Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Riot Act

29 Apr

This weekend I’ve been watching many of the documentaries about the LA riots in 1992. I remember the riots, we watched everything unfold on the afternoon news programs and in our government class at school the next day. I was a newly minted adult having just turned 18 the month before and the only thing I really had my mind on was deciding which school I was headed off to on the other side of summer.

Geographically we weren’t that far away from where this was all happening. Pico Rivera was just suburban enough to make this all look like something that was happening somewhere else but heading up to the hills around town after school you could see the smoke off in the distance and there was some attempted looting a few days in to the unrest at the Town Center in Montebello. We were aware of the videotaped beating and the trial, discussed this in class but never really did a deep dive on racial tensions. We had entire sections on Civil Rights era action in the 1960’s but weren’t really taught that this was still such a prevalent problem. The focus at the time all seemed to be on the gang wars and the drug epidemic.

My father worked as a Sheriff most of my life, he spent a lot of that time working in South Central. Stationed primarily in Lynwood, Compton, Watts and Willowbrook he left us each morning to try his best to keep peace and make it home to his kids each night. He wouldn’t tell us much about his days on patrol, we were fed tidbits when he would come home with a used car he had spotted while on duty or our dog Lynn a beagle he said he found wandering across Imperial Highway. When the riot happened Dad was the on campus officer for Lynwood High School. We never thought to ask why a high school needed a full time armed Sheriff on site, had we asked we are sure he never would have told us. When we saw what was starting to happen we knew not to expect Dad to be home that night. I don’t remember exactly when he came home, I do remember him calling us to make sure we were ok. My brother was off at UCSB so it was just my sister and I left at the house but we had family just on the other corner and we were quite capable teenagers.

As an adult looking back at this footage it still seems like it was something that didn’t happen in my beloved Los Angeles. But it did happen, months later when we were making our way through the streets to drop me off at the UCLA dorms we passed through areas that had boarded up burnt out buildings, some were never rebuilt and even now driving through Compton (right next door to me now!) there are entire sections of the city that never recovered. Even if the shopping centers didn’t burn they were just frozen in time, the signs look like they’re from the 80’s and there are very few national chains. There are some shiny new developments though, new centers and parks that have sprung up and a train that connects the area to downtown where you can get to the Westside or in to the Valley. There’s still so much more progress to be made though – the same issues that brought about the unrest in 92 are still happening today. With cameras in our pockets able to capture and quickly spread injustices maybe all of these protests are helping to vent this anger so it doesn’t boil over in this city.

In a way I’m glad I was a bit sheltered from what was really going on. It wasn’t bad where my only concern was which Smiths shirt I was going to wear the next day to school or when Middle Earth the long gone record store in Downey was going to get the latest issue of the NME in stock.

It all comes back to Manchester

20 Mar

This weekend I left sunny Los Angeles to visit my friend Darryl in Toronto. I met Darryl a few years ago while he was working on Pride in Travel (available on Amazon here and features yours truly in chapter 5). It was a chance to head to Opera Bob’s and meet the other members of the Toronto Supporters Club. The global City community can seem small at times and we all seem to know someone in every city. This feeling of camaraderie reminds me of the early 90s Morrissey crowd that followed those early solo tours around the states. There are a few worlds that overlap but this is one case when they did spectacularly. What follows is one of the greatest stories I’ve been a part of in the last few years.

In the fall of 1992 Morrissey came through Los Angeles with his Your Arsenal tour. That was also a monumental year in my life in which I turned 18, had left home to move in to the dorms at UCLA. My friends and I made plans to attend the Hollywood Bowl shows then follow the tour to the Del Mar show because it was a general admission show and you could get to the front if you arrived early enough. We camped out for two days in an unusually rainy Del Mar while rotating out trips for naps and showers at a nearby Motel 6 that we were sharing with no less than eight other fans.  Our efforts paid off and we were rewarded with a few hours smashed up against the barriers while Moz tore through his set. Somewhere during the show someone tossed a flag on stage that Morrissey whipped around for a few seconds before he threw it to the side of the stage. Any rabid fan knows that after the show your main goal is to get whatever you can from the Roadies tearing down the stage. I was the lucky one that grabbed the flag from the stage with a little help from my friends helping me plead to get it thrown down to us. It was a cross of St. George flag – a nice one as well that wasn’t just screen printed but stitched together pieces of nylon. I went skipping back to our car to head home with this new treasure firmly in my grasp.

I hung this flag in my dorm room for a few weeks until the morning I left for New York to catch the last few nights of the tour. I had a free ticket to fly anywhere in the US thanks to my newly acquired AmEx and I could think of no better destination. I traveled with two friends to the city where we had no hotel room booked or tickets to any of the shows! These were no ordinary shows on the tour they were three small club sized shows around New York City and ending the week in Philadelphia at the Tower theatre. That trip is a tale for another time but in the midst of these shows was Thanksgiving when no show would be played and we took our chance to try to meet Moz at his hotel to get a few things signed one of these items being my flag. After hours of waiting at The Mark we were rewarded with a few moments of his time and were told to wait in the lobby. Linder Sterling came back to the lobby to gather up what we had and took it to Morrissey’s room to get signed, she returned 20 minutes later with everything bagged up for us and we ran back though the cold streets to our derelict hotel off of Times Square giddy with our interaction.

I’ve held on to this flag and kept it as the ultimate Morrissey souvenir sure to win all arguments of who has the best object from the era. I haven’t displayed it in many years because I’ve been worried about the flag becoming worn and the autograph fading so it’s been tucked safely inside a box for the last 5 years. Flash to October of last year when I was selling my beloved Vespa LXV to my friend Andy to make room for my Primavera. Andy is also a City fan, member of the supporters club and a MASSIVE Morrissey fan. He had never been to my home and had a bit of a nose around at my memorabilia covering the walls. We got to talking about various items we had and I knew I had to bring out the flag. I couldn’t find it at first and just told him about how great it was. He asked some questions about where I got it and pretty specific details about the flag itself and quickly realized this was the flag he had thrown on stage that Halloween night! I knew I had to find it. A few moments of opening nearly every box in my office I found the folded flag and presented it to Andy. He marveled at seeing this flag he last had in his hands 25 years ago now with the oil crayon inscription of “Bernadette Hoist It High – Morrissey” in the distinctive Moz scrawl across a panel. I was a bit worried he would ask for it back but instead wanted a photo with it and put up a post about it.

Andy Flag 2

There are certain people in my life I feel I was always meant to be friends with but had never been brought together until recently. We all moved in the same circles, knew many of the same people and have shared experiences. It wasn’t until something like your team pulling an impossible victory out in overtime spawning the need to form an official club that you meet these people.