Here Comes The Firecracker

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“I feel like I’m having a civil war inside my head,” said my Wise Artist pal. “I’m so divided.”  She had a secret she wished to share. Only the day before, she crossed the Rubicon. She re-registered as a Republican so she could cast her ballot for Trump in the upcoming primary.

“I want to light a firecracker under this country.”

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On Sunday morning I was in Watts, at the CicLAvia. In liberal, cosmopolitan Los Angeles, very few white people joined us on the trek.  As a veteran CicLAvian, I found the low attendance disloyal and unpatriotic.

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If one wanted to see the full measure of the economic hollowing out of America, here was the place the Bernie people and the Trump people could agree upon.

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Along the way, I encountered a white man with a broken arm and his hand on a bible, sitting at a table in front of a closed church, nodding significantly at the riders as they went past as though beckoning them toward something.  Of what, I could only guess.

Later that night we were in Pasadena at an awards dinner for Mrs. UpintheValley, hosted by a lovely, gracious woman who lives in the kind of house which ignites bonfires of envy in the hearts of working-class guests from Van Nuys.  And everyone at the table was lovely and gracious and prosperous. And the host mentioned a former student who is now Digital Media Director for Elizabeth Warren, and this elicited giddy approval, for what higher calling could there be? Practically an appointment to the secular Vatican itself.  And wouldn’t it be delightful if Hillary picked Warren as a running mate? Trump has zero chance of winning, after all. For the moment we were all two degrees of separation from the Good People Who Really Matter and didn’t that make the demi-glace on the hanger steak all the tastier?

Then on Monday I am at an industry workshop at AFI, where an actress/writer I’ve known for years, tough and talented, a woman you’ve seen on TV plenty of times, is staging a work-in-progress which included a Donald Trump-esque speech about immigrants.  Afterward, in the notes, people argued whether it was Sarah Palin or Trump himself speaking, then someone said it couldn’t possibly be Palin, because the character was utilizing multi-syllabic words, and thus beyond Palin’s speaking ability. In Los Feliz, people found this observation clever and uproarious. Mirth owned the room.

The next morning I drove to Home Depot in Panorama City to buy a tape measure and there were dozens of men crowding cars in the parking lot, leaning into windows, pleading for day work.

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Later, I took Trixie for her evening constitutional and we passed an Ayn Rand-ian tableau of trucks in my neighborhood filled with scrap metal.

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Around the corner, we encountered this gorgeous example of late post-war American industry, preserved in amber, right down to the whitewalls.  It felt like another signpost. We are nearing the end of something.

The firecrackers are coming.

Honest Man, Union Man, Hungry, Alone

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Call me skeptical of curbside claims. Union man. Honest. Hungry. Looking for work. Ten seconds at a stoplight doesn’t give you a lot to work with. You do a quick read: sober or not?  Do they look you in the eye or not? Does the supplicants appearance match the narrative on the cardboard sign?

Mrs. UpintheValley keeps singles in the console of her car and hands them out to anyone who approaches the window.

I judge.

For years there was a guy who used to work the 405 offramp at Roscoe Blvd., waving an empty gas can.  He was respectably attired, and would point to a nearby station, implying he was a stranded commuter with an empty fuel tank.  He aggressively worked the red light, walking out into the lanes between cars, frowning and gesticulating at those who declined him.

I’ve seen crackhead mothers demand ‘food money’ for their children in front of restaurants, with their shell-shocked children in tow.   I’ve seen people claiming ‘hunger’ spurning fresh food, not leftovers, purchased for them by passerby. I know a reformed heroin addict whose hustle was setting up a card table in front of Home Depot and fraudulently collecting for Hodgkins disease.  Don’t get me started about claims of military service.

Alternately, I have another friend, who lives large in Bronson Canyon, who took a huge loss in the stock market, on margin, costing nearly his entire nest egg.   He recovered, it took years, but in the aftermath he decided to always give to panhandlers. That a person had been reduced to the state of degradation where he would beg in the street, this in of itself was reason for giving.

I’m not so sure. My sense of social order requires a Virtuous Mendicant.  So when I saw this guy last week,  the sun hit his sign just right, and what caught my eye was Teamster Local 831. Here, perhaps, was someone dollar-worthy.   Here’s the exception which proves the rule.   So I reached in my pocket. As I did so, in tandem with my own movements, as though in response to my thought process, he began to pitch forward, slowly, folding from the neck down, one vertebrae at a time, to the waist.

He wasn’t doing yoga.

He sagged over until his knuckles hit the sidewalk.   Then he raised his head slightly, but the effort was too much. His knees buckled and he hung there, in the arms of Morpheus,  his face hidden behind a magnificent mane of homeless hair. He swayed back and forth to an internal ebb/flow only he could feel.

He had cookies stacked on the sidewalk. He had some bills clutched forgetfully in his right hand.  There was nothing material I could offer he didn’t have already.  But I took no pleasure in cynicism so swiftly affirmed.  I would fail to give, and he would sin once more.

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Eat Not the Pig, Say Hot Vegans

What is prosciutto?

Prosciutto, me?

There are two forms of persuasion in the militant vegan arsenal:  Behold The Horror, and Wouldn’t You Rather Be Pretty? If I didn’t already know this cause I married one, both were in abundant evidence at the VegFest at Woodley Park Sunday, which I was dragged to attended willingly!  Let’s gets started:

Horror #1:  Are you going to let this happen?

Horror #1: Are you just going to stand there and let this happen?

Beagle Face

#2: Beagle Face. Say no more.

#3: Wait, there's more. Enter the VR kill floor

#3: Wait, you haven’t seen the kill floor

On the other hand, hula hoops

On the other hand, hula hoops…

Ignore his Ugg boots

Ignore his Ugg boots. Watch the lady in the green kerchief 

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The star attraction: Freelee the Banana Girl and her amazing torso, all the way from Australia, posing with star struck teenaged girls. She claims to eat 30 bananas day, and posts YouTube videos where she frets about becoming too skinny.  She also denies any use of supplements.  Cocaine, for example. Or Marlboros, or liposuction.  Plant-based gains! Everybody suck it!  Consider not Occam’s Razor. Enjoy the view.  I have no reason not to be persuaded.

A Tear in the Lovelock Bridge

Nine years...

Nine years…

Thirty-six years....old school

Thirty-six years….old school

Uh-oh

Uh-oh..wire cutters!

At what point in the whirlpool of a breakup — collecting the clothes, returning books, clearing out the accounts, screaming on the phone– does one remember, “oh hell, the lock on the bridge.  What did you do with the damn key?”

“What do you mean, me?  You were supposed to take care of it.”

For how long does one rummage the detritus of a relationship before one reaches for the wire cutters?  Is it a chore for the offended party alone?  If you’re angry enough to commit the sacrilege of cutting the fence, don’t you still care? What if the the key really isn’t lost, and one party to the breakup is withholding its whereabouts?  How many relationships have come back from the brink during the deeply symbolic search for the key?

Tearing a hole in the fence, that’s Full Bitter.  If I can’t be happy no one else should be, either.  

The living water of the LA River is unperturbed by the operatics on the bridge.  Nature has a way of upstaging all of us.

Oy, gevalt. Double never.

Bystanders, once more

Put a fork in ‘em

Admit it, you were beginning to feel tingles of excitement. This year, your vote was going to count, for the first time ever, perhaps.  Your inbox was filling with solicitations to donate, to volunteer. Snatches of political gossip fluttered about you like the flappings of moths, as you went about your day.

Trump this!  Sanders that! 

Be honest, these are the only two you heard anyone talking about.

California, on the verge of 1968 all over again.  Minus the assassination. (We hope)

All the old rules were in the wind.

Our two districts in the Valley were about to be hotly contested battlegrounds in which twelve precious delegates were to be dispersed, six for each party.  Twelve! Like a jury pool, we waited in attention, preparing for the deluge.  The fate of the country, down to us, on the final day of the primary season. One felt so enfranchised

Yesterday, Other People, ahead of us in line, settled it.   Boo!

Now we’re stuck with two candidates who are the subject of “#never” campaigns as the presumptive nominees.  If you vote for Trump are you voting for or against the Republican party?  It’s unclear. If you vote for Hillary you are voting for Wall Street. But she swears you’re not.  What if you’re a double never, and earlier vowed, rashly, to support neither? What now to do?

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You can put your palms together and come to center and bring a measure of order to the chaos of the world.