The Rip Post                                    Riposte Archive


riposte2.jpg (10253 bytes)


 You find them everywhere. Blowing down sidewalks, crumpled up in bushes, rumpled and stained in curbside gutters. Bits and pieces of daily lives, discarded or lost, there at your feet. Each one a chapter from a story, somewhere in the middle of a human book. Call them city footnotes. . .
          FOOTNOTE # 1: Recovered Memory
          Folded neatly in the gutter on Westwood Boulevard was, of all this, a police report. I recognized it instantly from years spent thumbing through them at cop stations in the Valley when I was a police reporter at the Valley News. It took me back. . .
          For the record, I was a less-than-stellar police reporter. I had little enthusiasm for cultivating contacts with detectives in order that they might surreptitiously tip me off to a murder or a twist in an existing case.
          Still, I covered my share of major crime, and while some of the cops tipped me off occasionally, I got very tired very fast of writing about mayhem and cruddy human behavior. I took more interest in the reports we weren’t supposed to write up, like suicides.
          In fact, I once got up on my idealistic young high horse and wrote a commentary about this, after reading a very poignant and detailed account of some poor woman who came to L.A. for fame and fortune, but wound up O.D.’ing in crappy motel with the want-ads beside her. Why, I wrote, do we not cover this sort of heartbreak? Just because there was no flesh-and-blood perpetrator? No sex? Nothing gruesome?
          The editor, perhaps wishing to keep a brash young whippersnapper down, refused to print my commentary! Sneered in the face of my earnest initiative! Said it was well-intentioned but. . .unpolished or something. I considered telling him that his ass was unpolished, but instead I sent it to the rival L.A. Times, where an editor promptly grabbed it and said it wanted to stick it on its own op-ed page.
          I told my editor to stick it, figuratively, coolly announcing that “I’d much rather it appear in our newspaper," to which he Nixonianly declared, ‘No deals! No deals!” and added “You have a very important decision to make, young man!”
          He was right. So I quickly sold it to the rival Times. And kept my job, by the way.
          But. . .
          I digress.
          So there was the cop report, headed “Recovery,” as in “vehicle.” Wow. The LAPD had actually recovered stolen property! This must happen almost as often as Oprah goes without make-up. But here a red ’87 Camaro belonging to one Santiago Castro of Huntington Park had actually been found downtown at 7418 S. Main Street, and was now available for pick-up at Al’s Tow at 6180 St. Andrews Place in L.A.!.
          And, hey, it was completely intact. Except for uh, the rear license plate. Oh, and the front seats and radio. And the hood, brake line, transmission, and um. . .
          No wonder the report had been tossed into the gutter.
          View footnote.
          FOOTNOTE # 2: Death on the Sidewalk

          There it was, on the sidewalk, staring at me. I knew it had to happen eventually. I was face to face with. . .
          Death spoke:
          “I am that I am. And you already made your choice.”
          I must say this was a jarring interruption to a walk-induced reverie. I mean, I was hoofing it at a good clip up Ohio Avenue in West L.A., lost in thoughts of how to improve the world, how in hell Emperor penguins survive, and a girl I used to know who was extraordinarily flexible. And. . .
          “What else is life, but part of death?” said Death.
          Gee, what a revelation. I expected better of Death.
          He was speaking from a creased and dirty piece of paper, yes, but I’m kind of susceptible to symbols, and when I see “Death” in big black letters, I pay attention. Luckily, the piece of paper turned out to be a dialogue between Death and someone identified as “Jean or Phoenix.” Guess she couldn’t make up her mind. Anyhow, Jean or Phoenix kept prompting Death into cryptic discourse with existential outbursts such as “Why can’t I just be mine? Belong solely to myself?”
          By the way, Death’s response to that was, in part:
          “Who says the two are mutually exclusive?”
          Yup, this was way over my head. Or under. As Huck Finn used to say, it was “too many for me.”
          The paper’s heading didn’t help matters: “Who is Death talking to? Actually it is the same question as before---who inhabited the duplicate body of Jean Grey?”
          I stood there, reading it to the rude accompaniment of evening gridlock traffic (another form of death.) I tentatively and somewhat fearfully concluded that it was a school assignment of some sort, probably high school. I could imagine a poor teacher forsaking Faulkner and Steinbeck for some science-fantasy book that kids might better “relate to”---what with talk of duplicate bodies and Phoenixes and Cyclopses and weird statements like “I represent structure and entropy.” Intellectual candy for adolescents.
          Me, I went back to my reverie. Couldn’t quite remember her name. . .
          View footnote.
          FOOTNOTE # 3: Thanksgiving
          Someone was practicing their thank-you’s---everyone should!---scrawled in printed caps all over the back of a list of jobs available at Brotman Medical Center: accounting supervisor, admitting rep, respiratory care practitioner, HIM clerk. . .
          The first thank-you (reprinted as written):
          “Thank you you’ve been helping in everything I’ve needed thank you for everything.”
          Hmm. . .Maybe a tad unfocused, repetitious? Number two:
          “Thank you for making me feel very necessary.”
          Touchingly candid, though possibly a bit too self-effacing, don't you think?
          Number three:
          “Thank you for your comfort for your deep kindness great thanks.”
          Long on praise, short on grammar. Number four:
          “Thank you for making me feel appreciated, noticed, important. . .what more could I ask. . .”
          Wow. Somebody must have done somebody a hell of a good turn. I pushed away the uneasy feeling that somebody might just be trying to insinuate his/her way into somebody else’s life.
          Number five:
          “I am so very ordinary. Thank you for making me feel special. . .I am grateful for your thought, your selflessness. . .”
          Yes, this was now dangerously thankful. I am not worthy!My initial thoughts of, how lovely that someone would spend such energy on trying to express gratitude. . .changed to uh-oh. . .
          I turned the paper over.
          There, I was relieved to find that Grateful Person had instead printed several inspiring quotes, including one from Woodrow Wilson about nursing your dreams through hard times, or some such cliche. Another quote, apparently anonymous, perhaps yielded insight into the too-humble writer’s psychology:
          “You must always be displeased by what you are.”
         Still another, allegedly from Eleanor Roosevelt, read: “If we wait till we are ready, we never do anything.”
          I wonder if the writer ever got ready to say “thank you.”
          And I wonder if Brotman Medical Center hires HER clerks, too.
          View footnote, side one. View footnote, side two.
           FOOTNOTE # 4: Heavyweight Friendship
          Shelby’s friend really wanted to help Shelby out.
          Sometimes friends just want to manipulate friends in the guise of helping, but I think Shelby’s friend really meant it. She had taken the trouble to fill almost two pages of notebook paper to help, after all. A young person is not moved to such prolific written utterance without inspiration.
          “I have some suggestions to help you loose (sic) weight. Before you start your diet you should get all the stuff that you need ready and prepared.”
          I pictured some poor kid who had probably grown up on  
Whoppers and McNuggets. It wasn’t hard to picture. They waddle by on their way to Uni High in my neighborhood daily. Shelby’s friend went on to counsel against starving oneself, and wisely noted that certain foods actually help burn off calories.  
          Then she laid out a daily menu:
          Breakfast: green tea, grapefruit, bacon, salad. Lunch: salad, grapefruit, fish. Dinner: salad, grapefruit, fish.
          This, said Friend, would help Shelby burn off six or seven pounds in the first week. But, she cautioned, “. . .you need to exercise also do some runs in the morning and nights.”
          Forgive the crass observation, but a diet like that would certainly lead to runs in the morning and nights. (Har!)
          Anyhow, the part that cemented my suspicion that Friend really was a friend was the conclusion: (sic) “Well this is my diet. I think you should do or you should try the regular way just eat healthly and exercise the second option.”
          This seemed like a syntactically crippled attempt to not be dictatorial in her direction, which I found startlingly wise and healthly for a young person.
          View footnote.    
          FOOTNOTE # 5: Lost Art
          Now, I’m all for studying different countries and cultures. The world is shrink-wrapped, there is no more elbow room, and we are all citizens of Patagonia, Morocco, and Des Moines. Well, in a way, anyhow.
          So I was not surprised by the nature of a lost or discarded piece of homework by one Anthony N., dated Nov. 1, ’06. It was about African art, and began:
          “3 observations for each paragraph on Africa Antistic African Art has been collected in europe for 60 years.”
          The rest of the page was equally decipherable.
          I had three immediate observations on Anthony’s paper: 1) spell out “3” and “60,” 2) capitalize “Europe,” and 3) learn how to write a sentence.
          Oh, and a fourth:
          Fire the teacher for giving this kid a B-minus.
          View footnote.
          For more City Footnotes, watch this space.

                                             BACK TO PAGE ONE

© 2007  Rip Rense. All rights reserved.