Have you ever been in a riot?
We are approaching the ten year anniversary of the Los Angeles Riot.
As a result of some one-sided justice in the original Rodney King beating trial this city exploded right before our eyes.
My brand new wife of 25 days and I were watching the verdict on TV. As the verdict was being read, the camera panned across the crowd outside the Simi Valley courthouse to show the reaction of spectators who had come from Los Angeles. I remember the camera caught several young men with incredible anger on their faces, as well as numerous women and older people with tears in their eyes. (Remember the first trial was moved to the very conservative and WASP'y area of Simi Valley).
I turned to my wife and said "Oh oh ,there will be trouble." Somehow I thought that people from Central-LA would make their way up to Simi and demonstrate there. Was I ever wrong. As the afternoon turned to evening we saw reports of fires and looting and of course the unforgettable pictures of Reginald Denny being dragged from his truck and beaten. People who don't live in this city have a hard time understanding where all the anger came from. I guess its a case of "you had to be there" in order to understand.
The night turned into morning and NOBODY went to work. The arsonists had made their way up Vermont Ave all the way into Hollywood during the previous evening (that's a long distance). It appeared on this new day people were setting fires all over town. Several buildings went up in flames right outside of Beverly Hills. There were more reports of looting. A friend told us he saw teenagers dragging hand-fulls of clothes out of Neiman-Marcus in Beverly Hills. And tust me they did not look like they came from South Central , rather they looked more like Beverly Hills brats.
We didn't know what would happen from one hour to the next. A neighbor came home and excitedly told us that he saw a young man being pulled right off the street into a passing car . There were rumors of shots being fired at an intersection not too far from our residence.
Right about then my wife decides to bake a cake. Mind you she doesn't cook. She is a modern day princess. But here in the middle of the riot she wants to bake a cake. And to make matters worse she needs some eggs. "Thomas honey I need some eggs . Can you go see if the 7/11 has some?" . "But... but.... but... sweetheart can't it wait? There is a riot on! ". She looked at me, her eyes narrowing and her hands on her hips "Now you mean to tell me that you are worried someone will come to this neighborhood? We have nothing they want! " Back and forth the conversation went. In the end I acquiesced, only because she threatened to go out by herself and get her "her own damn eggs".
We jumped into our little white Tercel and drove the three residential blocks to the corner where the 7/11 was located. It looked like a war zone. The store window had been smashed. The door almost ripped off its hinges. A video game machine sat in the parking lot in front of the store. Another one was laying on it's side and portuding halfway out of the store. The area was very very quiet and except for a single police cruiser in the parking lot there was nobody around. Next to the cruiser stood a rather large police officer. His back was turned to us and he surveyed the damage, keeping the cruiser between himself and the store. From the look of things I suspected that his partner had maybe gone inside the store.
I swung my car across the empty intersection. LA without traffic is just the absolute strangest sensation you could ever have.
Driving into the parking lot I arched the car to the left so that my wife's side of the vehicle was in line with the officer. She rolled down her window. The officer was still scanning the store. He was concentrating and had not noticed us.
"Errhmm ... excuse me sir ! " she had poked her head out of the window and was calling to the police man. He stiffened visibly, and as he wheeled around on one heel, in a smooth motion his hand went for his gun. He stopped dead in his tracks when he saw this cute young woman smiling at him from the window of a little white Tercel. "Excuse me sir, do you think I could get some eggs? " His hand still on the holster he said very gruffly " No , no eggs here. This store is not open " The situation was entirely surreal. The officer had his hand on his gun and my girl was smiling at him in her princessy / cute way. People were getting killed, the town was on fire and the love of my life wanted to bake a cake.
Maybe the police officer might have smiled if he had known how capricious my wife could be. I think he was too surprised that we had gotten this close to his back without him knowing it. I prefered not to find out what exactly was on his mind. Leaning over I yelled " Thank you !" and drove back to our apartment. The love of my life would just have to bake her cake on another day....