day. Parents had to exercise caution about whom they should let their sons or daughters play around. Sometimes kids could be used as a ploy to lure another to the haven of a pedophiliac. It was no telling what danger awaited the wandering child. All through the summer my mother would take my brothers and I to the park. I cannot remember any particular day where I ever saw it empty. It stayed filled with many people. At a certain hour of the day, the ice cream truck could be heard with its music box tune. When the children realized the van approaching, they immediately rushed to where it usually stopped. Kids stood in line waiting to request the kind of ice cream desired.
Parents’ gave their children money to buy sweet treats. It was not infrequent that mothers and fathers provided extra change to purchase for their own indulgence. As the day began to decline our mother would call my brothers and I to her side. She decided to walk to the Hughes Grocery Store. It was located not far distant from the park. There, she purchased those ingredients used later for evening supper. It was around two hours prior to nightfall when we started our walk back to Coldwater Canyon Apartment. My siblings and I were quiet, thoroughly exhausted from play. I recall how the sun hung close to the earth. It appeared like a flaming ball grafted in a burning sky. I viewed the world from a child’s eyes then. Everything around me appeared much larger than at the present. There were constant changes taking place in my life. Through a myriad of experiences I would discover my self-essence.
My childhood could be compared to the volatile wind. I never knew which direction I might turn. I was a boy of intrinsic subtleties. As my mother opened the apartment door my brothers and I sat on the living room sofa. Our mother attended to fixing dinner. After making ready the meal, she furnished us plates. She then placed a certain amount of food on each dish. We were accustomed to eating on the couch in the living room while watching television. By night, she made sure my brothers and I had our bath and said prayer. We eventually drifted off to a sweet slumber. Wallace, Marcus, and I were vigorous boys invariably restless. There was nothing that did not excite our curiosity. Although we indulged in harmless activities, there were moments of the opposite effect. My siblings and I could engage in dangerous and downright mischievous risks at times. In spite of our youthful mischief however, we enjoyed all the joys of childhood.
Although, my brothers and I reveled in our younger years, interspersed among these were certain dangers. We grew up during a period when crime began to escalate. Every devious character seemed to be on the prowl in the city. It always remained unsafe for a child to play outside in the late hours. Parents’ did not allow their kids to venture off too far from home. Though living in North Hollywood had its days of delight, unstable individuals lurked in the shadows. There was criminal activity in much of Los Angeles. If one were a female it could be hazardous to walk alone at night. She might encounter some sociopath. In that case the foreseeable would be obvious. She would most likely become a victim of sexual assault or even worse an untimely death.
Gangs commonly terrorized the streets. Driving by shootings was a constant occurrence. Rival groups warred for certain colors one wore. Others committed acts of violence for neighborhood turf. In many instances innocent people were injured or killed. In this state of things, I met a boy by the name George. He lived downstairs from me on the first floor. It was be from this point a string of events would happen. I think that summer I had commenced my journey from boyhood to manhood. Little did I know where it would lead.