Our first reading in Long Beach at Open. Good space, nice turnout, great readers – Susan Davis, Nathan Bishop, Leah Kaminski, Vanessa Garcia. We had a print edition of the journal to hand out. This editor read a short piece reflecting his current sense of nihilism toward that thing called love (semi-obscure jazz reference with an even more obscure reference to this Coltrane tune).
There are even photos.
We walked out exhilarated, ready to talk, to drink, and walked into a crime scene – yellow tape, a dozen squad cars, people on the corners gawking, a coiffed, supercilious news anchor smiling in front of a camera. The story came to us in fragments: a liquor-store clerk had been shot and killed in a robbery, no arrests, just the slow revolve of the red lights and the closed street.
Long Beach is a half hour up the freeway from Irvine, my ersatz home over the last two-and-a-half years. Irvine is pleasant; pleasant is a design spec, included in the brochure, its Irvine’s DNA. There are all kinds of pretty girls. People smile and apologize if they get in your way, even when it’s your fault. It has bike lanes. The green lawns complement the condo complexes with their beige walls and red tile roofs. You have to go up to the top of a hill to see the brown smudge of Long Beach and the outline of big factories and refineries. Long Beach is far enough away that you never have to deal with it if you don’t want to.
Walk on the narrow sidewalks in downtown Long Beach though and you realize you’re missing something, that something being most of human life. Around the world, most people don’t live in condos with jacuzzis and pools. They jostle on the narrow sidewalks, they see people who don’t look like them and who don’t talk like them, they take the chance that they might be in the liquor store at the wrong time. They live there, whether or not they want to.