Even at 42, my conscience still makes noise when I defy my parents’ wishes.
I’m not alone in this.
One of my first California boyfriends, a man over 30 at the time, put considerable effort into hiding his tattoos when his mother came to visit. This woman had been a traveling blues singer; so hip, she used an open suitcase for his cradle. Nothing I could say would convince him she’d be alright with a little ink — well, in his case, a lot of ink.
Another friend of mine, a smoker, mentioned hiding the habit from his father. That’s a bit more understandable than the tattoos. And perhaps he was protecting his dad from second-hand smoke.
Me? I had explicit orders from my mom to “BE CAREFUL,” and by that she meant: avoid dangerous Occupy situations. I wish her cautionary pleas had been warranted. Up until that point, I’d not been closer to the action than following Twitter and Livestream.
That changed last week, when an ordinary afternoon of errands received a surprise dose of excitement dressed in riot gear.
I haven’t been so close to crowds of police since 1988 when my buddy’s van got raided by billy club wielding cops outside of a Grateful Dead show. I usually make a point of calling people on the police force “officers”, but the men in blue that day (none of them were female) behaved too violently for my respect. That’s a story for another post.
Here’s what happened last Wednesday.
As I drove north on Westwood, away from my dental appointment, I debated about whether or not to have a late lunch at Napa Nazi’s (so named because the aforementioned smoker wasn’t permitted to light up on the patio). Dining there is a treat these days, one I figured I’d earned after all the drilling.
Before I entered Westwood Village, though, several helicopters overhead and a white gloved officer detouring all traffic (including me) interrupted my To Lunch or Not To Lunch deliberation. I city-gridded my Jeep down a side street where I hoped for a view of the closed intersection.
From my new vantage point, all eight lanes of Wilshire appeared off limits to non-law-enforcement vehicles. In the distance, it looked like people with signs sitting on pavement (Occupiers?). Since I didn’t get a bomb threat vibe from what I saw, and no one crouched behind squad car doors with weapons drawn, like I’d seen occasionally on commutes home from Hollywood, I did what made sense. I pulled over near Napa Nazi’s, fed the meter and walked towards the yellow tape.
I stood there behind the line, for a few minutes, watching.
I thought of what my mother had said about staying out of trouble. I thought of the sound of my father’s voice when he’s displeased with me. I thought of successful, talented grown men hiding their tattoos and nicotine addictions from their parents.
Why? Because we’re raised to appear a certain way, to take care of our bodies, to obey the law. It’s prudent to remain behind police enforced barriers, and presumably safer.
Then I thought: there’s nothing wrong with my abilities to think for myself, to assess danger, to notice that the police not twelve feet away from me were doing nothing to reprimand the few individuals who crossed over the tape to move towards the demonstration.
This was too great an opportunity to pass up. I ducked under that tape and started walking.
TO BE CONTINUED.
November — NaBloPoMo — Day Fourteen