by RIP RENSE
HE WENT FOR A
LITTLE WALK. . .
(March 30, 2005)
went out for a long walk early the other morning, to “greet the brand
new day,” as John Lennon sang; to help usher in the spring outburst of
roses, crepe myrtle blossoms, azaleas, camellias, etc.
Instead, of course, I found
distraction. Try as I might to ignore it, human behavior tends to just shout
down beauty and delicacy.
Spring was drowned out, for the
most part, by large vehicles manned by creatures who do not have the
faintest idea what to do at four-way stop signs. And who are all too ready
to back up their paralyzing stupidity with ostentatious and vociferous
displays of ego.
Usually beginning with that
favorite of all words in the English language: the one beginning with “f”
and ending in “k.” With two other letters in between.
Then there were the
“homeless,” people who were once known as “bums,” asking me for “spare
change,” and always making a point of addressing me as “sir.” I get more
respect from bums than I ever did from newspaper editors. Most of which, in
my view, should be on sidewalks asking for spare change.
Especially the one who
explained that I could not write a column for the L.A. Times specifically
because I am white and male.
Anyhow, I loped along an old
cracked sidewalk toward Santa Monica, occasionally nodding a “good morning”
to a rare pedestrian or dog-walker---usually getting a baffled or frightened
look in return. Why is the man in the brown felt hat greeting me? What
does he really want?
In one case, I found myself
walking behind a lovely young woman in a floral skirt who, judging by the
violent jiggling of her haunches, seemed to be wearing no underwear. She was
going at a good clip, too, with long athletic legs working hard to haul that
unrestrained, gelatinous bustle. It looked like a most uncomfortable walking
I momentarily considered
asking if having two big slabs of adipose tissue vigorously colliding
with every step is problematic, but I figured this might be considered
At last I reached the famed
Third Street Promenade, which was delightfully devoid of the throng of
hormone-crazed tattooed smoking surly children who glom on to the place like
bees on a hive, most nights. Scattered folk on their way to work sipped from
the inevitable Starbucks cups; a strange mini-street sweeper went round and
round like a manic fly, its 21st century technology somehow failing to
vacuum up cigarette butts left behind by hormone-crazed tattooed smoking
I perused CDs for a while in
Hear Music, but Hear Music had little that I wanted to Hear. Certainly not
the new Beck album. Funny how a guy who is calculatedly designed to look so
uncalculating sells so well. And I really wasn’t interested in Elvis
Costello’s composing debut, despite reviews that compare it to (gasp)
Gershwin. I figure there are a lot of composers with better work that will
never be recorded because they are not pop stars with fake, goofy names.
As I wandered out, people
had proliferated on the Promenade, including requisite musicians and
propagandists. I determined to smile politely, say “no thank you,” and move
on as I passed a group of young men handing out flyers.
But I couldn’t. How can you
“move on” past a scruffy, unwashed 20-ish punk with aggressively uncombed
hair, as he sucks on a cigarette and proclaims, “Nuclear Power is the
answer!” I mumbled my "no thanks," took a few steps as I perused the flyer,
and stopped. Young people espousing nuclear power?
One of Nuke Boy’s accomplices
promptly assailed me about how awful Bush’s social security plans are. They
“We agree on that,” I
said, then noted the name of the young man’s sponsor on the flyer: Lyndon
LaRouche is, of course, a
minor megalomaniac who has cultivated small-time political clout for
decades, long dismissed as a highly literate kook by anyone with a
marginally reasoning brain. He is also a convicted felon who served five
years for defrauding senior citizen supporters. Yet he is making a comeback,
at age 157. Go to any protest rally and you will find hordes of happy kids
handing out LaRouche stuff. Some of them are very talented---I once saw a
group of about twenty a cappella singers concertizing admirably as
they distributed flyers---and all look very earnest.
“Oh, LaRouche,” I said. “No,
The young man was handsome,
with blonde hair and a short red beard, but his face went suddenly
contorted, tense, ugly.
“That’s what everyone
says." he snarled. "Why don’t you like LaRouche?”
“Many reasons,” I said, turning
“What are they?”
“I’m not obligated to explain
my opinions to you, any more than you are obligated to explain yours to me.”
“Yes I am!”
Now that was idealistic. His
jaw was set, his eyes sharp and flinting. I felt a little sorry for him,
so I sought to engage in what the liberals like to call “a healthy exchange
of ideas.” I told him that I’d been a journalist for a long time, and had
read about LaRouche through the years, had even read some of his writing,
and concluded that he was flying without a plane.
“Huh,” laughed Red Beard. “I’ve
talked to a LOT of journalists here, and they ALL say the same thing. So
what don’t you like about him? Do you think he’s EVIL?”
I told him I had no idea what
his motivations or ethics might be. Then I made the mistake of beginning a
sentence with, "Now, I've been here a bit longer than you have, and---"
The poor kid. His only
verbal comeback was the outburst of a six-year-old.
"So. . .That doesn't make me
smarter or wiser than you, but it does give me far more data on which to
formulate perceptions and base conclusions."
I had his ear again, which was
to his credit.
“Here you have a man,” I
continued, “who has been seeking power and legitimacy since well before you
were born. He exhausted credibility with most people long ago, and now is
cynically exploiting the young. He is usurping their idealism and sincerity
in order to reestablish a power base. He reels them in with anti-Bush views
about social security, for instance.”
Red Beard smirked triumphantly.
“They killed Socrates for
I brushed aside shock that
anyone under 30---or 40---even knows the name, Socrates, and replied, “THEY
killed Socrates for THAT. What does that mean?”
“For corrupting young people!”
“I never said he was corrupting
them. I said he is exploiting them.”
Red Beard’s face went relaxed
again, but the eyes remained suspicious.Suffice to say that I jawed with him
for about five more minutes, essentially repeating my point as gently as
possible. Yet no matter what I said, Red Beard kept coming back to asking me
if I thought LaRouche was "evil." He couldn’t get past it.
“As I’ve said many times now,”
I replied, “I don’t know what goes on in LaRouche’s mind, or what his
motives are. Perhaps, like Oprah, he mistakenly thinks he is doing good in
That seemed to satisfy him,
as his face relaxed and he suddenly looked like he had important persons
to assail. More important than a crackpot like me, who could not understand
that LaRouche and Socrates belong in the same sentence. I thanked him for
his “open-mindedness and courtesy," which he really seemed to appreciate, as
he pumped my hand solidly, and I moved on.
A couple blocks later, a small
white car made a right turn in front of me. I recognized white-haired Tom
Hayden at the wheel. Tom Hayden, one of the Chicago Seven, a titular
“sixties radical” once married to Jane Fonda, an actress and fitness
enthusiast now getting a hip replacement.
I rather like Tom, as he always
endeavors to reason with people, just as I do, despite the fact that it is
certainly a lost cause. I waved. He took note of me, squinting as if trying
to figure out if we were acquainted, so I smiled and flashed a symbol from a
bygone era that once rallied hearts and minds behind the notion of “peace
He waved back.
And I made my way home,
musing on my encounters with jiggling haunches, respectful bums,
suspicious pedestrians, the post-1984 1984 LaRouche Newspeak Child, and a
quixotic one-time ’60s “radical” bent on making the world more sane.
The azaleas and camellias and
roses and crepe myrtle blossoms shouted.
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