Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Looking for Soul Food…and a Place Free of Litter

I walk in the evening. It keeps me fit, and gives me an hour per night to think things over, and sometimes to listen to an interesting podcast. Sometimes I head west, toward Beverly Hills, and walk down 3rd Street, which, without fanfare, has become the most glamorous street in LA, if by glamorous you mean lined with restaurants at which the sort of gorgeous young people LA is commonly (and wrongly) thought to abound in are enjoying expensive cuisine, even on a Monday evening. Sometimes I walk north, through the heart of the Fairfax district, and share the sidewalk with anti-McMansion militants and observant Jews in tiny, bobby pin-secured skullcaps (the fellows) or scrupulously modest skirts (the gals). It’s been nearly three years that I have walked among them, and I have not yet succumbed to the temptation to ask how they can believe in a God who cares if they wear little skullcaps. If I head east, I’m very soon in Hancock Park, one of my city’s most beautiful neighborhoods, the neck of the woods in which, when Beverly Hills and Bel-Air were huge vacant lots, the very rich hung their hats.

Why did Google blur Marilyn's mouth, I wonder.
Last evening, ‘twas south that I headed, through the nice racially mixed neighborhood on whose edge I myself used to reside, around the time of my daughter’s birth. Once having reached Pico Blvd., I can head west toward Little Ethiopia, that portion of Fairfax Avenue lined with African restaurants (and a sort of head shop that sells a lot of Bob Marley-themed merchandise), or turn left, and head for La Brea.

When I lived in the hood, I was fascinated to learn that there was a soul food place of note called Maurice’s Snack ‘n’ Chat, whose name I love more than that of any other restaurant in Los Angeles, with the possible of The Four Season (Chinese) in Koreatown. It seems not to be there anymore. There is an ancient cinema that has been repurposed as an African Methodist church, in which I’ll bet the singing on a Sunday morning is very uplifting. 

On the northeast corner of Pico and Meadowbrook, there is a liquor store on the side of which crude likenesses of Bob Marley, Marilyn Monroe, W.C. Fields, Ray Charles, Alfred Hitchcock, and Elvis have been painted. If I were black, I’m not so sure I’d want to look at Elvis every time I swung by the liquor store for a bottle of Remy Martin, as he co-opted black musical culture — admiringly, yes, but still.

Last night I struggled with another of my little moral dilemmas. A mid-40s-ish Latino guy emerged from the liquor store with a young man of around eight, whom I presumed to be his son. He’d bought the boy some sort of a treat. As they stepped out onto the sidewalk, the guy unwrapped whatever it was, and dropped the plastic right where he stood. He was two big steps away from a non-overflowing trash receptacle.

A part of me wanted to say, “Jeepers creepers, ese. There’s a trash receptacle 48 inches away. How can anyone be so lazy and inconsiderate? I live in this city too!”  Another part of me thought I’d better rephrase that. “I beg your pardon, sir, but I wonder if your dropping your trash so carelessly might be setting an infelicitous example for your little boy.” A third part of me he realized he might not be tickled pink by my embarrassing him in front of his son, and remembered that my recently replaced shoulder has been aching frightfully the past two weeks, rendering me unlikely to mount a very effective defense in the event that he punched me in the nose.

I did what I usually do. I walked on. And disliked myself a little for having done so.

It's just occurred to me that this sort of thing will cease to be a problem as of the day President Trump is sworn in, as all Mexicans, and persons who resemble Mexicans, will be deported, and there will be no more littering problem. Decent real Americans don't litter. The very idea is preposterous.

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