Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Sunday Memory Drawer - The LA Riots As Seen From NY

Last weekend marked the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the good news is that nobody burned down a 7/11 to mark the occasion.

I remember it well from afar.  I had friends here who still speak of the smoke clouds hovering over the city.  Their memories of going into lock down with the nightly curfews.  Of course, the only thing was a tragedy.  I've always wondered why people burn down establishments in their own neighborhoods.  I mean, where will they buy their milk, laundry detergent, and wig extensions?  This makes no sense to me.  The anniversary last week also reminded me of a joke I came up with at the time.   

What's the safest store to be in when looting starts?

Barnes and Noble.  Nobody steals books.

But I digress...

Indeed, all of the good calamities happened before I moved to Los Angeles.  The 1992 riots.  The 1994 earthquake.  I really haven't had that disaster where I could indeed bond with my neighbors.   The Trump victory over Clinton doesn't count.  

Nope, I had to watch those events from a distance in New York.  And I have a very vivid story to tell as I viewed that anarchy in the streets.  Oddly enough, it involves the movie "Casablanca."

What, you say?

Okay, I will explain with a little back story.

Now I had a college friend who loves this classic film. He'd talk about it ad nauseum. Rick, Ilsa, As Time Goes By. On and on and on. When I finally saw it on television one day, I did not like it. Didn't get it. Thought it was overrated. Told my friend he needed to sell mediocrity elsewhere. 

So, during the last week of April 1992, Los Angeles is burning to a golden crisp. I was working in a New York City office at the time. While all the mayhem was 3000 miles away, a rumor spreads that a planned afternoon rally to support the rioters is scheduled for Bryant Park and that it will erupt in similar violence. It seems real as the word gets around and people start to panic.  Office managers start closing their companies all over town.  Everybody go home!  I think about my apartment in Yonkers and whether I will ever see it again.

Craziness ensues as it only can in New York.  By 1PM, commuter and subway trains out of Manhattan resemble the crowds last seen in the Cambodian airlift. An office pal and I don't buy into any of this crap. While our office has closed, we don't want to shoehorn our ways home just yet. What to do?  What to do?

As it turned out, "Casablanca" was playing nearby in a re-release of a new pristine restoration. It was a perfect way to wait till the alleged storm clouds blew over. And, almost inexplicably, I finally got "Casablanca" that day. I loved every moment of it. I was completely bowled over by Claude Rains' performance. Perhaps it was the real life drama of the day. But, for whatever reason, I was at last finally able to enjoy the true essence of this movie. And I have visited it once a year ever since. By the way, the expected riot never materialized. 

So, that's my LA riot story.   Okay, it's not exciting as watching Koreatown morph into an ash tray but it's all I got.

Dinner last night:  Beet bratwurst, macaroni salad, and pickled beets.

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