Monthly Archives: July 2008

Long Beach police shoot LAPD officer

And they really don’t know what happened. For some reason they’re really not saying much. Apparently the LAPD officer was brandishing a shotgun while off-duty (and walking down the street after midnight), refused to put the gun down when requested, and then refused to surrender…well, at the end of the article it says he actually ran away. So they shot him. I assume they shot him at least twice. Being shot in the arm and the torso could possibly have been accomplished with one bullet but two bullets seem more likely…He was charged with threatening a civilian so I assume a civilian was there though that could just be crazy guesswork. I’m rather interested to know if he was after one civilian in particular, or if it was just any civilian that happened to come along as he went out for a stroll with a shotgun. And I would like to know what foreign substance was coursing through his veins at the time…at least, I hope something foreign was coursing through them.

It’s a lot of words to say what could have been said in one or two paragraphs…still, I shall persevere in reading the L.A. Times every now and then. Of course there hasn’t been much time to do actual investigation I grant, but I fear that this could be the extent of what is written, which is tragic. I’m sure there will be some people trying to keep the story alive, but possible more people working to squash it.

Apart from the irony of one police department shooting another, it’s even more of a political muddle because he happens to be the son of someone rather important, an LAPD lieutenant no less. Ah, these powerful men and their flawed children…and ah the state and it’s flawed police force.

So to me it’s not surprising that a stand-off continues at the Soboba reservation, with the tribe refusing to let deputies onto their land without an escort. And I suppose given the additional 150 lay-offs that have happened at the L.A. Times (which includes the death of the book section, there should be some rotting in hell down the line for those involved in that piece of handiwork), it might be understandable that the article on the situation is almost an exact replica of the May article on the same subject. Without the detail. I can’t say for certain nothing else has been written since the last article I read, but you would think if they had done any follow up, this article might have a bit more to say…

This should be a really big story: a reservation standing up to the U.S. government once again and trying to limit its power on their land, May’s running gun battles between tribe members and police, the attempt to shut down the casino. Where is it? What is really happening? It renews my interest in a road trip.

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Comic-con

Jokers…there were jokers everywhere. They outnumbered the batmen and I believe that says a great deal about good and evil. I saw superman: a device blasting out his theme song was hidden somewhere in his costume…I saw an everyday superhero with a boom box blasting James Brown’s Sex Machine…my kind of superhero. He wasn’t wearing tights. At least 30 people dressed up as ghostbusters stood on the steps of the San Diego convention center with some really authentic looking equipment, i don’t know how they fared against the Star Wars crew…there were plenty of storm troopers. Most of them were shiny and new, but there was one old battle scarred veteran who looked like he had fought through all three of the original movies and survived. A couple of luke skywalkers. Not a single damn Chewbacca, such sadness! Jose had promised to tackle the first one we saw. And I stood beneath the hallowed portal of Castle Greyskull!! God damn! If the power were invested in me, there would be a real Castle Greyskull and not a fake portal to merchandise land, and perhaps I might have foregone the massive fake bronze statue of He-Man himself…it might have been a bit much really. Plenty of goth kids, a couple of girls with flying toasters on their heads, Bender, Link from Legend of Zelda, the vampire league flyering people outside, a few manga characters, miles and miles of comics, drawings, art, action figures, T-shirts…more booths than you could imagine.  And a crowded program of talks, the only one we managed was Steven Moffat and Julie…hmm, just Julie, the writers from the new Doctor Who series, they were brilliant and witty and some of the questions were even good. But most started with “you know the (insert episode title here)? So when the Doctor does…” at which I just had to shake my head. And one old guy who was really convinced that all of the doctors HAD to be brought back in one episode for…well, I won’t tell you in case it happens. There were no spoilers sadly, but I enjoyed myself.

It was all a bit much really, hard to know how to even begin to describe it, and you might be wondering where the pictures are…I wish, I really wish I had them. I left my camera battery in my bag (left untouched from my trip to Tucson, serves me right for gadding all around about the country I suppose). So the only picture I have is this one of me, Sergio Paez was kind enough to draw it for me and give it to me for free as we wandered up and down the artist tables looking at people with talents I could only dream of. It’s very nice though:

I do quite like it…we stayed over with Cici and wandered Balboa Park and talked shit in Hamilton’s over a grilled cheese sandwich and hard cider, then came back home on the train.

And today I bowled. And I won. It was unprecedented and gives me great hope for the future.

Arizona Dreaming

Tucson during the monsoons is one of my favourite places…it’s one of my favourite places most times I have to admit. And my brother Dan is home for the summer, and my cousin Alana is living with my folks now, so it was a houseful and that is always nice.

On Saturday we went up to Mount Lemon, I remember some time ago coming home to see the entire mountain on fire, clouds of smoke in fantastic shapes, the air alive with the all the colour and smell and ash of fire…half of the mountains burned one year, and the rest in the next, along with most of Summerhaven (though the pie shop survived! My dad swears that was due to his prayers, and the prayers of everyone who has ever been there…). It is amazing to see how the trees living and dead show how fire skips and leaps, how it razes the side of mountains leaving patches of trees intact, how it jumps over the bottoms of arroyos, stops at the crests of hills. And the trees remind me of Scotland in the wintertime, I love their stark silhouettes against the sky and the distant views. Or I would if only these trees would also return to life come Spring. Still, they have an incredible beauty to them that I almost prefer to what was there before. I wonder why I prefer my beauty bleak?

Mt. Lemon after the fires

And here is another view of it…

We went up the ski lift…the first time I have ever done that in all the years we have been going up there! Here’s the family up at the top:

And my little brother out on the rocks at Windy Point…that’s Tucson in the background, only about 20 minutes down from the pine forest…it is an amazing thing to go from the Sonoran desert to forest in such a short time…

After the mountain we headed over to the Hut to see some amazing and funky music courtesy of Dan’s friends…everyone playing was good, and the rain was coming down in torrents outside, the thunder and lightening going off, the roof leaking…it was quite spectacular. Got home after 2, woke up early the next morning for brunch at Sun’s, and then saw the Dark Knight. Which was also spectacular. And I loved Heath Ledger. And the only bit that made me sad was when the Joker equated anarchy with chaos and said he stood for both…anarchy is not chaos, it is the opposite of it. So I damned the writers and the confusion of their politics but didn’t let it interfere with the rest of the movie. I definitely recommend it.

Thunderstorms

I sat last night as the wind sent waves of rain sweeping under the porch, the lightening flashed bright in the darkness lighting up the sky, the thunder cracked loud. And I was happy the way I am always happy in a thunderstorm. An almost perfect moment, the feeling of being self-contained and content, entirely alive. In such moments I am myself, warm flesh and blood, heart beating. And also alive as part of the storm, greater than myself. And I was thinking I would like to find love like that. Based not on need or ownership but upon becoming something greater together. Two people alive and happy in the world, because life is so good; two people alive and struggling in the world because what we have made of it is not good at all. Two people complete in themselves and able to live completely. Two people together because being with the other makes this joy richer, the understanding deeper, the world’s colours more brilliant, because in sharing it with the other the world expands so that it is far greater then you could ever make it on your own…

I’m not sure what this requires, an equal certainly. A capacity to give of yourself without dependence, so different from independence without the capacity to give. An absence of selfishness, but a respect for the passions of the other and your own. Understanding the need for individual space as well as sharing to grow, and the need to challenge the other and to rise to their challenge. Trust and the solidity of someone who will tell you when you are fucking up and always be there when you need them. Passion and compassion. A delight in each other’s bodies and stories, thoughts and dreams. A simple delight in each other. A sharing of pain and suffering, and doing all you can to help it stop or make it less. Commitment to see the thing through. There’s probably much more, I haven’t even touched on eating habits, but…I wonder if it is at all possible, it must certainly be rare.

The light is beautiful, the sky is beautiful with dark clouds it up by the setting sun. The birds are all singing, there is a cardinal on the phone lines, a hummingbird and finches are flitting about the mulberry tree. I hear cactus wrens and a gila mockingbird, I love knowing the songs of the birds around me. I miss it when I am away from the desert. I am not less when I cannot match a bird to its song, such knowledge simply makes me greater.

Change

I was thinking today how the city changes…and I find it extraordinary how quickly you get used to changes in the physical landscape around you. I knew downtown L.A. full of parking lots and old buildings full of people. And now it has been built over, it is full of huge new shiny buildings and it is full of all new people. The empty buildings that once contained friends of mine mostly still stand, they are monuments to so many conflicting things: greed, pain, hope, love, struggle…and they stand as anachronisms, though once each was one building among many such. But for all that is now gone? Memory goes with them, I cannot remember what used to be underneath the lofts. I go through my photographs and try to reclaim my own memory of downtown before money claimed it as its own and rebuilt its landscape. I hate not only that they profited so easily and well, but also that I cannot remember what was there before. I hate that we could not manage to force them to build on the beauty and strength that was already there, while working to improve and grow and increase the number of people and services. Everyone has lost, though the ones who destroyed will never know how much, and the people they pushed out know it all to well.

I was thinking today about how I change…and I find it extraordinary how quickly you settle into the new outlines of your mind and forget what its thoughts were before. You hope to be always expanding, growing greater and wiser and stronger as you learn, I fear I might contract if I ever stopped growing…some people do, you see their minds steadily narrowing and fearful of change. And yet suddenly it worried me as loft construction does, how hard it is to remember what you thought before, how you felt before, what it was to be yourself before. It seems to me that to truly grow you must build upon all that you were, and recognize and remember the building. That way you have a hope of bringing people with you, and understanding people who are where you once were. I think too many of us destroy what we discard and do not recognize it as a piece of the foundation and a step to where we have come and a link with those behind. That is too linear a metaphor all together, but the best I can do at the moment…I shall have to create a new metaphor to stand upon the old one and remember how it came to be.

As for the dragon boat races…well! The Molinistas were destroyed and there was much jubilation. Here are the boats:

I am sure that we won as everyone followed the required ritual to grant us victory

This is wishing pain to your enemies (damn Gloria Molina, damn her, he is saying! You came to Belmont highschool and promised things and did jack shit about it! You lie Molina, I can’t believe you are still one of the most powerful women in L.A.! But not in the dragon boat you’re not!), and you impart this wish to your paddle so that it strikes angrily through the water…you then have to commune with your paddle like so

Do this and your paddle will know that you love it, and driven by this motivational combination of love and hate, it shall speed you through the water like a…platypus maybe. If you’re lucky an eel. But It shall make you fast, and you shall win.

The fried plaintains were delicious, as was the iced coffee…the breakfast (and lunch) of champions. There were Koreans line dancing to Alan Jackson singing about the Chatahoochee on the main stage, it was the zen approach to enlightenment, the equivalent of getting hit alongside the head or your nose tweaked. And the lotus festival hummed and flowed and danced around the lake and I enjoyed myself.

Living well in L.A.

You doubt it no? Disbelievers…L.A. can sometimes be one of the best cities in the world, and I say that because of everything I have ever written about it, both heartbreaking and heartlifting, who would want only one or the other in their life? You’d cut your wrists with the first and stare at the world through the translucent walls of your bubble in the second without ever truly living. This weekend I remembered once again why I love it so much…again full of writing and struggle and dancing and art and friends and dragon boats and…I can’t even tell you how much fit into this weekend.

Political truth (my own truth with a little ‘t’ though I think it might deserve capitalization): every community should have a central place to gather, to laugh, to eat, to dance…it is the distance between us that makes control so easy, that makes poverty such a burden, that allows each of us to suffer believing that we are alone…the more we come together the stronger we will be, and the better we can plan.

Personal truth: happiness could easily be as simple as live music every weekend, surrounded by friends that are family, and a little bit of dancing, preferably under the sky. And if the music be a mix of jarocho and cumbias and zapoteada and some old mariachi favourites to belt along with…well, so much the better.

Combine those two and you end up with my Saturday between 11 and 2 in the neighborhood I have worked in for years upon years and where we had established the Displacement Free Zone, saje and the land trust threw a little block party and it was small but lovely and we danced, first to jarocho with it’s amazing politics and message and it was a joy

and then to…se me olvide agarrar su tarjeta, I shall have to find out who they were…to the backdrop of Henry’s market. You can buy pretty much anything at Henry’s, and I mean anything. The Harpy’s feel pretty strongly that their tag needs to be covering that clear green wall, which is why it is white down below. I’d like to suggest they add a red stripe and an eagle, there’s no other excuse for such a shade of green…

and here is one of the women I most admire in the world, who danced the entire time and knows how to zapotear like no one, and has more heart and courage and knowledge than almost anyone I know…beauty along with it:

Monic dancing…

So I wasn’t sure the weekend could get much better…but I went over to Bev’s after. The fact I had destroyed my bike’s innertube first thing in the morning made this a bit slower, and it made me a bit sad, but I overcame. And then I was stung by a wasp on the walk over…how many years has it been since that happened? Took me back to the old desert days, I have been stung by almost everything but I shall tell those stories later. Or never. People who didn’t grow up in glorious yet hostile environments where everything can hurt you rarely seem to enjoy those stories. So I hung out happily sorry for myself with some ice in a towel pressed against my shoulder. Wasps hurt a wee bit more than I remember.

Through a strange and complicated turn of events Bev and Samantha were going to be rowing in the Dragon boat races at the lotus festival in Echo Park and had come back from practice, so we all headed over to a BBQ at one of their new team-mates’ houses. Turns out that everyone else rowing had worked for Mayor Bradley back in the day (and I mean back in the day), so the BBQ that we (well, I) had crashed turned out to be a more formal sort of dinner with the most amazing food. And then council member Wendy Gruel turned up with her family. Now this may not seem so exciting to most, but you have probably not done as many delegations to city council members where you sought to speak to them in vain about important issues, or carried out long power analyses where Gruel was invariably one of those that should be on our side but could always go the other way…at any rate, the irony was delicious, as was the wine. Also turns out that the following day’s race was to be a race to the death against Gloria Molina’s office, and in fact Michael (enthusistic team head), had flown in from DC just to paddle in this race and destroy the Molinistas in this rematch (after 15 years or so)…turns out me and those with me were all too young to remember Bradley but a few of us also had some serious beef with Molina (the rest could care less), so we joined together in a toast to the county supervisor’s bitter and inglorious defeat…

You’ll have to wait a bit for the outcome of that, first because I want to see the effect on my readership (cliffhangers seem to work for the networks after all), second because I’m tried, but most importantly because we then had to go see Luke in his play/sketch comedy “Touched in the Head” in a tiny theatre on Santa Monica, and we laughed…there was a fabulous sketch about the horrors of cat rape, and the victims were Tony the Tiger and Garfield and Tom and the Cat in the Hat…every male cat you can imagine in fact. My other favourite was a pyromaniac chola who comes to give a motivational speech to 1st graders about all the things they should set on fire when people talk shit to them. If it hadn’t been the last night I would have recommended it highly!

Still not done, cos it’s almost Laura’s birthday, so it was off to Highland Park to celebrate it with her and a ton of other people…there were cumbias playing in the front room, old soul playing on the back patio, watermelon soaked in vodka and negro modelo and rum mixed with lots of other things, there were friends and family, people I knew and people I didn’t know at all, all of them the kind of people you’d like to know. We left just after midnight, I was tired and Bev was paddling for glory and Jose just went along with it…

A brilliant day yesterday. Today was brilliant too. Maybe I’ll get to it tomorrow…

Hangover and hope

This morning I woke up cruda, cruda as I rarely am and so my head hurt and my stomach roiled and I had to get up far too early and I spent the day in rather a self-pitying lethargy with a hungry eye for any flat surface that looked remotely possible to nap on…last night was worth it of course, one of those nights where you get to talk on and on about writing and politics with someone who understands both and where you have enough in common to establish a sound basis of trust and liking and enough difference that you can really get into some interesting points and challenge yourself. I love those nights, they make life more brilliant. It was worth the pain of this morning.
And so today was a lost cause, but this evening? This evening I was glad to be human and alive and here in L.A…glad that I am not an organizer anymore, but a friend. Today I had a meeting with some of the folks I was once paid to work with, and of course I believe organizers should be paid, far more than they are paid really. But it is so good to be just a friend now, it is something beautiful to volunteer with people to take control of the institutions we created together before I left. Years of my life and theirs…tonight I watched these women step into their own potential, I watched them speak where they were once silent, I watched them fight for what they believe in and I know that this is how change happens. They will be strong enough to ensure true community control I think, and me and Leo will be there when they need help, and the inexpressible beauty of such a thing is beyond words really. Thus the cynic in me, who generally works fueled on pure rage, actually regained something beautiful and true and so happiness is mine. And I think all of my theories are right…I think I’m right and that’s always nice. Of course there are still a lot of holes, a lot of fodder for future nights of alcohol (though perhaps less of it) and passionate discussion and the writing of it and a lot of work to continue to put into practice what I think, ’tis doubtful I shall live long enough to sort it.

And so on the way home I endured the sour stink of alcohol and the unending stream of cars along the freeway and stared at the burnished piece of moon, it shone in the dark sky and lit up the clouds…the small specks of cloud that clustered around it. And I reimagined the world.