"Leaving Los Angeles"


"The compelling force was your eloquent cry entitled 'Leaving Los Angeles.' I find myself speechless, despondent, and sad that there are humans living in such conditions... not ravaged by the hand of disease or time, but the hand of man. My eyes are bankrupt."

At 11:13 PM 8/10/98 -0400, you wrote:
Dear Richard,

I don't even know where to begin, but begin I must. I stumbled upon your "humble" sight while doing research for my own site, currently in its third month of gestation. ("Research" here is just a delicate word for stealing images and interesting quotes.) Some wise search engine kindly directed me to your "Thoughts worth Thinking" and I've played moth to your web flame every night since. Only tonight were my wings singed to the point that I was compelled to burden you with one more piece of fan email.

The compelling force was your eloquent cry entitled "Leaving Los Angeles." I find myself speechless, despondent, and sad that there are humans living in such conditions. . . not ravaged by the hand of disease or time, but the hand of man. My eyes are bankrupt.

I admire your courage to work where you did for as long as you did. As much as I aspire to help and to heal, I doubt that I could sacrifice my own safety and sense of security as you did. In a time when they are most sorely needed, there are too few middle- and upper-class Americans who would give up their personal Elysium in order to procure another's salvation. I hope that I am not always so plagued by fear and deficient in altruism. (May I rise above my peers.)

Thank you, Richard. Whatever your reasons were for creating your website, it has definitely touched me and influenced the development of my own site. To be honest, my site was becoming a Narcissistic nightmare! Even I, in all my unbridled vanity, was beginning to blush at the extravagance! When the maturation of my site finally occurs, I'll send you an address. (Something to do when you have already visited the rest of the web at least once.) By the way, do you happen to know the gestation period for a website? Having read your FAQ, I'm beginning to think you have the answer to everything, oh great Geib of the web.

Take care and peace be with you,


      Dear Ken,

      You got me bored here on a Tuesday evening drinking beer after a dinner with my neighbors. So that will explain typos. I have wanted to get back to your message for a week or so since I got back in town. I am a teacher on summer vacation, but after some six weeks I am getting bored and am ready to return to work. Hence the beer at one in the morning. But I ramble.

      I think six months a good time for a website gestation. I would cruise the web constantly for that period doing nothing but observing, reading, saving, contemplating, and planning. I think it pathetically easy to write HTML and manipulate images; I find it very difficult and strenuous to write cogent English and come up with an overarching idea of how I want to organize a website. To combine the two is fifty percent of the work. All that is left then is to polish and to organically prune and grow your website out as you continue your life's journey.

      It is not so important how your webpage looks, in my opinion. It is important what is says. In other words, content is more important than aesthetics. On the other hand, in this day and age people are pretty sophisticated in terms of what they expect in terms of aesthetics, and so if you want to hold a pair of eyeballs you had better make it look polished. To do HTML code is a no-brainer; but to have something to say to the world is much more difficult. I assume you have been collecting things to say to the world since you were born. To do its work, a webpage - like a book - need only the energy of a human spirit. Invest that which genuinely makes you unique, and your webpage will be worth reading. Make it personal. Make it readable. Make it entertaining, if possible. Make it the webpage you always wanted to visit but never found.

      With respect to my time in Los Angeles, I thank you for your adulatory comments but they make me uneasy. I have a friend who told a co-worker about me, and then that person decided I was "OK" simply because I had volunteered to go work in a ghetto school. Should I be praised for having gotten myself into an extremely difficult situation only to claw my way out with good luck and hard work?

      I know many rather selfish people who would hardly move a finger to help anyone but themselves, if they are not paid very well for it; and I am troubled when some of my more affluent friends and acquaintances write off poor people in troubled communities just because they live there. It is all part of the materialism and selfishness which eat at this country at the present time. But we have also poisoned ourselves with these "feel good" movies of altruism where someone with a big heart comes in and turns around a horrible situation through their own heroic efforts. It is not like that. In the real world good does not always triumph over evil. It all comes back to personal responsibility. And should we really be surprised that man is as much a killer as disease or time? Looking closely at human history, is this not naiveté? Why should Los Angeles be any different? But then I have found as much diversity of character and morality in poor people as among anyone else. In my experience, even in the worst places one will find many decent and hardworking individuals; and some of the nicest people I ever met hailed from the ghetto. They sponsor basketball leagues, baseball teams, work as coaches, go to work every day and pay taxes. As Ovid said, "Do not lay on the multitude the blame that is due to a few." On the other hand, there were many violent predators and opportunists in Pico-Union who -- in a more just world -- would be taken out and shot at dawn!

      Communities like L.A. will get their act together not through the intercession of outsiders ("saviors") but through their own efforts. I think that will not happen. I left Pico-Union with very little hope; or if I was going to stay, I was going to become a vigilante or revolutionary. The experience was profoundly humbling, troubling, and ultimately, dispiriting. Look at the following message I received recently:

At 07:55 PM 7/2/98 -0700, you wrote:
my name is: Alberto Jose Martinez, my son's name is Ricardo Martinez about the year 1975 my girl friend Maria Tresa Gonzalez give birth to my son Ricardo,y was to young to understand the reality of be a father,one day,Maria Teresa promess me,that i will never see my son agains,because mo lock of responsability.she was living near Berendo Middle Scholl,if you can,PLEASE,give me his last addres will be apreciated,because i like see him,and pay back all the years of unhapynes that he may suffer,not having a father close to him.i,ll be waitting for you reply.thank you very much
Alberto Jose Martinez

I am so happy to be gone from there; it is enough to break your heart. Hanging out with the losers of society can teach you compassion and sensitize you to suffering. It can also make you bitter and turn you hard in the heart.

      So maybe I learned much that other "middle- and upper-class Americans" in their "personal Elysiums" don't know. But I sometimes wonder if I could have simply done something more productive with my time. In 1995 I was working in a troubled school where almost none of the students could read at grade level in wasteland of violent city streets for only $28,000 a year and then paying thousands of dollars cash in tuition to take education classes at night so I could get my teachers' credential and keep my job and pursue my career. I must have been the stupidest man in the world, if we look at the purely economic aspect of my choices. A man who could have chosen to do many jobs, but instead became a teacher. I wonder.

      I am no Wizard of the Web, believe me. I am just another idiot on the road who you pass in the morning on your way to work. I put on my pants one leg at a time, just like anyone else. I am modestly proud of my website, but any pride was earned by hours and hours of labor and concentrated effort. I would like to someday think my website was of such a quality as to honor the many famous minds and ideas that have gone before me. Maybe someday I will approach such a goal.

      I hope this message finds you well both in your medical studies and personal life. Be well out there in Kentucky.

      Very Truly Yours,

      Richard Geib

P.S. I found your site through the search engines. However, the server required a password which I could not provide to enter it. Let me know how when you want me to check out your site.

Back to Leaving Los Angeles Page