Monday, March 20, 2006

Fear Itself

Saturday night, Spooney and I were driving back from Leonor’s, an awesome vegetarian Mexican place in North Hollywood. It had just begun to drizzle when we witnessed a lightning strike on one of those super-tall power lines. The traffic light we were sitting at promptly crapped out. The electricity in the surrounding businesses and homes flickered several times, then went bye-bye. Sputtering blue sparks and poufs of smoke arose from the tower in small explosions for about half a minute.

Suddenly, I realized that I had been sitting, transfixed by the sight of the explosions, instead of paying attention to the intersection I wanted to cross. I was in the left turn lane, and so it took a bit of aggressive creeping to make my point about when I felt it was my turn to go, but that’s no surprise as California drivers couldn’t tell you the rules of a 4-way stop if their lives depended on it. Seriously, on the rare occasion that they encounter one, and it’s usually when a traffic light has gone out, their ignorance is all too apparent. “Don’t they teach the 4-way stop rules in driver’s ed in this state?” I’ve wondered many a time.

As I made my way home carefully through the wet, dark streets I contemplated what the power loss might mean if it included my street. Spooney let me know he was up for the adventure of a night of lights out. I think he was envisioning wine, and music on the dynamo radio, and a game of Yahtzee by candlelight. My vision was more about the possible spoiled food in my freezer, and the likelihood of the outage sparking some looting.

I decided not very likely, the looting, because it was cold and raining, and because there’s not a lot to loot in North Hollywood. It’s basically a lot of small-potatoes specialty businesses: Distributor Cap World, Stu’s Screen Door-O-Rama, Fan Belts R Us. Shit like that. There’s a place down the street from me that as far as I can tell, only sells batteries for construction equipment. So the looting is not very sexy in North Hollywood.

But still, a power outage is nothing to take lightly when you live in the…how you say? Ah, yes, the Big City.

Thankfully, about a mile down Vineland Ave., the electricity appeared to be on, and the traffic lights were working, and so we made it home without incident. And it looked as though the big chunk that was knocked out stopped right across the street from me. Wow.

A neighbor wandered into the street with a flashlight as I pulled into my driveway. Unlucky bastard, I thought. Meanwhile all was cozy and warm (and guarded by two mean-sounding dogs) inside my house.

I have a hard time making people who have never lived in a big city understand that it’s really not that scary. My friends and relatives who have spent their whole lives in places like Gibbon, Nebraska, and Sweetser, Indiana get pretty freaked out at even the thought of navigating a maze like LA. And when they do come to visit, they do things like point out that we are the only white people in a place of business, something that I am just so past noticing. Not because I am the Saint of the Bleeding Heart, but just because it is not a noteworthy event -- unless you are trying to size up the authenticity of an ethnic restaurant, that is.

Because to them, and to many, the danger is identified easily. The danger is what doesn’t look like you or anybody else that might attend your particular family reunion. The danger is from one of the groups that run in those “gangs” that they’ve heard so much about on the tv.

I was actually advised by a relative not to wear red or blue when I moved to LA, as those are “gang colors.” My response was to thank them, but to assure them that there was little danger of me being mistaken for a G.

Yo. You decide.

I guess living in and rubbing up against what they would look upon as the “other” part of America is one of the things that contributes to liberalism, generally. Having experienced the non-scariness of the other, I realize that the political views that go hand in hand with the fear of the other are, frankly, hokum.

I know in my heart that America will change, eventually. I could not love this country as much as I do otherwise. We will gradually give up the idea that gay people marrying will hurt our ability to marry and raise children. We will learn that the accommodation of people who speak only Spanish does not really damage us in any way at all. We will slowly give ourselves over to the idea that we need not be punished for enjoying sex. We will conduct ourselves with good humor and tolerance, instead of forever searching for the myriad of ways in which we have been wronged.

And we will seek not to merely hate the terrorists right back, but will instead find it is much more constructive to examine the reasons why we are so hated in this world, and to put some energy toward resolving that.

Peace, Gs.


Grant Miller said...

I need more vegetarian Mexican restaurants in my neighborhood.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Leonor's is awesome.

They use fake soy meats, and the soy cheese (I am not a vegan) is so good you can't tell it's soy. The whole menu is vegetarian, so you can order the beef enchiladas or the chicken tacos or whatever the fuck you want.

I love going into a restaurant and knowing i can get anything on the menu!

MonstrousJoe said...

I noticed you were throwing up a west side gang starr sign there, vikki.... Yo, you sure you not bangin?

vikkitikkitavi said...

Yeah, me and my homie, Ali G.

Check it.

Spooney said...

"Distributor Cap World, Stu’s Screen Door-O-Rama, Fan Belts R Us. Shit like that. There’s a place down the street from me that as far as I can tell, only sells batteries for construction equipment."

You forgot the airplane parts store.