August 30, 2006

Oh Come, All Ye Dissidents

Los Angeles is a town of extremes. The Wealthy and the Poor. The Democrats and the Gropenfuhrer. The Haves and the Havenots-but-are-willing-to-give-up-everything-for-the-dream-of-one-day-Having.

The beautiful thing about living in LA is that you get to experience these extremes on a regular basis. Sometimes even at the same time. Take today for instance. While stopped at a traffic light I gazed mindlessly into the supermarket parking lot on my left. There in front of me was a fairly tall African American security officer speaking to a not-quite-as-tall homeless looking white man. Just the sight of the two of them elicited all sorts of thoughts about the tremendous advancements in racial equality we've experienced in our country over the past 50 years. Isn't it wonderful, I thought as a somewhat stilted version of Ebony & Ivory played in the rusted jukebox of my mind. In fact, according to this rather small supermarket survey, we've equality-ed ourselves right through to inequality again - apparently the white man is now the one on the outside. The segregator has become the segregatee. And just as my mind was flowing into a wonderful tangent that involved Tiger Woods, Iman and the Macy's Labor Day Parade, I noticed the homeless man yelling frantically while the security guard pointed, angrily demanding that Whitey vacate the premesis.

Wait a minute, I thought, what happened to our racial harmony?! Can't you people hear Ebony & Ivory? Hold on!! THERE IS NO VIOLENCE ALLOWED WHILE STEVIE IS SINGING!!

And just as we were side by side on the piano, the white homeless man turned around and started walking out of the parking lot. As he walked I could see that he yelled something - I just couldn't hear it. No need to worry though, cause the security guard sure heard it. And whatever it was that the homeless man said, I can pretty much guarantee you, it wasn't too nice. I'm guessing it was a reflection on a previous time, when we weren't all so goddamn racially equal. Or maybe it involved the security guard's mother, which is never nice. Either way, the security guard, in what I can only imagine was a clear breach of his employment contract, ran up to the homeless man screaming and yelling in a rage, reached his arm back and - THWAPPPP!!! - smacked the bejesus out of the homeless guy.

As you can probably guess, homeless guy wasn't too happy with the beat down, so he turned around and started kicking at the security guard. Next thing I know, it's a full-on throwdown with fists flailing and feet kicking and people running over to help but not knowing what to do so they ended up just standing around feeling - and looking - quite useless. Just as I was about to take a dramatic Bo & Luke Duke type of turn into the parking lot to save the day, the homeless man turned around and ran away. Which is good, cause this violence really didn't need to escalate any further and besides, I really had no clue what I would've done when I got there either. I'm sure I probably would've just stood around being as useless as all of the others.

Eventually the light turned green and I continued on my way. A few minutes later, finally recovering from the sight of a seemingly violent protest of the homeless, I arrived at my destination: the Post Office.

Why, pray tell, has the Post Office become a magnet for the wackos? It's as if you had to act like a freak in front of the Post Office before you are recognized as an official Weirdo and people start avoiding you when they walk down the street. Random crazy Post Office behavior is like a Bar Mitzvah for the insane - it's their official entry into Wacky World.

So anyway, I'm walking up to the Post Office and I see two people lounging about on the sidewalk under a beach umbrella and sitting at a table with a couple of anti-Bush signs hanging about. Now, being in a very very Democratic state, it is not uncommon to see lots of anti-Bush hoopla all over the place. Sure, it's like preaching to the converted, but that's another story entirely. This anti-Bush protest, however, was not your regular sit-in. You see, these two people weren't just sitting about spouting their Democratic rhetoric. Oh no, this one was much better. Get this - they were sitting amidst all of their "change the world, we're going to hell" paraphernalia as they sang - yes, sang - in two part harmony - yes, two-part harmony. As if this Mamas and Papas reunion tour wasn't enough, you had to hear what they were singing. Clearly it was some sort of peace protest song, but it was belted out to the tune of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for anti-Bush protests. Hell, I like a good non-violent protest as much as the next guy. But to have a two person protest in the middle of summer, to the tune of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing?! There's a fine line between protest and just plain wacko. Besides, if you're singing a Christmas carol, can that really count as a protest anyway? Does anybody have a protest rule book I can borrow?

I couldn't believe my eyes - or ears, for that matter. In fact, I couldn't believe it so much, I started laughing at them. Other Post Office dwellers looked at me with a twinkle in their eye, as if they too wanted to laugh but were too scared the peaceful protest carolers may morph into violent psychopaths.

That's wonderful, I said looking around to my fellow letter mailers. And as I thought about the violent outburst in the parking lot but a few minutes before, I wondered if a good Democratic Christmas Carol may have calmed the rambunctious energy of the Supermarket brawlers. Maybe if I had driven into that parking lot, screeching and squealing my tires in announcement, and jumped out of the car with all sorts of Superhero fanfare, and suddenly began singing, at the top of my voice, a wonderful version of Good King Wenceslas - maybe that would've quelled the violence. And maybe I wouldn't have been as useless as I previously imagined.

I guess the truth is, we just don't have enough singing protests in this town.