Thursday, September 13, 2007

this night has opened my eyes (mama didn’t raise no fool).

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

I set out on my bike at around 11:30. I usually wrap up my studies, hop on my bike, and ride across campus on my orange beach cruiser. My bike is generic as generic gets—the bike shops around here sell them by the dozens, and every other bike on campus seems to be of the same make and model. I thought picking orange would make it easy to find—I saw black, red, coral and turquoise flying out of Lion’s when I picked mine up. Alas, my sherbert baby is usually among three other identical beach cruisers on any given bike rack at any given time on any given day. My black basket sets it apart, I suppose—I figured that most people who bought baskets would be girls and that they’d pick to adorn their bikes with white baskets. So far, I haven’t seen an orange beach cruiser with a black basket that wasn’t my bike. Time will tell—it’s a huge campus and it’s a generic bike…the odds are against me.

Anyway, I put on a brown Dodgers cap—I got it for $8 bucks at a Foot Locker and felt that it'd help me feel more connected to this sprawling city. I couldn’t ever wear true Dodger Blue; I know my dad would rather die than see me wear the color and team scheme. In fact, he wouldn’t even consider a visit to Chavez Ravine (as all Angels fans refer to Dodger Stadium in light of their having played in the park for some period of time—they’d never acknowledge their “cross-town” rivals who actually play in a different city, in a different area code) when talking about an upcoming trip to LA. He said if the Angels weren’t in town, he didn’t care about LA baseball. Period.

I turned on one of the three playlists I spin while riding my bike—it happens to be my embarrassing yet incredibly nocturnal Jpop mix. I have grown a bit tired of my “bike riding” mix, which is heavy on Dead Prez, Kanye West, Latyrx, Aesop Rock and Morrissey and didn’t really feel like listening to the usual late-night ambient playlist.

It turned out to be a night-changing move.

Turning on Nakashima Mika’s “Hi no Tori” may have soothed my ears, but it must have upset the balance in the universe. First off, a bike locked to the same rack stall as mine wasn’t even locked to the stall—as soon as I took my lock off, its lock came off. Kids here are usually careful about their bikes, especially the ones who don’t have cares.

Out of nowhere, a white labrador started walking towards me. It never got close enough for me to touch it, and though it was intrigued by my calls of “here puppy” and my whistles for attention, it eventually walked back into the night from whence it appeared.

Later, while locking up my bike (a bit nonsequential, fine), I searched for the dog, whose shiny coat contrasted with the never-completely-dark LA sky. The dog didn’t return from the suburban shrubs it disappeared into. It didn’t have to. His mama taught him never to trust strangers or to flock to strange whistles or calls of “here boy”. Those things get you run over. Those things get you put to sleep. Mama didn’t raise no fool.

Fine, fine, these two things aren’t unordinary.

Riding along, I thought I’d try to make the light at the intersection. Just as I was about to enter the crosswalk, two people right in front of me got hit by an automobile. The cherry red minivan dragged them forward about fifteen feet, at which point the surprisingly still night was punctuated by myriad car horns.

The woman got out of her minivan and yelled at the young twentysomethings—though they clearly had the crossing signal (“It wasn’t even blinking red” they cried out!). She drove off into the night, probably relieved to have eluded the campus police but probably unknowingly creating a hit-and-run situation, which would have got her more time than turning right on red but would probably have cost her less than fighting a lawsuit for hitting two people.

I pulled over and asked if they were alright and if they needed an ambulance. They replied “no, we’re fine…it’s all too surreal right now.”

Before I felt the conversation had even been properly concluded, they had walked off—I was convinced that this night of sudden departures was continuing. I hopped back aboard ol’ orange and trudged on…and saw that the pair, blood leaking out of their forearms and elbows, had really just been walking to the ATM across the street. I don’t really understand why cash is needed at this time of night—the area shops are closed—but who I am to ask?

I biked along, through campus, trying to spray the water from the sprinklers every which way possible until I reached the coffee shop, where I read the Economist and also watched a tweenage jackass ride his skateboard around in the shop.

All I really took away from my reading was that Belgium is a fractured country with nothing in common other than “the king, the football team, [and] some beers.”

While climbing a fence to get back to my bike, I tore a small hole in my pants. I can’t figure out if patching it up would be worth my while—would patching such a small hole below my crotch be me saying that I thought people would actually look at that area? Would it make me feel more secure to have it patched? Does it really matter, considering I have a pair of jeans with a hole in the rear pocket?

At the crosswalk where I had earlier witnessed the hit-and-run, I saw a line for the ATM. Maybe the machine was malfunctioning and giving out free money—why else would anyone stand in line for the ATM at 12:47?

I wasn’t in the mood to find out. Mama didn’t raise no fool; she hears the sirens when she’s on the phone with me and points out (a bit incorrectly) that that’s “a regular day in Watts” (South Central, Mom). She didn’t raise no fool. I’m not trying to be up forty for thirteen seconds before being eighty shorter in the pocket or six feet below. Mama didn’t raise no fool.