Are We Getting Along Yet?

Is it safe to come back?

For those who haven't noticed, I've been on vacation a couple of weeks, and now I'm wondering whether I'll be in jeopardy if I return to work.

Dangers abound in L.A.

I'm not talking about the riots, I mean the revolution, I mean the recent expression of displeasure at the Rodney King verdict.

I'm getting kind of used to someone pumping out a few rounds and torching a building to communicate a desire to alter the social order.

It simplifies gauging public dissatisfaction. You don't need polls. You just count the dead.

I'm not talking about the media critics, either, who are waiting behind every consonant to bash me with their punditry.

Sometimes I wonder why it's always another messenger who is demanding that we kill the messengers of bad news, but that's spiritual atonement for you.

I'm not even talking about the emotional stress of returning to a world without Johnny Carson or to the intellectual turmoil surrounding the unwed motherhood of Murphy Brown.

A world without either of them would suit me just fine, and you can throw in Dan Quayle, Tom Bradley, Daryl Gates and the L.A. Dodgers too.

However, I was a little distressed when I heard that Sigourney Weaver had been impregnated by an alien. Given today's uneasy racial climate, I found myself hoping the impregnation involved consent.

I was delighted to learn later that the alien in question wasn't a Mexican but a drooling monster from outer space. He's on his own.

By dismissing the obvious problems of civic violence, I do not mean to minimize the withering cross-fire of bullets and blame that whiz past our ears like killer bees in heat.

I carry an Uzi and 800 rounds of ammo in the trunk of my car like everyone else in L.A. But I feel it's time to stop . . . well . . . fretting over the violence.

There are more immediate dangers to consider. Any decision to hurl myself once more into the breach does not rest solely upon whether or not I will be shot. I could just as easily be bitten.

For instance, I was trying to relax the other day by burning celestial magnolia incense and listening to lute music from the 15th Century when a friend, Benny McHenry, telephoned to say the guy next door had just killed a rattlesnake in my yard.

"What was he doing in my yard?" I asked.

"Just crawling through the ivy."

"I don't mean the snake. I mean the neighbor."

"Same thing," Benny said. "That's Topanga for you."

He had called in the first place to say he'd just heard that the start of brush fire season had been officially declared in L.A. County. Like most messengers, Benny never comes with good news.

"I'm glad they announced it," I said, "otherwise the arsonists would not have had time to stock up on flares, torches, gasoline and whatever else they require to burn down the mountains."

The mayor and chief of police offered potential rioters the same opportunity by indicating in so many words when Riot Season would begin.

"Look on the bright side," Benny said. "If the mountains are burned, the rattlesnakes will move out."

Snakes and brush fires bother me considerably, and I am distressed to learn that their menace is somehow simultaneous. But they aren't our only problems.

My wife, Cinelli, informed me just as my incense was burning low that coyotes have been threatening humans and domestic animals in the mountains that surround us.

"What is this?" I said, "a conspiracy to keep me indoors, to isolate me from my kingdom? I feel like Napoleon on Elba."

"Silly, I'm just making conversation," she said. "Relax and light another celestial magnolia. When the coyotes start carrying off newspaper columnists, I'll let you know."

But then as she started to leave she said, "By the way, I found a black widow in the tool chest."

There you have it. Forget gangs. Forget lousy civic leadership. Forget media critics, the suffocating judgments of preachers and celebrities, and the pious meddling of those who have all the answers.

There are so many hazards in life that one or two more won't matter a hell of a lot. R&R; is over. I'm dousing the celestial magnolia, donning my flak jacket and returning to duty.

Dangers may abound, but I'll go right on tiptoeing through the minefields, singing a little song and dancing a little dance.

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