The Night of Shameful Skaters

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capture_150It started out the same as any other night. Lace up the skates, check the email, look over my texts, gather my feces. But there was something different about this night, something that wasn't obvious. Things happened as expected. People called in late. People bailed. I got a lift into town. It was cool but not cold. Eventually we decided we'd waited around long enough, and we went to the OccupyLA protests going on at City Hall. 

It's only two blocks to City Hall from our meeting spot, so even though we'd told the late one to meet us there we still had 10 minutes to kill after we'd had our fill of lending moral support to the protesters, gaping at their whimsical creations and of course, excusing ourselves for not staying. It seemed like they had things well in hand - in fact because the deadline for his honor the Mayor's demand that they vacate the Hall grounds had passed 44 hours earlier they seemed a bit jubilant. The area was crowded with the usual array of integer-bearing microwave vans and their requisite compliment of brightly lit and inappropriately-dressed talking heads, so all in all it seemed like business-as-usual at the olde towne proteste.

When our fourth arrived we got a glide down the new green bike lane on Spring Street. There was complaining about perculiarities of its design, but all in all it was approved of, and noted as a useful good thing overall. We popped into St. Vincent's and back out just as fast, tooled south to the flashy floor place, and then over to the Church of Money where the skating cops told us there's no skating allowed at the skating rink. We toyed with them briefly, then took the usual loop around the Conference Center. Someone tried to crash a skylift, but its operator managed to avoid catastrophe in spite of our shenanigans. 

LADWP's Ferrarro BuildingNext it was back up Fig to 7th, up the bike lane and over to the soccer fields to pee but no! They're closing when we get there so it's back downtown we go. To Pershing Square and the skating rink where we're told there's no skating allowed at the skating rink. Uh huh. So you say. Onward then, we go to see Charles at the Angel's Flight, then around the Disney Hall and over to the Ferrarro Building, better known as the colored lights of the DWP.  We skied the blue diamond down to the spot on Flower, and decided to take the long hill down as far as we could. That was a great run, with two way out in front actually getting past 8th Street, although truth be told they might not have made that light. 

We headed toward the cars, stopping by St. Vincent's again, before going back to spring to see how that bike path was when utilized for skating the OWWW (One-Way Wrong-Way) direction.  It was pretty awesome, except for the strong likelihood of getting creamed by anybody turning right onto Spring.  Don't do it kids. Anyway, all good, off we go, good night, time for food.

Or not. I hadn't really noticed the pounding of the choppers overhead before, but they were swirling everywhere, in layers, literally stacked over one another. When we got to 3rd Street there was a line of traffic and policemen protecting and serving all over the place. The informed us in not very flowery language that they didn't much care where we went, we just weren't going any further east on Spring Street.

2011-11-29_21-41-42_553The lights flashing and the droning of the 'copters was eerie, like a movie-world leaking into reality. We went to Main and 3rd but the story was the same, except a little more so. We could see down to City Hall, and it was lit up brighter than i've ever seen, flooded with banks of screaming white light, punctuated with flashes of red and blue.  Sirens blurted intermittantly from all directions,  including one that startled me from a foot behind, his bleeting siren shattering my frozen gaze. 

We made our way through the packed line of cars on 3rd as they were corralled back from turning by police whose numbers seemed to grow by the minute. At San Pedro we managed to - as a group - convince a surprisingly lucid and autonomous police officer that we were in fact simple skater peasants, with no desire other than to return to our vehicles parked just behind their blockade. We swore we had no interesting in complicating their field operation and proffered keys as bond to our tales, eventually gaining his trust and permission to proceed directly to said vehicles and leave the area immediately.

Once we got to the cars, a couple of us decided to go get drunk and see if we could get arrested. It seemed like the thing to do. We bade farewell to the vehicularly encumbered, and set off to Senior Fish to imbibe in adult beverages. Unfortunately our bartender informed us from behind a locked door that the SS had closed him down, and he was not allowed to open his door. Almost on cue, a pair of sworn officers appeared behind us, and we beat a hasty retreat toward the next bar. 

The story was the same all around City Hall. They'd blocked off (and blocked in) 12 city blocks of property and people, complete with barricades, red flares in the street and some professional grade 10-foot-ass-poles. We eventually decided to sit it out at Big Wangs on Grand.

We wound up feeling like we were complete assholes, truth be told, as we'd left the battlefield for $3 microbrews and $2 tacos. We watched as 14 of the 47 televisions showed coverage of 1400 armed jackboots arresting 300 citizens for expressing their dissatisfaction with jackbooted thugs.  The other televisions showed tennis and gold and basketball and other equally important events. 

I drank more than I should've that night, ashamed of myself for feeling too poor to stand in with them. There are times when we have to make decisions, and this time I chose for me... to maintain rather than proceed, to protect rather than risk, to cower in the shadows rather than stand bravely with the right. I hope I'm better prepared when I have to make that choice again.