Sweetness amid the ruins…

UNITED STATES—Every Saturday my neighbors pay their usual visit from Palos Verdes to their Hollywood getaway. They usually do a few gardening chores and then go back to their shelter in place.

In the walkway, we joined in conversation with the New Yorker who rents the cottage next door to the cottage of the schoolteacher and airplane mechanic.

“What are those sirens?” they’re oblivious at the time and so am I. The siren blaring caravans were connected to the marches triggered by the killing of a Black man in Minnesota.

The pieces start coming together. Live images from old Broadway L.A. gentrified streamed over my daughter’s phone on Friday night. A shattered Starbucks, gaping on the sidewalk. Pairs of people along the sidewalks were trading quips with policemen. I surmised that there wasn’t a wall-to-wall mob, that had the power to trample and deprive the individual of power over their movements. A friend from Tennessee called, offering information that a Target from Minneapolis was set on fire and that Minneapolis, Minnesota is the headquarters of Target.

By Saturday afternoon, another friend called to tell me that there was a riot near Fairfax and Beverly. As I drove westward, I knew that what I needed was a nap in order to stay resilient. The friend, whom I help with some essential chores as he recovers from surgery, expects me to be ushered straight to the TV scenes of mayhem, but I know I needed that nap.

Before drifting off I heard, “Go escape to dreamland.”

Being true to myself these months has been a vital mechanism to deal with the Coronavirus quarantine. After a few minutes’ shuteye, I was ready to face the TV. There were police wagons tagged ACAB spouting flames. Youths ramming dumpsters into the locked gates of CBS, shot from a steep angle. The gate snaps open. Soon the CBS security at Television City comes to chain the gate shut. There are scenes of Rodeo Drive and wild kids breaking into what have been “non-essential” shops for 12 weeks. The front windows turn into chunks of quartz and t-shirted teen males run in to grab things. I’m told that Gucci was impenetrable and that they broke into Louis Vuitton.

From now on the words ‘they’ and ‘anarchy’ will be abused by many people. There will be a curfew this Saturday night. In Spanish, it is toque de queda and it is associated with banana republics. Here Banana Republic has been turned into a store at The Grove. By the time I got home in time for the 8 o’clock curfew, there was word that Nordstrom had been looted and a places in The Grove have been set on fire.

As my daughter biked home from work down Melrose, she felt the temptation of “American Vintage,” the most expensive thrift store in Los Angeles. The presence of a police wagon kept her on the straight and narrow back to the Hollywood cottage court.

Curfew is rather like house arrest. Being forced to stay at home adds insult to the injury of staying at home by depriving me of my midnight walks with my dog. The very next morning, Sunday, May 31, by 6:00 am I was licking my chops for when the curfew at over. Shortly after 7:00 a.m. I drive toward Farmers Market. I wanted to see Farmers Market and see if my friends at Coffee Corner were OK.

On Melrose, the comic book store was spared. The minimalist café next door was further minimalized, it’s front windows and doors completely broken. A police blockade turned me into forced me to turn left on La Brea.

All down La Brea the big crystal doors to tony eateries and Swedish furniture stores were shattered. All over were spray painted slogans against the police, and Black Lives Matter, both artful, angry and profane. A man, driving a corporate pickup for a graffiti clean-up service, was already diligently painting the political messages away.

The scene at Farmers Market, at 3rd and Fairfax, was daunting. Whole Foods was all boarded up, after being looted the previous night. Up the storied clocktower crept graffiti. National guardsmen were posted in front of The Grove. A few in their tan camouflage were posted in front of DuPar’s, holding their rifles lackadaisically, chatting among themselves, and largely left alone by the onlookers who took pictures and gawked.

The legendary market was intact, but shut to the public as shopkeepers cleaned up. A woman who had some official capacity with Farmer’s Market or at least carried an important-looking clipboard, said, “They are upset, but Farmers Market wasn’t the place to do this.”

I tell her, “Farmers Market is a precious place.” My heart is in it, and this well-groomed lady exudes no warmth behind her smile and her tan. I talk to a man with a nice camera lens, reassuring in bemused sadness. An earnest woman is groping with what she sees. At my feet on the edge of there parking I see by one of the shrubs a watermelon. It has been left by looters. Do I?

I pick it up. “Is this good?” I ask the man with the nice camera lens.

“You’ll have to cut it open and see. Sometimes the watermelons are not as good as they look on the outside.”

To be continued…

Graydon Miller is the Wizard of Fiction.