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Living in Canoga Park, California in the 1980s

While I was visiting some friends in California a couple of years ago, someone who had heard me mention that I had lived in Canoga Park in the 1980s asked if it had been nice then.

No, it wasn't. I lived in Canoga Park because it was the least expensive place that I could find that offered me easy access to Warner Center, which is where I worked, at Blue Cross of California in Woodland Hills. Now, Woodland Hills and Warner Center are nice. And nice and expensive.

But the truth was that, even though my apartment, which was on Saticoy and Mason, was in Canoga Park, I didn't know much about Canoga Park. I slept in my apartment, but that was about it. I didn't eat there, and really, I spent about as little time as I could there. There was no swimming pool, not even anywhere to sit outside, unless you hung out in the parking lot, which I did occasionally with some pretty tough-looking people!

What I remember the most is the sound of car alarms, 24/7. The sound never, ever, stopped. I'm sure if I lived there long enough, I would have gotten used to it, as background noise, but I never did. Whether a car alarm was going off right nearby, or in the distance, the sound was always, always, car alarms. I hope it's gotten better since then!

I also remember the crowding. The apartment complex where I lived, alone, had studio apartments which were a little under 500 square feet. OK for a young bachelor, who didn't mind, and really didn't notice, but then I found out that I was the only one who had an apartment to myself. The apartments were mostly families, usually with more than four people living in each one. Across the hall from me were eight guys (yes, 8) who slept in shifts, on the floor. They were the ones that helped me move out, and that's the only reason I know. I gave one of the guys there a twenty to help me move my stuff into the van when I moved, and before I knew it, the entire group was helping me. In addition to money, I gave them shirts, shoes, that sort of thing.

On my last day in Canoga Park, the guys who had helped me move prepared a meal of which I was the guest of honor. It was chicken and rice, and we sat on the floor. It took me a while to realize that I was the only one eating chicken, everyone else only had rice.

People who have only known me since my successful corporate career are surprised to find out that I've lived in places like Canoga Park. And I saw the kind of poverty that has nothing to do with owning a junker car, or only being able to eat at McDonalds. This was eating rice, jammed together with a lot of other people, who were doing the best that they could.

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