OffBeat recently experienced a small, manageable — well, okay, flagrant, Technicolor — er — rodent problem at the family compound in Echo Park. While not technically vegans, we like animals, and put off dealing with the rats until they began gnawing their way into our Tupperware oats container. The first rat guy seemed skeptical of the neighborhood. "Do you live by the lake?" he asked. "Because if you do, we’re not going to be able to do a thing about it." Luckily we were far enough from the septic pond that our rats (a family of seven, it turned out) were dispatched with ease.
But we were aghast that here in L.A. — the City for the 21st Century, as Mayor Riordan so wistfully puts it — there are places where the rodents have won the war. So we decided to inquire with our friendly rat man, Marco Rojas of Arnold’s Pest Control.
We weren’t surprised to learn that rats are tough to root out in urban slaughterhouses and feedlots. But Beverly Hills, with its abundant fruit trees and luxuriant garbage, also has a big rat problem, he said. And Rojas was just full of handy rat stats:
Most unusual infestation: a Mercedes-Benz sedan. The rats got in through the firewall.
Most difficult infestation to dislodge: a duck ranch in La Puente. Poison was out because it would have killed the ducklings, and the rats had taught themselves to use the nipple feeding system set up for the baby ducks in their brooder hatches.
Most diabolical point of entry: phone lines. "Rats are like acrobats, and they can squeeze their bodies through very tight holes," Rojas said.
Best self-preservation strategy: Rats love avocados, which just happen to contain vitamin K-1, an antidote to the active ingredient in common rat poisons.
Rojas pooh-poohed the idea that rats climb into cribs to bite babies, or have their own communication network that sends out alerts on trap locations and poisons. Hey, after Rojas’ cheery tutorial, we have to admit we almost miss the little guys!
THINGS GO BETTER WITH . . .
If Coca-Cola’s marketing gurus are looking for a new slogan, here’s one possibility — wherever there is Coke, there’s always a racial-discrimination lawsuit. Just two weeks ago, four African-American professionals filed a class-action complaint in Georgia federal court claiming racial discrimination in pay, promotions and performance evaluations at the soft-drink multinational’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta. Then, last Friday, Robert Molett — an African-American financial analyst for Coke’s L.A. corporate branch on Central Avenue — filed his own discrimination suit, echoing many of the same allegations. Molett’s lawyers think the dual suits suggest an endemic problem. "For one on the East Coast and one on the West Coast to be going on . . . it looks like there’s a big problem for African-Americans in that organization," said Tim Greene, a spokesman for the lawyers.
How big a problem? Both lawsuits allege that management maintains a glass ceiling keeping upper-management positions out of the reach of African-Americans. The Georgia lawsuit described an Atlanta meeting at which an executive from an Alabama bottling company referred to himself by the Ku Klux Klan title "The Grand Cyclops" — without any reaction from mostly white Coke executives. The suit also alleges an ethnic-marketing meeting in April 1998 at which a Coke manager "showed a picture of a rundown inner-city neighborhood and said words to the effect that ‘This is where black people live.’"
The Coca-Cola Four on the East Coast have recruited the attorney who won a record $176 million settlement from Texaco in 1996, when top execs were caught on tape making racial slurs. They also hope to include an additional 1,500 past and current employees of the company in their suit. But don’t count the West Coast out just yet — since Molett filed his suit last Friday, his attorneys have heard from four more employees considering suits of their own. Could it be another Texaco? Coke’s legal department said it had not heard about the lawsuits yet, but that in any case "we’ve made every effort to abide by the law."—Lou Rutigliano
BULLET BAN BUST?
In the wake of the Columbine High School shootings, OffBeat decided to see how young Niko and Theo Milonopoulos of Los Angeles were faring with their campaign to ban bullet sales in the city. Alarmed by the Ennis Cosby killing, the sixth-graders started their kids-only petition drive a year ago so that children, in the words of their mother, Constantina, "could feel empowered." OffBeat assumed the 15 deaths at Columbine would lend the media-savvy twins’ cause new urgency. But the topic barely came up during our sit-down at a Studio City coffee shop. Apparently, Los Angeles has more than enough homegrown violence to keep the flame burning; Constantina was appalled by an August L.A. Timesarticle listing 10 young children killed by guns — seven of them in gang crossfire. "Kids think that adults should be the ones protecting them," she said, waving the article.