The man across the aisle is wearing a gun. It’s Friday afternoon in April, 1993. I’m in the Santa Monica Laemmle watching ‘Reservoir Dogs’. His coat is caught on the chair arm. The gun is an automatic.
There has been a verdict in the trial of the four LAPD officers charged with violating Rodney King’s Civil Rights.
The officers were previously acquitted of assault charges, resulting in the L.A. Riots. The coroner attributed 60 deaths to the verdict.
I get why he’s carrying a gun after the riots. I went to a range with a friend who was an NRA instructor. I was good with a .45 and a Glock 9. I killed many paper men. But I don’t have the temperament to own a gun.
They are announcing the verdict tomorrow morning. There is a curfew for the weekend – sunset to sunrise.
After the film, the man with the gun waits with me at the corner.
“Excuse me, but I noticed you’re carrying a gun.”
He’s embarrassed. He’s a cop. He’ll lead a group of officers in the field if anything should happen.
I picture him watching Michael Madsen sawing off a cop’s ear with a razor to the music of Steeler’s Wheel.
Saturday morning: convictions of two of the officers for violating Rodney King’s civil rights are announced.
On Sunday, Roy Felig and I meet on Santa Monica Boulevard.
There are no pedestrians. No cars.
We walk to Butler. Village Recorders. A famous mural covers the building.
The street beyond the studio is blocked. There’s a guarded gate with large barrels to slow approach.
Beyond the gate – a multi-story building surrounded by a parking lot.
The mural shows Interstate 10 truncated near Blythe, now the water’s edge.
Context – I completely misinterpret ‘Isle of California’ as California falling into the sea.
We wander closer to the mysterious gate. We see two things: a sign informs us this is the Santa Monica Courthouse.
And a sniper on the roof tracking us with a telescopic rifle.
It is 1987.
My father has recovered from his first stroke. He hikes into the wilderness with wrist crutches. Sunday mornings he makes pancakes for everyone in the Forest Service tent cabin.
My father is a practical joker from waaaaay back. He and his brother, Bill, have jokes they regularly play on each other that started in childhood.
Dad finds a strand of silicone insulation from a window that is being re-glazed. It is long and green and shiny.
One other thing – lateralized sensitivity is a stroke thing. After my dad’s stroke, he can’t feel his right nostril. People are always telling him to wipe his nose.
One Sunday morning, he announces the pancakes and bacon are ready, turns to the famished hoard holding the platter with a pile of pancakes on it, and a long, green, slimy strand of construction-grade snot making like a pendulum back and forth just above the top pancake.
It is 2001.
Dad’s second stroke. He is depressed and angry. He has given up. He wants to die.
After rehab, I move him around the corner from me. I read the news to him in the mornings. In the afternoons, I come back to ask him questions about what we read. Memory exercise.
He can’t remember the word ‘remote’, as in ‘remote control’.
I read that the brain can make new pathways and it could be remembered a different way.
“Dad,” I say. “What do they call the thing they dig around a castle?”
He thinks about it a moment. “The moat.”
“And if they dig it a second time, they have to (wait for it) re-moat the castle.”
I do this a couple of times. He gives me dirty looks.
I sell my place and move with him to our house in Idyllwild. One day we are sitting in the living room. He reaches for the remote control but it’s just a little too far away. He looks at me like a child, pleading, and he asks me: “Steven, can you hand me the moat?”.
I look at him in horror. What have I done? I am ‘moatified’.
My father smiles. It is the first time he has smiled since his stroke.
He smiles at his little joke.