This past Wednesday I parked my rented Harley Road Glide in a basement beneath Sunset and Caheunga then ran up the stairs to Amoeba Music with just one task in mind: buying as much smooth jazz as I could fit into the Glide’s parsimonious panniers. If you’ve ever been to Amoeba, you know that they keep the jazz and blues in a sort of ghetto backsection behind and to the left of their performance stage. There was a band tuning up on said stage and they were engaging in the not entirely original pastime of soloing over whatever song was playing on the PA.
Above the stage, in large white letters on a black background, was the following statement:
AND COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN
WE STAND WITH YOU ALL
Well, that’s awfully nice, but it’s also awfully fucking stupid.
I’ve taken five trips to California in the past thirty days, with two more to come in the next thirty. I met one of my favorite writers — more on that to come — and I drove some neat cars and I rode a tandem bicycle down Venice Beach with my son. As a vacation destination, the Left Coast is hard to beat, but as a glimpse of the American future it is more than a little frightening. Nowhere else in the country, not even in Manhattan, is the Eloi/Morlock distinction quite so uncomfortably baked into society. The beautiful people scurry around while the workers appear and disappear magically, as if by those fabled Disneyland tunnels. The Eloi are white, the Morlocks are brown. They step out of your way. Saturday night in Venice I blundered into a Mexican fellow because I was trying to keep track of my son as he ran between shops. It was one hundred percent my fault. The man said, “Sorry” and just vanished into the night.
You hear a lot from white California residents about how they support amnesty and they support unlimited citizenship and they passionately believe in a process by which the 127.5 million citizens of Mexico would be grandfathered into the current 40-million-plus population of the Golden State. Yet I suspect very few of them have thought about what would happen on the day that the Mexicans didn’t treat them with perfect deference. Of course, there’s already a place where a white person can get the shit slapped out of him for bumping a Mexican — East Los Angeles. The day is coming where East LA rules will also apply in West LA. At which point all the rich people will pack up and move to NorCal for a while, and from there to Portland, and from there to Seattle.
I didn’t see a single brown face in Amoeba Records. A couple of sweatsuit brothers idly poking through the rap section in lackadaisical defiance of anti-stereotypical stereotypes. But no Mexicans, no Arabs, no Indians, none of the countries and ethnicities with which Amoeba stands. Which was convenient, because if Amoeba stands with gay people and transgender people, and it also stands with the three billion or so people around the globe who are perfectly willing to see the death sentence applied to homosexuals, where and when does it pick a side? Did Amoeba stand with Mohamed Atta as he guided his Boeing 767 into the north tower? Did it stand with the firefighters who died? Did it stand with Mindy Kleinberg when she argued that the $1.6M payoff she received for her husband’s death in that tower should be higher because he was a securities trader and not a janitor? Did Amoeba stand with the wives of the janitors?
“Jack,” I can hear you saying, “you’re reading too much into it.” Yes, I freely admit that I am. It’s my East Coast blood. I’m not satisfied with platitudes. I want to know the endgame. I want to see everything play out. Any true Californian would read the statement and intrinsically understand that it’s meaningless. It’s the equivalent of the ninety-third Hail Mary a child says while he is doing his penance for picking on his sister, it’s the droning recitation of a sura to an empty room, it’s the iteration through an intron during cellular reproduction. It is meaningless. It is just meant to fill up the space. By standing with everyone, Amoeba stands with no one. Which is both convenient and appropriate, since Amoeba is a record store and not an NGO or a paramilitary organization.
Or maybe it’s more than that. Maybe it reflects a childlike faith that America is the source of all the world’s evil — more specifically, that white America is the source of all the world’s evil. That we could have peace on earth if we could just put the brakes on all the Bushes and Cheneys (and Obamas, but let’s gloss over that) out there. That everything would be peaches and cream if Daddy Drumpf would just stop being so mean to everyone. That we truly have the power to change the world by changing ourselves.
Which is naive.
Still, you should go see Amoeba before they shut it down. I don’t want a 28-story tower built on that already over-traveled street. I stand… with Amoeba Records.
For R&T I reviewed the Road Glide.
As always, stay tuned, and thanks for, um, standing with Riverside Green!