by RIP RENSE
Footnotes. . .
TO VIEW THE FOOTNOTES, CLICK
You find them
everywhere. Blowing down sidewalks, crumpled up in bushes, rumpled and stained in curbside
gutters. Bits and pieces of daily lives, discarded or lost, there at your feet. Each one a
chapter from a story, somewhere in the middle of a human book. Call them city footnotes. .
Footnote # 1: Discarded card
A "Platinum V.I.P. Entry Pass" to a
"gentleman's club," found in a gutter. On the back of this small card were
directions to the club, news that the bearer would receive a discount, and that the
"gentleman's club" featured "TOTAL NUDE ENTERTAINMENT."
My, how gentlemen have changed.
Footnote # 2: Spaced out
A note on a sheet of typing paper, in big
sloppy, friendly blue pen:
"I'm singing in 203. Sorry to take your
space. Please call me, and I'll be happy to move my car. Thanks for your patience. Ellen."
Included were phone numbers for "203," and Ellen's cell phone.
Now, trying to find parking spaces in L.A. is
like trying to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Trying to read parking
signs---sometimes four or five on one post, usually appearing to conflict with one
another---is no more difficult than doing your own taxes. Hapless drivers may be seen
endlessly circling the same block, faces wan and empty, a fleet of Flying Dutchmen doomed
to remain forever spaced out. . .
Ellen was wrong for taking a private space
without permission, but it was understandable, and she was winningly polite about it. Too
bad someone disagreed, evidenced by the word, "BITCH," scrawled on the upper
right of her note.
My guess is that this was written by one of the
"gentle- men" who enjoys "TOTAL NUDE ENTERTAINMENT."
Footnote # 3: Skool notez
Nothing less than an anthropological treasure!
An invaluable relic affording a wealth of sociological and linguistic data! A peek
directly into the psyches of teenaged girls in the year 2002, found on a sidewalk outside
of a junior high school.
Due to the highly idiosyncratic slang---drawing from
computer chat-room symbology and shorthand---excerpts are here translated into more
general language for easier con- sumption. Headed "2: Miki From: Nadia," here is
excerpt # 1:
"Hey gurly girl Waz up Me nuthin'
much, just here in 1st period doin' nothin'. Oh, my sister's birthday is tomorrow. I have
to wait 'til the summer 4 my b-day that sux."
Wow! What a specimen! Note the spectacularly
personal spelling and punctuation. Why, it's almost as though Nadia has had no schooling
Excerpt # 2 subtly revealed the cleverly hidden
purpose of the note:
"So, do you still like Paul? I think u
do, but then u did tell me about that other guy from the fair. Well, there r like no kute
guyz at this skool so I don't like n-e-one. I wanna go 2 monterey so I can c guyz."
Note the normal use of commas, and then the
utter absence of them---juxtaposed! Fascinating. Same with the whimsical capitalization.
But most interesting is the use of the throwaway, "like," heretofore thought to
occur only in spoken Idiotchild. Yet here we have proof that it has found its way
into the written patois of the puerile! How charming!
Footnote # 4: A Perfect find
A button, lying on a sidewalk, reading simply,
"I'M PERFECT." Had it been cast aside by some admirable soul in an epiphany of
humility? Merely dropped, and terribly missed, by an errant egomaniac? Tossed tearfully by
someone suffering a crisis in self-esteem? What was its source? A horrific self-help scam;
a conference a la Werner Erhard's EST-ian "embrace your flaws?"
I noticed several passers-by taking note of the
button, but not picking it up. Perhaps they lacked the confidence to wear it? Or too
keenly realized their own imperfections?
I grabbed it immediately.
Footnote # 5: Snapped up shots
A snapshot of Harry S. Truman's tomb, of all
things, on a lawn outside a cookie-cutter apartment building. I wasn't wondering so much
how someone had lost this as much as. . .why would anyone take a photo of Harry S.
Truman's tomb in the first place? Or perhaps this very thought had occurred to the
photographer, hence the photo's final resting place.
In the same vicinity, several days later, was a
photo of a lovely Caucasian woman with three chipper, happy looking kids who appeared to
be half-Asian. On the back was the name "Susan" and the date, 1997. I found
myself hoping that the apparently happy family was still happy, and that the three kids
had grown up into teenagers who knew how to spell "skool," and "Waz
City Footnote # 6: Going Postal
This was a photocopied fragment of a page,
signed by one "Julien," of "General Delivery"---apparently a
letter-carrier. It appeared to be an ultimatum, floating down a West Los Angeles
"Decide now to change, to make
something better or yourself. Begin by telling me where my bags are and all their
contents. Tell me what you saw, what you heard. Tell me you are becoming a better man."
What could one conjecture, but that Julien's
boyfriend had stolen the sacred U.S. Mail during a lover's spat? Or at least had the goods
on their disappearance? Think of the bills and Victoria's Secret catalogues that were
Post Office Pathos! Mail Bag Madness!
Footnote # 7: Death of "Death
of a Salesman"
A valiant attempt at mastering vocabulary by
one Agustin Estrada of "period two English" at an L.A. high school. What was
written on this grimy, folded classroom assignment was enough to take the "Art"
out of "Miller." To make Chekhov. . .check out. I would like to say that perhaps
poor Agustin was in an ESL class, but, alas. . .no.
The "Death of a Salesman---ACT 1
Vocabulary Test" test featured several paragraphs with many blanks in mid- sentence.
At the bottom of the page was a list of words to fit in the blanks. Agustin's choices had
turned "Salesmen" into "Ulysses." Or, possibly, Kerouac. Monty Python?
Anyway, here are excerpts, with the blank words in capital letters:
"Earlier that morning, each with a REGENT
in his hand, they eagerly washed and WITHER the car. . .Silently, he prayed for a little
Well, who doesn't? Especially when the
memory starts to go. . .It got better:
"The interview soon turned into one protracted
KNICKERS of the man's past. Although Poletti was initially ANEMIC about conducting his
first interview for the salesman position, he began to SIMONIZE and slump in his chair. .
Hey, maybe Agustin wasn't so far off. I think
we've all simonized during job interviews.
Footnote # 8: Throwaway lyric
Crudely folded and dropped under a car, whether
by accident or not, lay a piece of sheet music. I couldn't read the notes, but there were
some words: "just makin' my way, makin' my way, through the crowd. . .And I need
you. . .And I miss you." At the bottom, in small print, was the title: "A
An original work by an aspiring
tunesmith? Hardly. A bit of Internet hunting and pecking revealed this to be a song by no
less than Vanessa Carlton, a new artist selected by Rolling Stone as one of the top ten of
2002! Wow! I read a bit of her on-line official bio:
"She began the year by wrapping up her
highly anticipated A&M Records debut, Be Not Nobody, an intoxicating blend of earthy
sensuality and emotional resonance."
(Sounded like Agustin Estrada was her press
For the hell of it, I punched up "A
Thousand Miles" on Real Player.
I must say that Vanessa sounded like just
another pouty, troubled, self-centered young kid who played piano decently and could carry
a tune. The music was somewhere between John Tesh and Yanni---and there isn't much
If you ask me, it was all one protracted
Footnote # 9: Cluster time.
A classroom assignment of some sort, not
attempted, blowing down a street. At the top were the provocative words, "Cluster
Time." I looked around, but no one was clustering anywhere that I could see. On the
paper were a series of oddly configured oblong circles---twelve, all told, connected with
lines. The instructions read:
"Clustering is a great way to explore
a topic. Practice clustering by filling in the circles below with your ideas about the
topic in the center. Open your mind and write whatever pops into your head as you think
about the topic. Add more circles and lines if you have more ideas."
I opened my mind. Looking at the
"assignment" gave me some ideas about the state of current education. I thought
of another, more vernacular, use of the word "cluster," that might well apply to
those who drew up such stuff.
For more City Footnotes, watch this space. . .
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