Prior to taking up my current Holy Land Central (HLC) residence in Tel Aviv, I lived in San Francisco for nearly a decade. For three years of that time, I shared house with an Israeli woman in a quiet, mostly residential middle class neighborhood known as the Panhandle. It was unremarkable, flat and very mixed both racially and economically.
During routine walks with my Golden Retriever I slowly made friends with the neighbors. And being of a child-friendly nature but not having a full time wee one of my own, not long after moving into Vavi's house I began inviting a handful of kids over every so often to bake cookies.
We'd hang out in the kitchen where I would guide them through measuring, sifting, stirring and blending and I'd listen closely to their conversations and arguments and watch them gyrate and pull the latest dance moves to the beats of KMEL Jams on the radio. After an hour or so, they'd be out the front door en route home with plastic platefuls of baked goods.
I worried about some of the kids. Poor supervision, broken homes and ailing grandmothers doing their utmost to look after rambunctious teens being lured by cash-flashing, drug-dealing gang-bangers did not make for promising futures.
One of the kids - smooth talking and cunning in a smarmy way - I was certain was doomed. His crack-addicted father and mother had turned him over to his strict Baptist grandmother for upbringing. A good move. But she had so much on her plate already - raising other grandchildren, caring for a husband with Alzheimer's and arthritic and pushing eighty herself - that the odds seemed stacked.
This morning I received an e-mail from Vavi with a link to an article from the San Francisco Chronicle. Last month, 17-year-old Aubrey Abrakasa was gunned down gang-style with automatic weapons outside his home. Three doors down from Vavi's house. Police think someone text messaged him to come outside so they could pull the drive-by.
Aubrey isn't the kid I was worried about. Aubrey was quiet & barely spoke. He came over once to bake brownies but he never really said much. His smile and eyes were wide and his gaze was soft. His ex-Ghanaian father Baba and church-going mother Paulette seemed pretty strict; They knew the score when it came to gangs.
The other kid - the one I worried about - is in college. Yes, he sports baggy jeans, gold rings and had a tooth capped gold ("What's that all about?" I prodded in recent years; he avoided answering). But so far he has made it through.
I'm sad for Aubrey's parents. I wonder what in the hell happened and if he might have been mixed up in something. I contemplate life's twists.