Sunday, May 3, 2009

May Day

Last Friday, the first of May, I had many errands to run in the morning. I returned to my box a little late for Movie Day, and found that Rodney had taken this opportunity to usurp my input, and was showing "Under the Cherry Moon," with Prince. Rodney's like that.
I'm not a huge fan of Prince, though many are, some saying he's a genius, whatever that means. I've never seen it, and have usually found him to be a bit too pretentious for my taste, so I soon left, always having more work to do. Besides, Erin wasn't there to tease, I didn't know where she was. I hope she hadn't come down with swine flu.
So far I've managed to avoid that disease. As a matter of fact it appears that the "swine flu pandemic" isn't any more deadly than the regular garden variety flu, even less so, despite all of the media's hopefulness.
I returned to my box and called Ron at work. He had wanted me to get his ring back from the Ace Pawn shop. I made arrangements to meet him at 4 o'clock when he got off work.
The day before I had seen a sign at the bus stop announcing schedule changes for the following day due to May Day demonstrations downtown.
"Not another one," I said to myself. "Why do they always have to come here to demonstrate? Why can't they do it in... El Segundo, or Beverly Hills?"
Many nearby pedestrians avoided me as I spoke to myself. Rightly so.
The first of May has been celebrated since ancient times as a pagan festival celebrating the end of the winter year. In modern history May Day is synonymous with International Workers Day, a observance of the social and economic achievements of the international labor movement. The Soviet Union used to parade tanks and missiles through Red Square in Moscow to display their military strength and unity on May first. They don't do that anymore, as far as I know.
At twenty minutes to four I left my box and went outside.
"Jesus H Christ, and his mother Alice!"
The streets outside my box were totally clogged with traffic. Sixth Street was closed off at Alameda, and Alameda was totally filled with slow moving vehicles in both directions. I walked north to Fourth, marveling at all the traffic. I've seen a lot of demonstrations while living downtown, including 500,000 showing up in 2006, but I'd never seen this much commotion, with only around 60,000 expected to march today.
I could hardly cross Alameda at Fourth, the traffic was so bad. The Department of Transportation had traffic officers stationed at major intersections, and they were certainly earning their pay that day.
I met Ron and we began walking through skid row, which was totally devoid of traffic, having been closed up by the DOT with strips of yellow tape barring the way inside. It was a little eery.
We walked west on Fifth, south on Los Angeles to Seventh, then to Broadway.
"Spank me, and call me mama!"
Thousands of Hispanic individuals were marching north on Broadway, quite loudly. Most carried banners and signs, all in Spanish. Somewhere drums were beating, horns were blowing, amplified music was playing, people were shouting in Spanish over loud speakers. Helicopters were flying overhead. Planes with banners were flying overhead, pigeons too. Police on bikes, in cars and vans, followed the crowd. As it turned out there were no or little disturbances throughout the march. No arrests were made.
"It's all in Spanish," I told Ron. "I have no idea what they're demonstrating about! It's a little bit racist, don't you think?"
"No," Ron said.
I took care of business in the pawn shop.
"Hi Rick."
"Hi Alberto, how's the wife and kids?"
"Good. Good. Hey everybody, Rick's here."
"Hey Rick!"
"Hi Rick."
"Hi Frances. Hi Maricela. How are you?"
"How's Cheryl and Keri?"
Alberto was referring to my dear sister and niece. "As well as can be expected," I replied
"And Erin and Paul?"
"Erin didn't come to work today."
"Oh, I hope she's not ill, you know, with the swine flu, and all."
"Yes, I hope so to."
"And Rodney?"
"Rodney usurped Movie Day with a Prince movie."
"How horrible it must have been!"
"Yes, yes, it was."
I retrieved Ron's gold ring and rejoined him on the street. Marchers were still marching. Helicopters were still hovering.
Apparently there were at least five different marches starting at different places and different times. The organizers could not agree on certain aspects of their respective marches, and thus were not unified. Many demonstrators were disappointed as a result.
Of course the buses had been rerouted to avoid the entire area, so I was forced to walk back home. Ron accompanied me most of the way.
Ron is usually a very affable person, but there are a few things that are guaranteed to get his goat. For instance when crossing a street and a car unexpectedly gets in his way, he'll yell at the driver to move along. Or when people block the sidewalk, or when someone has hosed down the sidewalk with water trying to clean it.
"I hate it when they do that," he says.
We walked east on Sixth, toward my box.
"I saw "The Soloist" the other night," I told him. I was referring to the recently released film about L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez writing about Nathaniel Ayers, the homeless cello and violin virtuoso who suffers from schizophrenia, who Ron knew as well.
"Yeah, how was it?"
"Good. Very good. Great performances by Robert Downey Jr and Jamie Foxx. How old would you say Nathaniel is?"
"Oh, he must be in his sixties."
"Well that wasn't depicted in the film. Foxx played him much younger. And at one point he got violent with Lopez and threatened his life."
"Yeah, that's Nathaniel. He acts up like that sometimes. Best thing to do, I tell people, when he gets like that is to just ignore him."
"Really, he gets like that?"
"Yeah, sure,sometimes."
Traffic was now running on Sixth. Ron walked with me almost to Central, where we seperated, Ron headed to Catch 21, a nearby seafood restaurant, to buy a tasty beverage before heading south to Dukes, me back to my box, where I spent the night with Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.
At least Rachel doesn't snore.

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