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Wednesday night, I bought a pack of Camels and sat down with Michael Whitmore and Mauricio and watched as helicopters circling fires sent their images of destruction. Newscasters at Parker Center looked scared as kiosks were tilted over and then set on fire. I say "scared" because the commentary was so inane that only a trite word could express their own lack of eloquence. The situation seemed to be getting worse as the calls came in, "Do you need a place to stay?" No, but we do need more beer. The live footage was interrupted by replays of Reginald Denny having his head stove in the bricks and a fire extinguisher. The cameraman weeping and gnashing at his inability to change what was happening. As the night got darker, the horizon, the jagged line of rooftops began to glow and as I stepped out to check the mood of the "hood , I smelled wood and fear. Impossibly, everything seemed to reflect a jumping glowing sick light and the figures on the street seemed to be hunched over in an imperceptibly greater degree the even a few minutes before. I went back in, shaking. They're at Vermont and Imperial, miles away. But also in Downtown, trashing what they can, newscasters fretting as behind them B-Boys dance and flash hand signs, some push the cameraman or the reporter and they cut to the studio. Back on the street on another channel sparse crowds dash back and forth in the distance, in the foreground, people bent over setting fires and later a police car burns. The cameraman up with the bangers as they turn it over, even as the ammunition in the trunk explodes. This night it is all on television and we make smart comments, fall into silence and I smoke the pack up. The shot gun comes out and leans against the T.V. as though it can transmit to the motherfuckers not to come here. Or as a totem, we've seen a few on the street, in the broadcasts and it seems to be a sick way of associating realities together. Us on the couch, the bangers fucking shit up. The newscasters arrive after some action at the New Otani and the windows all sparkle on the street, a million small bits, a thousand points of light. The mayor comes on and the camera and some reason is zoomed in on his mouth, it glistens and looks tight, it is Dada and wet. The next image is of a fireman being shot at and hiding behind their truck as a store goes up in flames. I realize that even though the motherfuckers are way the hell down there, they're still on Vermont, the street that forms one side of our block. We all break up and go in different directions, some off to bed, some to more T.V. at another house. The last image I see is of a split screen showing two different city blocks in flames. The police are driving past one and the camera of them and the camera in the chopper follows them and as it pulls back, revealing a series of fires on the same street, one per block. They rage without spectators or firemen. I fail to note that the sequence is heading north, and the speeding cars are pointed towards us. I slip into bed and lie awake for some time, it seems that the smell of charred wood is given substance and flows into my nose. There is a silence that disturbs me and I toss around.
I wake up and stick a smoke in my mouth, turn on the tube and select my pants for the day. The helicopters are showing buildings that I know and I struggle to interpret what this means. I realize I am looking at Third Street and Vermont. I live several long blocks above where the streets are named, a negative Third Street in effect. Marcy shows up, she has left work and gets busy pulling the hose on the roof and filling buckets. On the street, the minuteros and pinguinos make ice cones and women walk their children. Inside I take out my pistol and regard it for a moment before putting in a loaded clip and filling up the empty one. The bullets are hollow point and I have forty of them. We have thirteen shotgun shells, game load, and the shotgun goes to Marcy, a shell in the chamber and five in the pump. Around three o' clock, I walk up to the corner, a nightmare trembling makes the air dark and the traffic has become menacing, large groups of nasty motherfuckers are roaming around, some hold pipes and Forty O's. Cars are backed up on Madison and people begin to jump on them, pounding the windows and pulling at the doors. The crowd on the corner of Vermont and Santa Monica is immense and boils back and forth, the traffic lights are out, and the motherfuckers wander in the streets, threatening cars and screaming unintelligible slogans. I go back inside and the fires are starting now only two blocks away. For the first time I see flames on the T.V. that I can see down the street. The normal sound of the street have been replaced by a deep thudding big American engines rumble and from the insides of these cars come shrieks and scrapes. The soundtrack to destruction, bomb of the bass, a sampled handclap stretched into screaming fucked upness, trucks full of men waving pipes and hammers, drinking and smoking crack. Kick it boyee. Tearing the air apart a million testicles tight up against a gun stock, Nasty girl, the freaks are out and look proud beside their man, the man stops his truck and the bitch gets out and starts picking up rocks, he drives slowly as she tosses bricks into the bed. They turn down the corner and head for the strip mall. The roar is a rumble bear war as I head up to the corner. The electronics store is surrounded by cars and motherfuckers. On the roof , the owners stand with rifles and at the entrance a few more stand with shotguns. The parking lot is vast and there is no cover for anyone. Then out of the stew, two cars race toward the door, the crowd surges forward, a screamlust deep bomb roar erodes the rhythm of a sound system duel land the plate glass windows go down across the street. The Koreans on the roof open fire and the bullets go into the crowd. I see people go down, and behind me I hear bricks whine as the bullets invade and violate their mass, buildings have become like trees in a logging camp, they must fall and they must burn and we will not be allowed to hide in them today. I run faster than I want to, although my mind looks upon my feet with embarrassment. It can't be real, can it? I notice blood on the ground and I give in totally to an ecstatic need for more of this. The men hurl back into the cars and people are pumping it up. Four or five large black gang bangers, real mercenaries, I know now who commits torture and shits on the alter, exhort the crowd. They stand in front of the Mexicans and Salvos and rhythmically roar the name, the name. Rodney King. Rodney King. Rodney King. The crowd leans forward, they taste VCR and Big Screen T.V. and with a moan they rush forward, waving pipes and holding bricks. At the moment they rush forward the Blacks melt back so that the mass will absorb the bullets and they can rush as the Koreans reload. The automatics chatter and the crowd pulls back frustrated, a beat mad bear bee horde "Fuck this shit, lets head up to Circuit City" , "Sears, dude", "Torch the motherfuckers". Cars of beat mad homeboys, stuffed and oily, homeboy on the C.B., homeboy on the police band, checkin' it. This is some organized shit strewing and stirring the dumb mothers onto a frenzy. The library is on fire for a while but it doesn't catch. Back at the studio I stand on the roof with my pistol and Marcy watches the ground . By now the streets are full of looters. Cars pull up, people jump out and return in a few minutes loaded down with something, everything , just any object, plastic plants, radios. As stores are emptied, the crowd on the street takes on different looks, for a while they all have electronics, then they all have plants from the flower shops, then all the furniture comes and the cars come and go. People are laughing and there is joy on their faces as they load up. Today is free day and you can do anything you want.
Occasionally people look interested at our storefronts and my pistol comes out now and again, motherfuckers rattle our bars and drag pipes behind them as they smoke. Clothes and worthless loot scatter the sidewalk and two local crackheads push a shopping cart full of the Styrofoam cups. They argue as the push the cart and finally push it over and scatter the cups screaming one word over and over again in an endless series of differing inflections. The word is motherfucker. They stomp the cupsand head back up towards the stores again. By now, the horde is wavering on the corner of Madison and Santa Monica. Two pillars of smoke are fouling the air and it becomes twilight, dark like the day of the eclipse. A third column reaches into the air, vast mighty and black roiling scream. There are no police and no firemen and we have only seen two police cars all day and they only slowed down as they went past. The fires are mighty and impressive, bloody orange and we feel the heat from them. There is no time to watch T.V. ,so I don't know what exactly is in flames, I can guess. The crowd is still undecided which direction to go. I look up the street and I see men, black and dressed in colors, Dark blue thick line sequoias squat, they have guns and they're smoking crack. Shitscream as the air whines bullets, woodchips fly, the sound of bricks taking hits. These motherfuckers have automatics and they spray our street, my building. They are shooting at me. Not me, but me. They don't see. They don't care. They shoot lots of bullets. The next day we find empty boxes of 9mm bullets. Each box contains several hundred bullets and there are many empty boxes. By now it is getting dark, the fires rage still, now I see red-orange and sparks, the hordes have left and now Hollywood Boulevard is getting fucked up. It's as though the last volley was a good-bye, we'll be back motherfucker.
There is a curfew but still dark figures roam, cars stop and loot is exchanged for drugs that get smoked on the spot. On the roof, I see that the mall is engulfed in flames, silhouetted against them I see figures on the rooftop the hotel two buildings away. I see men with riffles, beer and cigarettes. During the day, they sniped at the Koreans on their roof, but I think that these are friendlies. As I sit on the roof I watch a white guy walk a cocky walk up the street. Fifteen minutes later he comes staggering back, drenched in blood, it seems that his face is oddly shaped. He leans against the studio, tries to peer in, pulling at the bars. I cough and he looks up. wanders around in a daze until a car pulls up and he gets in, is pulled in. Now the mall is burning at its peak, all ten stores are sucking in the air, there are fireballs and the flames roar up fifty feet in the air. Thousands of videotapes burn and the air pumps in like lungs are drawing breath. In front of it a semi-nude crackhead does a Tai-chi dance and the fire crew, finally here, struggles to keep everything else from going up. The police stand with shotguns around them and finally the walls collapse and a roar goes up from the flames, our angel has been raped and the blood flows from between her legs. Back in my driveway, I stand and watch two crackheads get high across the street in a corner. I take out my pistol and aim it, like a target at the range, I have his head in my sights as they light up. The pistol goes back down and I go for a Camel. When I come out, they are gone.
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