By Lisa Maliga, copyright 2015
This is an edited excerpt from my novel, Diary of a Hollywood Nobody.
Wednesday, April 29, 1992
On Monday, I began a new assignment in the basement of the Union Pacific Bank. There were several departments in the sprawling basement and I got lucky as the lawyer I worked for took every Wednesday afternoon off in order to perfect his golf game at the Wilshire Country Club.
George, the guy in charge of the mailroom, came over to the desk where I sat. My work consisted of alphabetizing loan applications for another secretary. I noticed his serious expression as he told me that the four cops who’d beaten Rodney King had been acquitted out in Simi Valley. The look on his broad Samoan face told me that he didn’t agree with the decision. Neither did I. “People are outside the court house yelling guilty, guilty.” He shook his head. “They’re saying it could get ugly…”
Quitting time was five o’clock and I drove home the usual way and didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. Until I got home and turned on the TV. I still didn’t have cable but that didn’t matter as every channel was broadcasting the events. Fires were set, looters invaded stores, and my adopted city was in a state of chaos. The only noise I heard was that of sirens screaming down Melrose and helicopters overhead.
Thursday, April 30
Early that morning I called Alltemps and asked if I should go in to work. The answer was yes. I guess being located in the middle of Beverly Hills changed their perspective.
I took Sunset to downtown and parked at the usual lot east of the business district on 6th and Bixel. There weren’t many cars. In the distance, I saw plumes of smoke. L.A. was on fire and I had to report to work in the basement of a bank.
The bank office was abuzz with static-filled radios. Iesha, a South Central resident, spoke of a night of terror. Luckily, her house remained intact and her kids were unharmed. Her husband was out of town so she and her three grade-school aged children endured a night of fires and looting and helicopters buzzing overhead. The nearby mini-mall was looted and burned. No more convenience store, video shop, or Chinese takeout remained.
Sybil was another black woman who had a firecracker of a night. She resided in Koreatown, a hard-hit area near 8th and Vermont. Her apartment was unscathed, but she received a free fire show. Windows broke. Gunshots rang out.
Every so often, someone would remember the employees below street level and announce another mishap. Looting on 6th Street. Fires burned everywhere. No work was done.
By noon, we were dismissed due to the ‘civil disturbance.’ Nerves were wrought. Various forms of panic seized the employees. George was accompanying Rosalinda to her bus stop near Skid Row.
I was driven to the outdoor lot across the Harbor Freeway. Two other cars remained in the $3 per day lot. Behind me, the smoke was billowing higher and darker. I locked my car doors. I was leaving work at lunchtime and wasn’t pretending I was sick; there was a legitimate excuse for going home early.
It started gradually. I noticed more pedestrians on the sidewalks than usual. Teens. Little kids. Mothers. They headed westwards, about a half mile from Vermont Avenue. People trotting, some running. Uphill, at the intersection of Beverly and Vermont, traffic stopped at a green light.
Read more about the riots as well as the excesses of the 1990’s as a nobody tries to become a somebody in Hollywood. This unique diary is available here:
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