FROM LAST ONE TO DIE
I have always loved living in Los Angeles—the good, the bad and the smog. I’ll probably always live here. Whether it’s running out of gas in the middle of Compton or getting punched in the back of the head by a homeless man in the middle of a psychotic breakdown, L.A. has always had interesting adventures for me. Throughout high school, I would venture further and further into L.A. for no other reason than to see what was 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 were leaving the car, I heard a real loud ruckus down another alley. As we walked by I saw an old homeless man standing by a dumpster and throwing trash, screaming “And don’t come around here again, motherfucker!” I looked up and down the alley . . . and saw he was alone. I looked up at my dad, and he said, “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 would probably be unmoved by the incident, with the homeless situation what it is these days (something like this probably happened in your backyard this morning) but in the early, to mid 70s this was wild stuff.
About five or six years later, my father, brother and I were in downtown L.A. to attend the annual “Street Scene” festival (summer of 81, think). It was slightly overcast, so I used that as an excuse to wear my leather jacket. So, as we’re walking along, Street Scene workers kept handing us leaflets, maps, and coupons. All the while I’m stuffing them into the inside pocket of my leather jacket. After an hour or two of walking around, we noticed people lining up along the sidewalks, preparing for a small parade. We stood to the side as then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley came walking up the street flanked by two huge bodyguards (with short Jheri-Curls). Around this time my brother asked where we should go next. Just as the Mayor was passing right in front of us, I reached into my jacket to get the map. By the time I looked up I was being accosted (and damn-near leveled) by the Mayor’s bodyguards. After being shaken down for about a minute, my dad starts yelling, “Tom, it’s my son!” My father’s job in City Hall was as Head of the Street Tree Division, so he had dealt with Bradley on occasion. Finally, they let me go, and the Mayor walked over and patted my head and said “Good boy” and walked away.
Apparently, the bodyguards thought I was reaching for a gun.
It’s funny how as time passes the culture gives way to acceptance: once upon a time simply wearing a leather jacket made me look like a sniper, this past July, at the Comic-Con, in San Diego, I counted at least twenty-five Mohawks in the crowd, without anyone batting an eye.
– Last One To Die, 2011