By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
The auditorium is packed. Contestants have been scrubbed and polished since dawn and now it’s 10 and MC Dirck Morgan invites groups of five Tiny Tots at a time to appear onstage with their parents and . . . do . . . something. Wander around, wave, smile. The parents try to direct the something toward the judges and the audience, hoping that at least the judges will wave and smile back, which will lead to more waving, more smiling and even big wide silly faces. But not every tot feels like waving. Many are content to wander freestyle, or stand in place staring at the audience with terror or indifference. One lifts her dress over her head and runs in place.
After a minute or so, MC Dirck asks the judges if they’ve had enough. Yes. The five Tiny Tots are hauled off and a herd of replacements brought in.
(Repeat.) (Repeat.) (Repeat.)
The judges retire to tabulate in their chambers with the Official Baby Show Tabulators, and raffle prizes are awarded. Gift certificates, passes, Ken®, Barbie®, Barbie®’s friend Kira®, Hello Kitty®, lunch box full of beef jerky. A 20-minute® intermission ensues for the next 45 minutes.
Artificial journalist takes a walk around Little Tokyo; retrieves coffee and near-perfect fruit tart from Yamazaki Bakery, basks in the slow Sunday morning, returns to find Tiny Tot winners — Best Smile, Best Personality, Most Photogenic (chosen prior to the pageantry) and the Tiny Tot Prince and Princess — posing for photographs onstage with MC Dirck and the judges and a larger-than-life Hello Kitty® costume, occupied. And posing, and waving, and smiling into the flashes continues almost as long as the division contest itself. Jesus.
At last, around noon, the Tiny Tots are expunged, MC Dirck and the judges are re-introduced as if no one who’d shown up at 10 could still be in the audience, and the Romper Stomper contestants are invited onstage in groups of five to wander and wave, to kneel before the judges’ table, to hug and cuddle with their parents and generally accomplish very little in the way of differentiating themselves from the Tiny Tots.
DIRCK: Judges? Are you . . .?
(Judges nod, with feeling.)
DIRCK (to audience): Thank you! We’ll take a half-hour break . . .
. . . for at least an hour, during which the judges again retire to tabulate while identical raffle prizes are awarded, this time with extra beef jerky. Artificial journalist takes opportunity to pick up ancient friend Bradford on Vignes Street, drive up to Colima Restaurant for chorizo and eggs and coffee and sangria. Returns to find audience thinned and MC Dirck asking an old baby, one of the Jet Setters, questions to establish a basis for the Best Personality Award:
MC DIRCK: Do you have a brother or sister?
OLD BABY: No.
MC DIRCK: If you did, what would you name him or her?
OLD BABY: Kiki.
MC DIRCK: That’s a nice name. Do you want to say Hi to anybody?
OLD BABY: No.
At 2:20 p.m., the last set of Jet Setters is escorted offstage. Tension in the air is nil as all await the day’s supreme citation: the crowning of the Jet Setter Prince and Princess.
But first, more beef jerky in a lunch box (“valued at $40”), a “$25 gift certificate to Ross Dress for Less, valued at $25,” VIP admission to the Sawdust Festival, more Barbie®s and Hello Kitty® dolls and Hello Kitty® jerky in a lunch box.
At 2:40, the oversize Hello Kitty® Costume reappears, and MC Dirck announces that young Wesley Yoshio Kitagawa will reign as prince and Allie Kei Sugane will reign as princess. The pair will wave and smile from atop the Tengu Beef Co. float — designed just for them — during the Nisei Week Grand Parade on Sunday, August 5, and the rest of us will line the streets, clapping and smiling and waving back, hoping to catch the approving gaze of temporary royalty.
It was a petty heist. A 4-year-old car battery approaching the end of its lead-based lifespan, swiped from my car, parked curbside, in front of my Miracle Mile home. Who would take the trouble, and the risk, of loosening the terminal blocks and straining to lift that dead weight out of a car? Since when is an unlocked, faded 1988 hatchback, without a radio (that was stolen years ago), a target of a person or persons unknown, armed with a 10mm open-end wrench and Sta-Lube waterless hand soap?
Marx’s slogan “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” immediately came to mind. Admittedly, the father of communism was writing about a stateless, utopian society that someday would emerge, but under the rude regimen of capitalism, his words resonate with an analogous meaning: Crime is economically determined. But I quickly discarded this interpretation. It is limned by liberalism, which blinds one to life’s more delicious motivations — motivations I barely suppress within myself. For example: If it ain’t nailed down, take it.
Those were words my grandfather lived by. He was a lifelong communist and ardent redistributionist, with a larcenous streak. He might have called it class revenge, but when he needed a bathtub for a house he was building, he pulled a job-site heist. He enlisted his son (my father) and his nephew to hoist that cast-iron and enamel boat anchor onto the bed of a pickup truck and . . . drive! I have no doubt that there was some crude economic justice in this. But the truth is, he was thumbing his nose at the boss, a dumbass who wouldn’t even notice the tub was missing. My grandfather was proving that he could swipe, right out from under the supposedly vigilant eye of his employer, the biggest, heaviest, most unwieldy object on the building site. I can hear the laughter as those rascals drove off.