Adventures in Gangland - How Another American Picking Style Expedition Landed Me in One of LA's Most Notorious Gang Neighborhoods

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I'm not 100 percent certain how I routinely find myself in such precarious situations; between going on American Picking style expeditions in search of a pair of speakers to having to relocate a tiger (yes, a tiger) in order to transport product into my house for review, I'm certain no other AV writer endures what I have had to endure. You'd think, even after recently moving into a new house, one with paved roads and city utilities, that my days of audiophile and home theater turmoil were over - but you'd be wrong.

I've been experimenting with pro audio gear for the past few months, mainly trying out different pro-style amplifiers and microphone preamplifiers in my several consumer-oriented systems, with varying results. I've been curious about pro audio loudspeakers, especially those designed specifically for cinema use. However, the closest I've come to such loudspeakers are arguably my Tekton Design Pendragons, which utilize pro-sourced drivers, albeit in a consumer-friendly wrapper. Rewind the tape back to last week, when I finally said "to hell with it" and decided to see if I couldn't find me a pair of true, professional cinema loudspeakers. Before beginning my search, I went ahead and narrowed my focus to JBL for two reasons. First, the company's speakers are employed in over 85 percent of all commercial cinemas, so I figured they'd be easier to find and, second, I have a bit of history when it comes to JBL Pro Cinema loudspeakers, as I used to be a projectionist for Mann Theaters. I knew I didn't want powered PA monitors - no, I wanted passive cinema loudspeakers, preferably a pair with horns. I scoured the Internet for days without getting so much as a nibble. I was beginning to think the few on AVS who rely on such loudspeakers were full of crap, as I couldn't find a pair of pro cinema speakers anywhere, JBL or otherwise. Even retailers seemed a little hard-pressed to produce a pair, or at the very least needed rather large lead times. And then it happened, as if the heavens heard my prayers and delivered unto me what I'd searched for so long: a near-mint pair of JBL Pro Cinema 3677 loudspeakers.

There wasn't much info given on the Craigslist ad that ultimately captured my attention, just that the owner had a pair and that they were for sale. The price was "$400 Firm" for the pair and the only other stipulation was that I would have to pick them up. I immediately asked if there was any provenance on the speakers and if the seller had them hooked up so that I could demo them prior to purchase. To my delight, the owner responded quickly, stating that the speakers were recently removed from a local university as the institution had upgraded to larger speakers (presumably JBLs) and that he bought them from a friend who works for the school in hopes of using them in his home. He had not powered them up, for they proved too big for his living situation and were now therefore just sitting around. He didn't have any other information to give me. Realizing this might be my best chance of acquiring a pair of 3677s on short notice, I agreed to purchase them sight unseen.

And then things got weird.

The gentleman gave me his address and we settled on a time for me to swing by and pick up the speakers the following day. His ad never mentioned where the speakers were located, it just referenced Los Angeles. I didn't even put two and two together after receiving the gentleman's address as to where in L.A. I'd be venturing, but I soon found out. Back in 2001 a little movie came out by the name of Training Day, starring Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. One of the stories stemming from the making of that film had to do with how the filmmakers insisted upon the utmost authenticity. As a result, they filmed on the streets of some of L.A.'s most notorious gang neighborhoods. I only bring this up because, while I was driving my white Subaru Impreza down to pick up what would be my new JBL loudspeakers, I began to notice certain landmarks that I had seen previously in the film. The further I drove, the more things began to look awfully familiar, and not in a good way.

A normal person might have stopped and turned around. Had I had a passenger with me, he or she would likely insist I was being stupid. I'm not stupid, just myopic when it comes to sating my curiosity, especially when it comes to random AV pursuits. Besides, if I didn't go, then I wouldn't have this fun, albeit potentially dangerous, story to share.

I arrived at my destination and found a parking spot on the side of the street. I got out of my car and was immediately greeted by a very large gentleman who, strangely enough, had just finished bench-pressing an ungodly amount of weight in his front yard. He bid me good morning and I replied in kind. It was at that moment that I realized that seemingly all eyes were on me, as I spotted about a dozen individuals eyeballing me from the comfort of their lawns or front porches. I smiled and continued up the sidewalk. It wasn't that the neighborhood was trashed; it was actually somewhat sedate, factoring in the bars on every window and fenced front yards with pit bulls in them. Maybe it's because I've been in far more dire situations than this, or maybe it was simply my own ignorance about turf, but I oddly didn't feel as if I was in any danger. As they say in Pulp Fiction, "What's Fonzie like?" Fonzie was cool, real cool, and after a minute or two, things felt normal.

After a quick text to the seller informing him that I had arrived, I was greeted by a well-dressed, very polite young man, probably in his mid twenties. He asked me if I found the place okay and if I had any trouble with parking. I pointed to my car across the street and told him all was well. He let me inside the large gate surrounding his home, where I was greeted by two very intimidating yet sweet-natured silver pit bulls. They followed us back to the gentleman's detached garage, where I could see the speakers sitting on a furniture pad near the front. I gave them a visual once-over and could detect no signs of improper wear or damage other than some dust and surface scratches here and there. Since there was no way to power them up to ensure they worked, I took the young man at his word and together he and I loaded them into my modest hatchback. I paid the man, we shook hands and I was off. I even got a "good day" from the large gentleman who had returned to lifting his weights in his front yard. In truth, the transaction was a far better experience than the last American Picking expedition I went on, proving once again, nothing ventured, nothing gained. As for the JBL Pro 3677s? Well, they work just fine, but that's for another post.

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