Luis and I watched the three helicopters hover in the Hollywood night – their spotlights aimed down, on a location further west on Hollywood Blvd. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah echoed off the bungalows and apartment buildings along Carlton Way. To the right of us, Luis’ crazy drunk neighbor stood on his balcony and sang wet alcoholic syllables to the choppers, waving his hands in the air as if he was conducting a symphony.
“A group of about 40 protesters set up shop in the intersection of Hollywood and Highland,” said The Great Warrior – a friend and neighbor (who’d rather me not use his real name) – as he walked up to us. “They got ’em out of the intersection, already. But they’re not taking any chances, they’ll be flying around all night.”
The choppers had broken the thick, heavy quiet air that had draped the city for the last 28 hours, since the George Zimmerman Verdict came in from Florida. In truth, the thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah’s of the choppers eased my mind a little bit. The amoshperic thickness had sunk beneath my skin, and I’d begun to feel a bit anxious.
Flashback – 28 hours before, Saturday evening. I’d been writing all afternoon. Finishing around 7pm, I decided to hop on the old facebook to see what’s happening. As I aimlessly scrolled down my timeline – waiting for a friend to wow me with a meme or witty, ironic status – I began to notice words like “Justice!” and “Sickening!” in various statuses.
Slowly, my stomach sagged as if a lead bar had been placed in it. I left facebook, headed to the dreaded CNN. There it was – ZIMMERMAN NOT GUILTY. I tried to read through the whole article but I can’t read all the way through mainstream news articles anymore. But the font and size of ZIMMERMAN NOT GIULTY said it all. facebook urged me to come back to it, but I retreated to MLB.com and hid out behind the box scores of Saturday’s baseball games. But baseball’s a slow game and facebook cought me. It’d taken only minutes for the hot bed of opinions to break out into full-scale Vitual Civil War. Finally, I found the strength to pull the Internet’s barbs from my brain and went outside for a walk, into the thickening quiet air.
At first, East Hollywood appeared the same. Next door, old men talked on the sidewalk. The old mumbling lady across the street sat on her stoop, held out a can of food to me – like she always does. On the corner of Sunset and Serrano, drug dealers were being discreet and wino’s writhed in the pleasure-pain of brutal enlightenment. Women carried bags of groceries out of Food 4 Less, or wheeled large laundry carts filled with clothes. All night girls hung out by Bill’s Liquor. But LA faded away as I walked further into my own head. Thoughts about the possible rammifications of the Zimmerman verdict raced around my skull like roller derby girls – clawing, banging into each other and falling to the floor as other thoughts cheered them on from behind a chainlink fence, reveling in bestial lust. Before I knew it, I was several blocks down Sunset. I didn’t even notice sun go down. The sky hung in a confused hue between black and blue. The green and red lights along Sunset were a lit a runway leading to a dark whorish place, so I turned around and went back to the bungalow.
Once there, I robotically, obediently jumped onto facebook. Blood covered the battle field. Fearful, hate bullets shot back and forth. Even those threads where everybody was on the same side – either side – felt combative, friends bludgeoning each other with agreement. Witnessing anymore massacre would certainly lead me to drink, so I logged out of The War and played my guitar loud and hard against that thick, heavy quiet air.
But those choppers brought sound back to the city, on Sunday night. Choppers would continue to fly over the city the entire week. As soon as one flew away, another came on. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah…
Tuesday night, I was walking back to Hollywood from Silverlake when I noticed a woman talking to a chopper in the sky. She wore a pair of huge red and white sunglasses and spoke in the usual Hollywood transient babble. However, as I walked by, she turned and looked right at me – the streetlights bouncing off the big sunglasses – and said, so clearly, “What’chu connected to, crackerman?!” I had no answer for her. She kept her gaze upon me for a quick moment longer, then turned and continued her discourse with the chopper. But her question echoed in my mind as I walked on, making for a rather existential journey back to the bungalow.
Wednesday, I found myself standing outside of Revolution Books, on Hollywood Blvd. On the sidewalk was an advertisement for a screening of a film called BA Speaks: Revolution, Nothing Less! I went inside for details.
“Hello,” said a baby-boomerish lady who’d approached me, immediately after entering. I told her I wanted to know more about the film. She handed me a postcard and pamphlet with the details.
“Tell me,” she said, smiling, gently, “how do you feel about what’s going on in the country since the verdict?”
“I think everybody’s scared shitless of each other,” I said.
“Mmm, hmm. Well, we think now is absolutely the right time for a Communist revolution in this country.”
Oh, I thought, it’s that kind of revolutionary bookstore. I looked around, on the shelves. Yep, there’s a picture of Mao, on the wall over there. And there’s one of Marx.
“Feel free to watch as much of the film as you wish,” said the lady. “But we’d love for you to come to the LA Central Library on Saturday. We’re going to screen the entire six hour film.”
I was able to preview the movie – which is a filmed lecture by the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party USA, Bob Avakian. In the 10 minutes I saw, he talked passionately about the systematic oppression throughout the world of the poor and of women, the criminalizing of Blacks and Latino’s in the USA, the eltism of the rich, America as a world empire. I was interested to see how the lecture developed. I smiled at the baby-boomer lady and told her I would be there Saturday.
Thursday was a paranoid blur. Choppers swooped overhead constantly. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. I felt a kinetic negative energy on the sidewalk, which seemed to affect the homeless along Sunset Blvd more than anybody else, like they were Tesla coils relaying some dark knowledge across LA. A very tall, blonde dirty lady jerked up and down Sunset, screaming, “I MAY BE PARANOID BUT REMEMBER HE TOLD US SO!” over and over. It was a hot week, yet she wore three or four layers of clothing, carried three bags on her arm. She scribbled away in a yellowed notebook as she shouted and walked. Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. I came upon a toothless, 40ish male wearing a white stained jogging suit, pulling a laundry cart that contained all his belongings. The cart only had one wheel on it, would tip over everynow and then – clothes, shoes and other things would fall onto the sidewalk. “AHH! Man, can you believe it? I got a $800 wardrobe right there, RIGHT THERE!” He came up to me, pointed at the cart while grinning at me. “Hey man, lemme tell ya, when I start thinkin I start reactin…and I’mma bad reactor, man.” Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. A transgendered female – cuts and bruises all over her – sat on the curb of Sunset, eating peanuts from a dirty and crumpled Jamba Juice cup. “HA! I’mma what you call a San Francisco wide-ass muh-fuh. Colin Powell and the Holy Ghost done got up in t’me.” Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah. Later in the day, I ran into the tall blonde dirty lady again with all the bags. “I AIN’T PRETENDIN NOTHIN…NOTHIN…NOTHIN.” Thwah, thwah, thwah, thwah…
Later, in front of the Church of the Blessed Sacrement on Sunset and Cherokee, elderly men and women waited in line to get free canned goods and clothes. I weaved through the slow, hunched bodies and tired eyes and came upon a storefront advertising, Eckankar: The Religion of the Light and Sound of God in the window. They met every Friday night at 7.
“What we will do tonight,” said the man who ran the Eckenkar service I attended on Friday, “is sing the prayer, HU, together for about 20 minutes. Now, we say prayer, but it’s just one syllable…hue. We don’t pray for things – this to happen or that to happen – because God knows what we need. And we say God, though we don’t believe in a god. But it’s as good any other term. Oh, and it says, worship the sign out there, but we don’t worship because well, there isn’t anything to worship. We just sing HU. That’s basically all we do.” He laughed. “The mind is a machine, kinda like a record player stuck in a groove. HU frees us, gets us off that one groove. It’s soul travel. HU frees our souls from our bodies, and we can travel any where in The Universe. Mars…even.” He laughed. “We sing HU to visit where we came from…to know God. Or, whatever you want to call it.”
Only two other people showed up. The four of us sat in a circle, closed our eyes, took deep breathes and belted out HU, over and over. Everybody’s breath was different, so our HU’s were staggered – there weren’t any gaps of silence, our collective HU was constant. Each of us also began ours HUs in different keys, but we’d quickly, naturally slip into harmony. Now, if you go online and look up Eckankar, you will find it to be called anything from a legit new age religion to a scam thought up by a crackpot. But there’s something about making noise in a cirlcle with other people. Pretty soon, HUUUUUUUUU was Everything. The back of my eyelids were far from simple black. I was staring at something vast and unamable and soothing and motherly. Then we stopped HUING, sat quietly with our eyes closed. When we opened our eyes, we looked at each other for long periods of time with no urge to speek. Then it was over. The whole thing took 30 minutes. I walked onto Sunset with a loose gait, relaxed shoulders. I heard the choppers, but they sounded far away, meaningless.
On Saturday, I went to the film screening of BA Speaks: Revolution, Nothing Less! I didn’t stay for the whole six hours, only three. But it was three hours of Bob Avakian relentlessly, passionately speaking out against the abuses of power throughout history, zoning in on the capitalist-imperialist oppresive rule of the US government. But he spoke just below shouting level, and he used the same vocal inflection the whole way through. Soon, every sentence sounded the same. That monotony became this kind of dark mantra rooted in the horrors of Humankind. Over and over, era through era…the same oppression. The same hand motions, the same staccato rythm, the same loud voice…
I drifted away, deep in that third hour. All I remember about that time was the cool dark of the room. I heard clapping now and then. And I heard Bob Akavian speaking, but the words stopped defining his ideas. His voice was merely a blunt echo throughout the room, back and forth from all directions. When I snapped out of it, he’d moved on from Man’s atrocities and finally toward his Plan – arguing that a Socialist dictatorship would be needed to make sure the dictates of communism were upheld. But by this time, he looked tired, sweaty, spoke laborously – as if he was at the mercy of his words, enslaved by a language already spoken. I got up and left the library, certain that the language needed to articulate Humanity’s freedom from the fearful hatred of itself has yet to be created, and would have to be created outside of everything we know. That is a matter of evolution, not revolution.
But I damn near made it to Mars with HU.