Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why Did the Decrepit Old Jew Cross the Road?

I was on the northwest corner of 3rd and La Brea, where a Buick dealership stood for many years, and where a Trader Joe’s stands now. It was my ambition to perambulate across 3rd to the southwest corner. I am not a patient person, and was made less patient by the presence of a quartet of orthodox young Jews in their distinctive attire photographing themselves with one of the policemen who’d been dispatched to the area in anticipation of Barack Obama’s motorcade passing by. It took forever for the light to change. When the little green walking man lit up, I headed south, only to have to stop because a motorist who wanted to turn left onto 3rd from the northbound side of La Brea decided to try to pull a fast one. But he turned out to be the less of my worries, the far greater being the bigger jerk who decided that he too hadn’t the time to wait for the next green light. I celebrated his audacity by bellowing, “Asshole!” at him as he reluctantly slammed on his brakes. Then, fight-fire-with-fire type as he was, he showed me his middle finger before stomping on his accelerator and screeching through the intersection.

Reaching the opposite shore, if you will, unscathed but furious, I became more furious at the sight of two motorcycle cops, right up on the sidewalk in front of CVS, enjoying a lovely fraternal chinwag, as the Brits would say. “I nearly got hit by someone turning left on a red light,” I advised them with great indignation, inspiring the nearer and wittier to shrug and say, “Sorry, chief. Didn’t see it.” Which made his fellow peace officer chuckle appreciatively.

“Why,” I mused aloud, “don’t you open your fucking eyes?”

How times have changed, I thought as I reached 4th Street and my indignation began to ebb. There was a time when expressing my dissatisfaction so vividly might well have resulted in their beating me into unconsciousness and dragging me into an alley to be devoured by homeless cannibals. Behold the benefit of being ancient, decrepit, and short-haired now, rather than the wild-haired firebrand of my student radical days.

I’ve had more than my share of humiliating, infuriating interactions with the LAPD. The closest I’ve ever come to a satisfying one was in 1977 when my and Marie’s next door neighbors phoned the cops to report, quite accurately, that I’d pushed my way into their apartment with the apparent intention of strangling them. (They had a tiny dog they’d leave locked in a bathroom a cheap apartment building wall’s thickness from our bedroom. The dog would yap frantically all night while they were out dancing, or whatever it was they were doing, and if their inconsiderateness didn’t make me homicidal on its own, their disdainful refusal even to consider my grievances certainly did.) Not being as enlightened in those days as I would later become, and far from my best owing to several successive nights of patchy sleep, I played the sexuality card and invited the cops to consider that the complainants were gay (not “faggots,” mind you, or “queers,” by gay), which information inspired them to sneer disgustedly and abandon their investigation.

I’m a little ashamed about that, but it wasn’t I whose little dog made it impossible for them to sleep. 

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