My Berkeley friend, Dayle, comes down to attend a conference this weekend. It’s Saturday night at Amoeba, one of the flat-out busiest Saturdays I’ve had the pleasure to work yet, with scores of people crowding the mezzanine, flipping through action, through classics, through cult, through television, pulling product, leaving it in piles around the store, rearranging, deconstructing, contributing to the general entropy of the scene. It’s dark outside. Dayle arrives to say hello and pick up an apartment key so she can kick back at my place. She arrives breathless and in a state of high adrenaline.
“I just got shot at!”
She says that she’s driving around looking for a parking space, when she passes a cluster of thuggish looking dudes walking through the parking lot of the Jack in the Box at Sunset and Cahuenga. She parks her car, and she’s walking back down past the Jack in the Box when explosions ring out from somewhere on the street. There are sparks on the pavement. In an instant Dayle freezes, thinking something along the lines of “WTF??” And fifteen people around her dive for cover behind cars. Then something passes through Dayle’s mind which, when vocalized, might soung like, “When in Rome…” So she leaps for cover behind a nice, large sedan.
Confusion descends. The police arrive. Dayle scurries past the excitement into the relative safety of Amoeba, where she curses me for living in a city where this sort of thing is likely to happen. I’m amazed, myself. I’ve been out and about in that area on a hundred occasions, and it never seemed unsafe. A little demented, perhaps, with a hint of sketchiness and a lot of blaring horns (the intersection of Ivar and Sunset is one of the most high-tension intersections in L.A.) but never outright dangerous.
Dayle leaves to go buy a much-neeed bottle of wine and retire to the relative safety of my apartment. As she leaves I see J.D., wheeling a stack of bins brimming with CDs away from the chaos of the front counter. I ask him, “Were there really shots fired outside?”
“That’s what everyone thought,” he says, “But the police came in and told us it was just firecrackers.”
But there’s a weird truth at the center of this. We live in a big, swirling city. We live in a tense city. And if someone should happen to set off a cluster of Black Cats in the street, especially outside of the sprawl of early July, we’re a citizenry conditioned to dive for cover behind a sedan. I suppose this is because it’s not always just firecrackers, but there’s still something both hilarious and depressing about that.