Growing up as a big fan of hip hop I recognized the name Crenshaw Blvd as I pulled into the parking lot of a small strip mall on the corner containing a bank, a Chinese restaurant, a KFC and something that was either a laundry mat or an old folks home (hard to tell). The street’s name was synonymous with gangsta music to me with images of 2pac riding by in a Cadillac, screaming profanities at the 5-0 and Eazy-E playing bones on the corner with his homiez. I didn’t relate to that life style, no, and never tried to emulate it all too much (I did have a FUBU shirt, that was multicolored and glowed in the dark…I wore it once). I admired the spirit behind the music, the unabashed enthusiasm, a window into a world I didn’t know. I wasn’t interested in “the struggle”, “the hustle”, “the grind” or anything else political, economic or social relating to the music, I was infected by the fat beats and the stories from a place that was as far away as Mars.
So here I was. After biking through the pretty arty streets of Malibu, and catching the Bohemian vibes and reefer induced rhythms of Venice Beach, 20 minutes or less away, I was smack dab right in the middle of my musical oasis, something I had heard of countless times, but had never thought would ever live up to it’s hype. But with everything, that music describes no just a place, but a time, and a right exact time to be exact.
I had met up with my friend in Santa Monica and she was showing me around the city for a few days. Chance had it that I really needed to use the restroom. My friend spotted the random parking strip and pulled in. As I stepped out into the humid air, the glint of the blue, swinging sign with white lettering above the intersection caught my eye immediately. BAM. There I was. Crenshaw. I took a deep breath. My friend waited in the car, gave me the thumbs up. I looked around. Just an average intersection in a big city, nothing too special. My first choice for bathrooms was the Chinese restaurant. Nope, no English and no bathrooms for non-patrons. Wasn’t too keen on entering the non-descript purpose buildings, men stood at the window staring out like inmates shoved into a holding cell that was too small to do anything but be squeezed against the caged walls, eyes bulging towards a dissipating freedom. So it was KFC.
And how gangster a KFC was it? It actually was! I entered into a stark room. There was no open counter, no waiters with smiles to greet you, just a two way glass wall with small slots in it. It felt like I had entered the visiting centre of a prison. I approached the glass, not knowing where I was to address, I started into my own reflection…..”Hello?”
“Hello, welcome to KFC, can I take your order?”
“I just need to use the restroom, please”
Click. Click. Clackity. A door, appeared out of no where.
I braced myself, I expected a flickering fly filled single florescent bulb highlighting all the murky, gut wrenching details of all types of matter. Quite the opposite, I could eat, say, a popcorn chicken, off the ground it was so clean. Crenshaw, a real mind fuck it was, but I am so glad that the bottomless Mimosas had kicked in and I had to stop and see this shit hole to most, but this childhood fairytale to me.