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Oliver Encounters a Critic

By Stan Lerner
Published: Saturday, December 06, 2008, at 08:04AM

I stopped by Starbuck 11th and Grand with every intention of walking over to the new Starbucks at LA Live. But as a member of the Downtown community, I did feel obligated to at least say hi to my all my friends—wouldn’t want my absence to be a cause for concern. Well, I’m sitting with David, the realtor, and Victor, the owner of Hard Eight clothing, sharing a paper.

“Oh look the literary giants at the LA Times managed to find something bad to say about LA Live.” I looked in disgust at an article that questioned how LA Live would do, given that it was opening in a bad economy.

“Oh the Times can always find something bad to say,” said David. “You look a little tired today Oliver…”

“I was up late talking to Misha’s mom, she’s staying with me.”

FLASH BACK

Misha and her mom stood at my door.

“Oliver this is my mom. Mom this is my boyfriend, Oliver.”

Misha’s mom gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Come in,” I managed to utter. Then lowering my voice to a whisper I said to Misha, “You never mentioned that your mom is Paulina Portzakova the former super model?”

“Yeah she’s hot isn’t she? And don’t get any ideas…she’s very vulnerable right now. And she’s my mom.”

“Thank you so much for letting me stay,” said the hot mom of my hot girlfriend.

“Mi casa su casa…” I replied.

END OF FLASH BACK

“What’s she like?” asked Victor.

I chose my words carefully. “I want her. I’ve been fantasizing about her since high school…” But my thought was interrupted by something I noticed in the Times.

“Why does the Times seem to not get that people seek out entertainment in tough economic times? And how have they missed the point that the greatest entertainment facility ever built has just been built in Downtown LA—home to forty thousand people and five hundred and fifty thousand workers, all looking for something to do. Oh, and did I leave out that LA Live is at the center of a county with fourteen million people who like to be entertained. How did these geniuses manage to put a question mark on that?”

David handed me the section he was looking at. “You’re really going to like this article, Oliver,” he said dryly.

The architectural review said, basically, that LA Live shouldn't even count as architecture.

“You’ve got to be kidding me. How can you review a project phase by phase? A kindergartner would know to at least wait until the whole project is done.” I read a little more.

“Doesn’t integrate into the community? Cretans! It’s a shining light in the middle of the city. And the outdoor plaza is like a room outside? Yeah maybe they should have put the plaza on the corner of Olympic and Fig, so all the free community events could have completely stopped traffic, been exposed to endless security issues, and been impossible to hear anything in because of the bus stop. I’d like to meet the moron who wrote this oxymoron.”

“I’m sitting right next to you.”

I turned to face somebody I had actually never seen in the neighborhood before. “You wrote this, garbage?”

“Yes, I did.”

“They fired hundred and fifty good writers and kept you?” I asked.

“I’m sure you’re more qualified than I am to…”

“I’ve lived here for fourteen years Bozo, of course I’m more qualified than you are. I’m sure you’ve never taken the time to read “The Fountain Head”, but if you had you would have taken into account the functionality of the building. See, that’s what the community cares about.”

He was not smiling at this point. “Not at the exclusion of the project’s weave into the fabric of the overall environment,” he snorted.

“Dude, I know that sounded good in the free classes you got with that box of Cracker Jacks, but…” Dave burst out laughing. I continued. “This is Los Angeles, the fabric is a serape. You know all different colors and cultures. But I guess if it were up to you they would have tried to capture a little more of the car wash theme across the street with a touch of the nondescript Holiday Inn on the opposite corner.”

And in the tradition of the great writer Norman Mailer I found myself in a brawl in the middle of Starbucks.

Unfortunately for the architecture critic, who took the first swing I might add, he had about the same knowledge of amateur boxing as he did of architecture—that would be none. Because apparently he missed the three Golden Gloves titles I had won as a youth, here in the city I was born and raised in.

Unfortunately for me, there were four LAPD officers sitting ten feet away.

“Oliver, what’s gotten into you?” asked Dean, as they pulled me off the pummeled critic. “You could be arrested for this.”

“Me, arrested?” I protested incredulously. “You should arrest him for impersonating an architecture critic.”

“The architecture critic impersonator did take the first swing,” said David.

“He insulted me…And if anyone should be arrested it should be him for all of those great movies he’s written that have lost money…I’ve seen them all.”

I would have punched him again for this crack, but Dean and the other cops dragged me out to the sidewalk and told me I should get on with my plan to check out the new Starbucks at LA Live.

A few minutes later I approached what looked to be the nicest Starbucks ever. Lisa who I was planning on following around happened to be outside.

“Hi Lisa,” I said, putting my hands in the pocket of my Zegna pee coat to hide the teeth marks.

“Hi Oliver. Are you behaving yourself, like you promised Tim?”

I nodded. “Absolutely. I’m really looking forward to hanging out with you. I’ll just be a fly on the wall. No trouble at all…I’m completely mellow these days. I hardly have an opinion about anything. I mean if I were an animal, it’s like I’d be a sheep or something. I mean that calm…”

“Okay, you can come to the Grammy pre-concert tonight and the after party.” She handed me the highly coveted tickets. Happy that the day seemed to be going better I leaned over to give her a quick hug…

“Downtown Oliver Brown!” It was Kyle, the LAPD officer, who happened to be Dean’s cousin.

“Hey Kyle, this is Lisa…”

“Nice to meet you,” he said before I could say the words “who is in charge of LA Live,” which hopefully would have played on his LAPD predilection for discretion in matters where charges weren’t actually filed. He continued, “Dean gave me a 411 on the radio that you worked over that reporter pretty good. The boys said your right hook still packs some power.”

Lisa looked at me, justifiably skeptical about my new pacifist attitude. “Oliver, tell me you didn’t…”

“He started it. And its not like we broke any furniture or anything…Listen I should probably get home and check on my girlfriend’s mom…”

“Check on your girlfriend’s mom?”

“See you guys,” I said, walking off before I could be questioned about my unusual houseguest.

As I walked through LA Live I couldn’t help but feel satisfied that I had done the right thing. Free speech is good, it’s a fundamental of our democracy, but stupid speech should be challenged. And saying that LA Live is just another island in a city full of islands is stupid. We build islands in LA because LA culture is a culture of individual identity. Angelinos live to discover; sometimes block to block.

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