My Los Angeles in Black and (Almost) White
Publication Year: 2010
Published by: Syracuse University Press
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Title Page, Copyright Page
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I owe a special debt to the following people, without whom this book would not have been possible: my teachers within and without the Los Angeles Unified School District during the 1970s and 1980s, who extended their best efforts toward a dreamy and distracted...
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This story begins with a photograph. Or, rather, a curious circumstance surrounding the composition of a photograph. I’m looking down now at the black-and-white image in my 1986 high school yearbook, having retrieved the album, encased in its protective plastic jacket, from the uppermost shelf of my most remote back hallway closet...
2. Valley Boy
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I was only five years old in December 1973 when our blue Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser station wagon pulled up to our new home in the San Fernando Valley. My siblings and I had fl own with our mother from the Newark Airport (close to our South Orange, New Jersey, neighborhood) the day...
3. Integration Efforts and Agonies
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Growing older, despite its numerous drawbacks, carries with it certain advantages. One’s life, I’ve only recently discovered, gains a sort of historical resonance, and even richness, as the years march by. My birth year, 1968, looms over my shoulder as perhaps the most tumultuous year in modern American history. The social upheaval that defined...
4. The Blacks and the Jews
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I was ten years old in the summer of 1978, having just completed fourth grade at Topeka Drive Elementary. I had no idea that my sheltered suburban school zone had emerged as the epicenter of one of our country’s most significant and divisive school desegregation efforts. Topeka was my neighborhood public school in Northridge, which I had...
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The torn sheet of scrap paper with assistant coach Lou Cicciari’s current telephone number scrawled across it in my nearly illegible hand sits for nearly a week at the far corner of my office desk. Between my completion of various mundane administrative tasks—returning e-mail queries and complaints from students and prospective...
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There’s a certain sound to a basketball gymnasium—or sounds, rather, that practically all gymnasiums share. It’s a controlled, if not hermetically sealed, environment. The ceilings above the lacquered hardwood floor are unusually high, both to accommodate the loft of desperate, long-range shots and to ensure a reasonably...
7. The Valley Revisited, via Santa Monica
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It’s an interesting environment for contemplation, the coach-class cabin of a passenger jet. This human stew-pot. South Florida is a uniquely diverse region, and it’s impossible for me (perhaps on account of my itinerary) not to reflect upon the diversity on ample display in these cramped...
8. Game Time
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The school I visit the next morning couldn’t contrast more markedly from Griffin Avenue, or from Topeka for that matter. It’s the day of my alumni basketball game, but, as my morning is free, I drive my nephew with my sister-in-law to his elite private school in the Bel-Air hills, accented with dusky patches of chaparral, where he...
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”Not too many players call,” Bob Johnson had told me during our single long-distance phone conversation, weeks ago. It struck me as sad, this comment. My former head coach now lives in San Clemente, about a two-hour drive south from L.A. I’m on my way there on the 405 and have ample time to mull over our upcoming...
10. The ’Hood, via Sherman Oaks
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There are any number of jokes about Jews and money, several of which are funny. My favorite in this veritable subgenre is the one about the three Jews who chance upon a poster in front of a church as they walk down the road together. $1,000 to any jew who converts, the sign...
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Since 1986 (my high school graduating year, incidentally), we observe the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Holiday on the third Monday of every January. This year, the holiday falls on January 15, not too long after my return from L.A., and my thoughts are still whirring...
12. Giving Up the Game
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”You’re not planning on playing still, are you?” my wife inquires over dinner, an afterthought apparently, shortly after I return from L.A. It was a Friday night, the night before my regular Saturday morning game. I had only returned to the routine at the Boca High gym to prepare for the alumni game at my old high school in the...
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I conducted the bulk of the research and writing of this book in advance of Barack Obama’s winning campaign for the presidency of the United States. That said, writing now in the wake of Election Day, it’s difficult to ignore the implications of his sweeping victory upon this work that has consumed my attention these past two years. The ascendancy...
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Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2010