by RIP RENSE
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: This
essay is shot
This was an assignment,
or attempted assignment, trampled in front of University High School in West
L.A.. (and perhaps duly so.) The name, “Domenique” was printed drunkenly in
the upper right corner. It appeared that the student had taken a shot, so to
speak, at an essay about guns. I’ll give Domenique the benefit of the doubt
and assume that the page I found was page two. Here is the verbatim text:
“or Bank give you gun if
u open a account. Allmost everybody have a gun.”
One can envision the
teacher trying to stimulate students to think about a controversial issue,
and to coax them into expressing some sort of thought about it. Perhaps the
teacher summarized various recent news stories about guns and gun control,
or took the bit from Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine” about a bank
giving out hunting rifles with every new account.
One can also envision
Domenique struggling to---no no, wait. It’s very hard to envision a high
school kid this illiterate, this tragically inept, this barely functional.
It’s additionally hard, and not a little frightening, because he or she is
“allmost everybody have a
I think I will steer a
wider berth around Uni High.
FOOTNOTE # 2:
“Cinthia walks over to
their bench & asks them what’s going on.”
Thus begins this
suspenseful bit of gossip, recorded on lined notebook paper, folded up and
discarded or lost a couple blocks from Uni High, near McDonald’s on
I must instantly point
out my complete shock at the fact the sentence had a period, “what’s” had
the apostrophe, and the writer used the correct “their.” (Under the
circumstances, I can forgive the ampersand.) This is far more than the
average adult is capable of, in this, the Bush “is our children learning”
era of “pre-owned used car’s!” and “I saw there new cat.”
This girl has a future
outside of McDonald’s.
The note continued:
“Cynthia, Erick, Estuardo---They
were making fun of us 3 making fun of other people so we went over to there
(Argh! I take it
“---& told them to stop
it. We came back because they would just yell at us. The thee of them walk
over to Leiza’s and Anthonys (Argh! again) bench and Cynthia tells
them. . .
“Cinthia---Okey you guys
its not right to judge people cause you guys aint better than others. I
think you guys should apologize to them.”
“Anthony (and) Leiza---Well
were sorry if we hurt you guys feelings.”
Gasp. Sniff. It’s a
touching, if largely apostrophe-deserted tale of understanding, tolerance,
and forgiveness! Hail the barely literate admirable young people! Pity their
sensitivity! Why, it renders the pitiful writing and punctuation on display
as almost trivial. There is hope yet!
The note ends with:
“(Anthony didn’t show up
Cinthia did his lines.)”
Everybody wants to grow up and be Jennifer Lopez and Brad Pitt. Well,
there’s more money in that than spelling and punctuation.
FOOTNOTE # 3: Sober
It was pock-marked and
torn from having been run over repeatedly, in a gutter near Westwood: a card
with a New Agey phantasmagorical sprite or nymph or earth goddess painted on
the front, in an abstract mélange of feathers, swans, butterflies,
dragonflies, fallen leaves. The title: “Enchanted Universe." This was a
painting by one Josephine Wall, described on the back of the card thusly:
“From childhood Josephine
Wall has had a passion for light and color, fantasy and visual story
telling. The life of a painter was clearly her destiny. . .Though she often
strives to impart a message in her scenes, she also hopes to inspire in her
audience a personal journey into the magical world of their own
Wow. Pretty ambitious
stuff! I opened the card to see what sort of personal journey and magical
world might be found:
“Unfold your spirit to
Allow your sacred dreams
The Universe answers that
you truly are
More precious than
Heaven’s brightest star.”
Whoah! That’s a potent
sentiment! Fault it for banality of image, and cliche, but not for attempted
inspiration. I read the inscription underneath to see what sort of “sacred
dreams” might be at issue, and what kind of flying the intended recipient
was being encouraged to take up.
“Happy 7th yr. of
sobriety,” it read. “Keep up the good work. You are a very special person to
me. Love Tim.”
Yessir, this is
what congratulatory cards have become in our proud 21st century. Hailing
friends for staying off booze and drugs.
Maybe some of those Uni
High kids can aspire to soar to the same heights one day.
FOOTNOTE # 4:
Stomped and dirtied on a
west side sidewalk, this was a page from a court case involving a fellow
named Chambers who was visited by the police because he was playing loud
Now, I’m familiar with
this situation, having phoned the police many times to complain about music
and shrieking on par with, say, the human sacrifice scene in “King Kong,”
emanating from nearby apartments. Here is what the cops routinely do in such
They show up and ask
people to reduce the noise, and then leave. Several LAPD officers have
informed me that they cannot enter these dens of 3 a.m. deafness because
that would be trespassing (huh?), and that several written complaints
from different neighbors must be on file before they can issue a citation
with a hefty fine, blah blah.
So ol’ Chambers probably
figured he could crank up the stereo as much as he wanted.
The thing is, the dope
didn’t figure the cops would ask for his ID and run a “routine check,”
discovering an outstanding arrest warrant. For what, the sheet of paper does
not reveal, but it is safe to assume that it did not involve a jaywalking
ticket, given that Chambers. . .fled.
Yes, perhaps he had
delusions of grandeur, flying down the 405 to the 10 to the 60 to the 57 to
the whatever as TV helicopters caught the last moments of freedom of The
Great Chambers. Or maybe he had two strikes. In any case, “as the police
officer attempted to handcuff the suspect, the suspect broke free and ran
And that’s not all.
Chambers apparently broke away a second time, while handcuffed in a
hospital, from “a moderate police grip.” Pretty impressive!
In the end, the court
found that the cops used reasonable force to restrain The Great Chambers,
which, of course, means that there were some slimy lawyers or poor public
defenders in the position of alleging excessive force against the LAPD, in
trying to save this jackass.
Who is probably out of
the slammer by now, if he was ever in, and cranking up his stereo again.
FOOTNOTE # 5: haha
A little red card,
covered with white polka-dots, labeled “Sweet Thing.”
Had to brave TB and
flesh-eating bacteria to pick this one up and look inside. The ink was a
little blurred by rain, but here is what it said:
“Graham, hey you! haha, I
thought we were gonna start ACTING like neighbors and hanging out! haha
guess school gets in the way. Happy Valentine’s Day! We gotta hang out
Several questions were
raised by this merry note. First, I wondered what had prompted the sender to
laugh in print. Something had certainly been funny, judging by the inability
to keep from writing “haha.” Or perhaps he was a member of a “laughter
therapy” club, like the ones in India. Second, do you suppose that any
English-speaking humans will ever again learn to punctuate properly?
Apparently, Sender and
Graham were neighbors, and Sender really wanted them to behave “like
neighbors,” a condition he believes would be fulfilled on the basis of
Given that Sender’s name
was “Brett,” one can only wonder if the “hanging out” together was meant oh,
FOOTNOTE # 6: Get
One of those ubiquitous
“cattle call” ads for movies plastered on telephone poles and park benches
in this, the City of Dreams---found in some bushes beside a sidewalk.
“MOVIE EXTRAS. . .REAL
PEOPLE. . .Needed immediately for various non-speaking parts in a major
motion picture with lots of stars. $54 to $250 per day. . .”
What a howl. . . “Real
people” needed to walk around and act like “real people” on reel. Real
people? Now there is a job where expertise is required. No, I mean that. How
often do you meet someone in L.A. who isn’t a total phoney?
Just once I’d like to see
an ad that reads:
“HUSTLERS, HOMELESS, CRIMINALS,
HOOKERS, CRAZIES, FUGITIVES, PERSONS WITH INSANE DREAMS OF STARDOM. .
.NEEDED TO PLAY REAL PEOPLE IN MAJOR MOTION PICTURE.”
FOOTNOTE # 7: Photo
Not terribly exciting,
I’ll grant you, but nonetheless, you have to wonder what in hell a Polaroid
snapshot of a stove is doing on a sidewalk. And one of those aggravatingly
slow electric ranges, no less.
Was the photo an outtake
for an ad? Was someone selling the thing? Perhaps, but gee, it didn't’t look
very valuable. . .Maybe there was more at work here.
Hmm. . .There was a
brand-new stew pot on the right rear burner---an indicator of new occupancy?
Could be. A divorcee “getting back on her feet?” A college graduate in a
first job and new apartment? Or college kid?
And then, the range
itself (why are they called “ranges,” anyhow?) looked new. . .Was the owner
proudly snapping a shot of some of his or her latest apartment
accoutrements, intending to mail to a mother/father/ shrink as indicator of
solid home and hearth? Or indication of seven years or sobriety?
Nah. Probably the camera
went off accidentally and somebody just threw the snapshot into the street.
In which, case, I am pleased to have rescued it from going down the sewer
where it might have eventually clogged the blowhole of a whale.
For more city
footnotes, watch this space. . .
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