Spit-Shining the City of Angels

In which Will Durst lands in La La Land for the Democratic Convention among the beautiful, famous, and respiratorily challenged

| Sat Aug. 12, 2000 3:00 AM EDT

LA's finest, which is to say the City of Los Angeles' police department minus the Rampart Division, a couple other individuals from each squad, and 13 dogs, insist they are determined the Democratic National Convention will not become a rerun of last year's World Trade Organization boondoggle in Seattle.

Well, of course not. Those valiant protesters were denouncing an anonymous Goliath awash in corporate swag, lacking any connection to or interaction with real people, and yet affecting their lives in an uncaring and ultimately abhorrent manner. Whereas in LA, it's the Democrats who are ... oh. I see their point. Okay, so maybe there's the eensy weensiest of similarities between the DNC and the WTO. Hell, you could draw the same similarities between the WTO protests and the recent post-championship Lakers riot. $7.50 for a beer at Staples Pavillion? Hand me a rock.

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Since sidewalk newspaper racks became weapons and obstacles in both the WTO and the NBA incidents, the City of Angels is pre-emptively removing all the news racks from areas thought to be near possible venues suitable for protests. That's City Hall Speak for "from downtown all the way to Venice," and yes, I am talking Italy here.

There are also rumors about such precautions as removing all similar potential weapons from the streets from an area bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean; the east, Pasadena; the south, Culver City, and the north, Eugene, Oregon. The closest street mailbox? Guam.

Los Angeles is having other problems as well, such as a lack of ... suprise, suprise ... volunteerism, a concept for which there is no word in Southern Californese. The Democratic convention may be a great booster shot for the City That Knows How To Tie Off, but when you come right down to it, it's not really about Angelenos, now is it?

They must be thinking: "Would someone please tell me how this invasion of the unwashed is supposed to make me richer, thinner or younger?" After all, this is the town where tanning salons outnumber book stores 6-to-1. Tanning salons. Southern California. Your witness, Mr. Burger.

The big Chamber of Commerce spin on the Thing to See in LA isn't that Buddhist temple where Al Gore mugged a couple of nuns in '92. No, LA's current pride and joy is this: The air quality has gotten better since the last time there was a convention here 40 years ago. Sure, it's still the second worst in the country, but it's better.

"Come celebrate the fact our air is currently featuring less poison. Respirators now optional. A place where breathing is no longer a competitive sport."

But Los Angeles is pretty. You have to visit in the spring, when the smog turns green.

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