A Tale of Two Cities That Both Kind of Suck [California Seething]
New Introduction- April 22, 2013 (you can also just read this part. I won’t be hurt. I swear. You bastard.)
This past weekend. the NBA Playoffs started off with a bang! By which I don’t mean that there was a horrible terrorist attack during a playoff game but rather that there were a large number of reasonably exciting games over the weekend. I really need to be more careful when speaking figuratively- have I learned nothing from CNN this week? I mean, come on CNN- did you really think it was a good idea to describe the scene in Watertown with “It’s as though a bomb had dropped some where”?? That’s right up there with: “This marathon man-hunt just came to a sudden, explosive end” and “The city of Boston is paralyzed today, like someone just blew both it’s legs off.” Congratulations – you win the coveted “WTF Award” from Wildly Inappropriate Metaphor Magazine- which breaks my streak of 20 consecutive weeks. Damn it! I’m as angry a 19 year old Chechnyan terror suspect bleeding in a boat! By the way, did anyone guess that the Boston bombers were a couple of Chechnyan brothers? They totally busted my Marathon Bomber bracket. Seriously, they’re like the Wichita State of terrorists- I had them losing to Orange Haired Sociopath in the first round. I was positive that Crazy Red Faced White Guy with Camouflage Trucker Hat Who Makes the Word “Liberty” Seem Creepy and Gross was totally going to beat out Radicalized Saudi “Exchange Student” Who’s Taking Flight Lessons for Some Inexplicable Reason in the Finals. And speaking of loathsome scumbags, it was heartening to see just how quickly and decisively Congress responded to this attack by using it to derail Immigration Reform. Exploiting tragedy for partisan ends while ALSO fucking over the Mexicans- I haven’t felt so proud to be an American since we used the 9/11 attacks to justify a war with a country that has NOTHING FUCKING TO DO WITH IT. Whatever, man- we just lost as many Americans in this attack as are massacred in Syria every hour- we have THE RIGHT to act like self righteous douchebags for the next 10 years! I can’t wait til we go to war with the Czech Republic #itschechnyamorons #totallydifferentcountry #getitrightdumbass
To be clear, while I deplore the exploitation of this situation, I don’t mean to trivialize the losses suffered by the victims of this bombing. Nor do I mean to belittle the heroics of the Taxpayer Funded Government Employees who found and captured the bomber reminding us all that Big Government ain’t so bad when they’re getting a bomber out of your boat. And, hey- this wasn’t even the worst tragedy of the week- there was that fertilizer plant that blew up in West Texas after the plant’s management promised the EPA that the worst thing that could POSSIBLY happen was a 10 minute leak- proving once more that, when it comes to death and destruction, terror ain’t got nuthin’ on corporate greed. Did I mention how proud I am to be an Ameican?
So- hey- last week was complete and total fucking shit- but, hey, the NBA Playoffs have started so the world can’t be all bad- right? Right? FOR THE LOVE OF GOD PLEASE TELL ME I’M RIGHT. IT’S SO FUCKING BLEAK OUT THERE. WAIT. HOLD ON. I’M OK. Neil Diamond sang Sweet Caroline at Fenway Park, so I guess everything’s cool.
Anyhow, like I keep trying to say- the NBA Playoffs started last week- and, since BOTH of LA’s teams are represented, and because I was too damn busy working this weekend to write a whole new thing,. I decided to re-run my tribute to the Two Great Cities of Los Angeles- Clipper City and Lakerwood. Enjoy it now, because hopefully, by the time my next post rolls around, only one team will be left- and it won’t be the one who’s name rhymes with “The Worthless, Vile, Stinky Los Angeles Fakers”. See if you can guess which team I mean while you enjoy this post!
The Original Post- Sometime in April, 2012.
In the late 80s my parents went out to Beverly Hills for a week and left their three teenaged children home alone (this is referred to in parenting guides as “a fucking stupid thing to do.”) When they returned, my mom regaled us with tales of her adventures in the real 90210. She talked about having dinner with a miserable middle-aged Jewish fashion millionaire by his swimming pool while he spent the entire meal complaining about his stubborn, irrational 25-year-old daughter who just refused to get along with her new 22-year-old Chinese mom. According to my mother, Rodeo Drive was redolent with the scent of Georgio Armani – as though the stores were all spraying it into the air to hide the smells of smog and poverty drifting in from Inglewood. My mother saw right through LA’s glamorous veneer and was disillusioned by the superficial, corrupt and materialistic city underneath. She was wrong, though. It’s not disillusioning that LA is vapid, superficial, materialistic, self-centered, vain, evil and corrupt t- hell, that’s the best part! What’s disillusioning is that it’s mostly a shithole.
See, there are actually two LA’s and my mother, like most tourists, only saw one of them. The city she saw was Lakerwood – City of Winners – home to mansions. movie stars and 16 NBA championship banners. Spiritual mailing address for Magic Johnson, Jack Nicholson and all the beautiful people in between. Lakerwood is LA as seen by Aaron Spelling – where Beverly Hills spans from Pasadena to the beach, where you look young and beautiful forever until you drop dead at Cedar Sinai of Botox poisoning and where there isn’t a poor person in sight (except Andrea Zuckerman).
There is another LA. It’s the blue collar town of Big Lots and broken dreams. It’s 3 playoff appearances in 28 years, draft busts, bad trades and the spiritual mailing address of marijuana dispensaries, Billy Crystal, and a slum lord basketball team owner who takes a “why should I fix the plumbing in this dump if I’m getting rent money from tenants either way” approach to team management. It’s Clipper City – the City of Losers and it’s the LA I’m proud to call home
So how do you know which LA you’re in? Honestly, it’s pretty fucking obvious – if you have to ask, you’re in Clipper City. Still – here are some ways you can tell the two apart.
Look at the cars
Being in Lakerwood is like living in an episode of Top Gear in a parallel universe where they don’t hate the Prius (Bizzaro Jeremy has a goatee.) Any supercar you can imagine is in sight – and not just one or two of them – there are 6 Lamborghini dealerships in this town. And it’s not just the crazy, expensive supercars that are ubiquitous. Trendy new cars hit the streets like Ugg boots as soon as they are released (Ugg boots. Is that still a thing? Never mind. I don’t care.) So, if you’re trying to figure out if you’re in Lakerwood or Clipper City and you see a Limited Edition Gucci Fiat 500 parked in front of a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf – you, my friend, are in Lakerwood.
Actually, living in Clipper City is also like living in an episode of Top Gear if there was a challenge where each of the hosts had to buy a pickup truck for $1000 or less and then see how many mattresses they can shove in the back or how fast they can go on the freeway with the back full of unsecured gardening equipment. Or a challenge where they have to find a used RV for under $500 and then live in it on Venice Beach until they die.
I mean, sure you do see the occasional nice car in Clipper City – like maybe one of your neighbors drove their mom’s old Lexus out to California from Michigan, or a co-worker at your restaurant bought a Nissan Z when he booked that Corona Lite commercial 2 years ago. You can identify these cars as Clipper City vehicles, though, by the passenger mirror hanging off the side at a 90 degree angle, the 10 changes of clothes in the back seat, the muddy parking tickets on the floor next to the passenger seat and the broke-ass motherfucker behind the wheel who’s not sure how he’s going to pay any of them.
There are even people in Clipper City who have no cars at all and actually use- gasp – public transportation! These people scare the living shit out of the citizens of Lakerwood. In Beverly Hills, they are so freaked out about poor people coming into their neighborhood on public transportation that they won’t even allow a subway tunnel to be dug under Beverly Hills High School – on the off chance that some poor person might jump out of the moving train, crawl out of the tunnel, dig their way into the high school, take over the school newspaper and graduate as valedictorian. They’ve already had one Andrea Zuckerman, thank you very much and they don’t need another (gets pregnant right away after high school. Typical Reseda trash.) As the head of the Beverly Hills PTA said “If I want my kids to meet poor people, I’ll take them to the Banana Republic Factory Store. For now, free trade Guatemalan coffee is as close as I want them to get.”
Food Trucks Vs. Trucks that Sell Food
“Food Trucks” are vehicles which Lakerwood hipsters follow on Twitter so that they meet up at random intersections in Eagle Rock and share a tasty combination of cholesterol, kim-chi, smugness and diarrhea. “Trucks that sell food” are beat-to-shit white vans that cruise around the streets of Clipper City at all hours of the day and night, each playing a distinctive theme song so they can let people know what’s for sale. The produce-selling truck, for instance, has a horn that plays La Cucaracha because there’s no word for “irony” in Spanish (it’s hard to be ironic when you put the exclamation point first.) It typically comes by in the middle of the night, because people in Clipper City like to buy their radishes covertly under cover of darkness like drugs (which is weird because they buy their drugs on the street in broad daylight) or maybe it’s because when you’re buying fruit from a truck that plays La Cucaracha, you don’t want to look that closely.
In Clipper City there are trucks that sell ice cream, but they are a far cry from the wholesome ice-cream trucks of Lakerwood. They have mesh screens on the side for orders and faded, peeling decals with pictures of products that they might possibly sell. Some feature large hand-drawn cartoon characters resembling Mickey Mouse for decoration, to show that they care just as much about copyright infringement as they do about health code violations. They do play calliope music, like the ice cream trucks in Lakerwood, but coming out of a dirty white van menacingly prowling the streets at 10 PM, this music inspires more Sheer Terror than Good Humor – like a birthday party clown with a matted wig lurching though the streets with a bloody knife. I wouldn’t get a balloon animal from that guy and I’m sure as shit not getting a Choco Taco from the creepy-ass ice-cream van. Plus ice cream makes me gassy (as do homicidal clowns. Remember that for my 40th birthday party *HINT*)
The good people of Lakerwood are very concerned about environmental issues. They’ve banned plastic bags from their supermarkets and drive Priuses to PTA meetings to protest public transportation.
In Clipper City, though, we go even further. We have a volunteer task force dedicated to going through all of the garbage to find any recyclables that have accidentally been thrown away. They’re called the homeless – and trust me, no one is more dedicated to locating every last bottle and can and recycling it into money for bath salts so they can go crazy and eat people (Aren’t bath salts supposed to be soothing? Does bubble bath turn you into a face-eater, too? Calgon, take my face away!)
This is where the contrast between the two cities is particularly evident – especially since the Lakers and Clippers both play at the Staples Center, which is located at LA Live-“the world’s preeminent sports and entertainment district”, which is absolutely true if you don’t consider Manhattan or Las Vegas to be part of “the world.”
For the most part, there are two types of NBA fans in Los Angeles- everyone in Lakerwood is a Laker fan and everyone in Clipper City is a Laker fan who can’t afford tickets- I mean, come on, you didn’t think Dyan Cannon was the one setting cars on fire when the Lakers won the title, did you? No, she’s too busy doing crazy rich white woman shit like making the Lakers brownies. Do you know how rich and/or famous you have to be to get away with that? If I tried to deliver brownies to the Lakers I’d be wrestled to the ground by security and thrown out on my ass with my strychnine laced brownies.
Clipper owner Donald Sterling understands this. As a slumlord he knows that, while everybody wants to live in Beverly Hills, most of us wind up in Palms or Gardena, so he gave Los Angeles the Clippers, the Gardena of NBA teams – affordable, outlying, irrelevant and terrible. And not terrible in an interesting or flamboyant way like a crumbling old movie palace or the New York Knicks – no, terrible in a boring, generic, soul-crushing way like a one bedroom apartment with pet stained carpet and no dishwasher in a dirty stucco building from the 70s with a script-font sign on the front that reads “The Executive Suites” or “Villa Sepulveda.”
For those of us Laker-haters who move to LA, the terribleness of the Clippers is a massive disappointment. It’s like hearing that there’s this great little breakfast place that only the locals know about and finding out it’s a Denny’s. Still, we dutifully go to the games. We leave our apartments in Palms, get into the Ford Tauruses with the Massachusetts plates and the detached bumper in the trunk, head to the Staples Center and cheer like hell for the Clippers to lose to the team from our hometown that we actually like.
Going to see the Clippers play, though, isn’t actually terrible. Donald Sterling has spared almost every expense to provide fans with a perfectly adequate live sports and entertainment experience. There are the perfectly adequate Clipper Spirit dancers- who are exactly like the Rockettes if the Rockettes had absolutely no idea what each other were doing at any given time. There’s a perfectly adequate organist plays all the classics like “ta na na na na na CHARGE” and “tun tun DE-FENSE”. There’s an adequate highlight reel which plays on the scoreboard before the player intros and, like the trailer to That’s My Boy, is supposed to get us excited about what we’re about to see by showing us the best parts all at once but totally backfires because the all best parts still really suck and we just wish Adam Sandler would die. There’s adequate fluorescent lighting that is at exactly the same level from the moment you enter the arena, through the start of the game, til you leave in disgust during the 4th quarter. There’s even a perfectly adequate used Kiss-Cam, which Donald Sterling bought from the Super Sonics on Craig’s List.
The fans, though at Clipper games, are way more than just adequate. They are actually kind of awesome. There was the woman who sat next to us numerous times and who spent half her yearly salary on Clipper season tickets. She had a perfectly scripted response to every possible game scenario and never, ever deviated- case in point:
Opposing player shoots free throw
Woman sitting next to us: Boooooo, Knucklehead, Boooooooo!
Clipper player gets ready to shoot a free throw
Woman sitting next to us: Free money, baby, free money
Clipper player misses his first free throw
Woman sitting next to us: That’s alright big boy, free money, free money
Clipper player misses his second free throw
Woman sitting next to us: That’s alright big boy
Clipper Spirit dancer takes too long to get off the court after a time-out
Woman sitting next to us: Off the court, woman! We got a game on!
And, of course, there is Clipper Fan Numero Uno – I think you know who I’m talking about. No, it’s not Billy Crystal – even at Clipper games, he is an also-ran, always an Oscar host, never a nominee – no, I’m talking about the one and only Clipper Darrell. For those of you who have never seen him, Clipper Darrell wears a suit that’s half red and half blue and looks like Al Roker as a Batman villain.
Clipper Darrell, who doesn’t actually work for the Clippers, is the heart and soul of Clipper City. He tirelessly leads cheers, encourages the fans and keeps everyone’s spirits up. No matter how bad the team is, he’s smiling and yelling and urging the hapless schmucks on the court to do their absolute best. I sat in the same row as him during one particularly exciting game against the Nuggets with playoff implications that went right down to the wire and after the Clippers won, I hugged him. I’m not ashamed to admit it was one of the top five basketball moments of my life – right up there with rushing out on the court after the Albany Patroons took the CBA title in 1988 and Bird stealing the ball in 1987 (you may notice that none of these moments involve me actually playing basketball. Basketball playing moments are filed in my Top 20 Humiliating Moments I’m Not Going To Fucking Talk About, Thank You Very Much, and, besides, I don’t see what the big deal is anyways – a lot of kids run headfirst into the coach while they’re dribbling down the court in Freshman Basketball tryouts or sprain their ankle jumping in and out of tires on the first day of Hoop Camp. Don’t they? Anyone? Anyone?)
Of course, as you might expect, going to a Laker game is a completely different experience (I won tickets once so I’m a fucking expert now). Before the game started all the lights went out, except for the lights focused on the court. This was part of the Lakers wildly innovative “Lights Out” promotion, which is based on owner Jerry Buss’ revolutionary new idea of taking the house lights out before the show (he learned this at his grandson’s 5th grade production of You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. )
As I stared up at the scoreboard waiting for the pre-show video which no doubt would be directed by McG, a cylinder of fabric unspooled majestically from the scoreboard all the way down to the court and was used as an enormous projection screen for the pre-show video. Just imagine – an 80’ tall Kobe running, dunking and smirking his way into my worst nightmares (can’t sleep Huge Kobe will eat me, can’t sleep Huge Kobe will eat me). And, then, when the game started- woo-eeee! That was some motherfucking preeminent sports and entertainment experience, let me tell you! A live band playing in the stands that does marching band covers of current pop-hits AND a seriously kick-ass “tun tun DE-FENSE!” with a horn section; dancers that can do actual dance moves and not just walk back and forth out of sync with each other striking sexy poses and shoving their hips from side to side like mud in a wheelbarrow; and, of course, regular-sized Kobe Bryant running, dunking and smirking his way into my worst nightmares (can’t sleep regular-sized Kobe will eat me, can’t sleep regular-sized Kobe will eat me). And let’s not forget Laker Fan Numero Uno. The Clippers may have Bat-Villain Al Roker on their side but the Lakers have the original Joker himself. And when I saw Jack sitting courtside with the shades and the smile well, he looked just like I always thought he would except a little bit older- kind of like a slightly melted wax sculpture of his ideal self.
As far as the rest of the Laker fans, well, they were pretty forgettable. I mean, sure, some of them were famous in a “hey, look, it’s Jerry Ferrara” sort of way, but most of them- perfectly adequate Lakerwood douchebags.
Of course, nothing stays the same forever. Neighborhoods change and so do basketball teams. In recent years, Donald Sterling’s been gentrifying the hell out of the Clippers. They now have one of the league’s most exciting young players (Blake Griffin), a perennial All Star point guard (Chris Paul), a wily veteran who’s always injured so everyone can talk about how much better they would be if he was healthy (Chauncey Billups) and a dude with an amazing beard (Reggie Evans).
As a result, the Clippers just finished their most successful season ever and have even begun attracting interest from Jessica Alba level celebrities and other Lakerwood types. Of course, as with all gentrification projects, long term community residents are getting pushed out. Clipper Darrell, for instance, can no longer legally call himself “Clipper Darrell” but must simply be referred to as “Darrell”. He even wore an all black suit to one game in protest. (this is not a joke.)
Still, no matter how much the team itself may change, there will always be a Clipper City in LA. After all, the rich and famous have to have some place where they can live when they are young and starting out or old and finished. And for the millions of us in LA who are never gonna be rich and famous but still like the weather here, Clipper City is a perfectly adequate place to call home. My mom even agrees when she visits, though I swear I still see her out of the corner of my eye sniffing the air for Giorgio Armani only to catch a Clipper City noseful of jasmine, stale pee, far away pot smoke and cooking meat. Still, she must be used to that by now- and besides, who still likes Giorgio Armani anyhow? I mean, come on, that’s so 80s just like Beverly Hills, the Showtime Lakers and prosperity. Everybody knows that Beverlywood is the new Beverly Hills (I live Beverlywood adjacent. Jealous?), anemic growth is the new bubble and the Clippers are the new Lakers. Well, I hope they are, anyhow cause I can’t wait to see Clipper Jack courtside in his red and blue suit.
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