Jewish Book: Saving Myself, a Los Angeles Childhood
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A Los Angeles Childhood - Snapshots From The 60s
Friday, 20 April 2012 12:14

Sue and I in my convertible MGB, top down, driving through Watts. Violence everywhere. Sue with her blond hair. What were we doing down there anyway? How did we get there? Just out for a drive 1965. "Get out of here and go home. It's a riot", a cop yelled to me as we drove past him. I hit the gas so fast it made our heads swim. We got out and back to safety. We didn't know that taking Vermont Avenue as far as it would go would end in danger. What was it all about anyway?

I remember my cousin Ruthie who was a ballroom dancer, circling around and around with her partner wearing the same outfits at sixteen as she did in her 40s, 50s and 60s.

Sometimes I ran into my cousin Frances, with her flaming red hair, doing sketches for her paintings of the old Jews down by the synagogue in Venice Beach right on the boardwalk near the bakery where Sue and I would get a big piece of cheesecake, take it out to the lifeguard station, climb up the steps in the winter bundled up in a warm coat, perhaps even mittens, and watch the waves slap the shore. Other times we would take a bag of sunflower seeds in the shell, crack them, eat them and discard the shells below on the sand. Or we'd write our troubles in the wet sand and when the waves came in, wash them away. It truly felt like they disappeared. Sometimes Sue would pose for a picture as I grabbed the camera to snap her photo, her blond hair glistening in the sun, her bangs covering her face, head cocked to the left or right depending on the way the sun caught her face.

The times down at the Gas House where Eric Nord, the King of the Beatniks hung out, as we sat around smoking, playing our guitars and drinking cheap wine before heading back to Mt. Washington to our house with a view window displaying the skyline of downtown Los Angeles. Those days were ones of wonder. Walks with the dog, looking for cast out aloha shirts sometimes tossed out before trash pick-up. Stained glass windows in apple crate houses. The Self Realization Fellowship. Racing up and down Crane Boulevard on the way to work or on the way home. It was all good.


I am nineteen             tan as a berry

on the sand                 in front of the Westwind

waiting for the older women to come.

They know the best lines

shoot the best pool.

I watch them strut into the bar

courage rages through me.

I walk in

Minnesota Fats making all the moves.

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