I have always loved living in L.A., the good, the bad and the smog; I’ll always live here. Whether it’s running out of gas in the middle of Compton or asking a Black guy for a jump-start on the day of the Rodney King verdicts, L.A. has always had an interesting adventure for me. Throughout high school, I would venture further and further into L.A. for no other reason than to see what’s out there.
My father used to work in City Hall, and back when I was a kid, he took me downtown to the jewelry district. We found an alley to park in, and as we’re leaving the car, I hear a real loud ruckus down another alley, as we walk by I see an old Black guy screaming by a dumpster and throwing trash, screaming “And don’t come around here again mother fucker!” I looked up and down the alley — there was no one there, I look up at my dad, and he says, “Walk in front of me and keep moving.” I was in shock, I saw a man having a very intense fight with — no one and my dad was unfazed. As the weeks and months went by, the more fascinated I became with the incident. Anyone living in L.A. now is unmoved by the incident, with the homeless situation now, this happened in your backyard this morning, but in the early, to mid-70s this was wild stuff.
Fast-forward twenty years to 1995; I was working the late shift at Kinko’s in their computer department. Todd is bored and calls me at work and says “I want to go somewhere tonight, if you’re up for it, I’ll pick you up from work, and can you sneak out before midnight?” I tell him I’ll get somebody to punch out for me, be here at 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. Todd picks me up, and as he backs up, he says, “So, where do we go?” I thought he had a plan, so I say, let’s go to Hollywood, and go to a coffee shop or one of the weird little shops on Melrose. Todd looks a little spooked and says “it’s late and isn’t there too many weirdos out there?” Too funny! I tell him I’d hold his hand and protect him; little did I know he’d hold me to that.
We get to Hollywood Blvd, and I say let’s go to the International Bookstand. It’s a great newsstand off Hollywood and Argyle. Todd circles the block once or twice and finds a place to park. We walk west towards Argyle, when a guy who looks like Charles Manson if Manson smoked crack and took steroids, steps in front of me and says “Listen, brother, we need to talk about Jesus.” Politely as I can muster at the hour, tell him, no thanks, and another time. Manson grabs me by the arm, and says, “No brother, we’ll talk about Jesus now!” My instant reaction to being grabbed was to throw my arm out, which knocked his arm off me, and knocked him back and a foot. Manson gives me this glazed look and puts two fingers in his mouth and whistles loud. 8 or 9 guys who look identical to Manson surround me. All these guys are holding literature geared towards junkies finding Christ, and now they’re circling me, then Manson says, “This fucker doesn’t like Jesus.” They keep closing in, and then coming from a block or two away, I hear “leave my friend alone.” My “friend” Todd was running down the block, but as he was running, became concerned with my well-being and decided to yell at my assailants.
I knew that if need be I could whip a couple of these guys, a few years earlier, I fought super-middleweight around L.A. on the amateur circuit, but I was now surrounded by ten ex-junkie, Jesus loving, Manson freaks. Then I hatched a plan, I started pacing and I remembered a story this Persian girl I once dated told me. She said one time back in Iran she took a cab, and mistakenly sat up front, the cab driver took it as a come on, so he started driving her out of the city, and when she asked where he was taking her, he said to “rape” her. She didn’t know what to do, so she started shaking, he asked her if she was scared, she said, “No, she was excited.” This turned him off, and he stopped the cab and threw her out.
So, as I paced, I decided to start ranting like I was into this, I started throwing random jabs like I was warming up for a fight, then I said come on, “Let’s do this,” the crowd came in even closer, then I said “Let’s fight, who’s going to go first?” Just like that the crowd of ten starting hemming and hawing, and saying stuff like “Look at the time, I’m supposed to be back at church at 11:30.” Everybody left.
I spent about thirty minutes looking for Todd, I found him in the newsstand reading. I looked at him, wanting to stomp him, and I growled, what happened to you back there? He looks up and says, “I didn’t want to get in the way, and you seemed to have everything under control.” Under control, there were ten of them! “Yeah, you’re a good fighter, let’s go eat.”
Todd and I never returned to Hollywood together again.