A somber anniversary

This week marked a difficult anniversary for Los Angeles — the 20th anniversary of the LA riots.

What do I remember?

I remember driving home from Hollywood and stopping at a stoplight only to be surrounded by very angry people wielding bats and other large blunt instruments. When I told them I was on their side, they let me go.

I was living with a now-ex-fiance at the time who came from a very religious (born again) family. He was funny, but trying waaaaay too hard to be the next Howard Stern. When his creepy, crispy Christian brother asked if Dan had found Jesus during the riots, his classic response was, “Yeah, I think I saw him looting an appliance store in South Central.” End of conversation.

Very funny line but he was gone by the end of May for many reasons.

The first evening of the riots, I went up to Mulholland Drive to watch the city burn. It was eerie and unbelievable. But what really made that trip totally LA was the fact that there were probably about 20 camera crews up there shooting stock footage for the inevitable MOWs that would be produced in the next few months/years. What made it even MORE LA is the LAPD did nothing to stop the filming. Ahhh…the needs of Hollywood trump social justice every damn time.

Life in the Valley was relatively normal during the riots. At least it was in my ‘hood. The LA basin was a  true hot mess. Television coverage was hypnotic and for the most part, the media did an ok job — with one exception: Bree Walker. She was working for the CBS affiliate here at the time and was at the anchor desk reporting about the live shots happening all over the city. The one in Koreatown stuck in my mind. The reporter in front of a mini-mall was giving a report as to what was happening when a shootout between a Korean business owner and rioters sprang up behind him, he dove for cover as the bullets flew and reporting the action along the way. Instead of asking if the reporter was okay, Bree asked, “Do you think those guns are registered?”

At that moment, I chopped off Dan’s head and threw it at the tee vee.

After Rodney King made his whacked-out plea, and the fires were put out and 53 people were killed, and not to mention the emotional and fiscal damage the riots had on the city, state and the psyche of Angelenos, not much changed for those who erupted in anger. Florence and Normandie is still old school and Reginald Denny forgave the folks who beat him within an inch of his life on national tee vee.

South Central is still wallowing in poverty and high unemployment.

Check out these stats courtesy of Mental Floss: From 1970 to 1990, the number of African-Americans living in suburbs jumped from 3.6 million to 10.2 million. However “black flight” contributed to an even greater concentration of poverty in central cities. The total number of African-Americans living in poverty in the ghettoes increased from 2.9 million in 1970 to 5.3 million in 1990, from 13 percent to 18 percent of the African-American population.

And, these numbers will continue to get worse each year. Having a black POTUS or more blacks in positions of power has helped a miniscule amount and bode well for the future, but ill-informed attitudes will be around forever, sadly.

I don’t know if LA has completely recovered from what happened 20 years ago. Sure, the burnt-out buildings are either rebuilt, painted over or gone forever. But the stench of what happened is still permeating this city, and that’s good. A little reminder never hurt anyone, but will it help?

 

 

I spy

I’ve been in LA for about three weeks and much has caught my eye. While most of what I’ve witnessed/experienced constitutes normal differences that are expected between two major metropolitan areas of the US, the stuff that stands out appears to be unique to LA and California.

Food stuff.

Food prices are cheaper out here. While LA is near the top with its astronomically high rents — about twice the national average — food is cheaper than in Chicago. At least the food I buy — mostly fruits and veg, chocolate and panther piss-esque booze. Perhaps that’s because most fruits and vegetables are grown in this state, so the price of transportation, storage, etc. isn’t tacked onto the product. However, residents are zapped for other expenses like transportation (you need a decent car out here) clothing and entertainment. Gas isn’t too bad either, but I’m sure it’ll get more expensive as the warmer months approach and Angelenos emerge from their well-appointed, cozy lairs, don their full-length mink coats (hey, it gets cold here at night! Around 50 degrees!) and get moving. So far, the city doesn’t appear to have its hand out for every little thing, every little service. Of course, I could be wrong. I just haven’t witnessed it yet. In Chicago, it’s a different story.

As for restaurants, there are shitloads of vegan/vegetarian eateries out here. I’ll write more about this at a later time.

In-Your-Face-Nature. A few days ago, mockingbirds woke me up around 3 am with their yap-yapping, trying to be all clever with their mocking ways. This little pest was in the citrus tree right outside my bedroom window and he just … wouldn’t … shuttie. I finally had to open the crypt door and tell Mr. Mockingbird and his cadre to sit down. Did they? Oh for about 10 minutes, yes. But soon they were taking requests and recruiting members of the audience to join them on the branch. I finally gave up and retreated to the living room to read. Seriously though, I don’t mind mockingbirds because they like to mix it up AND they’re sassy as hell. Total brats.

The mockingbird is somewhat of a milquetoast of the fauna I’ve encountered since landing at LAX. The weirdest was the brightly colored snake I startled while leaving my apartment. It was chilling out on my porch, and was gone before I could snap a photo of it. So now I traipse around the outside of my apartment with care these days because who knows if the snake is considering a comeback and moving into my mailbox. Or recycling bins.

The brat of the bird world.

Let’s chat about hummingbirds. A tree in front of my place is festooned with them. They’re everywhere — yesterday I spied a wee nest, not much bigger than my thumb, tucked in the crook of a tree branch. I follow the “No Moleste” mantra of my wildlife loving friends and family, so I don’t gawk and try to become one with the tree to get a better look. Plus, hummingbirds will pull out the big guns to defend their territory and I’m not into getting pelted by tiny beaks. Maybe 20 years ago, sure! But now? Nah. Not so much. I find their frenetic, squeaky speech hypnotic — except when they’re coming after me as I’m leaving my apartment.

So, as the song goes, Let it be.

Beautiful Buteos.

I haven’t spied anything shocking with four legs yet — like a cougar or a woolly mammoth — but once I do, I’ll write about it.

LA is lousy with birds of prey. They’re everywhere. Illinois is too, but it doesn’t have Harris Hawks. Apparently, there is a pair of these hawks living in the hills at the end of my street and like to cause trouble with their tag-team hunting ways. Last week, the pair snagged some sort of varmint and the cacophony of bird squeals and squawks was almost too much for me to take. One of my neighbors informed me that this pair has been here for quite some time and they’re left alone.

That’s a huge relief.

You'd better watch your ass, or we'll git ya.

Cops. Yes, cops. The po-po, fuzz, 5-0, the Men in Blue, donut patrol — or whatever monikers kids these days are giving G-men. I’ve noticed that LAPD officers are in much better shape then their brethren in Chicago. Perhaps the tough fitness requirement the department has for wannabe cops is carried over once one becomes a member of the force. Or, perhaps this is Hollywood and everyone is vying to be the next big thing.  Since it’s alllll about what you look like out here, the need to be attractive no matter what your profession is constant. Also, cops out here tend to become the news. (note: Zsa Zsa’s cop was from the BHPD). The cops trolling my neighborhood are also easy on the eyes — they’re kinda cute in that jack-boot thug kinda way. It’s tempting to get arrested. “Really, Mr. Po-leeece man, you can tighten the handcuffs more if you like … Aaaand your night stick?”

Now I’m done.