Side Streets (No. 1)

October 8, 2013

~ Rat-running the side streets of life.  By bike.  With beer.

CicLAvia is the fucking coolest.  Witnessing crowds of walkers runners dancers skaters rollerskaters rollerbladers bicyclists tricyclists unicyclists pedal-powered-contraption-propellists all enthusing together about the city the weather the people, about life, is the fucking coolest.  Slowing to a semi-wobbly crawl on your bike behind a little teeny tiny girl riding a little teeny tiny bike as fast as her little teeny tiny legs can propel her down a street that has been closed to cars is the fucking coolest.

CicLAvia is the fucking coolest, and this last CicLAvia was the fucking coolest of them all.  Experiencing the African American Firefighters Museum for the first time absolutely undeniably because it was on the route and its doors were open was the fucking coolest.  Riding down a fabric district street bustling with street food vendors trinket vendors sidewalk life that I never knew existed on Sundays was the fucking coolest.  Discovering Libros Schmibros and becoming a member inmediatamente absolutely undeniably because it was on the route and its doors were open was the fucking coolest.

I mean, let’s face it.  Los Angeles is a giant pain in the ass.  And riding a bike in Los Angeles can be a pain in the ass.  It can be a pain in the ass for people who want to, say, run to the market for some tofu for the morning’s scramble or take the kid to the local park for a picnic and not fight with drivers get yelled at by drivers intimidated by drivers forced into the pothole hell that is the street shoulder by drivers.  Don’t get me wrong, things are improving, thanks to the tireless efforts of so many people and the increasing number of riders braving the streets to give bikes a visible presence in the city.  But the pain in the ass-ness is sometimes unavoidable.  Los Angeles’s giant pain in the ass status is the result of decades of really terrible urban planning decisions, just awful decisions, car-centric, anti-public space, anti-human-being, pro-sanitized-securitized-space, pro-thoughtless development dollar decisions.  And what this pain in the ass city needs is CicLAvia to prove the incredibly-obvious-to-many-of-us point that walkable bikeable enjoyable public spaces make for better communities, better business (even though I hate having to say that), and a better city overall.  Because it WILL prove that point.  Because CicLAvia is the fucking coolest.

Postscript: The Rev and I hit up Glendale Tap for some post-CicLAvia beers. We rode through lovely tree-lined neighborhood streets, to avoid San Fernando Road between Fletcher and Los Feliz, which is a stretch of high speed throughway to ride only when ready for battle.  For those of you that have never been to Glendale Tap, it’s one of the greatest neighborhood bars in Los Angeles.  Good craft beer list.  No goddam pretension.  We sat at the bar and ate peanuts and made beer friends and enjoyed the rest of Sunday.  Fuck. Yes.

Beer of the day: Brainless IPA by Epic Brewing Company, on nitro.  Smooth and balanced and not too sweet, like riding on a well-preserved street past some really great graffiti.

Street of the day:  THE ENTIRE CICLAVIA ROUTE, OBVS.

Thank You, Bradley Manning

July 30, 2013

I intend to write to tell him thank you, you can too:

Be sure to #ThankManning: Commander, HHC USAG | Attn: PFC Bradley Manning | 239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417 | JBM-HH, VA 22211 | #OpPenPal

Marissa Alexander is on My Mind

July 17, 2013

My 20 minutes of writing today, unresearched, unedited, just written.

Marissa Alexander is on my mind.

Marissa Alexander is on my mind even though I know very little about her case other than headline comparisons of George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin shooting to Marissa Alexander’s conviction and 20-year prison sentence for firing warning shots at her abusive husband.  And not killing him, mind you.

Marissa  Alexander is on my mind because I’m reminded of Professor Kimberle Crenshaw’s fantastic essay on intersectionality and the failure of political theorists, race theorists, legal theorists, feminist theorists to discuss women of color.  Marissa Alexander’s case would be great to discuss through Professor Crenshaw’s lens, to remind the world that not only is this an instance where a black person receives very different treatment under Florida law, but an instance where a black woman receives very different treatment under Florida law.

Marissa Alexander is on my mind because I read recently that a ridiculously high percentage of women in prison for murder are there for murdering abusive spouses or partners.  Marissa Alexander is on my mind because I heard that women who invoke the legal theory of self-defense when accused of murder are so rarely acquitted it’s obscene, particularly when compared to men who invoke self-defense in man on man violence.  The potential for a nuanced, important discussion of the incarceration of women of color’s bodies because they should, what? submit?, is screaming at me from the streams of headlines marching up my screen.

Marissa Alexander is on my mind because I need to know more about her situation, and people need to pay attention to the bullshit double standard faced not only by Black People (often gendered male) or by Women (often gendered white), but by the complex intersection of systemic prejudice so clearly still at work in contemporary U.S.A.

She

July 15, 2013

I have recently blogged what I consider to be the best punk lyrics of all time, and I’m thinking about them as inspiration for … something, an article, a short story, something.  The intent would be to make She nameless and faceless but certainly not free of identity – actually identities, plural – and certainly not a stand in for All Girls/Women (I haven’t even decided what age She is yet) because there is no such monolith.

This has gotten me thinking about all sorts of strange things like, I’m a chick, but can I even write one?  I guess She can be as fucked up about her character as I am (“I am not a baby bird”), never knowing where She is in film, literature, popular culture, or whether She should care (She does).  She may have to be located within certain straight white cis-chick identity structures, because I’m not going to presume to write anything else, at least not at this early stage in my attempts, but hopefully I’ll be able to intelligently respect and fuck with identity structures as appropriate…which feels like a daunting task, but maybe She’ll help.

The biggest hurdle to all of this, really, is the simple (not so simple) task of sitting down and just (nothing “just” about it) fucking writing.

She’s rolling her eyes at me right now.

My Imaginary Long Suffering Daughter

July 3, 2013

A friend recently shared the “My Imaginary Well-Dressed Daughter” pinterest board with me, which is good for a chuckle, and it got me thinking about my imaginary daughter.

“Mommy, can I have a Barbie?”  “No.”

“Mommy, I want to be a princess for Halloween!”  “No, you don’t.”

“Mommy, I want to go to McDonald’s.”  “Their food is made of death and deforestation.”

Poor kid.

The Anarchy of Me: Fuck the Police

June 18, 2013

Beginnings

I was taught, like all other little upper middle class white suburban children, to respect authority.  Authority = parents (obv), the headmaster (I went to a private school) and teachers, police, firefighters, the president of the united states, the military…all the big obvious authorities.  God, sort of (my dad is an atheist, my mom is not, I went to church).  I went to Fourth of July parades and cheered the cops and the firefighters while waiving my American flag with the best of ‘em.

Then high school rolled around and I rebelled a little more than most kids, I was a really angry kid, and got collared several times by the cops for truancy, smoking while truant, driving while truant, drinking while truant, running around the local college campuses while truant, you get the picture.  But even then, even while wondering what the fuck I was doing to hurt the world by ditching school, smoking weed, and being angry (nothing), and even while wondering why the cops weren’t off harassing other people (my small socal college town police force stopped harassing high school kids and started harassing black people later), I still had respect for authority ingrained enough into my teenage psyche to “understand” that the cops were the good guys, so the cops were probably right, and that the good guys were saving the world from me, the bad kid.

“These People”: Incident #1

Fast forward to a night during my stint in junior college, when I was at the little apartment in Pico Rivera where my boyfriend at the time, his mother, his younger brother, and his little cousin sent from Mexico to get away from some unnamed bad influence, lived.  The building they lived in was a small 50s California ranch style house, split into three tiny apartments.  In one other apartment lived an old retired couple, and in the third apartment lived a family with three small boys, ages ranging from around 2 to 6.  It was a weeknight in summer, probably around 11:30 pm, when the mother of the three boys next door started screaming.  We all rushed outside to find her standing in the driveway screaming and crying and yelling and brandishing a broom as a weapon. A drunk naked man had crawled in the open window of the three boys’ room, she cried, but luckily he made enough noise climbing in that she found him immediately and flipped the fuck out like only a protective mother could, scaring him off.  Against my boyfriend’s wishes, his mother called the cops.  So, we waited.

And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  And the entire time I kept thinking to myself, if this were Claremont, they cops would have showed up immediately.  And the entire time I kept thinking to myself, why was my boyfriend so against calling the cops?

It took the cops a good 45 minutes to show up.  Although I was bothered by how long it took, I justified it to myself by saying it’s not the cops’ fault, Pico Rivera is a lot bigger than Claremont, Pico Rivera has gang problems, the cops are probably over burdened.  When they finally arrived, there was one big white cop and one smaller Hispanic cop, who translated for the big white cop…and it took about 2.5 seconds for me to figure out why my boyfriend didn’t want his mother to call the cops.  First, the big white cop berated the boys’ mother for having the window open.  Next, he proceeded to joke to the Hispanic cop (who didn’t translate this particular bit) about how “these people” do stupid things like leave their windows open and wonder why bad things happen to them.  And finally, when he saw that my boyfriend – a very tall, very broad Mexican-American in his early 20s, with baggy jeans, a baggy white t-shirt, and a Dodgers cap over his long indigenous-style braids – was holding a baseball bat (which he had grabbed immediately upon hearing the mother’s screams), he slammed my boyfriend up against the wall of the house and frisked him, violently and for no reason.

And so began the cracks in my faith.

“These People”: Incident #2

Fast forward to a weekend day in Venice, California.  I was in law school.  I had written an article that got me onto the UCLA Law Review about 4th Amendment searches and seizures, and the erosion of the level of suspicion of law-breaking cops must have in order to “legitimately” stop and frisk someone, from probable cause to articulable suspicion.  I hated living in Venice, and moved away not too long after, because I was directly involved in the gentrification of the only community in California where low income people lived near the beach.  I watched black-owned businesses on Abbot Kinney close and white-owned businesses selling stupidly overpriced olive oil open.  I watched the blatantly clear delineation between wealthy whites and poor blacks march further east, along with the obviously militarized LAPD, who protected the gentrifiers from the gentrified, and I watched as the Mexican street vendors completely left the neighborhood.  But most importantly, I watched the cops treat two teenage black boys that lived next door to me like subhumans.

I don’t mean to imply that nothing happened to shake my faith in police between the above incident and the one I’m about to recount, which happened while I was in law school.  My undergrad education did a great job of helping me question much of what I was taught growing up, including power in its many manifestations.  (Side note: It was at UCLA that I figured out how to put my anger into words, thanks to my various feminist theory classes.)  I was highly skeptical of the police, but I still believed the police force was a legitimate institution that was unfortunate but necessary, and that people needed to help weed out bad cops so the good cops could do their jobs.

I didn’t know my neighbors.  Because of my extreme liberal guilt, I thought that my neighbors – blacks that had lived in the neighborhood for a long, long time – probably disliked me because I was a gentrifying white chick, and frankly, I wouldn’t have blamed them.  I knew that the building next door was owned by an older black gentleman, and that he had a number of family members that lived in the building.  I knew that some of the teenagers’ friends liked my Chevrolet Monte Carlo and that they hit on me occasionally.  I suspected that a couple of the guys that lived there were Shoreline Crips, and I knew that there was a drive through drug business next door, and that there tended to be a lot of empty crack and/or cocaine baggies in the street, especially on the weekends.

One day, I was puttering in the kitchen of my second floor apartment, with all of my windows wide open.  I saw two cops walking down the street, and as I watched them pass my neighbors’ building, I saw them run onto the property, down the side of the house.  I heard a scuffle, and I heard yelling, and I heard a loud yelp, and I watched them dragging two fighting, struggling teenage boys to the front lawn.  One boy dropped to his knees, obviously having a hard time breathing.  The people in the building all ran out to the lawn yelling trying to figure out what was happening.  I ran downstairs too, because – speaking of the 4th Amendment – I didn’t like the idea of the cops charging onto private property.  It turns out that the cops saw the two boys sitting on a stoop toward the back of the building, smoking.  The cops said that they could smell marijuana smoke, so they decided to arrest the boys, which they did violently.  One of the cops pepper sprayed the boys, causing one to have an asthma attack, and I watched as the cops refused to do anything about the asthma attack and instead threw the suffering kid in the back of a recently-arrived police car amid the protests of friends and family.

I was pissed, and I said so.  I told one of the cops that I didn’t believe they could smell marijuana smoke from the street because it was too far away.  I told one of the cops that their actions were unconstitutional, and that the fact that they found a small amount of weed on one of the boys does not mean they can justify their unconstitutional actions after the fact.  I told one of the cops that their actions smacked of racism.  And as I was telling one of the cops what I thought, the LAPD community relations officer approached me and said he would be happy to hear my complaints.  He asked if we could speak inside the gate of my apartment building – the kind of tall wooden gate rich white people live behind when gentrifying neighborhoods due to fear of the gentrified – and by doing so, the community relations officer completely separated me from the situation, completely removed me as a cop watcher.  But I agreed, because again, deep down, he was still an authority figure to me.  He then proceeded to tell me that “these people” are bad people.  “These people” would sell their grandmothers for drugs, and that “these people” are a threat to the neighborhood.

And frankly, I completely deflated.  I didn’t know what to do in the face of his very calm, very fake friendly description of “these people”.  It was horrifying and depressing and at the time, I didn’t have a response.  I didn’t have a response because even by that time in my life, I still hadn’t articulated to myself exactly what I thought was wrong with the police, I was unused to this kind of blatant prejudice, I shut down.  I went back inside and felt powerless.  (And if I was feeling powerless, can you imagine what the kid having the asthma attack felt??)

This was the nail in the coffin as far as how I felt about cops.  But I still couldn’t imagine a world without them, I still felt like they were a necessary evil, and that there must be a way to police a community fairly.

The Anarchy of Me: Fuck the Police

I have a problem with authority, always have.  I had a child phsychologist explain to me as a teenager that it was due to a particular experience I had as a child, and essentially that it was fixable – implying, obviously, that my problem with authority is itself a problem.  Well, fuck that – my sensitivity to issues of authority and domination make me a more empathetic, thoughtful, and aware human being, and that thoughtfulness has led me to the conclusions that most authority is, in fact, bullshit.  And when that authority comes at me with unclear and irrational rules, with clear prejudices, with hubris, with violence, with militarized weaponry, and with the unwavering legal, financial and philosophical support of the state, something just feels fucking wrong.  Is it the individuals who join the police force?  Yes, it’s definitely the individuals.  Is it the system within which these individuals operate and flourish, with their monopoly on “legal” violence?  FUCK. YES.

People much smarter than me have written about this.  My favorite quote about challenging authority is by (of course) Noam Chomsky:

Anarchism, in my view, is an expression of the idea that the burden of proof is always on those who argue that authority and domination are necessary. They have to demonstrate, with powerful argument, that that conclusion is correct. If they cannot, then the institutions they defend should be considered illegitimate. How one should react to illegitimate authority depends on circumstances and conditions: there are no formulas.

In the present period, the issues arise across the board, as they commonly do: from personal relations in the family and elsewhere, to the international political/economic order. And anarchist ideas — challenging authority and insisting that it justify itself — are appropriate at all levels.

My favorite step-by-step take down of the police as an unjustifiable authority is by (of course) Crimethinc., which you will find HERE – SERIOUSLY PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T, IT’S FANTASTIC.

And, if you’re still thinking, “but what do we do about all of this CRIME,” please spend some time thinking about what crime is, who defines it, and potential reasons it exists.  So many people have written about this, including (of course) Emma Goldman whose Chapter called “Prisons: A Social Crime and Failure” in her book Anarchism and Other Essays can be found HERE.

Once you start questioning the validity of police power, it becomes possible to imagine practical, realistic alternatives.

But basically, it comes down to this: The police are here to protect the status quo, and they have the right to protect the status quo violently.  And our status quo is a society in which there is an ever-widening income gap, in which cronie capitalism is leading to giant businesses controlling public policy as important as immigration policy, prison policy, food safety policy, and on and on.  It’s a society in which public space is disappearing, money constitutes protected political speech but the act of occupying public space does not, and the U.S. government is collecting massive amounts of our personal data, likely unconstitutionally.  It’s a society in which dairy farms torture cows so that people can eat their cheese and the people who shed light on this torture are put in jail.  It’s a society in which prejudices still run rampant.

In short, it’s a society where a power elite rule, and that power elite keeps taking more.  The police protect the status quo, they protect that power elite.  And our society that needs to be shaken the fuck up, that power elite needs to be taken the fuck down, and the police will be there to try and stop us at every step.

And that, my friends, is why I say with eagerness, sincerity, and joy: FUCK THE POLICE.

Adventures of a Highly-Functioning Alcoholic*

October 9, 2012

[Second in an occassional series.]

I am not drinking alcohol for 30 days, with the only possible exception being this Friday night.

Today is day 2.

I want a fucking drink.

The end.

 

*…You tell me if I’m highly-functioning.

Adventures of a Highly Functioning Alcoholic*

October 9, 2012

[First in an occasional series, written a couple of weeks ago.]

I didn’t realize how drunk I was until I heard myself slurring in response to the emergency room physician.  That’s not from the split head, I thought.  That’s whiskey diction.

I probably didn’t quite put it that way to myself.  I doubt the word “diction” occurred to me at that precise drunken head-split-open moment.

“Have you been drinking?  You seem confused.”

Yes, I nod to the doctor.  Yes, I have been drinking.  Yes, I am confused.

I slept three hours, woke up to my Saturday morning alarm.  Time to get up, time to continue wending my way through my DUI program.  Time to attend “education” class and “get a life” class.   Education topic: Smile.  Get A Life topic: Thought Is Energy.  Internal topics: Irony.  How I can’t get that desperately-needed hair cut this week, I guess, since I have a split head.  Self-Loathing.  Not necessarily in that order.

There was a little puddle of head blood on the pavement after my slow motion drunk crash.  That’s why I went to the emergency room.  That, and the strange-looking 12-year-old who apparently wasn’t a 12-year-old because he was an Occidental College student (I think, maybe I drunk hallucinated that part), who performed some concussion watch-my-finger test on me, said I might need stitches, or maybe a stitch, which I didn’t, so there’s that.  He looked like a cartoon character, he had that bleached-hair-that-didn’t-really-get-bleached-all-the-way-so-now-it’s-the-color-of-creme-brulee thing.  He really did look 12.  15 tops.  We were in front of El Pollo Loco, across the street from the McDonald’s with the flocks of cannibal pigeons that sit on the electric wires watching the drive-thru waiting to swoop on an errant chicken nugget, that probably all have little pigeon heart disease, and I could hear him behind me conferring with his friends about my health status while I sat there feeling ridiculous and applying pressure on the wound with a red bandana.

The jist of said friend-conferring was “she has a split head.”

I had a great night that night.  Really.  The ride started in front of an art gallery owned by a bike friend.   This particular bike friend (acquaintance, more like) once said that he was 16 and I believed him.  Still believe him.  He’s a “bike punk” too so I don’t know how he owns the art gallery.  The art gallery had bike art in it by bike friends.  When we first got there I hugged people I don’t see enough and smiled at all the “well now, look who’s west of western” comments and swigged whiskey during awkward silences which is what I always do with alcohol and what I always do during awkward silences which there are a lot of because basically I’m awkward.

Swigging aside, I wasn’t drunk when we started riding.  I wasn’t drunk at the first stop while we were hurling rubber duckies at each other or while I was trading Berlin stories with a chick with much better whiskey than the whiskey I had originally been swigging.  Actually she had scotch I’m remembering.  I wasn’t drunk when the kid who was so clearly out of his mind drunk crashed and I wasn’t drunk when the chick who probably wasn’t drunk but was just too hyper and reckless crashed, which I think may have been a bad one.  She got back on her bike for a while, but kept holding her head or drooping her head or kind of sagging her head until she pulled over again and started crying.

She probably had a concussion.  I didn’t get a concussion.  She was really young.  I’m getting old although sometimes I forget and think I’m still really young.

I wasn’t drunk at the second stop when the super square-looking kid crazy-danced to the dance music pulsing out of the sound bike.  I wasn’t drunk when they set the mattress on fire or when I was taking drags off people’s cigarettes which is fucking stupid because I have pretty bad asthma.  Or maybe I was.  Looking back, I probably was.

My head hurts.  My shoulder hurts too, I have a scrape on my shoulder that is still raw and it stings pretty good when my shirt rubs against it.  When I woke up and went to my eduction class (topic: smile) I felt a band aid on my arm so I pulled up my sleeve and stared at it.  I pulled it off and there was nothing under it, no scrape or wound, so why was there a band aid there and not on the raw scrape on my shoulder that did hurt, it made no sense at all.  Finally, later when my arm started feeling really sore, sore to the touch, sore to bend, I remembered that I got a tetanus shot.  For the split head.  Which was split open by some dirty, heavily travelled, El Pollo Loco trafficked Northeast Los Angeles asphalt.  Hence the band aid.  Aha, and hence the sanitary moist towelette in a little wrapper in my purse. I found that while in education (topic: smile) too.

Looking back, I must have been drunk at the second stop, because I was drunk when we got to the really strange club that was the third and final stop.  I was drunk when I swigged my beer during awkward silences, or any silences, or any not so silent silences because by that point I was drunk, so I was just drinking.  The beers were no longer 99 cents as had been advertised because it was after 11, which ticked me off, but I bought some anyways because why not. I was drunk when I went upstairs and discovered a tranny club, men dressing as women trannies, and I was drunk when chuckled to myself because one of our friends looked like a woman dressing as a man tranny except he’s a guy, really more of a young willowy boy, very pale and delicate, blond hair, who is trying to grow a mustache or something, I’m not sure what’s going on there.  I was drunk when we left.  I was drunk riding home.

At least I didn’t break my collar bone like I did last time.

 

*…You tell me if I’m highly functioning.

Hearts and Farts

August 6, 2012

Hmmmm…maybe I’ll come up with a submission for this!  Thanks riotgrrrlberlin.

bike bike bike pt.2

August 5, 2012

It’s been so long since I went on my second bike bike bike trip this year, I practically don’t know what to write.  The boyfriend and I went to Austin for our second SXSW, and it was fucking amazing.  The raddest chick among rad chicks, Mims, hosted us along with a shit ton of other LA bike fucks who showed up on the Angie Lopez bus.  (I designed the Midnight Ridazz boobz shirt that Mims is wearing in that photo, by the way.  It’s my one claim to fame.  Very limited fame.)

What you need to know about SXSW – you don’t need to buy anything official to do it.  The entire city of Austin becomes one giant music venue – barber shops, markets, empty lots, art galleries, rooftops.  Bridges.  Backyards.

And of course, bikes are the only way to do it all.  People with cars at SXSW are either stupid or crazy.  Austin has some hills, none of them big, all of them bigger than expected (isn’t Texas all flat…?), and the city is a little spread out, obviously catering to dudes who drive white trucks.  It’s perfect for some good leg stretching car dodging bike riding – about 5 miles from Mims’s pad to Bleached, 6 miles from Bleached to the Yard Dog Records show, 3 miles from Yard Dog to Built to Spill, 2 miles from Built to Spill to backyard metal show…you get the picure.  Some of the riding was on bike lanes, some splitting stopped traffic, some on big truck roadways, some through ped crowds, all with bike friends.  Perfect.

Highlights (this is difficult, as the whole damn trip was one big highlight):

-  Bleached.  They were fantastic at Urban Outfitters, but they were fucking phenomenal at Longbranch Inn.  FUCKING PHENOMENAL.  Punky poppy drunky dance-o-rama.

-  Waco Brothers.  When punk rockers get old they sometimes play amazing alt country.  Jon Langford rules.

-  Skull by Skull Now.  I don’t want to glorify this too much, because the Skid Marx – a least a good chunk of them – are sociopaths (and would get off on being called that).  However.  Skull by was one hell of a metal show.  And, weirdly, Pangea showed up to watch one of the bands.  MAN, did they look clean, hipster, and uncomfortable!

4 days (…wait…was it 5? …lots of beer…) of bikes, beer, and music, with a floor to sleep on for free and a friend to guide me through underground vegan bike art music beer Austin.  The only thing that could have made the trip better is MOAR GODDAM TREN WAYS.  Oh wait, one more thing that could possibly have made it better: the ability to be in multiple places at once.  I mean, fuck, there’s so much amazing shit going on every hour of every day – like Dirty Beaches playing at the exact same time as Future of the Left playing at the exact same time as the Goner Records show.  That’s pretty rough.

I think I’m going to have to go again next year, but this time I’m dragging THIS GUY and THIS CHICK along.

BIKE BIKE BIKE!


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