The Blog


About the Author



a a teacher's memoir

by Lloyd Lofthouse




Street gangs dominated the La Puente neighborhoods near the high school where I taught English and journalism in 1994. The school was an oasis in a desert of simmering, street gang violence. The student population was more than seventy percent Latino. Today it is eighty percent.

            My first teaching assignment in 1976 was at an elementary school. Coiled strands of razor wire protected the roofs. On Mondays, the parking lot was often littered with broken glass from lights shot out during the weekend.

            The classroom doors sometimes had bullet holes in them. Once, I arrived to discover that the doorknobs had been beaten from the doors with baseball bats or sledgehammers. A locksmith was called to open the school.

            The custodians arrived at six to paint out the graffiti and make repairs before the teachers and students arrived.

            Los Angeles is the street-gang capital of America with more than a hundred-thousand gang bangers. Another eight-hundred thousand are spread in cities across the country intimidating people, selling drugs, pimping girls, shooting each other and sometimes hitting or killing innocent people.

            Crazy Normal is about one of those thirty years I was a teacher. Every day, I reminded myself—so I wouldn't forget—that there were a few good kids in each class I taught. Those students were the reason I stayed. I also hoped to rescue some from the walking dead.

            I retired from teaching—not from life—in 2005. Crazy Normal will be published in 2011. Until then, I will be posting excerpts from the rough draft as I write, edit and revise the manuscript.