The Rhyme of History

If you live long enough, you begin to see history repeat itself, or at least rhyme with itself. Almost 30 years ago a black man was beaten on camera, though unliked George Floyd, he lived to tell his side of the story. But the lack of justice, the years of pent up anger over police abuse, and systemic racism, boiled over into the streets of Los Angeles. Businesses were burned. Lives were ended. Society unraveled. The conversation on systemic racism went national and so many promises were made after the violence ended, because sadly, it’s only after a paroxysm of violence that political leaders tend to take notice. But obviously those promises were left unfulfilled and nothing really changed, because here we are 30 years later, experiencing similar events in a different city. Making things worse this time, these riots are now packed with outside agitators.

Here is a section of my memoir, Professional Eavesdropper: The Adventures of a Teleprompter Operator in Hollywood. It will give you a small glimpse into what it was like to live without the peace and safety most of us take for granted.

In April of 92, I was finally leaving the crime-ridden streets of Hollywood for the safer streets of North Hollywood. It would be a little further drive into Hollywood, but I looked forward to a quieter neighborhood. Weeks prior I had asked for the day off to move. As I was loading up boxes, my phone rang. It was work. The Rodney King verdict was in and going to be read soon. After that, the mayor would be speaking, urging calm. My boss needed me to go downtown and prompt his speech.

            I was furious. I had been promised this day off. I was going to be working the next few days, and wouldn’t have another chance to move. I had been in the business long enough not to feel the need to take every job offered, I refused the job. My boss was angry with me but finally convinced another operator to take the job. During the violence, he became trapped downtown. I felt bad for him, but as a woman amidst all the violence, I was grateful I wasn’t there.

            The verdict was read, and despite the pleas for calm, violence began to break out. People were being pulled out of cars and beaten. It was coming closer to Hollywood. I threw everything into my car that I couldn’t bear to lose, and fled to my new apartment in a part of town that was not erupting in violence. I had a little 13 inch black and white TV I had bought when I first arrived in town. It was one of the things I had grabbed. I set it up in my new bedroom, maneuvered the rabbit ears until I picked up the local stations, and watched the city burn. 

            I saw businesses just up the street from our teleprompting company go up in flames. I saw buildings not far from my old, only partially vacated apartment on fire. It seemed like society was collapsing. And yet somehow, the next day I got up and went to work. I think everyone expected the worst was over. There had been a spasm of violence, and now order would return. Oh how naïve we all were.

Edward James Olmos – Marina Del Rey – 4/30/92

            The memories of this shoot have been wiped away by the violence that started the night before. I remember it was outdoors on the marina. I remember Edward James Olmos couldn’t have been nicer. At one point during the shoot, he gathered the crew together and told us that everyone thought the riots were over, but they were just getting started. When the shoot ended for the day, he wanted us to go straight home and not leave. Things were about to get very bad.

            We wrapped at 12:30 p.m. and we all felt the urgency of Mr. Olmos’ words. I was out of the location by 1. I dumped the gear off and fled the shop by 1:30. There air was dingy with smoke, and I saw a few people running, but nothing too horrible. Another operator was driving back to the shop around the same time, and while stopped at a stoplight, several guys came and started beating on the hood of his vehicle. With an open bed pickup full of teleprompter gear, he had to run through the red light to get away.

            I felt lucky to have made it back to the shop unscathed. I went straight to my new North Hollywood apartment and watched my world burning on that little black and white screen. A cold fear started to form in the pit of my stomach. What if it didn’t stop? Right now average, everyday people, were rampaging through the streets, breaking windows, stealing, beating, and killing. There really was very little keeping us civilized. I came to understand how fragile the fabric of society is. Anarchy is nothing to aspire to. It’s terrifying.

            I didn’t work for several days as the city burned, and finally order was restored. National Guard troops stood on the street corners of Hollywood, armed with rifles, though we later found out they had no ammo. There was a curfew in place, but work was the one exception. I was never stopped on my way to a job, but it was unsettling to see soldiers on the street. That was not the America I knew. It was not the America I wanted to live in.

{Journal entry made at the time – It started with young, black men, probably gang members, pulling white motorists from their cars, beating, robbing, and shooting them. It soon went to looting and burning. In all of this, the police were non-existent. All this went completely unchecked.

            It started in South Central LA, a primarily black community. It quickly spread to areas previously thought safe from those kinds of disturbances. The area of Hollywood where I first lived, was heavily looted and burned. The area where I was living until the day the riots broke out, was looted and burned. Two stores on my block were destroyed. Even Beverly Hills was not unscathed. By the time the police and national guard were in place, it was all over. To this date, 58 peole died, almost a ½ billion dollars in damage was done. Over 2000 people were injured, 200 critically. This does not even begin to figure in those now homeless and unemployed because their businesses were burned.

            Even worse is the fear and mistrust that have tripled since the rioting started. Rather than try and solve these problems as human beings, our leaders are pointing the fingers and saying, “It was the whites who held us down.” “It was the black gangs and criminals.” “It was rude Korean shop owners.” Etc. 

            After things settled down and the damage was assessed, there were lots of promises made about how the city was going to step up its services in black communities. They talked about police reform, more black-owned businesses, an end to food deserts, and more opportunities. As usual, there was talk, but the racial-socio-economic divide in Los Angeles continues to this day, with some of the worst homelessness in the country.

Will anything really change this time? Or will we just put a bandaid on it as usual. Tell ourselves it’s not our problem. Or will we all step up and make the Declaration of Independence finally ring true, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men (ahem, and women) are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Because it should be self-evident. George Floyd has every bit a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness as anyone else. I don’t know if he was truly passing counterfeit money. If he was, I don’t know if he knew he was. What I do know is that no human being deserves to die for 10 or 20 dollars.

I think about my friend Jeff, who years ago, was stopped for DWB (Driving While Black) in Burbank on his way to work at NBC. Jeff was a skinny, sweet, African American guy who loved to ride his longboard, meditate, and was about as non-violent as they come. Yet, because of the color of his skin, the police thought he looked suspicious. They kept him in handcuffs, sitting on the curb as cars drove by staring at him, repeatedly asking, “Who do you run with?” meaning, what gang do you belong to. He showed them his NBC credentials. It didn’t matter. “Who do you run with?” He had been tried and convicted in those officers eyes. He was black, therefore he belonged to a gang. Eventually, after verifying his employment, they let him go. Can you imagine having to wonder every day of your life, if this will be the day you get pulled over? And then wonder if it’s the day you might just die because of it?

Something has to change and as Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Well, I’m not affected directly, but I’m outraged. So are many others. Are you? Will this finally be the tipping point? Will you finally step outside of your comfort zone and stand up to ensure the systemic racism built into this country is exposed and reformed? Will you vote in leaders who work to unite and repair our rifts instead of casually firing off incendiary tweets that divide us? Will we all finally step up?

We must, because a change is gonna come. It must, or our divided country will fall to the injustice we have chosen to perpetuate.

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Fit For Office

Remember all those teen movies in the 80s? We loved them. They fueled our youthful hijinks. The role of boys was to try to get drunk and try to get some from girls. The role of girls was to get tipsy, get kissed, yet keep the boys at bay. Remember Porky’s? Basically a bunch of boys spying on naked girls showering. Or 16 Candles, where a major subplot was the boys trying to get a girl’s panties to prove they’d been with her. Recently Molly Ringwald talked about a scene in The Breakfast Club where a boy was under the desk basically trying to look and touch her under her skirt. She admitted that by today’s standards that scene is troubling. They all are. They should have been troubling then, but women were still being taught to blame themselves and not to embarrass the boy.

Troubling or not, those movies reflected the world I grew I up in. It reflects the world Brett Kavanaugh grew up in. Coming from a background of wealth and privilege, he actually had the status to live out those films. Despite his protestations that he was focused on schoolwork, fitness, and his many platonic friendships with girls — his friends, his yearbook, and his personal letters tell a different story. In other words, he lied.

So here’s the deal. There are parts of Brett Kavanaugh’s testimony I believe. I don’t believe he was bragging about a threesome when he mentioned a Devil’s Triangle. I do believe it was a drinking game with cups set up in a triangle. It’s typical that a kid hears a term and then morphs it into something in their own world. Threesome’s aren’t much of a part of a teenager’s world… drinking games are. Boofing? I have no idea what that really means. Again, I’m leaning towards a dumb teenage phrase. I remember us. We were stupid. I think Michael Avennati’s accusations are false. I don’t think BK ran a rape ring. But, I do believe the college story… again, fits the times and I could imagine it happening, exactly as she said.

However, the majority of Kavanaugh’s testimony was not credible. He dodged questions. He lied throughout, downplaying his drinking. Downplaying the culture of the time. And he portrayed the classic behavior of someone privileged who is being held accountable for his actions for the first time in his life. He believes he is owed the Supreme Court. It will be the perfect ending to his wealthy, privileged life, and when he might be denied the thing he thinks is his, he threw a tantrum. He was rude. He was partisan. He was biased.

Dr. Ford was calm. She was collected. She did not dodge a single question. Despite the Conman-In-Thief mocking her testimony, she actually did provide details about the things he said she didn’t know. She was even able to provide scientific backup to questions. Her story rang true. I could put myself in her position, and see it all happening.

Do I think Brett Kavanaugh intended to rape her? No. Am I sure he even remembers the incident? No. Perhaps he honestly doesn’t. Because to him, I’m sure it was nothing. He was drunk, and he was doing what boys his age did in that current culture. He and his friend probably thought everyone was having a good time, partly because it didn’t really matter how she felt, and partly because he meant it in fun, so it was fun. He threw her down, copped a feel, covered her mouth when she resisted, and then his buddy jumped on top of them in a goofy drunken moment, breaking it up. Then, in an alcohol haze, with nobody to have fun with anymore, he moved on, probably forgetting the whole thing in moments. Maybe it was more sinister, I don’t know, but the scene I painted is plausible for the times and both parties could come away with the version they tell now.

Would those actions make him unfit for the office of the Supreme Court? Nope. Not if he had responded something like this:

I testify before you, a humbled man. I did many things in high school and college I am no longer proud of. It was a different time and a different culture. I think back, and wish I could undo some of the things I did. I drank too much, and I was underage. I probably did and said things under the influence of alcohol I would never have done or said if I had been sober. It shames me, but I have learned so much in the past 36 years. I no longer drink to excess, because I know that will alter my actions. I no longer see women as a means to and end. Having daughters myself, I understand how I disrespected girls at the time. I don’t want them to have that experience. I don’t remember that evening, but if Dr. Ford’s testimony is true… even if it’s only partly true… I humbly and sincerely apologize for the pain I caused. I was a stupid boy, and I did not mean to hurt you. I am sorry. Deeply. Please forgive me.

Had that been his response, I, and millions of women across America, would have sighed a deep sigh of relief. Finally, a man would have been a man, owned his actions, and apologized. While I still wouldn’t like that this man is on the Supreme Court, I could have relaxed knowing that he was an honest man. Instead we now know that his is a liar, completely partisan, and will do anything to protect his ego. He doesn’t care what his nomination does to the country. He deserves it. It’s his and he’ll take what he wants. So, in other words, nothing has changed in his life since that night in a bedroom at a party.

We also know that the Republicans in office have insured that for the rest of many of our lives, we are going to have a proven liar on the Supreme Court who hates Democrats/Liberals/Progressives, and now has an axe to grind with women. Until the day we die, most women will no longer feel we have access to justice in this country. The fair and independent judicial branch on our tree of Democracy will die when he is sworn in.

Bruce MacKinnon’s editorial cartoon for Sept. 29, 2018.

Brett Kavanaugh does not have the temperament, and is not fit for office. Only one party nominated him, rushed him through the process without full disclosure, and then covered their butts with a phony 5-day FBI investigation that only interviewed 9 people. Years and millions of dollars were spent investigating Hillary without a single charge, and they’re still screaming for more investigation, but one week and 9 interviews, none of who were principal players is just fine for a lifetime appointment. Hypocrisy much?

 

As a woman, you must vote in 2018 like your life depends on it. Because it does.

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Weaning Myself off Amazon

Before I get to the main topic, I want to speak to any writers who read my blog. There is a terrific podcast out there called Write or Die. Authors are interviewed about the road to publication and it is eye opening. I knew it was a long process, but until I listened to these authors, I had no idea how long. A part of me thinks it would have been good to know it can take 8 or 9 years to get a book from written to published before I took my leap. My 3 year financial cushion wasn’t nearly enough. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I didn’t know, or I never would have taken the leap. Give it a listen. It’s great information about getting published.

Now to the title – I’ve made the decision to end my Prime Membership and wean myself off Amazon. It’s something more Americans might want to consider. Let me lay out the reasons.

  1. Brick and mortar stores have long warned that Amazon hurts local businesses. Local businesses employ local people, giving them money to spend, and building thriving local economies. I’ll admit there have been many times I have ordered products through Amazon that I know I could get locally, but it seemed so much easier to have it show up on my doorstep, rather than drive to get it. There was a good chance the price was better too.
  2. Amazon’s policies are impossible for smaller businesses to compete with, and are creating entitled customers who expect the same service. No shipping expense, and if you don’t like it, you don’t pay to ship it back. Package stolen – Amazon refunds it fully or sends another, without many questions asked. When a business isn’t doing the volume Amazon does, they lose all profit with those policies. But if they don’t provide them, they lose all customers.
  3. Amazon is the poster child for corporate greed – Recently, on the same day they announced huge profits, blasting through all expectations, they also raised the fee for Prime Membership citing rising costs. Riiiiiiiight. Jeff Bezos has so much money he’s using it to go to space, but he can’t pay his workers a living wage, and provides horrible working conditions. When Seattle tried to tax Amazon to help the homeless population, which has grown due to the high cost of living in the area, partially due to tech companies, Amazon fought back and killed the tax.
  4. And for me, there’s a final kicker. They broadcast extremist views that are contributing to the deaths of Americans – NRA-TV.

I’ve got until December before my Prime membership renews, but I’ve already begun the process. I can’t get my cat food anywhere in town, but I can get it through PetCo. I’m searching out item after item and am finding it locally, ordering it directly from the manufacturer, or at the very least, another distributor. That doesn’t mean I won’t use Amazon from time to time. In fact, if I’m trying a new product, that’s exactly who I’ll go to, precisely for the free shipping and easy returns. But once I know I like something, I’ll buy it elsewhere.

Greed is not good, and right now neither is Amazon.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather