My car securely parked, I moved through downtown to get to L.A. Live. I wouldn’t say I hustled, since I don’t really hustle. But I moved quickly — I only had seven minutes to showtime.
The crawling line of traffic and the density of people on the sidewalks made sense once I discovered that Chris Brown was playing at the Staples Center that night. I passed diverse groupings of young women in tight dresses and piled-high hair, of young men in expensive t-shirts and even more expensive jeans. A little girl, seven years old at the most, pulled at her father’s arm as they crossed Figueroa: “Come on, Daddy. Come on!”
Once in the proto-Vegas canyon, I veer off to one of the smaller clubs. I’m not there to see a pop star with violence issues. My destination: a Canadian tribute band is doing their painstaking re-creation of a Genesis show from 1975, performing all of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (plus some inevitable encore songs). Every website associated with the performance gave the showtime as 7pm — none mentioned that this was merely when the doors opened. Having rushed for nothing, I settled into a twisty bank line of late middle-aged men with gray ponytails, pasty skin and faded Pink Floyd shirts.
We began shuffling forward a few minutes later. Before entering the facility, everyone had to pass through one of the two bulky metal detectors permanently installed by the door. Pocket contents were tossed in circular plastic bowls, and each time traveler inched forward, wondering if their glasses would trigger the machine. TSA had trained us well.
When I was two back from breaking through, the line stopped. The guard didn’t shout “Hey!” at his supervisor — it was more of a pained question in a slightly raised voice. “Hey?” While waiting for a response, he held up the object of our delay: a two-inch keychain pocket knife. It was the kind of innocuous object that would have gotten someone dragged out of the line at the large arena a half block away and possibly tossed in an interrogation room for a few hours. “Hey?”
The supervisor, who looked as if he had just crossed over from being intimidatingly beefy to affably obese, finally turned around. Taking in the question, he didn’t expend the energy required to run his eyes over the crowd. “Yeah.” His tone sounded like he had been asked whether he enjoyed getting handjobs. The guard shrugged and waved the line on. Of course the knife could go in — with these guys, why would anyone give a shit?