Acrimony in Silver Lake in the time of coronavirus

Dell Franklin

Editor’s Note: The following series, “Life in Radically Gentrifying Cayucos by the Sea,” to be posted biweekly includes the notes, thoughts, and opinions of an original American voice: author Dell Franklin. 


These days, I’m actually receiving an increase in phone calls from my three remaining closest friends, Dave, Fred and Doug, all retirees with little to do and time on their hands.

Fred, a Silver Lake resident and hypochondriac/germaphobe since I’ve known him back in 1962 when we were teammates on a college baseball team, called, not only to see how I was doing, but to explain a joyous highlight that had recently occurred in his humdrum shut-in existence, and also of a run-in he had with an employee at a market in Silver Lake called “365.”

But first, about Fred’s giddily-related highlight.

Fred, who has not a few maladies among a host of imagined ones, and owns not a wallet-full of Doctor’s cards but a literal rolodex, forced himself to awaken early (he’s a night owl) and end up at Albertson’s at 6 in the morning in his quest for toilet paper and paper towels to share with his live in woman, Donna, who has accompanied Fred to doctor office visits at least twice a week the past few years, while also serving as his tennis partner on the courts in nearby Griffith Park.

Anyway, Fred enters all essential stores with what can only be described as quaking trepidation, fully masked and gloved, and he was surprised that the Albertsons in Los Feliz was easily entered, and that, as an early bird, he not only found paper towels but also what was left of a skimpy supply of toilet paper!

What he realized was that the store had just received a massive shipment, and employees everywhere were stocking empty shelves in a fury of labor.

“Were you out?”

“Oh no. But you never know.”

“How much did you get?”

“A 12-pack.”

“How much did it cost?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. I was thankful to get it.”

Anyway, Fred was not finished. While in Albertsons, Fred inquired about bottles of alcohol to cleanse the hands. Well, the employee near the area where alcohol bottles were usually stocked — but was empty, — informed Fred that there WERE bottles of alcohol that had just arrived, and he had not gotten around to putting them up yet.

“Well get me one,” Fred said.

The employee retrieved Fred a small bottle and when Fred asked what the limit was, he was told two. So he asked the employee to fetch him another, and he did. And consequently, Fred, after months without a bottle of alcohol and fretting nightly over this lack, was evidently ebullient in his coupe as he related his success.

Afterwards, Fred timed it perfectly to show up at the opening of a place called Gelson’s, where there was also no line outside and a shipment had come in. And here Fred purchased some highly coveted items—organic fruit and vegetable,s as well as other super healthy products guaranteed to extend his life–that were quite expensive but impossible to live without, which further made his day.

But then, Fred told me about his run-in at 365, a high-end place for those with finicky appetites. Fred was in the habit of going to 365 late, just before closing, fifteen minutes before 9: but, when he arrived, a Latino man at the door refused his entrance, explaining they now closed at 8:45 so they could flush everybody out by 9 and clean up.

Well, Fred, a tall stringy, still athletic appearing man who some have considered a borderline misanthrope, found this policy unreasonable. He was not happy at all, especially when he explained he was unaware of the new policy, and asked the man if he could make an exception and allow him to enter, and promised to quickly secure what he needed and get out before 9 — as he’d made a special trip of 3 miles (little traffic) to be there.

The man refused to bend policy and Fred, not normally a confrontational person at 76, was further miffed, and, as he walked off, he left a few parting words of his discontent to the man at the door.

Well, the next evening Fred showed up at 8:40, secured his goods, but noticed a coolness among employees toward him, even some dirty looks, as if he was some sort of pariah. And as last man to leave, as he walked to his car in the lot, he heard some rapid talking in Spanish. And when he got to his car he realized another Latino man, and not the one whom he’d insulted, was screaming at him from the door of 365 and waving his arms in a threatening manner, a vexed and scornful expression on his face.

“They probably felt you were a rich, Latino-hating Trump bobo. Were you wearing a red ball cap?”

“No. I was wearing a blue ball cap. I don’t wear those kind of hats!”

“Well, you realize these people are putting their lives on the line waiting on a fussbudget like you, and then you have the nerve to tongue-lash them when you try and break their rules and don’t get your way. They probably perceive you as an entitled Trump stooge who goes ape-shit over immigration and wants to kick all Mexicans out of the country.”

“No, no…”

(Fred is actually a scholarly person currently reading Dante, and considers all political parties in America comically inept and hopelessly leading us to eventual doom).

“Yes, yes, yes!” (Fred has so much money he can afford to rent an entire beach front home of four bedrooms while visiting Cayucos so he can find a bed among these bedrooms to serve his bad back.)

“You live in an affluent area, drive a nice car, you’re exactly the kind of arrogant asshole despised by the working peons of America, hard-working minorities supporting a family at two jobs… Pretty soon you won’t be able to go in 365 without being driven out. I’m sure those  poor employees, and especially the Latinos who put their lives on the line to serve you, hope you get the coronavirus and croak so they don’t have to see your ass in 365 anymore. You’re now an official racist.”

Well, Fred continued to defend himself, and to change the subject, asked how my shopping was going, and when I informed him I bought a four pack of toilet paper at the Dollar Store for one buck, haha, which meant I spent possibly four dollars less than he did for a like amount, he was unimpressed, because, being from a haughty place like Silver Lake, he wouldn’t dare enter such an establishment when they had a 365 nearby.

Anyway, we talked for 30 plus minutes about our shopping forays and health issues, when we usually talk about baseball for 45 minutes, but now there is no baseball.

In hanging up, I told Fearless Fred he’s lucky he’s alive, living down there in glitzy, hip, chichi, snooty, anxiety-ridden, up-tight, volatile Silver Lake, where the Quinoa nibbling cool people live amid divisive acrimony and loathing.

Postscript: Fred called a month later, and when I asked if he’d been back to 365, he said no.