Welcome to South Central Los Angeles

Right in the heart of the city , seperated from the rest of the world by a concrete freeway of cars which acts like an invisible border or a river of sorts , lies the area known as South Central LA. A 50 mile square area comprising of 25 neighborhoods housing nearly 800 000 latino and african american familys. Beginning in the 1970s, the decline of the area's manufacturing base resulted in a loss of the jobs that had allowed skilled union workers to have a middle class life. Widespread unemployment, poverty and crime contributed to the rise of street gangs in South Central, such as the Crips and Bloods. They became even more powerful with money from drugs, especially the crack cocaine trade. By the time of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, which began in South Central and spread throughout the city, South Central had become a national byword for urban decay. Its bad reputation was broadcast by movies such as Colors, South Central, Menace II Society, Boyz n the Hood , End of Watch and in music by the rap group N.W.A.'s album Straight Outta Compton.

Its ten am on a friday morning and im sitting on a packed bus in hollywood heading into South Central . Shooting for Puma for the next four days and todays location is deep in the wild west of the badlands. The bus started out with a solid mixed bag of peoples then slowly as we passed through neighborhoods it was like driving through different countries. First stop was Armenia. Entire bus changed language almost instantly then after 20 blocks we entered Korea. At this point the bus became over packed and any kind of personal space became a daydream. It was super loud and almost all the voices of the old korean ladys were like verbal machetes slicing me and the bus driver to smithereens. I'd like to add in this leg of the ride myself and the bus driver were the only non Asians on the bus. She being African American and myself being from Scotland. It was an epic scene. Lots of arguements during this next 20 block ride. Tons of tiny wee raisin looking old asian hens yelling at each other constantly. After the far east the whole bus changed again and we drove into central america. After the mental orientals got off with their hand carts of cabbages and starfruits the entire bus filled with Latinos. The next 20 blocks was much quieter. Everyone just hanging and looking out the windows. Bus felt good in Mexico. After 25 blocks or so we crossed the concrete river into District 9. All the amigos got off , and the bus was packed with tons of huge black ladies with thick purple lipstick and heaps of young bucks with face and neck tattoos. It was all pretty mellow as the bus ventured south. It was the first time i felt concious of people staring at me on the journey. I guess seeing a skinny wee scottish dude in specks riding the bus through south central was as bizarre as seeing the Harlem Globetrotters wandering the streets of Tokyo. Bus driver at one point even turned to me and asked if i was sure i was going the right way. I showed her my address and she let out a slow oh lord and literally gave me a look like my dog just shit in her kitchen......... but i dont have a dog and i got off at my desired bustop anyways and started walking through the neighborhood.

I'd only traveled about 20 miles but in reality id arrived in an area that could've been 1000s of miles away. I was the only person walking around at noon. Streets were deserted. There were zero stores, no laundry mats , no banks , nothing. Only tiny apartments stacked close to each other , seperated by autobody lots and car tire compounds with high walls topped with razor wire. Motherfuckers are not buying soy lattes and croissants in this land.

I wandered further on trying to figure out where i was going without pulling out my i phone or my job call sheet with all the info on it . As cars drove by , i could see people inside craning to look at me. Staring as if they'd see a unicorn galloping down the sidewalk. Or maybe they were just looking at a weirdly european idiot in shorts and glasses with a bag filled with camera equipment that was about to get effed up. I literally looked like a college freshman that got dropped into war torn Bosnia. Its a great look for a pleasent stroll through South Central. Pushing on i found a store that only sold gallons of purple drink and massive bags of cheetos. The lady behind the bullitt proof counter was screaming into the phone to a bookie of some sorts. She paused on placing her bets to answer my inane questions and then continued hollering her numbers into the mouthpeice. I felt like i was visiting Sweets in the movie Juice . This was the place to get some groceries , a loaded pistol and some purple drink all before noon. Heading in the right direction i marched on. Streets were still a ghost town but i could tell i was being watched. Every movement in these neighborhoods is being monitored. You can tell. You can feel it .

Anyways after a while i lost count of the burnt cars i passed , i finally got to the community center and found the skatepark.

Kids rule the streets here on any form of tranportation they can find. As the neighborhood slowly woke up around 1pm , the place started buzzing with dirtbikes , quads , mini bikes anything with an engine. It was epic. 8 year olds were going 60mph up busy roads doing wheelies . This was pretty much non stop all day.

This crew was amazing . They rode this quad like it was the South Central X Games finals.

These kids were aces. It was a mixture of "who the hell is you" to straight hamming it up gangster poses.

When the Puma skate team arrived at the park, the place erupted. It was like a junior DMX video shoot. Tons of kids showed up to skate and meet the crew. Everyone ripped up the park while dodging gang fingers , dirtbikes, go carts , empty gallons of purple drink and the occasional 9 year old rapstar. It was phenominal.

This was the moment Puma started giving out sneakers to the fans. It was like that part in Eddie Murphys "Coming to America" movie where the whole neighborhood of Queens is wearing his clothes. Kids went bananas for shoes and i was sorta surprised a 12 year old with a glock didnt just jack us for everything .

I needed subtitles to understand this posse. Epic banter and heckling. Tons of "Naaaat Uuuuuh Stooopih" !!

This young jeezy hot wires a quad before drifting sideways around the community rec center while drinking a gallon of purple drink.

Tommy Pajamas showed up on the most epic tricked out Green Goblin meets Mad Max mini bike that went over 70mph. This thing was nuts.

Years ago i wrote a story about Street Pajamas and how awful and awsome they are in public. It was good to see they are still wide circulation.

T Pajamas's hog sounded like 50 leaf blowers coming down the street all hitting redline. I love how he took his grannys sofa cushion for a seat. Epic touch !!

This place is the wild west. Anything goes . No rules. Kids everywhere running free. It was bananas to watch, but im sure when the sun goes down here the real fun and games begin.

Part 2 - Up next .......