Glendale Library: Nothing Better to Do than...Spit

A windy November Sunday afternoon at about 3 PM waiting in front of the Glendale Public Library.

I had just biked from my abode in Panorama City. I was waiting to tutor a high school student from a Catholic high school, the son of one of my dad's contacts. This was the first time I was going to meet them. What was I going to tutor him in? Writing of course.

I didn't know how the high school student or how his accompanying mother looked like, so I told them that I would meet them in front of the Glendale Central Library.

I wanted to look studious and serious when they met me, so I made myself comfortable in this rounded seating pit with two levels intended for sitting and standing right in front of the library. Took a seat at what I thought was a visible center of the pit and the library entrance, a panopticonical view. I cranked open my notebook and started writing.

About 5 feet away from me to my right is some white guy standing up and smoking.

About 20 feet away from me to my left and also sitting on one step of the pit, feet on the level below, an Armenian teenager, nodding down and spitting.

After about 10 minutes of writing, another white guy comes in. He bums a smoke off that other white guy. They talk about the library and how it should be open for longer than 1-5. "People need to do research." Turns out that the smoker is a writer, trying to get published and resorting to getting self-published and the smoke-bummer-offer is a grad student in literature. Heh, maybe I should be in that conversation.

After the two leave, I could finally stop eavesdropping and concentrate on my writing. Though I do shoot a frequent eye-swoop of the landscape for sight of a Filipino son and his mother.

However, to the left of me, that teenager is still there to the left of me. Spitting.

Now that I have nothing else to focus on, I notice that. At about every 30 second interval, this teenager would just discharge any saliva he had in his mouth at a given point. He wasn't hacking loogies and conjuring up balls of spit. What he seemed to be doing was out of habit, maybe even hobby.

There was a bit of a dampened part of the level directly beneath him and between his shoes. It's as if it rained in one section of the pit.

He didn't appear to be sick.

What was even more peculiar is that he didn't even have an iPod, a CD Player, a book, a backpack, anything else to distract him. It was just him, his thoughts (I suppose), his head dug down, and his 30-second spits.


[30 seconds]


[30 seconds]


[30 seconds]


Jesus Christ, did this kid have anything better to do?

In past years, maybe I wouldn't have been so annoyed, but trying to write, as well as being concerned about the public space, and writing about the public space, I guess I've become sensitized to some things.

So with that, I tried to sympathize with him...a bit. I do remember a time when I had this habit of spitting everywhere. I was probably in grade school, a bit younger than he was.

Why'd I do it? Probably to establish myself as a cool teenager in what I thought was a subtle way, but hold on that's not to be dismissed as a trivial concern.

I noticed that athletes spat all the time. At hockey games, the dudes were spitting so much on ice that they all fell on nonetheless. At baseball games, players were spitting out tobacco and sunflower seeds. I love(d) David's salty-ass sunflower seeds. Everyone cool and established in my world was just spitting like it was nothing. I guess it was OK for me to do it, maybe people would confuse me for an athlete or at least notice how cool I was for spitting like an athlete. After a while of spitting, spitting came so naturally. It was nasty to have my own saliva in my mouth.

About 10 minutes into his routine, the teenager having my full awareness finally called it quits. He got up and walked across the street without checking any cellular phone, or any hesitation. It was like he was programmed to spit at Glendale Public Library from 3:30 - 4:00, and was just moving on to the next engagement.

Metro Stories Inspiration and the Social Space of the Bus/Train

So, on this blog, I'm just beginning to recall all this time I've spent riding Metro buses and train lines. I've seen a bunch of things and as I recall them, I'll put up as "thick" a description as I can manage.

The inspiration to writing all about this, probably a lot of things, but one big source of inspiration is from the rap group Blue Scholars and their song "Joe Metro."

In my previous life as a car driver up to just one year ago, I didn't really get it.

Yeah, I got that there was a diversity of people on the bus with interesting stories, but I didn't gain any appreciation for any of the lyrics of the song. They didn't mean shit to me. But now I just find that they mirror my current experience as a Metro rider to the tee.

This line in particular struck me.

"Appreciating God's design
Rewind sister
Reminds me of a smile in the back of my memory
Wonder if I'll see her again
Will she remember me?
"I'm not tryin' to holler, I swear. I'm just weary of the way we hop a ride
And just sit there and stare.""

Lot of people you come across, and yet you can barely talk to them.

It's like a space full of individual social barriers, and it takes "something random" to beat down all those barriers. "Something random" being something that we can all stare at: it could be some woman who who will ask you to donate to the homeless without even looking you in the eye. It could some enterprising hustler who will coax you into a game of moving cups. It could be some really loud teenagers. It could be my obviously-expensive bicycle wheels. It could even just be a baby.

Just "something random" becomes a way to break down all social barriers and a place of instant shared experience and instant conversation.

Metro Stories: The Homeless Family

A Wednesday night ride on the Blue Line from Long Beach to the Valley.

At the Imperial-Wilmington stop board a Latino man and Lady pushing a stroller with two children in them. With seats all taken and a bulky stroller, they parked themselves in front of an exit.

Sitting in front of me towards an exit was an overweight black dude talking on his cell phone about how he was fucked up and drinking all day.

For a split second, this elaboration was interrupted when his girlfriend/wife called in the middle of that conversation. He noticeably lightened his speech. He used terms of endearment like "baby" and said "yeah, I'm at this stop." Sounded like he was apologizing, if a bit deceptively.

After saying his goodbyes, he switched back to the other conversation beginning with "that bitch..." and continued on elaborating on the extent of his drunkenness for the rest of the train to hear.

Apparently, he caught eye of the Latino man and some 5 unusually tall Latino tweens who were sitting left of me and laughing it up. It was someone's first-time ride; amidst the boorishness of the man in front of me, he joked that he was absolutely terrified of this Metro ride.

The black guy, still in conversation, somehow noted these dynamics, making the comment on his phone "these people are scared of me!"

The Latino man with the kids said, "as long as you don't say anything bad about us, it's OK."

Some time later, the black man stopped talking on his phone.

Then from the back, a diagonal view of him, I noticed him twitching or blinking or something else repetitive and undeniably irritating. I was thinking "great, what the fuck now."

Upon closer investigation, he was actually making eye contact with the babies in the strollers. He was playing peek-a-boo with one white-ish baby who was tickled pink.

The drunken, overweight, boorish black man who would probably be at the absolute center of all conservative and Tea Party disdain, did have a sense of human to him, after all.

Somehow the Latino man and the black man got into conversation.

I started noticing when the Latino man said, "We just lost our home."

"We were renting and the guy who owned the house was kicked out. I don't care that I don't have a house, but for my kids..."

"Where are you staying?" asked the black man.

"We don't know yet, we've been staying with some relatives." said the Latina lady.

"Well, there's a place on Broadway and 39th called the New Image Center." My wife is actually there right now. They'll give you a room, and they'll let you get right in because you're a family.

"139th and Broadway?"

"No, 39th and Broadway."

The black man gave the woman her phone to speak to his wife.

Metro Stories: Oscar Grant

A chilly Friday morning on the Orange Line en route to the Red Line.

Just caught the bus.

Soon as I enter the bus, I see a young "conscious" dude of color wearing a black Oscar Grant T-shirt. In my head, I'm raising my fist with him.

Matter of fact, I was heading to an Oscar Grant-related event: The sentencing of the officer who delivered a fatal shot to the unarmed, young black father named Oscar Grant.

If you don't know who Oscar Grant is, I wrote an article about who he is and the trial and the importance of all of it here.

In progress, the young dude was having a conversation with a young black woman just across from him. I imagined that the conversation probably started with him explaining to her his T-shirt and why justice was needed for Oscar Grant.

She talked about how her godbrother was sentenced to life after having attained a third strike to his record. "He's gone for life at age 21" she said. She said that the first two things he did was just "stuff he did as a kid at age 13." Apparently, her godbrother was guilty by association. The police accused him of attempting to assault a police officer --- for her, she saw from the point of view of her godbrother and thought the logic of the police suspicious at best.

The guy with the Oscar Grant T-shirt could only shake his head in a knowing disbelief. A "knowing disbelief" meaning he's probably heard this story several times before but with other people and so "knows" the story, and a "disbelief" at the injustice still being blatantly carried out.

He made a poignant observation: Rich people who stole money were rarely ever prosecuted or stigmatized for white collar crimes, poor people were the ones always getting harrassed by the cops, and the final grain of salt to the slug, as taxpayers, they were subsizidizing the cops for such harrassment.

She began talking about her own experiences with the police. She talked about how officers demeaningly called her "Hollywood" when they saw her or asked her if she got her welfare check or would routinely tell her that she wouldn't be anything. Button-pushing, no doubt. Psychologists would call those "acts of microaggression." "Micro-aggression" meaning everyday actions carried out by someone, anyone, in this case, police officers, that communicate a hostility and demeaning of a person but are somewhat difficult to respond to.

Explaining the importance of microaggression, I'll take from the TV Show the Wire, a quote from the smartest cop, Lester Freamon, and a reformed cop, Carver, "It all matters."

Later in the day, I went to the courthouse where that officer was being sentenced. The demonstrators were chanting in front of LAPD and LA Sherriff's Department personnel "guilty, guilty, the whole damn system is filthy, filthy."

In a justice system that saw black professional football players like Michael Vick go to jail for 4 years for killing dogs...

In a justice system that saw a football player for shooting himself in the foot for 2 years...

...the officer who shot away the life of a young black man, who in Michel Foucauldian lingo "liberally exercised his technology handed to him as a means to control the body and backed by the state", received what will amount to...7 months.

Los Angeles City College Banning Bicycles on Campus?

So earlier today, I rolled by the bicycle store Orange 20 to fix my bicycle's new-old front wheel.

On the way out with my newly re-birthed bicycle, I cut through Los Angeles City College as I had done about 20 times.

Missing my first turn through a parking lot, I made the mistake of passing directly in front of the Sherriff's office. Two sherriffs in shorts just walking by. I'm entering LACC, expecting nothing when one of them barks:

"Hey, get off the bicycle, read the sign."

My gut reaction is to strongly dislike this symbolic show of institutionally-backed power.

I say "I didn't see it [dumbass]."

And it's true, I missed it.

OK, fine. People want to be assholes today, fine.

Reluctantly, I get off my bicycle. I walk for a few meters. I see very few people around on a mid-day Election afternoon and this walking shit is taking way too long. With the coast clear, I get back on the bike.

50 Meters later, some other Sherriff in shorts motions me to come towards him. He asserts more of his state-and-institutionally backed authority "No bicycling on campus."

What the flying eff-knock?

I used to be able to bicycle all over campus. What changed? Or has it always been like that, have I just been yet another unruly miscreeant bicyclist, and they just now have public safety personnel to enforce it at all times?

From what I know, the reasons that bicycles would be banned on at least parts of a campus have to do with steep inclines with steep drops as at UCLA and high pedestrian volume. At LACC, there is neither a steep downhill, there might be peak periods of pedestrians, but at my time, this wasn't one of them. It seems like the entire campus was just closed to bicycles.

Had there been a spate of bicycle-pedestrian incidents at LACC? Is this some type of economic development for the Sherriff's department?

Anyone know what is up with LACC?