This past week I did one of the most all-American things you can do, in the heart of Santa Monica.
I reported for jury duty.
I’ve been summoned numerous times since moving to L.A. in 1980, and each time, like a lot of us, I wiggled out of it. We know it’s our civic duty, but we would prefer they take the other guy, or me some other time, thank you.
I got one of those summons early in the fall of ’94. Jury selection for the O.J. Simpson trial in Santa Monica began in September. So if I had reported I could well have been 1/12th of that famous jury. (Until recently it was pretty easy to talk your way out of serving. Now, the possibilities for being excused have severely narrowed.)
“You could’ve written a book,” my friends observed enthusiastically about my brush with O.J. fame. I could’ve died of boredom, I rejoindered. I nearly did, as an ordinary citizen, from the unending, ubiquitous media reports. Imagine if I had to actually listen carefully to every word, for nine months. If chosen, I surely would have been thrown off the jury for falling asleep, and maybe that’s not the legacy you want to leave your children.
Now, 2013, I took my boring orientation online the preceding weekend. An hour’s worth of not-so-stimulating government issue videos. Considering it’s California Superior Court, you’d think they could put a little Hollywood production value in.
The bonus for orienting online was to not have to show up as early when called, while those who didn’t do their homework would have to watch it all there.
So when I arrived and sat down in the large, comfortable jury selection room with about 100 other jurors-to-maybe-be, I watched in mild disbelief as they lowered a screen and showed the exact same video. Is that any way to bolster trust in the system?
It wasn’t long after before they gave us a break, and instructions where to find the nearest Starbucks, and AM-PM mini market. Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, but this is Santa Monica. Light up in the wrong place and you could find yourself busted while on jury duty.
You are told you may bring a laptop, and that there is wireless. You use it through the portal of the Superior Court, County of L.A., and apparently there are restrictions. No Facebook connection allowed! The torture continues. In comfortable chairs. On a dazzlingly gorgeous SoCal day.
As I write this I still don’t know if I’ll be assigned to a trial. As soon as I am, I have to shut up. Jurors are not allowed to talk to the media. Since I am part of the media, I guess I won’t even be able to talk to myself, which will greatly cramp my lifestyle. Could even make me sleepy, who knows?
Blues on Second Street
You must mean Fourth Street, where Harvelle’s is, right? No, for one short week the HQ for the blues in L.A., maybe in the universe, was on Second Street in Santa Monica, at the Monica Theater, our precious purveyor of excellent indie films.
They made quite a production of the too-brief run of “Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn,” with live performances by artists who played at the venerable Central Avenue/Leimert Park blues club run with a loving heart and an iron fist by Mama Laura, and are featured in the doc, after most screenings, right up there on the stage in front of the screen. A perfect promotion, quite memorable for the lucky ones who knew about it.
I did because of my friend Jeff, a veteran of the film biz now in the process of conquering new worlds in cyberspace, who was an investor in yet another of the music documentaries he loves to support. He was invited to one of the week’s screenings and graciously invited me to join him. “It’s only right,” Jeff said, “since you’re the guy who turned me on to Babe’s and Ricky’s.”
It’s true, I dragged his white Westside butt down to Central Avenue on one of my infamous birthday club crawls, were I packed 50 of my friends onto a tour bus and drove them all over L.A. till 3 a.m., to seven or eight venues to find the best live music of every stripe in L.A. on that night. Babe’s and Ricky’s was on the itinerary a few times, mostly before it moved from its original location on Central Avenue in South Central L.A., to a “cleaner” one in Leimert Park, which I never liked as much.
Jeff got to experience the Central Avenue location and all its delightful eccentricities, as documented in the film by Iranian director/producer Ramin Niami, and we had the great good fortune that the screening he picked featured a performance afterward by Ray Bailey, an integral part of the B&R story who opens and closes the film, and who is still one of the mouth-wateringly best, most versatile guitar slingers you’ll find in this over-hyped town.
They’re now taking the film on the road, to other big towns where the blues is valued, but they won’t get the local live players we did. Is this a great little town, or what?
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at email@example.com.