KIDS THESE DAYS:

I’m not sure why the Los Angeles Times chose to run a long front-page story about drug violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, only six days before Christmas, but it did. I started to read it but could not force myself to finish.

Two days later, the paper did more than redeem itself by publishing another tale of woe on the front page, but this one got to me, and I read every word.

The story was written by Times columnist Steve Lopez and described the homeless situation of Kerry Himmel and her daughter, Destiny, 16.

I could give you a summary, but I don’t want you to use that as a replacement for the real thing, so here is where you can find it online: www.latimes.com/la-me -lopez21-2008dec21,3,6150800. column. You need to read this story.

I must be more careful in the future to avoid stories such as this because my allergies always flare up: My eyes get watery and my nose gets itchy and, well, that’s what happens.

Locally, we do have some homeless people in Newport-Mesa, though they are living under the radar.

Several years ago, I spotted a fellow who appeared to be homeless and was wandering around the beach near the Balboa pier. If I were homeless, I thought, I’d probably be here, too.

The rest of us have homes, and we have places to be and people to see, and the holidays are a special time. This is a special time for my niece, Dana Hines, who recently purchased her first home.

Defying all the stories about limited access to mortgages and other gloomy recessionary tales, Dana moved in a few days ago and is doing her part for the economy by buying furniture and housewares.

Dana also bought a big flat-screen TV, and on Sunday night, I discovered a good family use for it, one that could find me in front of the tube next year.

Dana, you see, has a Wii. In case you have not heard, the Wii is an interactive, well, I don’t really know what to call it because you can play several sports with Wii, you can exercise with Wii and you can play Rock Band, which got me into trouble Sunday night.

On Sunday, our family visited Dana with her parents at her new home for a combination housewarming and pre-Christmas gathering.

A couple of hours after we arrived, I joined in a session of Rock Band after discovering that one does not need to know how to play an instrument to get embarrassed playing the game.

But in my case, I was singing karaoke style, so the embarrassment was inevitable.

Actually, it was fun — a lot of fun. I sang and managed to avoid breaking any windows or wine glasses. My sister-in-law, Nancy Hine, played guitar, her husband, Lewis, played bass and my son, Roy, played drums. At the end of each song, there is a score, and we played several songs, each time trying to top our previous score.

I never thought I’d say this, but that time spent in front of the television was fabulous. And I can see a Wii in our home sometime down the road.

Which brings me back to Kerry Himmel and her daughter, Destiny. Please read the Los Angeles Times story before Christmas. When you finish it, you will be moved to do something — perhaps just to appreciate the home in which you live.

Even if it’s not equipped with Wii.


STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to dailypilot@latimes.com.

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