Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My June 17, 1994

Everyone remembers the moment they saw O.J. Simpson's slow white Bronco going down the San Diego Freeway with a phalanx of police cars following him. I happened to be in the middle of that moment. Well, not quite in the middle, maybe the periphery. But I was closer than most.

I was 23 years old, and while I was taking 16 units of classes at UCLA, I worked four part-time jobs, as well - an assistant to both a screenwriter and a member of a famous 1960s band, some busy work for my friend's mom in promotional sales, and a pizza delivery job. The pizza job, for San Gennaro restaurant in Brentwood, was the most profitable of them, but it had its drawbacks - driving through traffic was always an adventure for me, and my Chevy Cavalier had a smell of garlic to it that was always a chore to get rid of.

On June 17th, I was on shift at the restaurant, which was just off of Sunset Boulevard, and a couple of miles away from the freeway. I was feeling like it was going to be a busy night because the NBA championship was happening (Knicks-Rockets), and any time there is a major sporting event, there are lots of pizzas delivered.

The O.J. chase made it a difficult chore. Los Angeles is a strange town - it worships the villains more than any other town in America. I know that this could lead into another rant on Kobe Bryant (the crowd at Staples Center giving him a standing ovation every time he'd fly in for a game during his rape trial in Colorado), but I will choose another parallel - remember in Independence Day, when the aliens were landing before they would attack? Which town was the least concerned, the most open to the event? L.A., baby. Yes, it's only a movie, but face it, this is a weird town.

Anyway, as O.J. was in his slow speed chase, a parade of onlookers turned out around the overpass at Sunset, cheering him on, holding "Go, O.J., Go" signs. As I stood in front of the restaurant, several news helicopters were overhead. I could hear the "Ride of Valkyries" song by Wagner playing in my head, used so well in the film Apocalypse Now. Every delivery was a chore, and several of them had people watching the telecast as I got to their houses - some totally focused on the surreal chase, some pissed off because NBC, the network covering the basketball game, decided to make the majority of their coverage the chase, putting the game into a small corner of the screen.

As day turned into night, and O.J. made it to his home where an hours-long standoff would take place, the restaurant got a call for a delivery. The NBC news truck that was sitting outside of O.J.'s house wanted a pizza. There were two delivery people at that time, and I conveniently made sure that I wasn't the one delivering that pizza. The other guy, a Mediterranean fellow who had been delivering for years, took the call. In the short term, I was happy - I was able to get four deliveries in by the time he got back, without even being able to deliver the pizza. In the long term, I don't know. In a weird way, if I had gotten lucky enough to sneak past the mess, I could've been a part of the bizarre history of Los Angeles. Of course, I could've been shot, too.

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