Posted in Around Town, Uncategorized

Urban Nightmare: The Bucket Gets Torched

A while back, I blogged about my bucket–my 1980 Toyota Corolla with the bashed in door and pro-peace bumper stickers, like “An Eye for an Eye Makes the Whole World Blind” and “Who Would Jesus Bomb?”

We bought a new car for The Scout (Mr. WCGB) last December, so The Bucket was no longer needed. I let my friend Adela have it. Last August, Adela was rear-ended. Though it was clearly the other driver’s fault, Adela ended up with bupkis. The Bucket had been a gift to me from my priest…it was only right to pass it on to someone who really needed it. It’s been on my to-do list: Go to DMV and change the title over to Adela’s name.

Adela lives in the Highland Park area of Los Angeles, and she tells me her neighborhood has been getting worse. (Antonio Villaraigosa, are you listening?) Crack dealers, homeless people drinking all day and night in the alley behind her apartment building, drug-addicted prostitutes hanging around…your basic urban nightmare. Adela encouraged her landlord to fix the back gate to the apartment building, which he did. But now that the gate is locked, the druggies can’t get to the dealer who lives in Adela’s building. (Crack? Crystal meth? Both of those and much more?)

Retribution time. First, Adela’s tires got slashed (on The Bucket and the other car that her partner drives). Then last night, they torched The Bucket.The Bucket Interior-Steering Wheel 1

The Bucket-Thru the Front

The Bucket-Back SeatThe Bucket-Back Seat 2

Adela’s neighbor knocked on her door at 1:30 am to tell her about the car, which by that time was fully engulfed in flame. The Fire Department came, but didn’t bother to call the cops, even though it was clear that arson was the likely cause of this fire. So no police report. That’s how it is when you live in a low-income neighborhood in metropolitan Los Angeles. Those who live in Hancock Park get a different level of municipal services than those who live in Highland Park.

Adela called Pick a Part to come get the car. She wanted to get it out of sight as soon as possible–told me that she didn’t want her kids to see it (she has four). Jessie (towing guy) let me take his picture, though he declined my offer to e-mail him a link to this blog. He’s smiling because I was making jokes. “Well Jessie, thanks for picking up this car. Now, when will you be bringing the new one?”

Jessie the Towing Guy

There was so much debris in that little car. I’m sure when Jessie got on the freeway, all kinds of stuff was flying out all over the place.

The Bucket’s Last Ride

A tan boot had been hanging on the electrical wires above the car. The fire turned the boot black.  I hear that shoes/boots on wires is tantamount to a store hanging out a shingle: Drugs Sold Here.

Black Boot Hanging

The intensity of the heat flattened one of the tires.Featuring the tire

We say farewell.Down the Alley

Adela just called me to say that this afternoon, someone bashed the windshield of the other car in. She’s afraid to call the police.

Adela needs a car, and a new place to live. I’m going to ask my church for money to help her out. If you want to help, let me know.


This is a personal blog. Expect a potpourri of stuff.

21 thoughts on “Urban Nightmare: The Bucket Gets Torched

  1. This is all so sad and tragic, I was going to mention on my blog about how our car was just broken into. They just punched out the lock on one of the doors, nothing really was lost. That now seems so trivial in comparison. I wish I was in a position to buy you both a new car.
    All I can offer you both are my prayers and that you have.

  2. That’s a very sad story.
    Move here to Australia! We still have some drugs problems but most places are safe to live.

    I don’t think anything will change in America until they make voting mandatory like it is here (you are supposed to get a fine but I don’t know anyone who’s actually had to pay). You also don’t need to be rich to run for politics. It makes a huge difference especially to local government and local communities.

    Cheers Kirsty.

  3. Kelly, Mary Lu here. I’m a friend of Susan’s and read about this. I highly suggest you contact the Mayor’s office via his website at

    Point back to your blog posting here. I believe the Mayor’s Office needs to know about this situation and see what he is willing to do about it. Now, not sometime in the future.

    Also I can’t highly suggest enough that you personally and directly contact City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo at: or email him directly at I know for a fact Rocky’s actively working on the gang and drug problem.

    Personally I’d point him to the blog post. The pictures tell one hell of a story they need to see upfront.

    If I can do more, please feel free to contact me thru’ Susan. She has my number.

  4. Mary Lu,

    Thanks for the encouraging words. I don’t believe in letting something like this just go by unnoticed by those who have the ability to make change. I’ve sent e-mails to both of them. I’ll let you know what happens.

  5. What part of Highland Park? Sorry about your car.

    And yes, more people please move from LA. It is a scary place here. Too scary for you. Less people is good.

  6. Sorry about your car. You should call the police though. It’s not really fair to bitch about the lack of a response by the police if you don’t contact them when something like this happens them. We had to call the cops recently when a lady was running down the street screaming while being chased by two guys. After the cops showed up and arrested the two guys we told them about other incidents in the neighborhood, from broken into cars, prostitutes and minor burglaries. When he asked if we had reported any of these incidents we said no. He just shock his head and walked away.

  7. yes, call the police and require a police report be filed. these statistics are the only way places get more services. i’d see if the landlord would be in some light sensors in the back too. even if people knock them out. that’s serious.

  8. It’s sad to hear about the pay it forward car being torched. But some of the aftermath is even sadder. Perhaps it’s just lack of knowledge. “Good” neighborhoods like Hancock Park don’t get better services because of more income, it’s because of the attitudes of the residents (which might come from money but attitude doesn’t cost money). If they don’t get good police service they will call police supervisors, City Council members and the Mayor’s office to find out why. They may involve the media. And they will keep calling until things get resolved. You can’t expect anyone to care more than the people who live there. Including the police. And care isn’t demonstrated by talk, only by action. Everything should be reported to the police. Make individual reports (don’t group incidents) and make sure they are written. Follow up on the reports. Make it look like a crime wave has hit the area. And multiple residents must do this. Or nothing will change. Tolerance and inaction equal permission. Good neighborhoods get more services because the residents demand them through action. And they will get the service just to make them shut up. Do you really think any official wants to field a dozen phone calls regarding police inaction over an incident? Every time? If residents don’t assist the police and then hold them accountable you can’t expect the police to care about those residents.

    In my last neighborhood (which was nice but not as nice as Hancock Park) a car containing teenagers who looked like gang members hit a car with an elderly man in it. I was driving home from work, saw people on their lawns with phones and about two dozen people clustered on the street corner. I wondered what was going on, went home, got my dog and joined all of the other “impromptu” dog walkers. I asked what was going on and was told that the gang kids hit the old man’s car and were being belligerent. So the police were called and everyone came out from their homes to detain the kids. So I waited with everyone else. It took 25 minutes for the police to show up. By that time the crowd had grown to about 3 dozen. After the police were done with the kids some of the residents asked who to call regarding the inappropriately long response time. I can imagine the watch commander demanding better response time because he had to spend hours on the phone explaining what he would do to improve it. And I can imaging the gang kids saying “Don’t go there … you get surrounded by dozens of people who tell you that if you move their dogs will eat you and there are lots of big dogs. And just a side note … most people didn’t know each other. We saw something happening and just wanted to make sure that nobody got away with doing something bad in the neighborhood.

    Possible action items: it’s not the fire department’s job to call the police. The car owner needs to do it. They just put out fires. Has anyone called the DWP about the boots? If they don’t know about it they can’t fix it. Has anyone called the anti-gang task force about the boots (see prior line)? Seems to me that boot removal should be a higher priority than graffiti removal and if it isn’t someone should find out why. If the building owner knows that drugs are being dealt from the building it can be seized by the city/state/feds under the RICO laws. Anyone pushing for this? Have anonymous tip lines been called about the drug dealers? At least once a day? City officials alerted? Anyone try to get media interest (sounds like the car burning could be a Steve Lopez of the Times column)? Neighbors rallied with fliers, etc? Police called every time something suspicious occurs? By 10 or 20 people (not 911, use the front desk line unless it is an emergency)? Call times & response times tracked (date, time call placed, time police arrived, location, incident)? You can take this list and run it up through channels asking one simple question: Why did it take so long to respond? Don’t act angry, belligerent, scream demands, etc. That is too easy to deal with. Very calmly, civilly and unemotionally ask Why and What will be done to fix it. This is much hard for officials to deal with and will actually get results. Ask for a written action plan and hold them accountable. Keep asking Why. Don’t get frustrated and give up. It will take some time to show that you care and therefore they should care, too.

    (Antonio Villaraigosa, are you listening?) No offense intended but probably not because nobody has brought this to his attention. Remember, active gets action, passive equals permission. Adela needs to fill out police reports for everything, notify proper authorities, etc. If no progress is made after 10 days she (or you if you want to take up her cause) needs to actively bring this to the attention of the Mayor’s office and ask for an explanation as to why nothing was done. And the asking can’t stop until something is done. At that point, change will occur.

  9. To everyone: Thanks for the comments…especially the continued suggestions to notify those who are in a position to do something. I agree–one must state one’s business in the most desaturated way possible. Getting angry and shouting doesn’t help.

    I haven’t made it a priority to follow up on this, but I am going to. It’ll make for great blogging material!

  10. Kelly,

    You’ll think this daft, but I drove that car too. Alice, its original owner, was my mother, and I remember that car around Berkeley before it (and M) moved back to Pasadena, after which she upshifted to a Volvo estate that could carry more trees, dogs and activists. It has lived a long a good life, and though this is an ignoble end, it has become a metaphor in its own right…Good health and good spirits to all those the car has known.


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