Yesterday I flew to Los Angeles for a hearing downtown. After that, I met my nephew, Patrick, at Chaya on Flower Street for an early dinner. I spent the night in a hotel, and now I am killing time waiting for my flight back home.
When I kill time in Los Angeles, I do it driving, and when that happens I inevitably end up in Santa Monica.
This morning I stopped at Fromin’s Deli on Wilshire, my favorite deli in Los Angeles (sorry Canter’s and Art’s) for a smoked whitefish and lox bagel and a cup of good coffee.
I felt at home and at peace, foregoing my cell phone to look at the people around me. Very old people, meeting in groups of friends, sitting with family. Very young children, filling the air with high-pitched staccato sounds that only very young children can make, totally ignored by the other customers and lost in the white noise murmur of many people talking. I watched the staff greeting regular patrons and leading them to the table or booth of their choice. I sat for a very long time watching and listening, with no one rushing me or bothering me other than to quietly refill my coffee cup. I breathed a deep, deep sigh and left.
I drove west on Wilshire with no destination in mind. On impulse I turned left on 26th Street, driving north, turning left on Montana Avenue to drive west down the hill. I drove slowly, no one around me in a hurry, every driver polite, stopping so old people, young people, new families with their infants, couples and singles out for a stroll, could cross the street in safety.
I looked for places familiar to me, most of which were gone, replaced by a sparkling explosion of shops, restaurants and cafe’s, all crowded, with those waiting outside for a table talking and laughing, often with paper cups of coffee in hand. Not the same as it was, but not bad either. Not bad at all.
And around it all, on every corner, along every street, in front of every apartment complex and every home I saw plants and trees, as if the entire city was an enormous garden. I suddenly remembered walking those same streets as a teenager intoxicated from the scent of night blooming flowers, of jasmine and natal plum.
Montana ends at Ocean Avenue. I turned left, traveling south along Palisades Park, a long, thin, beautiful place at the edge of the sudden bluff overlooking the Pacific.
I saw people, so many people, running, strolling, jogging, lifting weights, performing group exercises. Old people, young people, black people, white people, Latino people, asian people, gay people, rich people, poor people – all enjoying a beautiful, beautiful early Saturday afternoon. Together.
I turned left on Santa Monica Blvd., driving up to 20th, turning left, then up to Montana again. And here I sit in the quite of the Santa Monica Library, Montana Branch, typing this. Because I had to.
This is my home. This is my America. Not the America of racism and hate. Not the America that wants to preserve the right of employers and landlords to openly discriminate against LGBT people. Not the America that is certain our President was born in Kenya. Not the America that wants everyone armed, even crazy people.
I know that America. I’ve been there. I’ve witnessed the dark madness that is spreading outward from the American Heartland. I’ve seen the anger and fear. I’ve seen the itchy trigger fingers waiting for an excuse to use a high powered automatic weapon to kill someone, not for protection – which is a legitimate concern – but for sport, disguised as the desire to live free.
To them – those lost Christians who have forgotten the love, acceptance and nonjudgmental forgiveness that Jesus taught, replacing it with hate, fear and mindless dogma that they can barely understand but wrap themselves within nevertheless – the happiness and peace I see here in Santa Monica is wrong, is evil, and must be replaced with inequality, racial segregation, legal discrimination, social stratification that engenders a desperate labor pool, sickness and ignorance (in Texas, Bill Nye (the Science Guy) was booed when he told an audience that the moon didn’t make any light, that all of the light we see from the moon is reflected sunlight. They booed him for disagreeing with their ignorant fantasy and for telling them a truth they didn’t want to hear. If you understand why they didn’t want to hear it you will understand the dark madness that is eating away at the heart and soul of my country).
But this is my home. This is my America. That other America is a foreign, ugly nightmare I will not accept. All around me, right here, is the America I am fighting for. It is the America I want everyone to join. Everyone. I want an America where more and more – not less and less – people can enjoy what I see around me in good health and long life with the goal of having everyone join. Everyone. I realize it is probably impossible to achieve, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?
Well, that’t it. Time to pack up my little office, give my table space to some retired old man and his wife so they can read the newspaper together.
I’ve got a couple more hours to kill. Maybe I’ll drive up Pico to the Apple Pan for a hickory burger and a piece of pie.
Yep. That is exactly what I am going to do.
I love LA.
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