A Night in L.A.
Faithful Readers, If you've been wondering why it's over a month since my last contemplative sortie, it's because school started several weeks ago. That's right, I have a day job- high school English teacher & Debate Coach. Mundane? Limited in purview to the local universe? Of course, yet extensive and far-flung in its own right. It does, unfortunately, keep me from the blogosphere, which does not, at present, pay the bills. Thus I have seemed to remain silent on such weighty matters as President Bush's comeuppance at the hands of Katrina. His coerced and resentful indirect admission of guilt was certainly historic, but you know he's just waiting for another man-made atrocity to get our minds off it. Such dreary thoughts do not at present have the force to drag me from the quotidien bog, however it is news when occasionally I have an L.A.night, as I did this last full-moon-lit Saturday eve. We went to "Open Mic Night" at the Fake Gallery, Paul Kozlowski's fabulous comedy club on Melrose, where dirt cheap prices get you a night of men and women whose words and voices you know from cartoons, or adolescent Comedy Central stints and sit-coms, or commercials and other platitudinous narrations- always restrained and under the unseen yoke, yet at the Fake they are transmogrified to brilliance, enhanced by an artful simulacrum of low rent Bohemia ( a VERY artful simulacrum). They are funny, much funnier than in their paying roles. Because my son does their sound and lighting, we have discoverd and invaded this most exclusive and select of venues. So, to continue, last night one of the best acts was a young woman named Nun Hung Low, a comedienne with a poignant faux-Asian shtick which I was at pains to appreciate because before she went up on the stage she came over and asked me to accompany her. She seated me on a chair and announced that she would hypnotize me. After putting a red shawl over my head, through which I dimly saw her, she did a quick hocus-pocus and said "Ok, now you asleep! You stay that way, then when I snap my fingers you wake up and think you a big fat fish." The thing is, I've been trying to lose weight, and as my students are always reminding me, trying is everything. I watched Nun warily through the veil as the shtick continued: "...I say I have boyfriend but I no have a boyfriend. I just say I have boyfriend so friends think I'm ok. Like they come over and I say 'I'm so depressed because my boyfriend he so stupid.'" Finally the moment came and she whipped off the veil, snapped her fingers and said "Ok, now you a big fat fish!" Damn if I'm not still one the next morning! Sorcery! Anyway, the weirdness continued at intermission, when I went out on Melrose to breathe the night air and ponder the hidden dangers of comedy. Within moments, however, I heard the thunder of three or four helicopters with searchlights converging on a spot on Melrose several blocks to the west. And coming at us from that spot were a hive of flashing red lights, and a blossoming wail of police sirens. Something was surely afoot. And before I knew it, the foot was clear: it was a police chase. In the lead was a sedan containing four or five Hispanic guys. They seemed to be chilling. The driver had his left arm resting out the rolled-down window and was not driving particularly fast. As he approached the theater, though, he veered over the center divider as if he intended to plow into us, then righted his course. As he and his friends rushed past to their dubious destiny, they were followed by at least twenty police cars, all with flashing lights and sirens blaring, and all of this trailed in the dark city sky by the helicopters, so that the spotlights flashed along Melrose highlighting the frantic parade, like some circus gone mad. I called home to ask my other son if the chase was on the news. It was not, nor was it mentioned in any newspaper the following morning, or on any radio news show. This lack of note, perhaps, is what really made this my Night In L.A. I was born in Bismarck, North Dakota, where a scene like this would have kept the Bismarck Tribune in a state of alert for years. But this is L.A., where you can be funny without being lynched, where a parade from another universe is forgotten in the wind, where fame is a form of obscurity, and memory an art, and, sadly, where a total stranger can turn you into a big fat fish.