LOS ANGELES REBELLION (or Riots) 25-YEAR ANNIVERSARY: Where I Was On That Day

 

REMEMBERING ONE OF AMERICA’S LARGEST RACIAL UPRISINGS FROM A PERSONAL STANDPOINT

 

I’ll get right to the point:

I was living (figuratively speaking) pretty far away from the infamous flash point of Florence Ave. and Normandie Ave. in Santa Monica, CA the day those verdicts in the first Rodney King trial in Simi Valley came down, setting those bigoted policemen free despite that tape showing the most obvious incriminating evidence of all time.

Though I was never brutalized like Rodney, as a African-American male in his mid-20s I could certainly relate to being racially profiled, being stopped by the Santa Monica police a number of times; there are two instances of this that stand out in my mind:

 

* I was getting some food from Campos, a Mexican place two blocks from my house whose food I grew up on, loved, and still love to this day.

As I was walking out with my order a policeman, out of the blue, stopped me and began to ask me questions, saying that I “fit the description” of someone they were looking for.

If it wasn’t for another guy walking across the street that yelled out, “That’s not him!” I would have most likely been arrested for something I had no knowledge of.

 

* One day in July of 1997, a month after my 30th birthday, I had left my house to get a newspaper when a plain clothes policeman stopped me when I was literally across the street from my home, exiting his car.

“Get your hands up!” he said, putting me in handcuffs.

Thankfully I was able to convince the cop to let me into my house so I can show him my ID, proving that I wasn’t a stalker.

To the cop’s credit, he apologized, but that did nothing to ease my irritation.

 

Being that I lived in the Pico Neighborhood, Santa Monica’s inner city for all intents and purposes, I knew deep down that being a young black man in that area, I was both a target and would be suspect for anything that went down.

The irony in all this? Santa Monica had an African-American police chief in those days, James Butts, who’s now the mayor of Inglewood.

 

 

TV news footage of that fateful day at Florence and Normandie, courtesy of YouTube

 

 

Anyhow…

I remember the day everything went down on Florence and Normandie quite well;

My mother and I were watching it all go down live on the local TV news. I specifically recall seeing a van ram into the front bars of a store, breaking the bars and leaving that store ripe for the looters, which we likewise saw.

I believe I saw Reginald Denny get smashed by that brick as well.

The other memory I have of that uprising – I’m making it a point to not call it a riot anymore – was the next couple of mornings as I was leaving the house to go to work; though no fires or looting happened in Santa Monica or the Westside, I could smell the smoke drifting from the many fires in the rest of L.A.

I was a physical education assistant teacher at a couple of elementary schools at that time, and the kids at both places, most of them white, were quite upset not only with what was going down, but also with the cause of it as being the liberal town that Santa Monica was and is, pretty much everyone felt that those four cops who beat Rodney got off scott-free.

At one of those schools there were a couple of African-American kids, both 4th graders, who lived in what was then called South Central L.A. (they were able to attend the Santa Monica school because their mothers worked in the town and were able to acquire permits) and were subsequently adjacent to all the chaos if not in the middle of it.

I knew that those two youngsters would be at least a little stressed and traumatized, so I made it a point to ask them if they were OK.

Things went more or less back to normal in Santa Monica and the Westside after the so-called “riots” ended, but you know what?

 

 

Rodney King’s famous “Can’t we all get along?” speech, courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

After 25 years, I think everyone – at least every one of color, especially Blacks and Latinos – would say that nothing has changed as far as young African-American men getting profiled, targeted, and killed by the police across America.

If you don’t believe me, ask the families of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, and the many other young men who are no longer with us.

And ask the black folks who live in places like Baltimore and Ferguson, MO, if things are better.

To be honest, particularly under the still relatively new leadership of our President-Whose-Name-I-Will-Not-Mention, I’m surprised that “riots” like what happened in L.A. in 1992 don’t happen twice or three times a year.

And the worst part of all of this?

Considering the polarizing climate in these United States, racial and otherwise, I honestly find it difficult to see any light at the end of this pick black tunnel.

At least for the foreseeable future.

As Malcolm X once said, it’s going to take God himself to solve this dilemma.

Which I wholeheartedly agree with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Best Way (for me) To Help Panhandlers and the Homeless

 

A feast for the less fortunate during Thanksgiving. Photo courtesy of csmonitor.com

 

 

The other day I was at a bus stop when a young man approached me and asked if I could spare him a dollar so he could get something to eat.

Being that I live in Los Angeles, CA, the homeless capital of these United States, such interactions are very commonplace as if you are out and about in L.A. on a regular basis, you can expect for the less fortunate to ask you for money.

I reckon roughly 98% of folks, out of compassion and conscience, give money to the panhandlers when asked.

While I have much compassion thanks to Jesus being my Lord and Savior, my way of helping those unfortunates are a tiny bit different.

Though I have given money to those I see living on the street, sometimes without them asking, there’s another way of helping them that I much prefer – and which I did for this particular young man…

To be brutally honest, I have never really felt comfortable giving cash to people on the street, for this reason:

 

You never know if they are going to use the cash to buy food, like they always say they are, or if they are going to use that money to buy alcohol, drugs or even cigarettes.

 

Am I saying that all panhandlers use the money given to them to get drunk, get wasted, or pollute their lungs and ours with tobacco smoke? Absolutely not!

What I’m saying is, you don’t know if they are.

I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want to enable those bad behaviors, behaviors that (for booze and drugs) may well have led them to being in that less fortunate situation.

No, I amĀ NOT saying that all homeless are there because of booze or drug problems as I’m well aware that there are many young people on the street who are runaways or (worse) throwaways, but still…

Anyhow, fear of enabling is the reason why I did this for that young man who asked me for a dollar…

 

RATHER THAN GIVE HIM MONEY, I BOUGHT HIM FOOD.

 

I took him to a CVS store across the street and bought him an ice cream bar, which of course he was quite grateful for.

That’s how I prefer to help panhandlers and the homeless as I have promised myself that whenever someone asks me for money, I always ask if they’re hungry, which I’ll expect them to answer in the affirmative.

Then I tell them, “I’ll be happy to buy you something to eat.”

That’s when I go to whatever convenience store or fast food place is nearby – I once bought someone in a wheelchair a bag of potato chips and a banana from a 7-Eleven when he asked me for some change – and buy something for them.

It cuts out the middle man and more importantly…

 

It guarantees that your money will TRULY help that person, rather than possibly feed his alcohol, narcotic, or nicotine habit.

 

Of course if you want to give panhandlers your money, by all means do so; it’s not my intention to tell anyone how to do good.

But the bottom line, at least for me, is that it’s better for me to actually buy food and drink for panhandlers and the homeless rather than give them my change and risk enabling them.

Plus it obviously helps them in the long run.

Which is all any decent person wants to do.

 

Enjoying a meal during what I’m sure was some holiday. Photo courtesy of rt.com

 

 

HOW BASEBALL BECAME MY FAVORITE SPORT

The cover of the Dodgers’ 1978 yearbook, which being that it was only $1 I’m surprised I didn’t get. Photo courtesy of nationalpastime.com

 

ONE GUY’S EXPLANATION OF HOW THE NATIONAL PASTIME BECAME HIS AS THE MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL SEASON COMMENCES

When I look back on the forty years that I’ve regarded baseball as my all-time favorite sport, it’s inevitable that I recall how it got to be that way.

At the root of it all was my Asperger’s Syndrome, in that as a kid I would get absolutely obsessed about different things; I remember when I was seven or eight being obsessed with maps, studying road atlases and tracing maps of Riverside, CA, where I lived, from the back of the phone book.

This map obsession and various others would fade after a time, but one didn’t.

I was always exposed to baseball as my grandparents, who I lived with as a young boy, were fervent fans of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Starting in March, a game would usually be showing on the television screen, Vin Scully spinning his stats and stories like he was your best friend.

One of my obsessions as a little boy was the Peanuts comic strip. I practically worshiped Charlie Brown and company – I still make it a point to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, the best animated feature ever made, every holiday season – and part of their antics was their pathetic attempts at playing baseball.

 

 

Thirteen youngsters who influenced me in a significant way as far as my getting involved with baseball. Photo courtesy of aclementsillutration.wordpress.com

 

When I reached double-digit age in 1977, something else happened to enhance my attraction to baseball…

The Dodgers played in the World Series that year, and being that they were in the Fall Classic I of course watched the games on TV; I’ll never forget how disappointed I was when the New York Yankees’ Reggie Jackson solidified his “Mr. October” status with those three home runs in Game 6, clinching the title for those pinstripers.

Imagine my further disappointment when those Yankees repeated, at my Dodgers’ expense, the next year; I remember wanting to be a major leaguer so I could get revenge on those Bronx-based people.

 

 

One of those influencing baseball moments for me: Bob Welch striking out Reggie Jackson in Game 2 of the 1978 World Series. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

My first visit to Dodger Stadium, on my 11th birthday in 1978 – I remember it vividly; my mom, some cousins and I sat near the right field foul pole on the field level, Davey Lopes stole four bases, and Don Sutton shut out the Montreal Expos 5-0 – only crystallized my entry into the baseball world, as did a certain movie released a couple of years before depicting a certain little league team whose ineptness remains legendary, The Bad News Bears.

Which along with that first Dodger Stadium visit was the last straw in my becomingĀ  obsessed with the game.

What attracted me and countless others to that movie was the fact that these were real kids playing ball, with an emphasis on the real as that movie did much to influence me.

 

Part of my first exposure to baseball. Image courtesy of clipartkid.com

 

It was because of The Bad News Bears that I felt that girls could do anything that boys could do as Tatum O’ Neal made like current Dodger ace Clayton Kershaw at mowing down the boys with her fastball.

It was because of The Bad News Bears that I began playing baseball myself – Sunset Little League at Memorial Park in Santa Monica, CA, about a ten minute walk from my home.

And it was because of The Bad News Bears that, having a natural ability at putting the bat on the ball, I dearly wanted to hit like Kelly Leak, the bad-ass delinquent played by Jackie Earle Haley, and worked hard when I transitioned to pick up softball in later years to hit like that character.

 

 

One of the greatest endings to a sports movie ever – the last scene of “The Bad News Bears”. Courtesy of YouTube

 

The next four decades saw me involved in nearly every aspect of baseball and softball, from playing Pony and Colt League Baseball up to age 17 as well as Little League,

To coaching at mostly the youth level, from my brother’s T-Ball team to eventually earning a spot on a high school coaching staff in 2007,

To playing intramural softball in college and pickup softball for the bulk of my adult life.

My obsession with baseball has also manifested itself in my significantly large cap collection, as over the years I have owned the caps of every major league baseball team as well as several college teams, with roughly twenty of them being the cap of my alma mater, UCLA.

 

Another way in which these Bears influenced my love of baseball, when they played in Houston’s Astrodome in the “Bad News Bears In Breaking Training”. You can spot Astros stars (from left to right) J.R. Richard (my favorite), Bob Forsch, Cesar Cedeno and Bob Watson in the dugout. Photo courtesy of brokenbatsbaseballfiles.wordpress.com

 

 

And being the history buff that I am (my bachelor’s degree is in that subject), I consider Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary one of the greatest TV productions ever made as I have extensively studied the game’s past.

While baseball’s not as much of an obsessive thing with me as it was as a kid, I consider Opening Day of the major league season the REAL New Year’s Day, a holiday to celebrate as being an adult about to enter his 50’s, I see baseball as like a warm quilt on a cold day.

It gives me a comfort that other sports like football (though I like the college version and am a longtime fan of UCLA’s team) don’t and can’t give me in that its pace, which people tend to frown on and is a factor in the preference for sports like football and basketball, is leisurely and not stress inducing.

But that’s just me.

All I know is this…

Because of its familiarity and comfort food-like feeling, baseball will always be my favorite sport.

And I have the Dodgers, those Bad News Bears, and Charlie Brown and his crew to thank for that.

 

The official team photo of the 1978 Los Angeles Dodgers, one of the reasons why baseball became very dear to me. Photo courtesy of 1978toppsbseball.blogspot.com