Last Sunday was a perfect California day.Â Sophia and I walked to the pier.Â Â There was an all-day jazz festival going on.Â Â The stage was set up right in front of the Pacific.Â Â Nearby was a small crafts fair, where vendors sold paintings, incense, and jewelry.Â Sophia and I settled in and enjoyed the music.
While I was in New York, I had bad-mouthed Los Angeles.Â Â New York seemed so much “real.”Â Â Â Now that I was grooving to the music, performed by a good-looking, ethnically diverse group of jazz players, the blue sky and blue ocean as a backdrop, the weather perfect, I remembered what I loved about California. Â Â Why deal with the grit and grime and bad manners of New Yorkers, when I can just hang out with the mellow dudes by the beach?
I always say that I feel more at home in New York, but in many ways, I am not a true New Yorker.Â Â I’m not brash or in your face.Â I don’t honk my horn or yell “Yo!”Â Â One of my favorite bands is… The Eagles.Â I don’t look for confrontation.Â I avoid it, wanting to sit back andÂ watch the Tequila Sunrise.
I was listening to the third band of the afternoon, a terrific Latin Jazz quartet, when Sophia saw him marching through the crowd, holding his hand-written sign.Â Â He was a Holocaust denier.Â Â I had never seen one in all my life.Â Â Â At the beach?Â Â I certainly had never encountered one in New York.
Were there no other Jews on the pier on a Sunday?Â This guy was walking around with this sign saying the Holocaust never happened, and everyone kept on with their business, drinking sodas, listening to the music, and shopping for jewelry.
“I’m going to say something to that moron,” said Sophia.
“No.Â Forget it,” I said.
“I’m not going to forget it,” she said angrily.
Sophia is NOT afraid of confrontation, and I wasn’t keen on her going over there and making a scene.
“I’ll go over there,” I said.
“And take a photo of him.Â Â Post it on your blog so then you can show everyone online what a jerk he is.”
I stood up and headed in the direction of the Holocaust denier.Â Â I had no idea what I was going to say or do.Â Â I had conflicting thoughts.Â Â As a proud member of the ACLU, I knew that he had a fundamental American right to freedom of speech, even if his ideas are idiotic. Â He wasn’t posing a danger to anyone, only annoying the shit out of me, and ruining the relaxing afternoon.
I slowly crept up behind up, and took out my iphone.Â Â I wanted a photo of him and his sign.Â Â As I neared, the anxiety took hold.Â Â Â What would he say to me?Â Â Did I really want to get into a heated argument with a crazy person?Â Â What is the point?Â Â What if this is his intention — to get people, especially Jews, all riled up?Â Â Would it be better to just ignore him?Â Â Why was no one else saying anything? Â Did no one else give a shit?
I lifted the iphone to take a photo, my hand shaky, when I thought I saw him looking my way. Â I wimped out.Â Â I turned to my right hand side and made believe I was taking a photo of some artwork that was for sale at a vendor’s booth.
The vendor, an attractive, but heavily Botoxed blonde of about forty-five, immediately stepped in front of my iphone.Â Â It surprised me, because I wasn’t even aware she was there, my focus was so heavily on the Holocaust denier.
“Did you just take a photo of this painting?”
“I saw you take it.”
“I didn’t take a photo.”
“I saw you!”
My brain was working too slow to explain the whole situation — how I got nervous trying to take a photo of the Holocaust denier, so I faked taking a photo of her artwork as a distraction before I got my nerve again.Â Â Â I showed her the iPhone screen to prove that the camera wasn’t on.
“Let me see the photos,”Â she insisted.
This woman was getting on my nerves. Â I looked over at the typical beach artwork that was displayed — the sailboat on the ocean — and wondered what was up her ass.
I opened the “camera roll” on the iphone and turned it towards the woman.
“You see?Â Nothing,”Â I announced.
That’s when she crossed the boundary of civilized society. Â She reached out with her index finger and touched the screen of my iphone to scroll to the next photo.
“What are you doing?”Â I asked.
“I want to see the other photos.”
“I already told you I didn’t take any photos.”
“I want to see.Â I have a right.”
“A right?Â A right to what?Â To touch my phone?”
“This is my artwork.Â Â It is copyrighted.Â No one is allowed to photograph it.”
“That’s bullshit.Â Â You’re a vendor on a public pier.Â Â I’m free toÂ walk here and take a photo of whatever I want.”
“I don’t want you to take a photo of my artwork.”
“Fuck you!” I said.
I never say “Fuck you,” in public, but there was a nut holding a sign denying the Holocaust three feet away from her, and she was upset because some guy might have taken a photo with his iphone of her shitty painting!
I became confrontational, not with the Holocaust denier, but the art vendor.Â I picked up my iphone and took a photo of her artwork.
“NOW I took a photo of your artwork,” I said, aggressively
“You CAN’T DO THAT!”
“I just did.Â Â And there is nothing you can do about it.Â Â This is a free country.Â This is a public pier.Â Â I pay for it with my taxes.Â Â Â In fact, I don’t know who YOU are or if you live here.Â I could go to the Redondo Beach mayor’s office and make sure YOU don’t come here again.Â Â As long as I’m not selling the photos I just took for profit, I can take as many as I want.Â Â This isn’t a museum.Â Sell them in your house, then you can make the rule.Â Â Right now, you are on public property!”
By now, my voice was loud and obnoxious, just like a stereotypical New Yorker’s, and was attracting attention from all the mellow jazz lovers.Â Â The Holocaust denier turned my way.Â Â Oddly, by yelling at the art vendor, I had just made an argument for him.Â Â This was a public space.Â Â I could take photographs of amateurish paintings of boats, and he could legally walk around with a sign denying the Holocaust.
“Asshole,” I said to him, and took a photo.
I think asshole is an understatement.
You have to admit — the guy’s penmanship is outstanding. And the way his sign matches his shirt? You don’t see that often.
You also don’t see signs that say “See Reverse Side.”
He needs a kick on his “reverse side”. I always wonder about the minds of people like him. What exactly does he hope to accomplish by this?
I’m sorry you got your afternoon snagged/fucked up by a couple of jerks. Hopefully you let the mellowness seep back in.
I laughed that you finally called the guy an asshole.
It’s become so cliche to say this, but that was “like an episode of Seinfeld.”
What a jerk.
And if that woman had touched my phone, I would have broken her finger.
I hate that realization – that stupid people are allowed to think – but until we can figure out a way to outlaw independent thought in lower IQs, we’re stuck with it.
On a more serious note, I’ve been through the same conundrum that Neil has where it comes to the proclamations of free speech which offend me personally — including this very subject matter. It’s a struggle for me to realize that this guy _does_ have the right to walk around this public place with his placard of what he believes is true despite the hatred (and inaccuracies) of his statements.
Later today, Fred Phelps’ “Westboro Baptist Church” will be protesting in front of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum here in DC. The protest, per their website, is about the Jewish killing Jesus. But it’s more of a convenience thing for them: they’ll already been in town protesting Jack Kemp’s funeral at National Cathedral.
The advice given has been to ignore this tired group — people already see them as wack jobs, and any provocation against them is fodder for attention. You did the best thing possible, Neil. You called this guy an asshole, snapped a picture, and walked away. You got your feelings out but didn’t call any further attention to him on the pier.
Sorry for being all rambly…
You should have grabbed his sign and shoved it up his ass.
Where’s the shitty painting?? You should have posted that too. 😉
Neil, your story is absolutely fabulous. I’m telling you, you’re a hero.
Neil, I’m surprised you didn’t say, “I’m from New York. Can I interest you in a nice pair of cement shoes and a unique ocean view?”
Even though he has the right to have the sign, and people have the right to denounce my God; doesnt take away our right to mention it.
Im proud of you for ‘confronting’ both of them. I would have. (iphone lady and the man).
I wish you would have said more to him though.
Almost half a million Jews sure sounds like a holocaust to me.
This figure comes up a lot. My understanding is that the half-million were German Jews. The Nazis actually really hit their evil stride in Poland and the east, where there were many more Jews to begin with, who didn’t have the time or means to escape. At least, that’s my understanding.
Holocaust deniers should do their math, and then shut up. Even if they don’t do their math, they should still shut up.
Even ONE dead Jew (or gypsy, or gay) is too many. That’s why hate crimes legislation is so important.
You took a picture of her painting? I’m so proud of you! And you’re absolutely right — she’s in a public place and as long as it’s for art or personal use it’s legal.
And maybe people were just ignoring the denier as not to encourage him.
Ha, good one, Neil. That was a perfect ending!
Go Neil! Rally for the people!
While I was on vacation last week, I accidentally wandered into the ghetto with my huge-ass digital SLR. Apparently this was quite openly a drug den, and there was no negotiating. There were about four or five mean-looking guys who were not asking me to put the camera away – they were looking to smash it to itty bitty pieces themselves. I just hightailed it and ran. Some confrontations are just not worth it.
That WAS like an episode of Seinfeld :-). Sorry those jerks spoled your day.
Your story turns on this: if you’d just have ignored the whack-job, you’d have had great memories of that day. Instead, he achieved his goal, even though the confrontation was misdirected.
Nevertheless, I really want to see a shot of that shitty painting, too.
I still think you deserve props for standing up for yourself – baby steps!
Good for you Neil. A couple weeks ago I surprised myself by yelling at some stupid twit on her phone who had parked over the line into my space so I couldn’t open my door. Then I had some weirdo outside my front door a couple days ago and I told him off too. It’s amazing how far a little confidence can you. Either one of them could have killed me just by flicking me with their fingers, but because I stood up to them they ran away in fright.
I’m just curious if the art vendor said anything else after that? 🙂 What a witch – and I say that as having experience as an art vendor, HA! 😉
It’s funny when the New Yorker(or Jersey-ite)sneaks up and out sometimes isn’t it!
You rock Neil!
Great post. I’m glad you found your cajones. It sounds like both of those two needed to be shut-down.
Holocaust denial is illegal in France. I don’t give a rat’s ass about freedom of speech when it comes to assholes like to guy in your story.
And the artwork woman should have been decked for touching your i-Phone.
I’m not even a violent person. And I’m a genuine passive-aggressive, and I applaud your for having done what you did, Neil!
Bravo to one New Yorker/Californian/New Yorker/Californian Jew!
Damn, Neil, suddenly you got all Clint Eastwood on us.
Great post. I’m glad you said “fuck you” to that woman. I couldn’t believe she reached out to flick through your pictures.
Also, that guy needs professional help.
Wow. Sons of bitches, all of them.
Jeez there are some crazy ass people up in LA. You should hang out in Orange County. Not as many freaks – just a lot more fake boobs & botox. I absolutely think you should have shown us the painting too. I would have, but I’m a bitch like that!
i love the way you write.
for someone who hates confrontation, you handled the vendor pretty well. haha! i know i know, you were inspired by the guy holding the sign.
now he’s an idiot. and like you, i think it’s a waste of time to argue with an idiot. observers can’t tell who’s who once the argument starts. and it’s basically a waste of time.
I have had such similar experiences; I get pumped full of adrenaline when I think of confronting someone for the RIGHT reason, and then I don’t do it and take my wrath out on some other (usually also-deserving) party.
For what it’s worth, both of those people need a good swift punch to the kidneys. I’m glad you stood up for yourself.
Good for you! Way to stand up, all around.
This is the funniest and best thing you’ve written in ages. Guess you needed the painter to warm you up for the whacko with the sign. He should probably be in the whacko bin anyway. Even if a person believes that crap, why would he walk around with a sign about it? Hate…pure and simple. Makes my blood boil.
good for you, you picture-taking fiend.
Holy Shit, Neil, well done.
I’m glad you channelled your inner New Yorker, she was pissing ME off!
also, the dude with the sign is a fucking douchebag.
Why are Holocaust deniers so bent on going on about it all the time? They make me tired.
I love crazy people.
where to start. The Eagles? Really? Wow. They suck. But hey, I’m glad you shouted down the “artist” and called the Holocaust denier an asshole. Go Neil!
You are fantastic.
Neil, there are so many reasons I love this post. Starting with the fact that YOU ARE FUCKING AWESOME.
BF here (communicatrix’s bf).
I wondered what all the teabagger protesters were up to now…
I love you. This was brilliant. From going to confront the Holocaust denier (I had no idea there were such people!) in order to prevent Sophia from starting a confrontation and then getting caught in the middle of one with an amateur art dealer to finally taking the shot of the Holocuast denier. This is sheer brilliance from beginning to end. I love you, again.
i’m glad to see you are getting all tough guy and bad boy on these idiots.
where’s the art work? 😛
wow.. for some reason, I haven’t read your blog in like 2 years, (it got somehow misfiled in my favorites).. and when I found it – I came back to THIS story. All I can say is.. it made me reel. LOTS of emotions were evoked. And y\Yes, it WAS like a Seinfeld episode – exactly – but boy did you get the last “laugh”. KUDOS to you Neil. And a big LOL to the “fuck you!” And while very frustrating for you, it was absolutely classic in the end. (And I now have you back where you are supposed to be in my favorites.)
I’m so glad you said what you said, to both of them.
well told, f’g bastards they were.
Nothing like the bleach of sunshine to cause the roaches to go scurrying back under the rock from under whence they came. You showed ’em free fucking speech, alright! Good for you for having the balls to get in their faces and showing them that free speech is a two way street. KolHaKavod!!!
good for you, sometimes in order to balance the scale we must tip wayyyy over to the other side.
i wonder if you didn’t write about what happened after that. wherein you ninja kicked all of the offensive people, and people came from miles around b/c it got tweeted on twitter and re-tweeted and it got viral. and all of the people threw a party right then and there in your honor for your bravery.
Good for you Neil, you’ve inspired me, whenever I see something like that I usually chicken out of taking a picture with my phone. No more, now I shall snap away and get the “Fuck you!” ready.