By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
My bread’s gonna be squished.
I remember thinking that as my hands flew up into the air and my eyes squinted to adjust to the light shining in my face.
Having decided that shopping was more economically sound than eating out every night (I never bothered to actually do the math before), I was on my way back from Ralphs. As I walked down the street to my apartment, visions of sandwiches and beer danced around my brain. This shopping thing was a good idea.
“Where you going?!” A booming voice shattered the quiet reflection.
Now, it may be interesting to note that I had about $150 to my name, wasn’t running or skulking behind anything, was dressed in a jacket and tie and . . . oh yeah! . . . had two bags of groceries in my hands. And as pissy as I may seem right now, I swear none of this outrage or disgust was roaming through my head at the time. I should have been pissed off, right? I wasn’t doing anything illegal. Hell, I wasn’t doing anything except walking home with groceries. I didn’t even see them there, which was scary enough, but when I looked up and saw the police car, I was actually afraid.
“I live in that building on the end there, I just came from shopping at the Ralphs. I got receipts for all my food, and my wallet’s in my pocket here if you wanna get it out.”
“You don’t have to be a smart ass!”
Oh, this is great: one of the few times in my life when I’m not being sarcastic and I’m gonna get my ass beat for it.
Then I thought: They could shoot you.
They could shoot you and kill you! Don’t move! Just fucking be still!
One of the first things I ever knew about L.A. cops was the Rodney King incident. I hear ya groaning, guys, but you have to know that one’s just never gonna die. Speaking of things that will be in the collective consciousness for a while, R-A-M-P-A-R-T.
Of course, I did see some LAPD officers break up a fight in front of the Standard Hotel one night. In that instance, there was a white guy and a black guy. Both a little drunk and both throwing punches. Outta nowhere, six squad cars pull up (they are good at that), cops jump out, Mace the black guy down, handcuff him and ask the white kid if he’s all right. And let’s not forget the story about another videotaped beating in L.A. in which the police were let off scot-free.
And there it was. I’m 29 years old. I have been all over this country and have met cops from all walks of life. I’m a black man and I know what it is to be stopped for no reason. But I have never been afraid that the police would actually shoot me. As long as I didn’t do anything wrong, I have always said my piece and let them get as pissed as they want. I’ve argued with cops before, but I didn’t think I was going to die during the encounter.
“No, sir . . .” I answer the cop.
“Sir?” What is that? I’m calling this jackass “Sir.”
And they sped off just as abruptly as they appeared. I picked up my groceries, thanked God that I was all right, and went home to make sliced-turkey sandwiches on squished bread.
Forty years ago, Martin Luther King Jr. led the nation to Washington and told us that there would be a day when we would all be judged equally. Forty years later and there are things that are better, things that are worse, and there are some things that are exactly the same. Yeah, they could have killed me, but at least they needed me to give them a reason. Progress.
The Dybbuk in the Cemetery
Venturing out at dusk like bats from our cave, we arrived at Hollywood Forever Cemetery — the streets of the necropolis lit with tiki torches — and made our way past the phallic Otis monument, the diminutive Mel Blanc tombstone, the polished black granite slabs etched with the photos of recently deceased Russian immigrants. By the time we reached the cemetery’s southeastern corner adjacent to Paramount Studios, several hundred people were already picnicking on the only open grassy space not occupied by graves. DJ Brandon Hall set the pulse with a mix of melancholy but celebratory klezmer, hip-hop and down-tempo: Pharaoh’s Daughter segued into Blood Oranges, Davka into Billie Holiday into Mickey Katz, source of the memorable line, “She even cha-chas when she shlufts.” And then came The Dybbuk, the 1938 Polish/Yiddish film noted for its “Hasidic Gothic” visual style, projected onto the mausoleum wall.
The screening is the brainchild of Tali Pressman, the 23-year-old director of a new organization, Avada, whose mission, under the umbrella of Yiddishkayt L.A., is to bring people under 35 to a new appreciation of Yiddish language and culture. “Yiddish can be a hard sell, especially to my generation,” says Pressman, who has, with tonight’s program, conjured a canny juxtaposition of Old World and New, mystery and schmaltz, love-in and summer camp.
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