August 22, 2014

From the Editor—The Dark Side of Topanga

 

It’s not often that the Topanga Messenger prints shocking news on its cover. As a rule, we rarely need to.

When Elliot Rodger went on a murderous rampage in Isla Vista (see “Isla Vista Murderer Reflects on Topanga Childhood in Manifesto,” Topanga Messenger, Vol. 38, No. 11, June 5, 2014), we watched the news like everyone else, sent out our thoughts and prayers into the Universe for the families of the victims and wondered when in the world will America’s kids stop killing each other.

Then we discovered that this young man lived part of his early childhood, first in Woodland Hills and then, Topanga. In his Manifesto, he wrote that his time living in Topanga was “the best years of my life…. School was so much fun…. I was now a Topanga kid.”

It was heart-wrenching to see the cherubic face of that child, unthinkable that such violence would be the ultimate outcome of this young life.

Putting that news story on the cover, was our job and an obligation, but, it seems, publishing the news of Elliot Rodger’s tragedy brought the dark side home to us at the Messenger.

Someone didn’t like that.

Last week, when we came to work, the distribution box in front of our office had disappeared but not before being spray painted.

Soon after, we learned that Someone put their 75 cents in some of our distribution boxes that are placed around the Canyon, removed all copies of the Messenger and, we were told, “burned” them.

We work in the Topanga Creek Market center among a number of other small businesses whose owners help keep our little plaza clean and work hard to invite the public to take in the beauty of Topanga Art Tile’s colorful wares, browse through Hillbillyhip’s vintage wear, enjoy ROAM creative’s art gallery, or bring their children (and adults) to learn new languages in Language Magazine’s offices. It is often a charming place to visit, shop, spend some time and listen to live music by local musicians.

When we came to work on Memorial Day after the parade, the women’s room door was propped open, the floor was muddy and a guy was peeing in one of the stalls. A complaint to management cleaned up the bathroom and the rowdies disappeared but they would soon return.

Our hideaway nestled in the embrace of the Santa Monica Mountains isn’t always bucolic. Our children have died from drug overdoses, men have died face down in the creek, murder has happened in Topanga Canyon. The unthinkable has always been with us.

The “Old Center” is a haven of drug dealing, thefts, fights and threats of bodily harm. Who knew that a weed whacker would become a weapon?

But on Friday that week it did. The sheriffs found bags of crack in the man with the weed whacker’s pockets and arrested him. He is back.

When we left the office at 8 p.m. on Friday after closing the paper, Station 69’s paramedics were tending to an alcoholic complaining of chest pains right outside our door.

All of that happened during Memorial Day week, Monday through Friday. We may never know why or who stole the newspapers, but we do know that Someone was enraged enough to vandalize and destroy what was not theirs. Were they on drugs? Mentally ill? Uncontrollably angry? Is this Someone possibly capable of destroying a life instead of a newspaper?

As for our distribution boxes, we spoke with the Sheriff’s department who say they have designated more patrols in Topanga. We are grateful.

Meanwhile, we’ll simply hope for the best … as we do every day…and prepare, if that’s ever possible, for the worst.