Jewish settlers taunting a Palestinian woman who has just been evicted
By LIONEL ROLFE
I have been doing my best not to think too much about Gaza, not only publicly but for myself. I can no longer avoid pondering all the uncomfortable thoughts Israel’s bombing of Gaza is bringing home to me. Of one thing I’m sure of—I want to tell Netanyahu, “I told you so.” Netanyahu’s purpose was always designed to prevent any chance of rapprochement. What’s unfolding was foretold by him.
Netanyahu has forced me to question my relationship to Israel in a fundamental way. I have some strong credentials as a Jew. I come from the centuries-old Schneersohn dynasty of the Chabad movement of Hasidic Judaism. When the last rebbe, who was the closest thing to a pope Judaism ever had, died, his followers expected he would be the messiah. It turned out he just died, and was not the messiah. During that period, when they were looking for his replacement, some powerful Lubavitchers approached me. I was more of the bloodline than the last rebbe, so my bloodline made me attractive to them. Even when I pointed out I was not a good candidate—that I was an atheist and a socialist, they wanted to keep talking. Of course being an atheist and a socialist would not have saved me from the death camps, quite the contrary. So we talked. In the end it was not to be. But as a Jew, I was deeply affected by my knowledge of the Holocaust. My study of the Holocaust became an obsession. Read more
Lionel Rolfe and I have been friends since we met at Los Angeles High School around 1958. I enjoy his company and his journalism. I have no Jewish credentials to match his, either in his family or his wide life experience with Jewish periodicals or in Israel. My mother was Jewish but my father was not and I had little exposure growing up to Jewish religion or culture. Still I felt the need to round out Lionel’s present piece on Israel and Gaza, which focuses on the long drift to the right of Israeli politics, with a piece on the Arab-Muslim side of that endless conflict. To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw, Lionel has been so eloquent on the negative side of the Israeli establishment that it calls for an equal treatment on the drawbacks of the alternative establishment.
* * *
Western liberalism, despite its many admirable qualities and causes, its antiracism, defense of women’s and gay rights, advocacy of the welfare state, and opposition to national or colonial oppression, frequently fails to understand Islamic radicalism in general and its Palestinian expression in Hamas in particular. This is the lingering influence of the Enlightenment, which infused Western society with the idea that religion is passing away, that people are essentially reasonable, and if they engage in violent struggles it must be because they have been wronged over some tangible material benefit they have been denied. All that is needed to fix things is to supply the missing material needs. Marxism is an extreme example of this viewpoint. This amounts to historical ignorance or collective amnesia of Europe’s own past with its centuries of bloody religious wars.
Where this involves the conflict between Hamas and Israel there is also an element of the deep cultural antipathy toward Jews that is the inheritance of Western Christendom. This reappeared with renewed virulence during the seven-week Israel-Gaza war that ended August 26, with physical assaults on Jews, firebombing synagogues, trashing markets that sell Jewish food products, and crowds shouting “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas!” These outbursts took place primarily in Europe, in France, Britain, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany, but individual Jews were assaulted in several cities in the United States. Read more
2. SIREN SONG
Six months earlier. New Year’s day.
Ring, ring, ring! Goddammit! Who’s calling this early? It’s barely light. The phone won’t stop hurting his head. It pings merrily off the bare hardwood floors and sparse furnishings of Benny’s rented cottage.
The cottage was a real find, just below Mulholland Drive– perfectly in the path of brush fires and mudslides. Chipped, Spanish stucco and red tiles, once a guest house on an estate that belonged to Charlie Chaplin, now subdivided, a cozy three-bedroom. Benny hears the rain between rungs – staccato against his windows. They said ’68 would be wet. That’s L.A. – drought or downpour, fame or famine, and junk food feasting. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
I can’t remember the precise date of our anniversary, but I must have taken traditional vows like everyone else did: “I take you to be my faithful partner and my love from this day forward and to cherish you for as long as we both shall live.”
Looking back at our long relationship, I can truthfully say I’ve honored these vows and still have the same love for college football that I did when I made that commitment many years ago.
If your sports background began with Texas high school football like mine did, the love affair with the game was naturally acquired. The “Friday Night Lights” syndrome was—and is—very much alive and well in my home state. High school football madness has dominated community discussions every fall for many decades in big cities as well as in small towns across the state. Read more
Richard, the Chelsea Hotel’s British desk clerk, had told me recently of his suspicions that my upstairs neighbor Doria Nune was behind the death threat against Harvey Jewell, notorious publisher of the F.U. sex tabloid.
So it was no surprise that he looked skeptical when I told him that Doria didn’t strike me as the kind of radical feminist who could pull off the job.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” I said. “Doria is a starting a sexy new magazine for women. She used to work for Jewell. Why would she risk everything before it even hit the newsstands by threatening to kill a man who gave her job when she needed one?”
Richard sighed heavily. “Well, I didn’t know about her magazine, or her deal with Jewell and maybe I was wrong about Doria,” he said, looking haggard as he spoke. “But she still strikes me as dangerous beneath her hipper than thou exterior. I think she could be violent. I can see her going after Jewell, one way or another.”
“Oh Richard, she’s a delicate girl with health problems, “ I said, patting him on the shoulder. “She just talks tough.”
It was close to 1 pm, close to my lunch time interview with Jewell, and I noticed dark shadows under Richard’s rheumy blue eyes. I figured he was in a melancholy mood, recovering from a hangover.
“OK, Cassie,” he murmured. “Let’s suspend judgment on Doria. But Harvey Jewell is obviously a disgusting male chauvinist who’s repulsive to most decent women. I can’t believe you’re having lunch with him today. I’ve always thought of you as a nice girl from the coast. One of the sweetest girls in the hotel. Why would you agree to a date with this man? He’s somebody who could ruin your reputation.” Read more
[This is a blast from the sixteen-year-old past, talking about a still older past, from a column by the LA Times' Patt Morrison of September 20, 1998.]
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At intervals of a half-century or so, a utopian spirit was known to move across the country. With its propulsion, people struck out from old homes and old ways for the newer, the better, the purer. The Transcendentalists at Brook Farm in New England. The Oneida community, remembered now for forks and spoons. The Amana colony, living on vestigially in side-by-side refrigerators. And, of course, the original rigid utopians, the “my way or the highway” crowd who disembarked from the Mayflower.
Later the utopian impulse would propel thousands to California, where we individualized it, secularized it and renamed it “the dream,” the way a single human has dreams and many humans have a vision. Here its motto became one man-one utopia, its altar the brick barbecue, its baptismal font the swimming pool. Its variants are Autopia, one man-one car in Walt’s dream-world playland; fruitopia, the wacky fringe that plays center field for California, and dystopia, any place where a dream fails the dreamer or a vision succeeds so well it tyrannizes its visionaries.
Utopia, fruitopia or dystopia, Southern California laid claim to: the Elysia nudist colony, which thrived furtively above Tujunga. Gaylord Wilshire, the silk-hatted socialist millionaire and early health-food connoisseur, who published a utopian political newspaper; the richest street in Los Angeles bears his name. The Polish actress Helena Modjeska and her titled husband, who started a rustic retreat in Anaheim; it failed because none of its residents knew the first thing about farming. England’s Fabians, who found a warmer welcome in Pasadena. The socialist Llano del Rio cooperative colony in the Antelope Valley, which was briefly home to Aldous Huxley, whose novels swung between utopian and dystopian and who summed up the envy and the awfulness of Los Angeles in his observation that “the writer of ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ earns more in a week than I do in a year.” Read more
LIONEL ROLFE IN HIS WHITE SUIT AT HIS BIRTHDAY PARTY
Goodnight Lionel in the room.
By LIONEL ROLFE
I met her at a Thanksgiving party in 2012. Karen Kaye, the sister of avant garde film maker Stanton Kaye, had been throwing the parties for years at her Echo Park home. Back in 1971, Stan made a film called “Brandy in the Wilderness,” which created a large buzz among local bohemians. The bohemian scene was particularly vibrant around Los Angeles City College and a lot of us who gathered at Karen’s were the core of Hollywood bohemianism. Sometimes new faces would appear. I liked going to Karen’s parties because many of the people who went there were some of the greatest eccentrics of the era.
That’s how I met Susan Anspach.
She was as eccentric as any of us. Karen died in 2009 but her niece
Samantha kept the tradition going. Normally I’m a bit jaded when I
meet new folks, but Susan was of a different sort. When my eyes
lighted on this woman, I knew she was some kind of special lady. No
wonder I couldn’t describe her easily. I had spotted her sitting
demurely behind a dining room table and couldn’t take my eyes off
her. I couldn’t decide if she was an older biker chick or a slightly
faded apparition of a formerly grand lady. Was she in her early 40s
or early 60s? I finally determined she was an older woman who wore
her years well. I felt like I should know her name, but I didn’t. I knew
I had known her in some past life, but when? I just kept staring,
before I asked her some sort of awkward question. Read more
By Bob Vickrey
Just ask any woman in America, and she will assure you that she has a better chance of talking her man into joining her knitting club than trying to coax him onto any dance floor.
The subject of dancing came up recently while attending a local wedding. It was a casual backyard affair, and of course, there was the dreaded dance floor in the corner of the yard that offered one more chance for public humiliation. I could already envision being dragged onto the floor against my will by some woman at my table who wished to unleash her inhibitions for one evening at the expense of those of us who preferred to remain happily inhibited.
The occasion took me back to high school days at the Friday night dances at the local community center. For shy boys like me, the notion of hanging out with cute girls with whom I shared classes was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time. I usually found a convenient hiding spot behind two friends where I could observe the dance floor, but also stay out of the direct line of fire.
The story takes place in Los. Angeles between the assassinations of MLK and RFK. But is is PURELY fiction. a RUMINATION. The author, Umberto Tosi, modeled characters, situations and events on experiences — personal and professional — during his decade as a writer and editor at the Los Angeles Time during the 1960s and early 70s.
It’s not an attempt at expose, or investigation, more a musing on personal vectors with history, the inner reverberations and considerations experiences by — after all — ordinary people surviving near the ground zero of social and political tragedy and cataclysm, and the interplay of race and culture with same.
Boryanabooks will serialize the book over the next several issues.
Umberto Tosi (aka Nino Tosi) Then and Now
by Umberto Tosi
Copyright©2012 by Umberto Tosi
– all rights reserved
1. RED ALL OVER
Damn florescent lights keep flickering, just like the one over his desk back at the Times. All this white could make him invisible. Bleached walls, tiles, curtains, bedding, pale as his ghostly face, set off against his black silky Sy Devore shirt and the dark droplets of blood peeking from her bandages that worry him. Air conditioning blows soundlessly from vents above, morgue-cold in this sterile space, once removed from the smoggy heat of this June morning in Los Angeles. This summer, not of love, 1968, will be very long.
Makeda’s monitor beeps in reassuring syncopation with the wheezy snores of a curtained-off roommate. A muted TV oozes soap opera from high on a wall opposite her bed. Makeda hates TV, and would loathe that her picture – a dated, inappropriately smiling high school yearbook shot – keeps showing up on network news, and in the papers, though only below the fold now. Read more