Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Straight...No Chasers!

Aaahh...Sunny California, no place in the country quite like it especially Los Angeles...swimming stars...outrageous rent...brushfires...gridlock...and televised car chases!

Lately, it seems like there's been a rash of freaks who think they can outrun the long arm of the law. Today (at least as of this writing) we've had two, count 'em, two car chases out here in La-La Land -- one in my neck of the woods which concluded over in Alhambra on the 10 Freeway and the other over in North Hollywood. After chasing the suspect (who was in a stolen car, no less) off the 405 and around surface streets at speeds of up to 90 MPH, Johnny Law nailed his ass in a cul de sac in West Hills. I've written that I'd forgotten exactly when I came to town and estimated but then that last car chase in NoHo, jogged my memory -- it was the first week of February, 1997...

What has become my stay in Los Angeles began with couch surfing over at a friend's pad in North Hollywood. His crib was located a block off of Lankershim Boulevard in the Valley. Things being as they were, I had to get gainfully employed which I did over at the local Wherehouse (a record store) over on Bellingham Avenue. (What're you laughing at? At least I'll admit it). My job was one block West of Laurel Canyon which I'd walk down every morning on my way to work but one fateful day I was coming in another direction...

On the night of February 27th, I hooked up with this chick from work so the next morning I strolled it from her spot over on Whittsett Avenue. (click header) I cut across on Sherman Way, went under the freeway overpass and through a park which ended at the Wherehouse's parking lot. As I walked by the b-ball courts I looked up and noticed a swarm of news helicopters hovering overhead, almost on top of the Sears, "just another traffic accident," I thought. As I waved at the store's manager who was unlocking the door for me from the inside we both flinched at the sound of AK-47 volleys ricocheting off the walls. "Was that an automatic rifle report?" he asked as I ran into the building...

Once inside, I started to set up shop and just as I noticed the lack of traffic on Victory Boulevard, my boss broke in and exclaimed: "There's a live bank robbery on the tube!" We went into the break room and watched the North Hollywood Heist of '97 unfurl on TV in real time. As it turns out, the violence was closer than either of us thought, it was around the corner at the Bank of America a couple of blocks over -- we were glued. The "that's just on TV," feeling of everything got hairy and grew teeth as we peeped what was taking place over by the KFC and it had us both on edge. We were hearing gunshots, helicopters and sirens in 3-D surround sound which made the experience surreal, to put it mildly. I remember thinking "Dayum! They don't fuggaround out here!" That day, two gunmen entered that B of A on the corner of Kittridge and Laurel Canyon and attempted to rob it. Unlike the standard "smash and grab," these guys were fully covered in body armor and packing even more heat than the cops themselves -- eventually the first wave of LA's finest who arrived on the scene had to requisition more firepower from a gun shop nearby. The siege went on for hours and my new San Fernando Valley neighborhood had turned into a fuggin' war zone. The newscasters told viewers in the area to remain inside and stay away from windows as bullets were flying everywhere but that didn't stop the newschoppers from circling overhead like man made vultures ( or ghetto birds) skimming the rooftops and palm fronds for the latest breaking episode of televised carnage to feed an unquenchable public's thirst for other people's hurt -- "if it bleeds it leads."

Every since that day in the Valley, whenever I see one of those "Greatest-Most-Wanted-Carchases-while-animals-attack" type shows, I always remember that day in the record store and get mildly repulsed by the people who channel surf for shite like that. As a society, we love it and they know it which speaks volumes about why we get such shitty news reportage these days. In lieu of asking for the dots to be connected on issues like the economy, what's the dealio in Iraq or in depth coverage of the scuttlebut taking place in the back channels of public policy -- the market calls for camera crews to film miles of footage of scofflaws being chased by helicopters instead. Repeat 'n rinse. Granted, the coverage on that February day probably did save lives, I know of at least one -- if I hadn't spent the night over at that chica's house, I would've walked right past that bank at the same time that everything was jumping off -- with headphones on, no doubt -- and somebody might've put a couple of lead pills in me. I'd like to think that that's what they were trying to do but (to put it cynically) more than likely that day's ratings probably held sway over whether those eyes in the sky were reporting anything that needed to be reported on (bonus for them)...

As it turned out, after wounding a couple of civilians and about a dozen cops, firing hundreds of rounds of ammo and swiss cheezing a grip of police cruisers, the felons got away with nothing -- not even their lives -- one took his own life instead of surrendering and the other bled to death from the wounds sustained during the gunfight and rumor had it in the 'hood that they were looking for a third. Although scenes like the one I witnessed in North Hollywood haven't recurred anywhere since, it's not uncommon to see those car chases. Hell, there's half hour prime-time shows dedicated to the "live crime genre," guess the news-copters can't keep up anymore. Whenever I see footage of these mooks who try to outdrive teams of highway patrolmen and helicopters, I can't help but wonder what in the hell are they thinking? It's so tragic that it almost goes back around to being funny...but not quite. Not funny at all. You can try to fight the law but ( just like casinos in Vegas) the law wins. Always. The "double feature" I caught today tells me that things are only going to get worse, " 'cause when you're broke, you break" (to quote Snoop Dogg). In a nutshell we've become inured to seeing this sort of thing on the regular -- we don't even wig out on it anymore and that's some reality TV for your ass. For many, these days, watching would-be Tony Montanas getting "chitty-chitty bang-bang" with the authorities a la Thelma & Louise is the only reason that they'll even tune in to watch the news in the first place and thats scary, yo...Laters...



Blogger Lucio said...

Do the words 'CeeP, you're not in Virginia anymore' mean anything to you?

9:18 AM, June 08, 2005  
Blogger mj said...

love this piece, ceep. in fact, i loved the news story that was that bank job in north hollywood that day. i was living in san dimas and watched at home as i had the day off and i remember being fascinated this was happening. in those days, i was a csr and the pay was just getting me by so i was broke, and i could have broke, (i f you know what i mean.)
let me preface by saying unequivocally, i was not rooting for the robbers. (middle eastern men, by the way.) but in those days i was coming to certain truths about the world and our society in particular.
here's 2. you can't get away w/ crime anymore.
that's just a fact. people who do get away w/ the occasional crime do so just because the powers that be find the risk reward to be negligible or there are just too many larger fish in the pond of crime. know this: if you're a smart mutha-fuggah from stanford and you have moved your ass to a shack in montana and you mailbombs to people and write manifestos but you are smarter than the lawmen and you cover your tracks thoroughly, you will still get caught you una-bombing sonuvabiatch! in that case, law enforcement turned to the public and it so happened, ted had a brother who ratted him out. (thankfully.) i didn't condone his violence any more than the bank robber's but i recognize what he recognized, it's impossible to get away w/ squat in this day and age.
(and mostly i'm cool w/ that except when it pounces on my civil liberties.)
#2: you can't attack america.
(again, thankfully. i live here.)
who would attack us? send an air force we'll spot them on radar and gun 'em down before they even reach our shores. missiles? interceptors. attack by land from mexico or canada? please...
we have the best equipment, technology, people, etc., to prepare for such a thing. about the only way anyone could ever attack us and do any amount of damage would be if they hijacked a plane and dropped the whole thing into a crowded place but even then, they might kill a finite number of americans but they will make no progress in toppling our government or taking us over. it's a joke.
in response to 9/11 we have made life hell on a grip of people who were either associated with those who committed the atrocious acts of that day or who look like them, come from the same region, or might be linked in any other remote or clandestine way. those acts hardened and focused our response. they did not do much in the way of lasting damage. that is, if they intended to damage our financial structure, they failed.
the point is, i get what snoop was talking about.
desperation is a tender trap.
these guys on the run on freeways in the southland run from three strikes and going back to the big house and low self esteem but they should no, they cannot hide. they will be caught. it is only a matter of time. that said, why bother running? the runner is merely adding time on to the end of what they likely have coming anyway. (i know in this way three strikes has been considered a bad thing because of the level of desperation it can create. if you have nothing to lose, you got nothing to lose. at least in the beginning of the car chase phenomenon, the rash was attributed to people sitting in strike two who had just whiffed again.)
now it may be the car chasees see themselves as some sort of a minor celbrity just below the judge judy jerry springer participant who resides just below the b-actor who fell out of the industry and now does imfomercials. maybe they get to the gray bar motel and make friends because of the story they get to tell. "then they smacked my left ear into the pavement and i could see the chopper up there and i waved!?! hu-huh. isn't that kewl?!"
in any case, these are the dumbest f the dumb and the desperatest of the desparate. still, don't watch them.
i haven't watched one in years. i know it appeals to the least savory part of me so i refrain. yesterday i was doing laundry going in and out of the house and i could hear my neighbor's tv on the chase on the san bernardino freeway and it sounded quite exciting, titillating even. i had heard about it briefly on the radio on my way home from work.
so i went inside and turned it on just because i wanted to see how many channels were covering it. as it turned out, when i turned it on it was ending and only channel 7 was on it. not 2, 4, 5, 9, 11 or 13. (good for them.)
i realize my words here are a jumble of thoughts but i'm rushed. suffice it to say, they all end the same and watching them is worse for you than the bad cholesterol.

12:56 PM, June 08, 2005  
Blogger Crash Pryor said...

I'm not in VA; I'm Californicated.

Yeah Lucio, that phrase rings a bell...kinda like "this is L.A.!" which is used as a catch-all non sequitor when weirdness happens out here...back in NYC it was "only in New York." I guess every section of the country has its own brand of "ka-rayzee" to sell.

Nevertheless, based on the way things are going with all the car chase operas, I'm really starting to question the foundations of Darwin's evolutionary postulates/ theories and thusly I beg: are we getting dumber as a species or do I expect too much of my fellow man? MJ, I agree with you (and Kenny Rogers) because nowadays you really can't outrun the long arm of the's that saying go, "the best way to take away someone's freedom is to make them "think" that they're free?"

Concordantly, I didn't root for the swarthy gunmen who decided to "go on, take the money and run" that day...remember when I said that people in the hood thought there was a third guy? When I got off that day and walked around the crime scene to get home. When I got there this old couple from Guadalajara stopped by and announced that the robbers were where Armenian and I could hear a collective sigh of relief wash over the neighborhood (primarily Latino and Black with a couple of Russians sprinkled in)..."at least they won't be looking for one of us" -- a sad commentary on how so many of us are feeling. low expectations, yo.

Those car chases reminded me of this, how far removed from reality we're getting in everyday real life...if it ain't on TV it ain't real...which explains a lot: why people can't talk to each other any more but will sit in front of a flat screen TV and let the cathode rays absolve them of their thoughts...I bought a TV recently (to screen DVD's) and I must admit, I've been watching some of it...and man has it changed...everything's been dumbed down (if that's possible) to the point where the audience is not required to have a thought for themselves, just watch other people enact their lives, rest up for that soul killing job you got to go back to tomorrow - leave the driving to us! I don't think this bodes well I'm sure I'll write about that later, so I'll leave you with this: Led Zeppelin wrote a song that exemplifies what I'm feeling called "Communication Breakdown" -- next time you catch one of those car chases on the tube, turn down the volume and put that tune on...fits perfectly, don't it? Laters

2:54 PM, June 08, 2005  
Blogger mj said...

indeed it would. people are afraid, man. when you pander to and succumb to the lowest common denominator, there are repercussions. the dumbing down. fortunately for our species, we're moving in both directions. all these means of communication and the mountain of knowledge we have to build on and advancements everywhere in every field. . .well, harvard is still full, i'm sure.

11:51 AM, June 13, 2005  

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