park on Hope street…


Los Angeles in the evening is hopeful, even when a flipped SUV on a monstrous concrete onramp slows traffic to a crawl. There is something electric about dusk in LA; our vibrant city nestled near the bottom of the North American coastline; the side that gets to see the last of the sunlight each day, the side that everyone wants to be on, even if they don’t. It is a city filled with one of the greatest mixes of races and cultures on earth, and in the early hours of the evening, it seems possible to feel the energy of them all.

As I drove south towards the relative safety of my xenophobic town of Manhattan Beach, I stared at the Porsche SUV sitting on it’s side atop the cement above me. $65,000 worth of metal and status tipped askew and firing it’s headlights off at an angle that was both un-nerving and compelling. Briefly, I panicked about the growing gap between the rich and the poor, but I was distracted by an iPod billboard, which reminded me to plug mine in. I drove home, placated and ignorant.

more after the jump…


My parents were in town last week, and in a weird twist of fate, we ended up with some $65 hand-me-down tickets to see Colin Powell at the Dorothy Chandler Pavillion. I can think of a lot of things I’d spend money to go see, but lining the pockets of a Republican orator is not in the top ten. I respect Colin Powell. I think he’s an honest, straightforward man. I like to believe that he resigned from his position as Secretary of State because he didn’t like what he saw happening around him. Still, I can’t imagine a situation that would lead me to the audience of one of his stops on the speaking circuit. I’d much rather hear Obama. I’d much rather hear Mandela. I’d almost rather hear Bono. I’d definitely rather hear Bono.

Fate, however, is not to be tinkered with. As it turns out, my father really wanted to go.

And thus it was that I ended up in the center of the orchestra section of the beautiful, but oddly outdated Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to hear a staunch Republican share his views on life, our times, and the future for America and the world.

It was riveting. He was remarkably entertaining. Somehow, he calmed my fears. The L.A. Independent did a far better job of reviewing it than I ever could. I didn’t leave feeling less liberal, but I did leave feeling a little less divisive. Why is it that all of the sides waste so much time ignoring all of the things we have in common?

And in my comfortable, sixty-five dollar seats, surrounded by people twice my age and exactly my color, I wondered how it is that Fox News and CNN and Drudge can report so much evil around us, and scare us every day, and make us worry about the future of our children’s lives, when the vast majority of people in the world simply want to live peacefully and do the right things for their family.

I felt irrational anger towards all religions and felt even more resolve to never participate in any of them. I drank an 8 dollar glass of wine worth about $1.50 and wondered who picked the grapes. I thought ahead to the future and imagined a day when hating Muslims would feel as quaint as hating “Russkies” does now.

We drove home, my dad utterly thrilled to have seen Mr. Powell speak, and me utterly surprised to have enjoyed it so much. Despite the inhuman faces the instant media constantly apply to the rest of the world, maybe the fear we are taught outweighs the threat that exists. It occured to me that we spend so much energy hating those damned {libs}{Right Wing}{commies}{Christians}{others}, that we lose sight of the true source of our frustrations. Instantly, I scoffed at my own simpleness. For a short time though, things felt less chaotic to me. I knew it would not last.

I drove home hoping so, as the images of hatred from history flashed somewhere, deep in my subconscious. It was a feeling of hope, tempered by a reality that seems both impossible to believe and impossible to maintain.

3 thoughts on “park on Hope street…”

  1. I’m surprised no one commented on this. When I read it on Saturday, I walked away feeling disturbed, confused. I felt compelled to comment on it, but I didn’t know what to say. I thought about sitting down and blogging about it at my own site, but couldn’t figure out what to say.

    The point is that there is no point, to your article. It wavers and it meanders and it wants for there to be positivity about the future wrapped up in your experiences but there really isn’t any, and at the end it’s just the want that is good, not the reality. And that disturbed me. You were looking for something and wanted to feel good and at the end you were just on the freeway, looking at an accident. It’s all just words, and thoughts, like writing a book about how the world is changing for the better only it turns out it’s just a novel. It reminded me of me.

    I live in Pasadena, or as Wil Wheaton is always calling it, Suburbia. I’ve often noticed Wil wax poetic about it; children running in the street, happy people on porches, golden rays of light on a happy, contented populace. I wish I could feel his enthusiasm. Most of the time, I’m driving across the San Gabriel Valley (not Pasadena in isolation) with a sense of cynicism and negativity — millions of cars poisoning the planet and drinking the fruits of wars and negative politics, people who don’t like one another, races which don’t understand each other. And always a homeless guy at the freeway exit, the one with no race, the one who isn’t even a person in the estimation of those around him. And I’m negative about myself, present in it, participating in it. I totally love the Chinese population out here, but I see the fear in the older ones’ eyes, the fear of their culture being diluted away in their children until nothing’s left. They look askance at the Hispanic world, or the Caucasian world, and it’s totally xenophobic, but it’s a xenophobia for which I can at least feel some sympathy, and this confuses me even more. Because I don’t like xenophobia. It breeds mistrust. In some cases, it’s xenophobia toward me, Mr. White.

    I feel rage when I get behind a 9 mpg SUV with a Bush/Cheney ’04 sticker on the back, taunting me. I feel it’s a justified rage, but it doesn’t make the rage more palatable, or make me feel any more comfortable with the thought that, as you say, my energy is being wasted without result, hating those damned .

    I liked your article, because it didn’t bother to find a point. Questions without answers, and wishes without rewards. But it threw me into turmoil, wishing I could have shared in that brief moment of yours when things were less chaotic. I would have liked that feeling.

  2. Raphael-

    Thank you for responding to this. At first, I thought you missed the point; I thought you were criticizing the writing because it had no moral or point or lesson. Of course, I read on and realized you got it exactly. I was going for a mood and specific emotion and I’m really glad it resonated with someone, because what you described it what I was trying to do. I left with more a wanting of hope than an actual hope. I tried to describe it as best I could with pictures, setting and words evocative of the mood. Not finding the point was wholly intentional. It’s the thrust of the piece.

  3. Shane,

    I’m glad you read to the end of the comment. Reading over my comment after I posted it, I feared I had worded it too strongly, sounding more like a rant, which it wasn’t supposed to be (I still feel I was too strong about the Chinese-American community — I really, really cherish their cultural contribution to the SG Valley and don’t want to make them out as a bunch of closed-minded xenophobes!).

    It was for precisely this reason that I deliberated about whether or not to comment at all. I liked your piece, at the same time that it tapped a vein of not necessarily positive emotions. I knew any comment I wrote would be confused and unsettled at best.

    Such is the power of writing, to elicit response. It was a good piece. It reflected on many of my own feelings. I’m pleased that at least my comment communicated that to you.

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