CURIOUS CITY — DON’T TREAD ON ME. I saw maybe a dozen mostly older citizens assaulted and knocked to the ground in Santa Monica last Thursday night by a large mob of out-of-control mostly young celebrants, a stone’s throw from a police station but not a cop in sight, from where I stood, to come to their rescue.
It didn’t appear anyone was injured, but they might have been. Since they were on city property, at a city-sponsored event, could they sue?
There was one security person I could see from where I was in the crowd, a young man of calm and professional demeanor, occasionally and briefly assisted by a young woman cohort about half his size. He managed, remarkably, to do what seemed to be his assignment, keeping an aisle clear through the middle of the crowd, but he was not positioned to help the assaulted seniors, who scrambled to get themselves out of harm’s way.
There must have been SMPD officers present, I just couldn’t see any from where I was when the music started. They and/or the security people I observed on my way in may have made efforts at crowd control but I could see none from my vantage point in front of the middle of the stage. I generalize a little when I say the victims were senior citizens, but certainly most of them whom I observed were over 60, and some appeared over 70. There was a look of shock and unreserved fear on their faces as they were, without warning, knocked over like bowling pins, most while lounging in the lawn chairs they brought.
The scene was the crowd enjoying the Zombies’ concert on the Santa Monica Pier last Thursday evening. The Zombies, around more than half a century, and young opening act Mystic Braves were not at all the kind of acts to inspire that kind of moshing. But a young crowd in front of the stage seemed intent on crowd surfing and moshing away anyway, intentionally oblivious to the collateral damage.
If you’re not familiar with it, a mosh pit undulates and surges in a forceful, even violent and unpredictable way. The participants enjoy it for that very reason. But if you’re on the fringes you can be knocked to the ground by the surging crowd in a heartbeat. Their fun is your terror, and perhaps injury.
The nature of some portion of the crowds showing up for the venerable pier concerts has changed in the last five years, which happens to be when the promoters/booking agents were changed. A grand Santa Monica tradition of 30 years has turned now sometimes ugly. I had to see the Zombies and will be there for reggae madman Lee “Scratch” Perry tomorrow night, but may skip the last two concerts, as I did the first six, even though I would like to be there. Diminishing returns, threat of injury. Too bad.
Single payer, make him mayor!
I previously wrote about attending the 49th birthday party for our friend Medicare. Lots of smart, passionate people wished the gracefully aging fellow well, most of them doctors, and one journalist with a Pulitzer Prize (Michael Hiltzik – I highly recommend you read everything he writes, in the business section of the LA Times).
Medicare, of course, is a single payer system of health coverage. No insurance companies expensively in the way. I had a chat afterward with my neighbor who is Australian and, at a pretty young age, had some devastating hip problems. He swears if going through the American system for that didn’t kill him, the bills and the paperwork would have. They have insurance companies in Oz and in many other countries with real national healthcare, but they are supplemental, mostly for the very well off. They don’t muck up, and suck up billions of bucks from the system, like ours do.
Most of us who have visited a doctor have our own billing horror stories. The terrific surgeon duo who double bypassed me last November still have not been paid, and I’ve been sent their bill for $10,000 four months in a row now, from UCLA Physicians Billing “Service,” the first three of which almost gave me a heart attack when I opened the envelope. (I’m getting used to them now.) Each bill states I have no primary or secondary insurance – I do, I do! I told them all they had to do was call St. John’s hospital, and they’d get paid toot suite. I told them that, everyone who would listen, three months in a row, and still I got a fourth bill. I finally got hold of the supervisor of all the supervisors and she promised to make it right. I believe her. Am I a sucker? We’ll see.
After that column came out I received an email from Council member Kevin McKeown, telling me something I didn’t know – that he’s been pushing for single payer health coverage for Californians for more than a decade. Make that man mayor!
In 2003, nearly five years before the election of the miracle-worker President who finally got SOMEthing passed (the first national health care proposal was pre-Civil War, passed by both houses but vetoed by Franklin Pierce – ranked by historians one of our worst presidents ever), McKeown urged our City Council to back then-State Sen. Sheila Kuehl’s SB 921, which would have established “a single comprehensive health plan for all California residents at NO NEW COST (my emphasis) to the state.” He got the state Democratic Party to endorse it by 2009, and since Republicans in Sacramento are about as rare as college graduates who can spell, that should have cinched it. But didn’t.
He asked Santa Monica’s Director of Finance to calculate the savings for our city. $6M was the figure he was given. Why, that’s almost enough to start all over on the bus stops. Or, maybe more important stuff, like “schools, police, fire, social services, and parks,” McKeown suggested.
I’m always amazed at Americans’ willingness to ignorantly sacrifice their own well-being for the engorgement of corporations. Can’t we do better in our little town of under 100,000?
Quote of the week
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org