Article Launched: 09/27/2008
Unsatisfied with this summer's infomercial conventions, I started
thinking back, back past the Ford-Reagan "co-presidency" dementia to
the last meaningful convention I could recall, one that took place 40
years ago in Chicago when Democrats gathered from across the land to
make Richard Nixon president of the United States.
Not directly, of course, but in a self-destructive Democratic way.
Which is to say that after the Chicago cops - the Walker Report
called it a "police riot" - got through whacking anti-war protesters
in full view of the world media, Nixon was a shoo-in.
Of course, you might think that head-banging a bunch of kids might
leave mom and pop cringing in front of their 26-inch Zeniths.
On the contrary, a huge number of Americans took the street antics
near the Democratic Convention as a sure sign that Nixon was just the
hard guy they needed to enforce haircuts and get the girls back into bras.
"That's the one thing I truly regret, the fact that we helped get
Nixon elected," Pat Nave said the other morning over coffee in San Pedro.
With Pat and wife Diana and - by extension - their two grown boys and
all their decades of community service to the port town being just
about the only unquestionably good thing to emerge from that bygone
Married nearly 40 years, the Naves met during the Thrilla in Chicago,
the Melee in the Park, the Blood-Letting on State Street.
And who knows, maybe this isn't all that unusual since the protest
events of that day combined a great amount of political passion and
just plain old passion.
But realize that I was talking street-fighting in a Pedro coffee shop
with two people now in their early 60s. We were sitting surrounded by
an auditory mix of Greek and Italian, in a funk of cigar smoke and
old-world loudness that the Naves have enjoyed since the July day in
1970 when they took one look at the town's canneries and refineries
and decided to stay.
But that's getting ahead of a love story involving a young Loyola Law
School student who would go on to become a Harbor Department lawyer
(now retired) and a pretty young Pico-Union community organizer that
he still calls his "Iowa farm girl" even though she grew up in La Crescenta.
That same attractive wholesomeness is there in Diana, who, at 61, is
the grown-up version of the teen who worked for equal-housing rights
in Glendale, which was then a place more Kansas than California.
Pat, by the way, grew up in Van Nuys when it was mostly countryside.
Some of the many close encounters (not including how they share the
same birthday) the couple didn't know they were having took place in
the 1950s, when Diana's family would camp in groves not far from
Pat's house on long bicycle trips.
Now it's on to Chicago, where convention week was quickly turning
into a free-for-all. It was there in Lincoln Park that Pat first
spotted Diana getting a drink of water.
He was present as part of the Law Student Civil Rights Research
Council, which tutored college-bound minority students and helped
with the legalities surrounding protest march arrests.
"I graduated from San Diego State and wanted to experience an eastern
city," Diana, a former teachers advocate and nonstop political
activist, said with a laugh. "I had no idea that Chicago wasn't an
She was working at a Jewish community center there and sharing an
apartment with seven other girls. Smitten from the start, Pat somehow
("somehow" taking considerable effort) became one of the 30 people
who crashed at Diana's place for the week.
"It was a little hard to get free time with her," he joked, recalling
the morning he hung around the kitchen as his wife-to-be prepared
pancakes for the crowd.
What followed was a textbook-perfect pursuit, with Pat chasing Diana
to New York and then Washington before talking her into flying back
with him to L.A.
"We've been together ever since," said the man who acts like he'd
happily chase his wife all over again if he needed to.
In between the meeting and the return to L.A., where they wed in the
same Pico-Union church where she had worked - and where she used to
see him in the months before they met riding his motorcycle past on
his way to school - there were the protests and a few historical
details that I hadn't heard before.
For instance, Pat said, the Chicago police showed no real animosity
toward the protesters. "They were just really skilled at messing with
people, but they were funny guys." And protest leader "Abbie Hoffman
had a police tail assigned to him, a police sergeant, and he and
Hoffman would go out drinking on the department tab."
Mostly his memories are centered on Diana and how she knocked over a
trash can as the police hammered away at them, "only she was very
careful not to spill the trash into the street. That's the way she is."
In some ways they haven't let up. During the last campaign they
worked to sign Kerry supporters in Ohio and they will do the same
thing this time around for Sen. Barack Obama.
But they have changed. When one of their sons was interviewed on TV
protesting Desert Storm at the University of California, Irvine,
father told mother to tell son over the phone, "If you're not back in
class by Monday, no rent check on Tuesday."
That's the kind of wisdom that only comes with age.
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