Wednesday, November 30, 2011

tom petty skinless chicken breast

On a particularly trying day of tenth grade, I came home to my grandmother’s apartment, gathered some change, and went to the Thrifty’s down the street for some candy. Specifically, I went to retrieve 2 Abba Zabbas; it had been a rough day.

Later, with candy in hand, I settled into the recliner in my grandmother’s card room, and flipped on the tele. Since 1987, Oprah and I had a standing date after school. But Oprah was being interrupted: A black man had been beaten by the police (not news), and it was all on video (news). Before we were all under surveillance and reality was heavily edited, citizen journalism was a happenstance accident, and in this case, the camcorder footage of Rodney King being beaten by Los Angeles police officers was a groundbreaking occurence.

As I French kissed the peanut butter out of my Abba Zabba, I had no idea that I was watching a significant historical moment unfold.

A year later, the police brutality case was taken to court and the day the verdict was released happened to coincide with a college fair in Pasadena. Jolene Sheinman and I, both college bound eleventh graders, drove out to Pasadena for the college fair. Being that we lived on the west side of Los Angeles and Santa Monica, respectively, and we were only 17, Pasadena was a very exotic excursion. After a couple of hours spent college fairing, we went back to my car. Helicopters floated this way and that, and a lively group of black teenage boys roamed by. Jolene and I noted that Pasadena appeared to be very exciting even on school nights.

Actually what we were seeing was the beginning of a riot. Los Angeles was on fire.

After watching Los Angeles burn for a few days, I asked my grandmother if she’d like to retreat to my mother’s in Santa Barbara County. My grandmother declined. She said she survived the last riots and she was not going to be run off this time either. Granted, my Jewish grandmother and immigrant grandfather survived the last riots in part because my black father stood in the window of their dry cleaning shop as downtown was set ablaze.  Fanny was staying put.

Grocery stores downtown were looted so residents had to make an exodus to the west side for provisions. I was at a commercial grocer on Pico and Beverly, picking up extra water and Fiddle Faddle* for my grandmother (these items were at the top of her emergency preparedness list). I stood in line. In front of me, white Jewish guy. Behind me, 2 black women.

The ladies were complaining that there was no good chicken left in the meat department. They were annoyed that they had travelled this far up Pico for nothing, and they were speaking at top volume so their chicken-less frustration was heard by all. The dude in front of me had a nice package of skinless chicken breasts and he must have heard Tom Petty’s song** because in a breath of inspiration he turned around and offered the women his skinless chicken breast. He wanted peace in L.A.

The ladies took one look at his skinless chicken breasts and snorted a contemptuous no thank you very much. They rolled their eyes at each other.

I tapped the gent on the shoulder, and explained quietly that the ladies were perhaps more inclined to enjoy wings and thighs, and not skinless chicken breasts; it wasn’t really personal. I wanted peace in L.A. too.

* abba zabba, fiddle faddle; the apple doesn't fall far...  

** link provided as a courtesy but please, don't make yourself listen to it. 

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