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
In a leafy backyard in Eagle Rock, right across the street from Occidental College, Quetzal was serenading a few dozen progressive activists and their children, many of whom were exhausting themselves in a moon booth, or whatever people are calling those inflatable chambers for bouncing kids these days. Next to the moon booth was a cotton-candy machine, where Renata Garza, a member of Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg’s staff, padded one paper cone after another with silky spun sugar. She was perfecting her double rotation technique when her boss arrived and ruined a perfectly good party. Actually, it was Goldberg’s party, one of several local events she has scheduled to help mobilize the rank and file for the upcoming election.
“Tell everyone you know to go and vote,” said Goldberg, “and tell them to tell everyone they know to vote, and then tell them, once they’ve voted againstthe recall, to put down a vote for Bustamante. You may not want to, but it’s vital.”
The sound of small bodies pummeling taut vinyl was still faintly audible from the moon booth, but a pall fell over the adults.
“I know many of you would like to vote for Arianna Huffington,” she said. “Believe me, I would vote for Arianna myself. I agree with her on just about everything. But I’m going to the polls for Bustamante. If we want to keep Schwarzenegger out of Sacramento, that’s what we have to do. It’s that simple.”
Discontented murmurs could be heard at the mention of Bustamante’s name, while the combination of “Schwarzenegger” and “Sacramento” elicited sharp groans. Don’t get me wrong, said Goldberg more or less: She is thrilled that Huffington and Camejo have managed to put progressive issues on the nightly news — an achievement in its own right — but “polls show Schwarzenegger and Bustamante at a dead heat” and “a vote for Huffington or Pete Camejo only helps Schwarzenegger.”
Right about then a helicopter that had been circling nearby passed overhead, and I couldn’t keep the thought away that the Commando himself could be up there, ready to rappel from the side door and take down the whole party. If Goldberg noticed she didn’t let on. She wrapped up her comments and sat down in a chair beneath a tree. The guests returned to the Señor Fish taco buffet, and I approached the former City Councilwoman.
One on one, Goldberg sounded downright alarmist. At the governor’s desk, she said, Schwarzenegger’s Terminator moniker would take on new meaning because he will surely kill any remotely progressive legislation that comes his way. Goldberg could think of no bills she’s championed that he would have signed. And that includes Senate Bill 2, a landmark piece of legislation that just passed in the State Senate last week and would put California at the vanguard of progressive health care policy by providing insurance to millions of the working poor.
What’s more, she warned, a Schwarzenegger victory will translate into paralysis “because we’re not gonna let any of their stuff through, and at the same time our bills won’t get signed. It may make you feel good to vote for Huffington or Camejo, but it will just paralyze the Democratic legislative majority you elected. Sacramento will stand still for the next three years. We have to get the vote behind Bustamante. We have to put emotion aside in order to survive politically.”
When a young boy picked up a plastic guitar and joined Quetzal, pretending to play along, the Assemblywoman broke off to laugh. I took the opportunity to return to the cotton- candy machine, looking to pull something sweet out of thin air.CORNED BEEF AND WRY
Some of the regulars are beginning to pester Gary Canter. With uncanny instincts, they latch on to him as if he were an obliging nephew. One man, whose son Canter later tells me is in the restaurant business, walks up — skipping the line — and asks for a couple of sandwiches. “Don’t worry, you don’t have to stand on line,” Canter responds, knowingly. “Just be patient, I’ll get them for you.”
You’d expect that at the 55th-anniversary celebration of Canter’s in its Fairfax Avenue location (the first Canter’s opened in 1931 in Boyle Heights) the regulars would overwhelm the joint. Especially when a corned beef on rye, with a pickle and chocolate rugelach, was priced, from noon to midnight this Monday, at 55 cents — 94 percent off the regular $8.93 price. Whatta deal. Canter, a third-generation member of the family-owned establishment, estimates that by midnight 10,000 sandwiches will be served, consuming 6,000 pounds of brisket pickled and steamed into 5,000 pounds of corned beef. But now he’s got that pestering customer to deal with.
“I knew there’d be some asshole today,” he tells me, sotto voce. Meaning, it’s not enough that you’re giving the food away for practically nothing; there’ll always be someone who wants more — even if it’s just the satisfaction of using a bit of pull to go to the head of the line. “I’ve got two sandwiches from this morning back behind the bakery counter. Let’s see what he’ll do,” Canter adds, grinning. A few minutes later, he returns with a plastic bag and hands it over. The man takes the bag and, waving his parking stub, says, “Gary, Gary, can you validate this?” Canter takes the ticket and scrawls “Fuck You” on it and laughs. The man, clueless, thanks Canter politely and walks confidently toward the parking lot.