To Live and Die In L.A.
Certain events are either too remarkable, or too unspeakable, to be believed. My current dilemma is, like most things (spontaneous and premeditated) are really rather unremarkable. Tonight was most certainly a fantastically bizarre occurance. After working a bit on Saturday morning and spending most of the day in the uneventful pursuit of organizing my digital music collection, I gathered myself to lend a hand as the designated driver for a massive house party prearranged on this date. I resigned to prepare myself for the notion that this was to be an excellent test of my resolve.
As predicted, I waffled my way through 4 or so hours of slurred conversations, loud fits of inebriated ranting, unceasing narcotics consumption and pounding top 40 dance hits. I would not even attempt to venture a guess as to how many people were there, let alone how many of those souls that were exercising their vow of chastity; how many were skillfully fulfilling their roll as the revered designated driver.
The night began to slow (for some, speed up for others) and we split after 2 A.M. We left a comrade behind; for him the night may have been far from over. I loaded everyone up into the car and we proceeded towards the Hollywood Freeway post-haste. We were passed by two LAPD cruisers weaving their way through slovenly early morning traffic as we slowed for a light. Then, almost unassumingly, a series of four or five shots rang out. A good deal of commotion was happening at an Arco ahead of us. Pedestrians around us began to run for cover, clamoring to find an effective shield. All of my passengers began piping up, their blood alcohol content sharply lowered by the rush of adrenaline. I tried to position ourselves between the scene and another car, just in case anything else was came flying. The terror I had experienced was mild, probably infinitesimal compared to those poor bystanders on the pavement.
The traffic ahead of us started to pick up as they, much like us, wanted to get out of the area as soon as possible. Passing by the scene we saw, to my relief, that it looked like no one had been struck by any bullets. Two men were lying face down on the gas station pavement, pacified by the steadily aimed gun of a police officer. We made a b-line for a freeway, trying to put the scene behind us. I had, as any resident of living in Los Angeles could attest to, been witness to the aftermath of such abhorringly insane carnage before, but never so temporally close to such an incident.
As for my sobriety, I was certainly stone cold sober after that. I was grateful that I was there to navigate ourselves to a safe resolution, but I'm certain any one of my companions would have been able to do the same. I'm not entirely sure if, while reflecting on an incident like this one, makes me believe I should get fucked up ('cause the world is) or that I can only assure my safety, and those around me, if my sense are sharp and I'm in total control of my faculties. It reaffirmed my perception of the "real" by solidifying the event as experientially real. I can watch Colors and Menace to Society all I want, but, in the end, they are frightfully un-real stereotypes. It was what Foucault referred to a "limit experience." More concretely, it was an occurance that redefined the borders of what seems possible to experience.
I feel quite grateful to be here, intact, and also to have the people around me that I do. I'm fortunate to have such genuinely good people surrounding me.
I'm just a poor white boy from Oregon who knows so little about such things. But, I would gather that I share so many commonalities with those gunmen. Still, I'm mystified by not matter how narrow (or wide) the difference in background, upbringing or social standing, the potential for such destruction and callousness leaves it's mark on the psyches of all of us. I envision a day when those urges are driven out of our beings; trading the animalistic propensity towards violence for the all-too-human instincts of compassion and spiritual solidarity.