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
It was about 5 p.m. last Wednesday, a bad time to drive from Long Beach to Los Angeles, a bad time to drive anywhere. The 405 onramp to the Long Beach Freeway was predictably clogged. It was, in fact, barely moving at all. A dozen or so cars idled between me and my destination, the admittedly unwelcoming stop-and-go asphalt of the freeway. But a narrow slot existed, just a couple of yards wide, between the clot of cars and the rightmost extreme of the pavement.
My car is an extremely small car, some say unnaturally so. Schoolchildren stop on the sidewalk and laugh when I drive by. Teenagers mock me at red lights. Tall friends must be gently creased and folded if they're to fit in the seat beside me. One of the few advantages of such a tiny car -- which almost makes up for the sheer terror of driving it along the truck-heavy 710, like an anchovy among great whites -- is its ability to fit in spaces larger cars cannot.
So I did not feel I was doing any wrong when I pulled out of line and into the narrow alley to the right of the waiting cars, slowly but steadily cruising past the first 10 or so, deliverance in sight. Then, above my music, which was very, very loud, I heard an engine revving and saw something white jutting out in front of me from the left. I slowed. I heard it rev again, and it jutted out some more. It was the front bumper of the car beside me, and though I understood it was attempting to block my path, I couldn't figure out why until I turned to my left. There, I saw a balding 50-something white man behind the wheel of a sports car, a profile that put him at high risk for attacks of coronary thrombosis, erectile dysfunction and chronic road rage. He showed all the symptoms of the latter. His pudgy face had turned a splotchy pink; his hands gestured rabidly; his little mouth flapped about like a guppy's. I couldn't hear a word he was saying, but I understood it to be something like How-dare-you-go-where-I-can't-you-puny-little-shit-I'll-crush-you.
I beheld the scene in wonder, fully awed at the state he'd worked himself into, and looked on with some satisfaction as, overcome by fury, he let up on the brakes and crashed softly but firmly into the Toyota in front of him. The driver of that car, an African-American woman with the air of an elementary school principal who has let one too many spitballs fly by, got out to inspect the damage. (As far as I could tell, there was none.) My friend's rage only grew, his lips still flapping, his index finger stabbing spastically at the air in accusation. It was, after all, my fault. I shrugged sympathetically, watched his face turn from pink to a terrible violet, and drove off at a smooth 20 miles an hour. I waited until I was out of pistol range to let the laughter burst, and gave my blessing to a well-ordered universe.
Wonks vs. the Real World: The Native Brain on Drugs
THURSDAY AFTERNOON NEAR DOWNtown, at the Robert Sundance Family Wellness Center, an intertribal gathering place on Temple Street that provides health and human services for local Native Americans, four men play the drums and quietly sing as 60-plus people take seats on folding chairs to hear John Walters, head of the White House Office of Drug Control Policy, a.k.a. President Bush's drug czar. Dave Rambeau, executive director of United American Indian Involvement, Inc., stands at the head of the room, which is usually reserved for adult day care and A.A. meetings. On display are new anti-drug posters featuring kids and elders communing amid amber waves of grain, and copy that reads, "Grandmother, when you talk, I will listen. When you teach, I will learn."
"We're honored to have John Walters here today," Rambeau says. "We will begin the presentation with a prayer song."
Drummer John Funmaker offers a prayer in HoCak (language of the Winnebago tribe). Margo Kerrigan, California
director of Indian Health Service, then talks about the importance of getting the anti-drug message to urban areas.
"There's a tendency to not see Native peoples in urban areas," Kerrigan says, "but we're here, and this is the audience we're trying to reach."
She turns over the podium to Walters, who wears a smart tan suit and an earnest expression.
"It's the first time we've specifically reached out to the Native community," says Walters, reading from a prepared text. "We believe it's important we craft it effectively so that it reaches both youths and adults effectively."
Walters signals a PR person to roll tape: a 30-second ad starring a bare-chested, loin-clothed Native youth running past mesas, fancy-dancing in full regalia, riding a horse and working on an oil-painting of a warrior, while his narration explains over the warble of flute music, "It's about not doing drugs."
"This ad will run tonight on ABC, and also on BET, MTV, Nickelodeon and the Sci-Fi Channel," says Walters, adding that print ads will appear in hundreds of newspapers and magazines on and around reservations. "We worked with the attitudes and beliefs of American Indian adults and youth to develop powerful, effective ads."