Once Upon a Time in Long Beach


Once upon a time in Long Beach my Ennio Morriconi theme introduced me everywhere, wrote my ticket, lucid crazies on the street would stop gibbering and swoon – I met a Brooklyn ballet dancer sauntering down Broadway and our spheres of causality venned together, centered on a man who put two quarters in a newspaper stand and opened it, shrieked when he saw that it was empty, let the glass and metal maw slam shut and kicked the thing in brutal indignation, then hunched close to ensure they heard him, growling like a savage: the customer is always right. I comment to the ballet dancer, “There’s movie studio equipment strewn all about the street.”

“In New York we market such inconveniences as tourist attractions.”
“This is Long Beach, lady. We’re reminded what life is every day.”

A gigantic gritty man stumbles in the gutter and carefully falls, calling, “Oh crunch, oh crunch! Someone help!”

“What happened? What’s wrong?”
“I’m starving!”

So I ask the ballet dancer, “You ever had a Long Beach Iced Tea?”

“Sounds delightful.”
“They’re disgusting.”

We have a couple anyway. Her manners are exquisite. And then we decide to go act crass. So we saunter down toward The Pike, kicking coins at transients more for spite then generosity – “Are bums living on the harbor considered marine life?” “Absolutely.” – and just before she decides to disappear behind a dumpster with a squad of punks I ask her, “So what do you really do?” and she riddles me this: “In another place, in present time, I’m you.”

To find what that is I climbed some stairs to where they led and wandered, wondering where are you? where’d you go? riddle me nothing – just let me know. Show me now. I need a sign. And then something dinged behind me, something like a bell, and I turned around to see two glass and metal elevator doors slide open. The elevator sat there empty. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but that didn’t seem right at all.

Story by Richard Mavis
Photo by Stan Friedman
Published in Book by Authors, 2006