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- WRITER J. A. TRILIEGI
Wednesday, October 16, 2013
"THEY CALL IT THE CITY OF ANGELS"
CHAPTERS ONE THROUGH TO TWENTY - TWO
A New Serial Fiction Novel by Joshua A. TRILIEGI
Originally created Exclusively for Readers of BUREAU of ARTS and CULTURE Magazine
and our Three sites in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City All National and
International Copy Rights Reserved to the Author. Translations Buttons on the blogsite.
"THEY CALL IT THE CITY OF ANGELS"
Editor and Publisher of BUREAU of ARTS and CULTURE Magazine
Announces a New Experimental Serial Novel about Los Angeles.
Mr Triliegi wrote a chapter a day for several few weeks and posted
the results immediately in various languages at the three blog spots
that regularly showcase Art, Music & Cultural Community events.
" I thought it would be a good writing exercise to simply write about
what I see and hear everyday on the streets of the city. To simply
create a chapter a day based on the people and things going on
in Los Angeles. Since we all come from so many backgrounds,
styles, cultures and languages, I decided to structure the multi
character novel to represent all of Los Angeles. I simply write a
chapter a day by allowing the characters to unfold & the story to
reveal itself based directly on the things I see and hear."
" Its pure fiction based on generalities. For instance, Chapter Three,
which was inspired by a girl I saw on the bus earlier in the day, she
had a sketch book with some nice artworks and I thought about her."
Or Chapter One, based on a conversation I had with a guy who was
entering back into society from a long stretch in the penitentiary.
I thought about what other people in his life may have been thinking."
" Its a challenge to simply introduce a character and follow the creative
line as it flows into something structured and complete. I usually know
the beginning and the end of each Chapter, and simply let the middle
fill itself out. I like the daily discipline as well as the audience being in
on the process. In this particular case, I don't really take notes. I just
start with an idea and let it flow. This is not a normal novel by any
means, but it is a new and interesting challenge for both the writer and
the readers. We are publishing it in three cities and a wide variety of
languages, English, Italian, French, Chinese, Armenian, Chinese, Hebrew,
Japanese & Korean so far. Its been a lot of fun I hope the people of Los
Angeles and the world will follow it out as it reveals itself. As the writer,
in this particular case, I am just as curious as the reader as to what will
happen and how things will go. The cool thing about this project is how
quickly the characters began to take on a life of their own. "
" Its an interesting way to work. I am putting together several other writing
projects and decided that this would be a good warmer upper. We get
anywhere from a 50 to 400+ views a day on our website for our Articles,
Reviews and especially our Audio Interviews, so this particular literature
project should be good exercise and at the same time, allow people to
see how a novel is actually created day by day."
"They Call It The City of Angels"
A New Serial Novel by Joshua A. TRILIEGI
Listen to INTERVIEWS & The Narrated Audio on the Website
CHAPTER 1 : LOUIS Written & Published Aug 25TH 2013
CHAPTER 2 : MICKEY Written & Published Aug 26TH 2013
CHAPTER 3 : JOSIE Written & Published Aug 27TH 2013
CHAPTER 4 : JORDAN Written & Published Aug 28TH 2013
CHAPTER 5 : CLIFF Written & Published Aug 29TH 2013
CHAPTER 6 : CHUCK Written & Published Aug 30TH 2013
CHAPTER 7 : CHARLES Written & Published Sept 2ND 2013
CHAPTER 8 : RYAN Written & Published Sept 3RD 2013
CHAPTER 9 : WANDA Written & Published Sept 4TH 2013
CHAPTER 10 : STAN Written & Published Sept 5TH 2013
CHAPTER 11 : JUNIOR Written & Published Sept 6TH 2013
CHAPTER 12 : MOON Written & Published Sept 9TH 2013
CHAPTER 13 : FRED Written & Published Sept 10TH 2013
CHAPTER 14 : TURTLE Written & Published Sept 11TH 2013
CHAPTER 15 : DORA Written & Published Sept 12TH 2013
CHAPTER 16 : HOME Written & Published Sept 13TH 2013
CHAPTER 17 : STONES Written & Published Sept 16TH 2013
CHAPTER 18 : HOLE Written & Published Sept 17TH 2013
CHAPTER 19 : ROOT Written & Published Sept 18TH 2013
CHAPTER 20 : HEART Written & Published Sept 19TH 2013
CHAPTER 21 : JOB Written & Published Sept 20TH 2013
CHAPTER 22 : ASHES Written & Published Sept 23RD 2013
Chapter One: Louis
Los Angeles is a funny place to live, but those laughing
were usually from out of town. Louis was a busboy down
at Old Ma Fritters Cafe & Saloon, the longest running
truck stop in the Harbor. He had been a busboy for almost
twenty six years, before that, he washed dishes, before that,
he attended the parking lot. Directing the truck drivers
where to park, making sure the working mom's could get
in and out without missing a beat, knowing the difference
between regulars who ate at the counter and the new comers
who were most likely in town to visit the Queen Mary or take
a cruise to Catalina Island for the day. All in all, Louis was a
quiet, hard working man with a simple view on life. He was
happy to have a job, never missed a day of work, except the
day his son was sentenced to seventeen years in the penitentiary
for manslaughter. That was over fifteen years ago and today
was the day that Louis Junior would come home, this made
Since that time, his wife had a stroke, his daughter had
married a local cop and he had three beautiful grandkids.
So much had changed since louis junior had gone away.
In 1976, it was a old world, now it was nineteen-ninety-one.
The Dodgers entire team had been replaced, there were new
presidents, everything was different. But still, he showed up
to work on time and already the word had gotten out that
Louis Junior was back in town and heading this way. He
had reservations. He knew that Junior was a good kid,
got caught up with the wrong friends early on, had been
picked on and turned tough gut mostly for his own survival.
The accident had been complicated, it had involved a rival
member of another group of kids as well as one of Junior's
ex- girlfriends and to top it off the first cop on the scene
was Louis' s new son-in-law, Chuck, who happened to be
white. They all lived in a big victorian style house just
above the port, which had a guest house where Louis
senior lived and in the big house, his daughter, Celia,
Chuck and the three girls, Cindy, Donna and Francine.
It was a good life, most of the time. Louis wondered
exactly what he would say, where junior would sleep
and how all of this would play out. He figured junior
could stay on the couch in the guest house and later
he could break the news that after all was said and
done: Chuck had met Celia after that day in court and
one thing led to another, as things like this often do &
well, here we are, a family.
He couldn't know exactly what Junior would think, say
or do, but he knew it wouldn't be a smooth transition.
Junior had been saved in the joint and had found god.
He belonged to an outreach program that was ready to
offer him a chance to work and go back to school, but
housing was not provided. So, Louis said, " Yes son, of
course you can stay with us while you get back on your
feet. " And so the day started, as these days often do
down in the port. Up at 5 AM, to work by five thirty,
he'd have an early lunch and since everyone knew junior
was coming home, had the choice to go home early, but
had already decide to stay the duration. Work was his
way of dealing with the troubles of life. It steadied his
resolve, gave him roots, kept him calm, kept him centered,
even if deep down inside, he knew that this was not an
ordinary day and that things could go bad.
No one was more aware of the impending problems than
Chuck, who worked at the front desk office directly across
from the loading docks at the longshore pick up and delivery.
He hadn't seen Junior since that day in court and before
that the terrible rainy night on the street with bodies mangled,
wind swept asphalt, palm trees bending to the ground and a
fierce full moon reflecting anguish, pain and death, in his eyes.
He couldn't sleep all that morning. For a cop, he was, not a
total square, his own brother had been a pot dealer back in
the nineteen sixties and since then, he himself had imbibed
more than a few glasses of whiskey a night. He was hip to
jazz music, loved the various cultures in Los Angeles and
more than anything, adored his wife and three girls. His
family was his everything. He was thinking about junior
as he pulled into the cafe to get breakfast to go, and three
cups of joe for the boys at the office, who secretly hated
the coffee served in the back room. Ma Fritters Coffee was
made with a pinch of cinnamon and was generally strong
compared to the instant regulation joe that the knuckle
heads made. Know one said anything as Chuck pulled into
the cafe, but everyone knew what was on their minds as
Louis and Chuck exchanged words in the parking lot.
The waitresses and line cooks stopped what they were
doing and saying for just a second or two and sure enough
a hush drifted through the place. Those who didn't know
the score figured it out pretty quick. The cop and the bus-
boy, who was actually a fully grown man with grandkids,
chatted quietly about the day. Neither had figured out
what was the best way to deal with it, nor did they fully
understand how junior would take it: both understood it
wouldn't be easy. Life in the L.A. Harbor never was.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Two: Mickey
"Look left, then right, then left again." What the hell is so
difficult about that ? Mickey muttered out loud to some
mindless quack as he skidded around the car and cranked
his wrist an eighth of an inch, which meant he was now
riding from a basic twenty-five miles per hour to the
preferred forty-five along the coast of Malibu and on
into Venice beach where he kept a shop that tended
strictly to Harleys. Mickey was a third generation biker,
his Dad had known some pretty serious guys back in the
day. His grandfather had driven a Harley from Washington
State clear down to Southern California back in the nineteen
forties before going off to war, with the rest of his generation.
Back when Mickey was a kid, bikers were hated and or feared
by the general populist. Now, everybody and their grandma
wants to claim some piece of this heritage. His old man fixed
bikes for some of the well known biker gangs throughout
California, but he never actually signed up, if you know
what I mean. What they call a civilian.
When his old man left town for a month, which turned into
a decade, Mickey finally took a crow bar to the lock on the
old man's wood shed, found his tools and started a business
of his own. It wasn't one of those places with a big neon sign
or anything like that, he just fixed bikes for guys in the
neighborhood and eventually had a couple dozen regulars
and that was it. He had been offered partnerships before
by local shops, investors, squares with enough money to set
him up well, but simply didn't want the hassle. " As soon as
you take their money, they own you." That was his usual
reply, but lately he'd gotten tired of the bullshit. Guys not
paying what they owed, insurance companies not releasing
the funds on time, just cause they knew he was an unofficial
Harley repairman, as opposed to the guys with the big signs
out front. Part of him rejected the whole idea of middle
America embracing the Harley phenomenon. The other part
of him knew it was good for business and just might bring
the company back into a thriving system, where bikers could
get some respect again. So, when a local rich kid offered him
10,000 dollars to expand the shop, he took it. Reluctantly,
accepted a chance to buy some new tools, get bonded, insured,
even had the business officially certified with a doing business
as 'Mickey's Motorcycles' license.
Some people said Mickey's old man had gone to Mexico,
others figured he got caught up in some kind of deal gone
awry. There was talk that he was overseas, Amsterdam
maybe. No one knew for sure. He had stopped thinking
about it a few years back. Mickey made the house payments,
took care of his grandmother and tolerated his Mothers
new boyfriends as best he could. So much had changed
since they were kids, growing up in Venice beach. Back
then it was mostly poor folks, now the place was turning
into something else: well known actors, architects, airline
pilots. It was a good thing his old man bought the place
otherwise Mickey and his girlfriend, Moon, would have
been out of that neighborhood years ago. They lived a
block and a half away from Dennis Hopper's house &
when Hopper bought a Harley, Mickey was the guy he
brought it to. Who didn't want to hang out with Dennis
Hopper? Mickey had creds on the street and in the hills,
which was kind of rare. He had clients up and down the
coast and didn't mind much making house calls, even if
it took a couple days. He'd crash out on the couch or
garage or guest house until the job was done. Most guys
liked his company and liked to hear him wax poetic about
the early days of Rock and Roll, his mom had been the
manager of several bands up in the bay area and he knew
just about everyone from Jerry Garcia's to The Moby
Grape's. People would say that Mickey was made from a
kind of American counter culture royalty. But, he shunned
all that talk.One of those quiet throw backs, except when
it came to Moon, his only truly admittedly obsessive
relationship. Whatever she wanted, she got. Moon was
his first and only love. Once they had broken up for a
day and a half during high school graduation. A Friday
night and all of Saturday,by Sunday morning, they were
back together and never looked back.
As he pulled into the driveway, he glanced over to find his
mother's new boyfriend's red convertible, the passenger
side windshield was riddled with what looked like bullet
holes, upon closer inspection, he realized the holes were
made with stiletto heels kicked from the inside out. "Here
we go." he thought, as he turned off the bike and figured,
o.k. this generator is fixed. He knew there was something
brewing, so he quietly strolled past the front house and
headed straight for Pop's shed. Always a safe refuge.
But there in the back yard was the boyfriend wearing
nothing more than a pair of Ray-Bans and in a see through
nighty, his Mom attending the barbecue. " For christ sake
Mag, what if Calley walks back here ?" who momentarily
turns in his direction, " Oh Mick, grow up will ya ? " She
had been telling him that since the time he was ten years
old : "Your not a kid anymore mick, your ten years old
now, grow up." He did. Got back on the bike, which he
hadn't planned on returning to his client till tomorrow,
ripped up Pacific Coast Highway and on into Zuma
Beach, collected his fee and instead of getting a ride
from Jay, simply hopped on the Bus and called it a day.
That's when he noticed a beach comber who sure looked
a lot like his dad. "That's impossible. Must be going nuts.
I gotta get out of here." He did.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Three: Josie
Josie was an artist. They had noticed that right away.
By the time she was three, she could sing a tune. By
the time she was nine, she could mimic any dance
movement. By the time she was twelve she could draw
realistic pictures that were up to scratch with any adult.
Today is Josie's birthday. Her room is covered in teen
beat posters. Packs of Bubble-Yum chewing gum on
the dresser. Photographs of her girlfriend's at school,
at the beach, at the park, award ribbons from art,
dance and singing contests, a letter of recommendation
from an art teacher at the local university, a pair of
tennis shoes in the corner and of course her dozens of
sketchbooks filled with classic portraits of friends,
people she observed, objects, places.
Her parents had immigrated in the early nineteen sixties,
they gave her an American name, things were going to be
hard enough for her as it was, they figured, she was born
here, she's the first American in our family, lets go with
the flow. Her Dad worked at a local factory, her Mom was
a homemaker of the old world style, she sewed, cooked,
gardened and kept the books. Josie was wide open when
it came to discussing friends, school, dreams and the future,
but when it came to her boyfriends, she never ever told a soul.
Not her parents, not her girlfriends, no one. So when she
started dating Louis, who was a few years older, no one
had anything to worry about, because no one knew. He had
that protective quality that some guys have, she felt safe
around him. He was knocked out by her talents, even had
her design tattoos for him and his friends. It was a taboo
sort of love, the kind that couldn't last longer than a summer
and it didn't. Louis eventually started dating girls his age
and Josie rebounded with a kid from her own school and
neighborhood. But deep down inside, she still had a love
for Louis and even though he didn't know it, he too was
still in love with her.
By the time winter came along, they found themselves in
the awkward situation of having to see one another, some-
times in the company of each others new playmates. At
first this seemed easy, smile, wave, a simple hello or how
ya doing ? But after these moments, Louis found himself
troubled, confused, sometimes even angry. He didn't know
who he was angry with, Josie, the new boyfriend or himself,
he just knew that something wasn't exactly settled and it
really confused him to the point where sometimes he couldn't
sleep. So, he started to call her up just to say hi, then Josie's
new boyfriend got word of this and reacted accordingly.
One thing led to another and now the boys were talking
about a showdown. The kind that spreads quickly, the
word got out, after a dance at school, they were going
to meet and settled this thing. Josie freaked when she
found out, felt guilty, felt responsible and had no one to
tell because this was a part of her life she had always
kept to herself. So the pressure mounted until the night
of the dance. At first Josie said she wasn't going, then
she changed her mind and told Ryan, her new boyfriend,
that she was going with friends and they could talk after
the dance, hoping this would diffuse the pressure and by
then she could help avoid an actual fight. Though, the
way things went only worsened the situation. Instead of
avoiding a fist fight the entire event became a drag race
through the boulevards of Los Angeles and by the end of
the night a car flipped in mid air, up an over the railroad
Josie's Dad knocked on her bedroom door, no one answered.
He called her girlfriend's parents, no one knew what happened.
Eventually they got a call from officer Chuck of the county
police department explaining that there had a been a terrible
accident and could they please come down to the Harbor
hospital to help sort something out. They were unsure about
the identity of a person and needed verification. When Josie's
parents arrived, Chuck was standing in the hallway, clipboard
in hand, this was the most difficult part of his job. He could
handle the tough guys, the smart aleck public, the other cops
on the squad, but he couldn't hold his water when it came to
telling parents that we think your child is dead. Josies' s parents
were led into a well lit room, two bodies were laying on aluminum
stretchers with sheets covering each. The bodies had been washed
of all blood, but there was nothing that could be done about all
the torn and mangled flesh. Josie was under one of the sheets,
Ryan was under the other. It was the first time their parents
would ever meet. Eventually they would meet again in court
and again at the arraignments and again upon Louis's release
from prison. Today is Josie's birthday and if she hadn't died
back in nineteen seventy-six, she would have been thirty years
old. Her dad closed the bedroom door, which he kept exactly
as it had been the day she died, wiped his eyes and promised
himself that someone was gonna pay for this pain. By then,
he'd lost his wife and by now he began to lose is mind.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Four: Jordan
Jordan is a bus driver, it didn't define him, he's also a
bass man, a basketball coach, a bit of a poet too. He is
the youngest bus driver in all of Los Angeles County.
Came out here to get away from a seriously tragic
family history. Born in Detroit, the week of the famous
riots, his dad was a serious player and took the fall for
being a member of an elite crew of dudes who actually
helped to start it. His Mom was in and out of town so
much, he hardly knew her. Came out here alone on a
one time musical scholarship. Recently, he ended up
hocking his bass, a red fender given to him by his uncle,
still had the pawn ticket in his wallet, been meaning to
get over there to extend the loan voucher another ninety
days so he could get it back after paying up in full.
Wanted to buy his girl a pair of earrings and figured
he could always get the bass back, but with his car
payment, rent and all the rest, he just let it drift.
He was two weeks away from getting off probation from
the transit authority. Six weeks of training and almost a
year driving and finally he would be able to exhale. His
first route started near LAX Airport, up La Brea, over
to Crenshaw, past Leimert Park & around Rodeo, down
Martin Luther King to The Sports Arena and back around
again. He liked it. reminded him of his parents, his heritage,
his people. But now, they had him driving from Venice
Boulevard onto the 405 freeway, up through Santa Monica
onto Pacific Coast Highway, past Pepperdine University
and all the way up to Malibu Pier and back again. Most
people would have loved that route, but Jordan always
said the drivers were snobs, the kids crossed the street
without looking, carrying surfboards, lawn chairs, tourists
from all corners of the world, asking directions to places
he never heard of, in languages he never knew. He was
hoping to get his old route back, but as the odd man at
transit authority, the chances were mighty slim. Most
of the drivers, managers, supervisors and radio dispatch
persons were steeped in the Jesus thing: Baptist, Christian,
Catholic, Protestant, you name it. Jordan was a third
generation Muslim. His Daddy, his Granddad, his Uncles,
some of his Aunts and him.
He had already made his four rotations by seven o'clock that
evening, grabbed a cup of coffee and was looking forward
to seeing his lady for a late dinner at her place. Just past
the Malibu Pier, an area where he was always extra careful,
he slowed down a bit and coasted around the curve through
to the next straight away stretch, the sun was setting a
golden, peach - like glow, palm trees silhouetted in an all
black design that looked like a postcard. It wasn't Crenshaw,
but it could of been worse. Some routes were very tough on
a driver, others were easy street. Looking down the highway,
he noticed a small dark circle along the horizon line, couldn't
figure out what it was. A trash-bag? A backpack ? As he got
closer, the object came into view, it was a turtle, a rather
large sized turtle crawling from left to right, he swerved to
the right avoiding the turtle, as he did so, a camper van
parked on the right pulled out in front of him, and as it did,
that is when he noticed the beachcomber standing directly
in his path, hit the brakes, skidding several yards and
slamming into the beachcombers several bags and
eventually knocking him to the asphalt, he turned to
ask the lone passenger if he had seen what just happened,
but not a soul was on the bus. " Could have sworn that cat
was still on."
The first thing you are supposed to do is call it in.
But Jordan, just on reflex jumped off the bus to see
what happened. He looked down and splayed across
the highway were several small packages wrapped in
brown paper and masking tape. He looked closer at
the corner of one of the small bundles and noticed it
was full of currency, unmistakably dollar bills. All day
long he had to watch people putting bills into the slot
on his bus, the corners always bending, creating a problem.
If anyone knew what the corner of a dollar bill looked like,
it was Jordan. The beachcomber, was out like a light, but
when Jordan put his ear to the man's chest, he could hear
him breathing. He could also smell his breath, whiskey
and onions. Why a man does what he does is always a
mystery, mostly to the man himself, so when he reached
to pick up one of the bundles and put it in his inside left
pocket, it seemed pretty natural. He got back on the bus
and called it in. By now the sun was down. The highway
was closed. Ambulance, cops, transit authority, the whole
shebang. When radio reporters, traffic helicopters and
the local television stations came out, he figured that he
was not only going to be late for dinner. There was a
good chance he was going to be fired, even if it wasn't
his fault, even if the guy was drunk. To top it off, the
turtle was no where to be seen, that was his whole
defense.Wanda heard about it on the radio before he
even got home.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Five: Cliff
Cliff was psychic, not for a living or anything like that.
Just had a knack for reading people, had a way with
animals and a sort of connection with the elements that
was, let us say, out of the ordinary. Like a lot of so-called
handicapped persons, he had some hidden gifts that made
up for the fact that he couldn't speak very well, had trouble
with motor skills, would never be able to hold down a job,
keep a home or cook his own meals. He was disabled as
people like to say, remedial or worse even, retarded. Cliff's
father, Stan, was a judge, he always winced when his
colleagues used that term. His mother, Dora was a retired
lawyer who ran her own legal advisement company and
would actually correct people whenever they denigrated
her son with those types of labels. "Cliff is challenged, but
he's no dummy." or "He may need some help, but he's got
a great heart." or "He has his problems, but he's never said
a bad thing about you." She was nobodies fool. And by god
she wasn't about to let people get away with any mean
spirited conversation about her only child.
He attended a sort of day care type of school. One in which
there were daily outings in between lessons, classes, working
with sound, colors, sometimes simplified mathematics and
social sciences, to a degree. In the classroom, his teachers
were all certified practitioners, but on daily social outings,
volunteers were often on staff. Retired widows, stay at
home wives, middled aged women who were unmarried,
this kind of thing. They often took a group of kids to the
park, out to lunch or even to a museum every now and then.
One day, one of Dora's clients recognized Cliff walking with
his schoolmates and a volunteer up past the L.A County
Museum of Art. She specifically remembered Cliff because
her own daughter had some issues which led her to seek
legal advice and Cliff happened to be in the office with
mom. Some time later, the client mentioned in passing,
that she ran into Cliff at the museum and couldn't help
but notice that the kids were wearing shirts and jackets
of a wide variety with disparaging comments of all sorts.
Cliff's T-shirt, said in bold black letters : YOU STINK !
Another kid wore a hat that said, ' LOSER ' , another with
a jacket that stated, ' I never Loved You '. The client
chuckled, asking Dora where she bought it. Cliff's mom
didn't buy it. In fact she had no idea why her son was
wearing it. Well, after some looking into, it turned out
that the ' volunteer ' had recently broke up with her boy
friend who happened to be a security guard at the museum,
so she made the kids wear these hats, coats and t-shirts
unbeknownst to any of the kid's parents or the kids themselves.
Further investigation revealed that it had become a common
practice among the volunteers to do such a thing. The kids
were being used as props. When Dora found out about it in
full, she brought it up to Stan and they decided to do what
any good legal family would do. They decided to sue.
Stan was a judge in high profile cases. Through the years,
he had watched his more liberal contemporaries end up
in disparaging posts such as traffic court in Compton or
settling housing issues Downtown, the Judge Judy type
of detail. He had played his cards right, literally. He was
a kind man, patient, quiet, respected by his bailiffs and
well liked buy most of the people he worked with, not
necessarily by those he had sent to prison, but most
everyone else.Dora became a lawyer and later a legal
advisor partly because they were working in the same
circles and partly to sort out the issues they were having
with Cliff early on. They loved Cliff immensely. More than
the usual parent might love a child and definitely more
than if he was, quote-unquote-normal. They had a nice
size home in the Valley and Stan drove North to work
just a few miles away. He tried not to bring his work
home, but when your wife is a legal advisor, a top notch
lawyer really, it was almost impossible, cases concerning
children or abuse of authority or murder were always
a sticky issue, they both tended to lean pretty hard on
the accused. He was older by a few years, but Dora was
mature for her age, so it worked out pretty well. They all
vacationed together twice a year and during the holidays
often took a cabin in the snowy topped local mountains.
Considering the situation with Cliff, they handled it well.
Around the time that Cliff became four, five and six ,
they noticed he had a way of sensing what was going on ,
not only in their inner lives, but also in the lives of
people they worked with. If Stan had a high profile
case concerning an auto accident, Cliff might create
a drawing with unexplainable details. When Dora's
mother was close to death, he had drawn a picture of
her final resting place two months before they had
chosen it. He was somehow reading the inner lives of
his parents and at first it freaked Stan out. Some days,
before a big trial, Stan might peruse around cliffs room,
looking for an image that might help him with the case.
Dora put a stop to it, but hey, who could blame him?
There son was psychic and they knew it. Wether Cliff
knew it or not didn't matter. Once, when Cliff was twelve,
they woke up one early morning to find Cliff nestling with
a Deer. He had no food to give it. He was just holding the
deer, when they opened the door, it ran away. Another
time, a hummingbird flew into Cliffs room, sat on his
finger, just sat there . There were all kinds of encounters
such as these. Dora thought maybe she should mention
it to a friend of a client who had written a book on
shamanism in the modern day, but Stan said no. He
didn't want his son ending up on some television show
or story on NPR. It was their secret. When Cliff got
home that day, he took out a sketchbook and drew a
stunning and startling portrait of a man that Stan
would never forget, someone he hadn't thought about
for fifteen years.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Six: Chuck
Chuck wanted to make detective, so did half the guys
in his division. He had been working on it actively for
three and a half years now. Had a friend downtown
who advised him on what to do, how to lay the groundwork.
He started by making friends on the street. If he found
a tough guy, say, smoking pot while driving. He'd pull
him over, get his information, talk to him a bit, instead
of citing him, he'd tell him that smoking while driving
made no sense. He'd chat him up a bit, make a friend.
Later, after hours, he'd look up the kids record, run a
check on his family, find out where, when and how he
hustled and made it a point to meet him again. He did
this for the past three years and had connections all over
Los Angeles, not just in his area. He spent one day a week
doing research, talking to other guys who had made
detective, even hanging around the division. Everyone
on the force knew he was angling, if it didn't interrupt
his local quotas, his desk duty and any other assignments,
When word got out that his brother-in-law was getting
out of the joint after a fifteen year stint for manslaughter,
people started talking. Chuck realized that this was actually
his chance to make detective. These days everything on the
street was controlled by a unit of men incarcerated for decades
and sometimes for life. They gave the orders. Chuck knew
that after fifteen years, his brother-in-law, Junior had
learned a few things, things that could help Chuck move in
on what they call, the ' Big Dogs '. No detective would bother
with some small time peddlers, they all wanted a big catch,
something that would get some ink, something that would
help them up the ladder a few rungs. Recently, there had
been a new crime spreading through the city of Los Angeles.
Somebody or a group of people were torching palm trees in
designated areas. At first, they thought it was a kid or
pyromaniac. As it spread throughout Southern California,
other theories popped up. The burnt palm trees were a signal
that certain local business had not contributed to a certain
individual or it was, 'a warning' sign, 'a don't shop here' sign
or a ' your on the list ' sign. Chuck was in agreement that it
was not random, he noticed when, where and how it was
playing out. Since making the goal to become a detective,
he had transformed the den into an office. His wife and the
girls knew Daddy was serious about his work, so they watched
television in the living room and shared the master bedroom
with bunk beds. While Chuck and his wife Celia had what
they commonly call a guest bed room. Celia had an entire
room to herself for dressing and basic women's stuff with
a vanity set Chuck bought when they first got married.
In his office, which he always kept locked, Chuck had a
map. He followed murders: There had been over twenty-
two in the past ninety days. Drug busts: there had been
three big ones in the past forty-five days and dozens of
small one's. Lately, he'd been following the palm tree
burnings. Even started reading up on other incidents
through history, from cross burnings to lynchings. Looking
for something that might give him one up on what was
going down. The Mayor of Los Angeles, in an official
statement, directed to law enforcement had said that,
" The Palm Tree Burnings " were a scar on the city, were
bad for business, bad for tourism and had to be stopped.
He wanted a new kind of cooperation between departments
wherever the incidents had occurred. Incentives were
given to both cops on the street, detectives on the beat
and even the local feds, since several of the incidents had
happened on federal property. One happened on a reservation
near Joshua Tree National Forest and another happened
directly in front of the Federal building downtown. Some
people said it was a scam, just another distraction from the
real crimes that were happening in L.A. : drug smuggling,
child prostitution, underground pornography. The so -
called sanctioned crimes that made money. Chuck didn't
care what it was about, he had been told to get something
important on it and he'd be given a serious opportunity to
make detective. If he could crack the case, it was a total
Several weeks earlier, Chuck went downtown to ask a
couple friends, one was a lieutenant detective, if they
would give him permission to tap the phones in his home.
His brother-in-law was getting out of the joint and maybe
they could find out a few things. The word would most likely
come back officially as a no. On his way home, he cranked
up John Coltrane's a Love Supreme, while flying down the
110 freeway, he realized that no one could stop him from
recording any conversations in his own home. He could drive
out to the local Circuit Station, buy some basic over the
counter devices and wire the place up. Chuck came from
the generation that actually was offered shop classes in
junior high school. He had taken both wood shop and
electric classes, so, setting up the whole thing was not
a big deal. He wired the entire guest house in three hours
and did it all for less than what it would have cost to tune
up the station wagon. He couldn't tell Louis Sr. or Celia ,
they wouldn't understand. It was his job. He knew that if
they ever wanted to take another vacation together, he'd
have to make detective. Three days later, Junior got out
of prison and Chuck drove down to Ma Fritters to get
breakfast and check in with his father-in-law Louis Senior.
They talked about how to deal with Junior's Coming Home
party. 'Are you heading back to the office ?' asked the
waitress, ' Yep.' Afterward, while driving back, he thought,
' Not for long babe. '
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Seven: Charles
When the bus hit Charles' bags, his cart had lodged underneath
the front tire and saved his life. Although it tossed him several
yards, no bones were broken, no internal bleeding, just a few
road rashes and most likely, a concussion. When he finally
came to, there he was, sleeping in an actual bed with clean
cotton sheets and two pillows, the first time in several years.
He hadn't been in a hospital since Mickey was born. His
first thought was, "I gotta get out of here." , then he realized
that none of his possessions were anywhere to be seen. Where
were his clothes , his personal belongings, his savings ? Most
likely, he was going to have to answer some questions to the
man. Another thing he hadn't done in years. If they had gone
through his things, they would have found his dog tags and
maybe even contacted his family. Another thing he hadn't
done in the past few years. Damn, what had he done in the
past few years? Drifted.
This was nothing compared to the many times he had to lay
down his Harley because of some god awful drivers not checking
their blind side, pulling out of the driveway without looking or
simply not paying attention to others on the road. He had to
lay his bike down at least a half a dozen times because of
other peoples stupidity. Being a biker in Southern California
was no easy task in the nineteen seventies. After losing a
handful of friends to total idiots, someone's wife started a
campaign to help Bikers who had been wronged on the roads
and highways. She ended up creating some kind of legislation
and took it all the way to the high courts. Charles admired her
tenacity, but that was not his style, he couldn't stand any of
that legal stuff. He was a simple man, enjoyed nature, food
and a simple bottle of wine. Those were the three things he
had been able to partake in for the past few years, come to
think of it, that was all he had done lately. He lived in the
wilds of the coastline, drank a good bottle or two of dago
red a day and ate well, for a beachcomber. No one ever
suspected that he carried thousands of dollar bills. When
he opted out of all the side dealings that went on in his
world, his partners were glad to pay him out and let him
go. Charles had been getting too old for the game and
although he had respect, it was a young man's game now.
When Mickey picked up the phone and the voice on the
other end of the line simply stated, "This is the Venice
Beach Police department." He figured, it was either
something to do with his Mother's new boyfriend, the
serial numbers on a recent bike sale or some kids breaking
into the shop. When they said Mickey's father was in the
hospital & they needed to reach someone in the family,
his ears began to ring, his heart beat doubled and he
broke into a sweat. They explained what had happened
and asked if he could come down to the station before
visiting the hospital. They had some of his possessions
and also had a few questions to ask. Mickey said he'd be
right there. He himself had more than a few questions to
ask. Hadn't seen the old man in almost a decade. Had
thought he was dead. Now he's about to have a family
reunion in the very same hospital where he was born.
There was no way he was going to call his mother, sister
or Moon. It was something he had to do alone. When he
got to the station, two detectives sat at a table with his
Dad's four remaining bundles of cash in front of them.
Through the years, Mickey himself had been in and out
of this particular police station. Sometimes to bail out
friends, other times to sleep one off, after a fight, but
this was the first time he had been summoned to ask
questions about anyone else and actually showed up.
He had never gotten involved in anyone else's business
nor did he want others involved in his: the biker code
of conduct. A long list of unwritten ways of living life.
This was a pedestrian Q & A. "When was the last time
you saw your Father?" , "What do you know about his
business partners ?" , "Why is your Dad carrying over
thirty thousand dollars in cash ?" Mickey didn't know
anything and wouldn't have said, even if he did. He was
simply glad to know that Charles was still alive and if
they didn't mind, he wanted to talk to him in person.
The detectives expressed their concern regarding the
release of Charles from the hospital with all this currency.
They thought it best to contact a family member. Mickey
knew better, but he played along, thanked them and said
he'd meet them at the hospital in thirty minutes time.
That gave him just enough time to call Moon, he had
tried to handle this on his own, but decided he needed
to talk to her. Called her at the bookstore from the phone
booth in the hallway and without explanation, "My Dad's
alive. I'm going to see him. I don't know what to expect.
He's in the hospital. I'll call you later. As soon as I know
what's what." Moon was in the middle of selling five old
paper back books to a couple on vacation from Europe.
There wasn't much she could say, "Wait a minute. What ?"
Mickey realized this was a mistake, "I'll call you back."
Moon was a stickler for details and in this case, he had
none to offer. When he got to the hospital room, Charles
had just finished telling a story and the two detectives
were laughing out loud. That's the way it always was.
Charles had a way with people, especially men of the
blue collar variety. "Hey Mick, How the hell are you ?"
Mickey just shook his head, as a long, slow, single teardrop
fell onto his jean jacket vest's upper pocket and sat there
before hitting the linoleum tile and splashing into a
miniature Jackson Pollack like splatter that he stared
at for a few seconds. "I'm fine Dad, just fine. How the
hell are you?"
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Eight: Ryan
Ryan was a good kid. Aced his grades in school, held down
two jobs, was an excellent athlete, always the courteous type.
A throw back who held doors open for old ladies, was always
respectful to women, looked after his little brother, everyone
liked Ryan. He had known Josie since the third grade, they
had last names that started with the same letter, so, all
through grade school they sat next to each other. Back in
the seventies, public schools used an alphabetical system
for seating and year after year, they found themselves next
to one another. Ryan's mother came from the same country
as did Josie's parents, so whenever she complained about her
parents, he knew exactly what she was talking about. The so-
called generation gap loomed large between them and their
parents. Between the sexual revolution of the nineteen sixties
& the hang loose style of the nineteen seventies, many
immigrants had no idea that their new American children
would leap forward so quickly into the modern age. Ryan
always told Josie to have more patients with her parents,
"They're coming from all whole different world." Instead,
she began to keep her inner world more and more private.
When Josie & Junior split up, within days, she attached
herself to Ryan. He had always been there as a friend,
someone she could talk to, now she began to depend on him.
Quickly, they became an item. If Ryan went surfing, then
Josie sat on the shore, either studying, reading or just
reflecting on life. When Ryan was working on his car,
Josie would hang out in the garage, playing records and
sometimes quizzing him on an upcoming test at school.
They were both, what some kids called 'squares', they didn't
attend ditching parties or smoke, but they did go to concerts
and dances and it was safe to say that most of their friends
would never have guessed that they had a serious love life.
Josie was a very passionate person. Ryan was always very
responsible, they talked about taking their time and Josie
always felt at ease. He had been saving his money for a
new wet-suit for the winter surfing season and decided
instead to by her a ring, it was getting serious. When
a group of students asked Ryan to run for class president,
he declined. It was safe to say, he was, in more ways then
one, the unofficial president of his class. Josie was glad he
turned it down. She was very much attached and although
mature, still didn't entirely understand her feelings. She
was possessive of Ryan, having someone of your own to
a girl such as Josie was everything, in her mind, he belonged
to her and they belonged together. They were one of those
couples that just about everyone figured would be together
When Ryan found out that Louis Junior had been calling
Josie, he freaked. Although he was a surfer, he had plenty
of friends from the other side of town, where Junior lived.
One of his pals had written in his yearbook, 'To a cool punk,
for a surfer.' The divide between surfers and low riders was
wide back then. Not for everyone though, certainly not for
Ryan, who knew about all kinds of classic cars, sports, music.
He was a bit of a crossover, culturally speaking. On several
occasions he had helped guys with their car projects: chopped
tops, pin-striping, dual carbs and manifold installations. His
old man had been big on custom cars back in the day, even
won some awards and made a few bucks reselling fix ups.
Ryan's life did not involve the kind of built-in drama that
Juniors did. Juniors Uncles and Aunts were always coming
into town with one problem or another and his Mother tended
to let them stay longer than his father would have liked. This
created an uneasiness at home and always gave Junior an
excuse to get into trouble elsewhere. His old man was a dish
washer at the local cafe back then. Junior hated to see his
dad relegated to this position. As a young man Louis Senior
had studied to be an engineer and later ran an entire ware-
house with a dozen guys working under him. This was before
Junior was born, but it still put a thorn in his side at times.
To know that his old man had been passed by, just to be an
American and have a family here, seemed like a sacrifice.
Sometimes, Junior thought they would be better off going
back to where his grandparents were from and several times
he himself had done just that. Spent time on the farm, he
loved it. This was the side of Junior that Josie fell in love
with and it was also the thing that made Ryan jealous.
He himself had come from a good family, had been given
things,was considered upper middle class, never knew hunger.
He had no real drama to speak of, before Josie, he had never
even felt much of anything. Josie made him feel things,
he was suddenly vulnerable, jealous, passionate and even
angry. When Junior began to contact Josie again, Ryan
began to swim in a new sea of emotions that he figured
had everything to do with growing up, "This is what life is
about." He could hear his Dad say, in some imaginary scene.
That night was not at all unlike a film that occasionally
played on late night television. Ryan saw himself as the
James Dean character, if he backed down to Junior's
challenge, he'd be disgraced. Maybe Josie didn't know it,
but she was the Natalie Wood character and Louis Junior
was well aware of his role in all of this. He had always
been the 'bad boy'. Had found it easier to get attention
by screwing up rather than doing good. Nobody seemed
to notice whenever he did something well, but if he ever
made a mistake, it was hell to pay. A family dynamic
that had been played out for generations and he was no
exception. If the boys had only gotten into a fist fight,
everything might have been better. Instead they settled
things with machinery, in this case, with their cars. Some
of the guys Junior hung out with used knives, bats and
even pistols. He was old school, didn't believe much in
weaponry. Plus, he was a good fighter, he didn't have
to settle things like that. The whole thing happened
spontaneously. Ryan had promised Josie that he would
avoid any altercations . But when Junior pulled up at
the stop light, only Ryan could hear what he said and
thats when it happened. The boys began to rip down the
boulevard, side by side, running red lights and stop signs
in a reckless abandon that teenagers are known to do.
By the time they got to the old bridge underpass, which
crossed the oldest rail road tracks in South Bay, just past
the skating rink, two kids in skates were crossing the street
into the trailer parks across the way. To avoid the kids,
Ryan swerved to the left, hit the curb at the curve and
flipped his car into mid air, it tumbled several times
before the final landing, which crushed the entire cab
taking both their lives. Junior looked into his rear view
mirror and saw what he thought hell might look like.
The bridge was like a giant gateway, the fire, flames
and smoke were all he could see. When he looked again,
he saw the two kids on skates and remembered the first
time he had ever seen Josie. He drove off and wasn't found
until the next day. By then, he too had been consumed by
a sort of fire. Sifting through the ashes in his mind was
the single memory of the only girl in the world who had
ever looked him directly in the eyes and simply said,
"I Love You."
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Nine: Wanda
Wanda was educated. She never suffered fools and had no
time for any man who was looking to fill her nights with
excitement only to leave her at breakfast alone, she told
Jordan the first day they met. That was fine by him, he had
learned to cook breakfast for himself early on in life. Could
make a great omelette, a mean cup of coffee and had even
learned to make french toast as good as anyone this side of
the Mississippi. He knew she was talking about much more
than food and he wanted more than a girlfriend too. Jordan
was a self confessed , 'Momma's boy without a mama' , so it
worked out fine. He had few friends in Los Angeles and no
relatives to speak of. The guys in the quartet had disbanded
a summer ago, when their main man went on tour with a
big band that had gone off to europe. He hadn't touched his
bass for a while and even stopped coaching b-ball at the park.
It was time to settle down and all the ingredients were there.
When they first started dating, it was always an all day thing.
A trip somewhere early: the beach, the museum, a ball game,
a movie, a poetry reading, a walk in the hills, then dinner.
He often cooked at her place. Three course meals with special
sauces, exotic salads and always some freaky dessert. One of
the dudes in his band had also been a chef at a creole restaurant
& after gigs, all the cats would descend upon his pad with their
girlfriends, dates and such. Jordan picked up pointers quickly.
He was a sponge for good habits, a fast learner and wanted to
better himself. They moved in together and never looked back.
She looked at the clock and knew something was up. Jordan
was never late, he was one of those bus drivers who prided
himself on being poignant. After a while, his regulars began
to appreciate that fact. They could always depend on Jordan
to keep his time spots. One out of a dozen or so stops is
considered a time spot, it lets you know that your either
ahead or behind the schedule that thousands of people
depended on to get to work, to school, to the doctor, to
church or to some event that was going to start or finish,
wether his riders got there on time or not. He tried his
best to get them there. If you were going to do something
in this world, wether it was cook a meal, play a tune, shoot
hoops or drive a bus, Jordan thought you ought to do it well.
And he did. Wanda turned on the television to kill a little
time and there on the eight o'clock news was the lead story,
all about the shutting down of Pacific Coast Highway because
of an accident between a bus, a turtle and a pedestrian.
She knew that was Jordan's route, chances were one in four
that he was the driver. News shows were always talking
about traffic in Los Angeles, then they'd actually cut over
to the man in the helicopter high above the city. Wanda
always thought that was a put on, as if they really needed
some dude in a helicopter actually talking on television.
She minored in journalism and knew very well that any
on camera announcer could handle the job, but L.A. was
full of stuff like that. Half of it didn't make any sense at
all, a quarter of it was for show, and the rest was for
entertainments sake. It didn't leave much to the imagination.
That was partly why she dug Jordan so much, he was real,
fun to be with and was dependable. She didn't care if he
was muslim, baptist or hindu, for her, it was more about
the man rather than any one group, belief system or way
of living life.
He finally walked in the door after the Ten O'Clock news
hour, he was a mess, had been questioned for several hours
and had a strange look in his eye. Wanda had never seen
that look before. They never had any secrets between them,
but it sure felt like they had one now. "You heard about it?"
He pointed to the television. "Dude standing right on the side
of the highway, nothing I could do. Some giant turtle crossing
the road ? Cops asking questions, highway patrol, local sheriffs,
radio reporters, some cats from the L.A. Times and all the
heavies from Transit Authority. They docked me for two weeks.
Two weeks while they investigate. Turns out the dude on the
road was connected to some old gangster stuff. One of my
boys in transit told me, off the record. probably gonna fire
me. I don't know what I'm gonna do." " You'll be fine. Come
here." She grabbed him and he pulled away, that was a first.
In the past, at times like this, she was Mama and he was the
little boy from Detroit with no one to look after him. Wanda
figured he was just shook up a bit. She never dared to think
that he was sitting on ten thousand dollars in hard cold cash
and it was making him sweat. If Jordan told her, she wouldn't
even come close to understanding. Now it was some gangsters
money? Why would some old bum on the highway be carrying
that kind of cash ? How could it have anything to do with mob
Jordan had never been an avid reader, but he had started
to buy old paperbacks from a bookstore located in Venice
Beach, not far from his break stop. He'd go in there and
the girl who worked there would suggest stuff. He had
bought and read Alex Haley's famous 'Autobiography of
Malcolm X', on her suggestion. "Did you know that he was
a writer for Playboy Magazine back in the day ?", she asked.
" No I didn't." She continued, " The Playboy magazine editors
once sent Alex Haley to interview the head of the k k k,
at his home in the South. He went right up to the front
door and interviewed the guy. That takes guts, don't you
think?" Jordan answered "Yeah, that takes some doing
don't it ?" They became friends, whenever he'd break for
lunch, she would have already pulled a few books aside.
Poetry by Maya Angelou, obscure art books and early
ephemera regarding L.A.'s edgy art scene in the sixties,
guys like Charles White. Wanda would come home and
there on the coffee table were books she had read in college.
She was proud to be with a man who had good taste in
literature. Jordan had once read a book by a dude named
Chester Himes, it was called, "Cotton Comes to Harlem"
where some homeless guy carts around a bevy of cash
with a bunch of gangsters on his trail. Now, here he was,
in the middle of a weird scene out of a detective novel.
He had become a character in a book. His name and
photograph in the newspapers and on the radio. Damn.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Ten: Stan
Stan made decisions that effected other peoples lives.
He was well aware of his moral obligations and had
not been the only person in his family to become a
judge. There was a long history of legal professionals
who had created legislation, legal precedents, cooperation
between groups, unions, affiliates and social movements.
His first visit to the White House had included a lunch
engagement with a second Uncle, who had made it up
the legal ladder from lawyer, to cabinet member to
a supreme court justice, appointed in the nineteen sixties.
Back then, most of the people in his lineage were liberal
or at least democrats, but the tide had turned and now,
most were republican or conservatives. Though, it was
hard to find anything being conserved lately. Ever since
Cliff was born, Stan had become numb to world affairs.
Even a bit ambivalent towards party politics. He had
settled down late in the game and having a kid was
Dora's idea. She was considerably younger than him.
They had lived together for several years before marrying,
heaven forbid they make the same mistakes their parents
had. He was an extremely cautious man, not the type to
jump into anything, even as a child, his parents noticed
that he had a wisdom beyond his years, sometimes had
more common sense than many of their adult friends.
When Cliff began to lag behind the other kids in class,
they figured out rather quickly that he had disabilities.
Dora immediately began looking for reasons why this
could have happened. She handled cases where pesticides
had effected children's health, chemical companies had
been negligent in their social responsibilities, building
codes had allowed asbestos to be exposed, local energy
companies had polluted the water, electrical wires hung
to close to housing tracts and even the local government
had sprayed DDT, which had entered the blood stream
of unsuspecting residents. And of course, fluoride scandals.
She started with their diet. Where had the restaurants they
frequented prior to Cliff's birth purchased their meat ?
What kind of cultivation had the vegetable growers used
at the local grocery store? What type of soap had she used
to wash their clothes ? Everything and everyone had become
suspect for inspection. Although this never led to any final
discoveries, it did become a transformative period. From
that point on, they lived entirely different lives. Dora began
to buy her produce directly from local farmers. She wanted
to know exactly who grew it, how they grew it and where
they grew it. She became extremely aware of artificial colors,
flavors, dyes, man made fabrics, fillers, additives, and all the
rest of it. Stan sometimes felt responsible for Cliffs health.
He had been a smoker in his youth, was older than Dora,
thought maybe it was his fault. Though she never did blame
him for anything. They couldn't find anything in their family
history and eventually concluded that this was just something
that happens. But deep down inside, Dora never quite finished
her inspection, it was an ongoing situation that at any time
just might reveal itself. She began to specialize in cases where
large companies had been responsible for damaging individuals.
Dora was becoming a sort of social hero, whereas Stan was
posited in direct opposition to her newfound community post.
He was about to preside on a case that would make the Palm
Trees burning throughout the city seem like a cigarette burn.
Most people thought that a jury was mostly responsible for
the final decisions made in courtrooms. But those on the
inside, lawyers, investigators, court appointees, even bailiffs,
cops and sheriffs all knew very well that the judge had as
much to do with final outcomes as the case itself. What
information was admissible, how a witness was to be
questioned, when evidence was so-called valid and any
number of opportunities could either be allowed or objected
to, in one way or another, it often came down to the judges
decision. Time was always a factor. Another element that
often flew directly over the public's knowledge, was all of
the inner connectedness of the legal system. For instance,
Dora and Stan's connection. When they had just begun to
date, there were times when she had brought cases into
his court room. No one knew that they were involved.
In fact, he never would have fallen in love with Dora if
he hadn't witnessed what a brilliant lawyer she was. For
a man like Stan, love was much more than attraction,
beauty, sex, for him it was about a mutual respect, and
to have that, he needed to appreciate the skills involved,
Dora had it all. So when things got serious, Dora knew it
was either step down or leave yourself open to a series of
conflict of interest cases. She opened her private practice
as a consultant and they moved in together. But they were
the exception, all throughout the court system, relationships
such as theirs existed, someone's sister might be married to
a cop, who was a regular witness in another guys courtroom,
who happened to be from the same church as the sister.
Elsewhere, lawyers, secretaries, highway patrol, detectives
and others had often been connected in some precarious
situation where the fine line between justice and injustice
was difficult to decipher. No one person was to blame, it
was just a part of the system. Humans got to know the people
they worked with, they got involved & they favored their own.
But in a city as large and diverse as Los Angeles, this was a
dangerous game with lives in the balance. Your life maybe.
Stan was responsible for putting away a good number of
hardened criminals. So many, in fact, that it was difficult
to even keep track. For the protection of Judges like Stan,
the court system began to track the releases of certain
criminals, so they could avoid retaliations which had been
on the rise in the past few years. Some guy who may have
lost his entire family, his home, his self respect, his youth
and even his position and power within a larger group might
simply come out, retaliate and go right back into the system
for the rest of his life. So, on a monthly basis, judges were
now given a file to read, some read it, others didn't bother.
Although Stan seldom bothered to review his monthly file,
when he found the startling portrait of a familiar face in
Cliff's bedroom, the next day, he read the recent releases.
Sure enough, a man he had convicted in a high profile case
had been released and Cliff's portrait was spot on correct.
It was a manslaughter case in which the prosecuting lawyer
had decided to try the teenage man as an adult, that was
the first red flag. The second was proof of malicious intent
to kill. The convicted man had told a fellow worker that he
wished a certain guy would get into an accident. They were
able to prove that he not only intended to, but was actually
the cause of the accident. The third count, he fled from the
scene. This was used as a divisive way to influence the jury
that the defendant was not only guilty, but also a coward
who didn't even stop or attempt to help his victims. There
was no way in the world that the kid could have ever helped
them out of the car prior to the explosions, it all had
happened on impact. Had the boy been able to speak on
his own behalf, he might have had a fighting chance, but
the entire event had sent him into shock, he lost it, had
nothing to say in his own defense and was easily tossed
away for more years than he had even been on the planet.
Which meant that he had now spent over half of his waking
life inside the prison system. An all white jury sent the
teenage boy far and away. Stan noticed a letter in his in-
box, opened it & realized it was an official communication
from the officer and witness involved in the case, requesting
to wiretap the recently released criminal under a special
circumstances situation. Usually, this type of thing seemed
almost routine, but for some reason Stan got a terrible
feeling about all of it. He granted the request. What a life.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Eleven: Louis Junior
The day you get out of the joint, they bring you into a room,
and bust out a bag of things that were in your possession
the day you got arrested. Fifteen plus years was a long time.
He didn't even recognize the things they pulled out of the
bag, kids stuff, some cash, the keys to his car, the key to
his Mom's old house, a leather belt with his name inlaid, a
pack of smokes, they didn't even make that brand anymore.
A wallet with a velcro strap along the top, inside it, a picture
of his car, his mom and a school picture I.D. card of Josie.
He look at the wallet and tossed it back in the bag. 'F*%#'.
He walked outside and was waiting for a feeling of relief,
some moment of freedom, but nothing happened. He looked
at the sky and for the first time in a decade, he felt safe
enough to cry, so he did. That was his freedom, the ability
to show his feelings and not care who saw him. Junior had
built up his armor, he was untouchable, nobody could get to
him. He had been tested at every level. He'd been betrayed,
robbed, beat up, stabbed, lied to, yelled at, locked in the hole,
stripped naked, reprimanded, punished & poisoned, but he
had passed every test that came his way. He learned about
loyalty, strength, inner silence, concentration, focus and to
some degree, friendship. During the first few years, people
entered and left, that was difficult. He later realized that
the only people worth getting to know were those who were
doing as much time or more than you were. They'd always
be there. You had to bond with someone dependable. Not
that you could ever really depend on someone, but, having
a connection in the kitchen or laundry or yard helped out.
Most of the stuff couldn't even be understood by anyone on
the outside. He had become an animal in a human zoo. It
took him a couple hours to get use to the fact that no one
was watching him, no doors were shutting in front of and
or, behind him. It didn't matter what time it was anymore.
He had lived a life of clockwork bells, alarms, shouts and
announcements on a p.a. system from the nineteen thirties.
It was hard to fathom that he could do whatever he pleased.
Louis Junior had not been the first or only member of his
family to do time. Many of his Uncles and cousins had done
a few years, here and there. But nobody had ever spent more
than a decade. The first day in prison, he remembered a story
that his uncle Ray had told him about spending time in prison.
"The first guy who even looks at you sideways, or calls you out,
no matter what color, no matter how big, no matter how crazy,
no matter if he's a prisoner or a guard, no matter what, you
have to beat the living s+*t out of the guy, no matter what."
So that's what he did. It worked, everyone left him alone, for
a while. He eventually gave his mom permission to sell the car
when she needed some money, as long as she promised to send
him a few bucks every now and then. A guy needed things and
you had to pay someone sometimes just to get by. Years
past where he wouldn't even hear from anyone on the outside.
Not even his dad, after Juniors Mom had a stroke, things
were hard for Louis Senior, when he recovered, they began
to write each other regularly and Junior would find that the
old man had deposited a few dollars in his account. Which
meant he could buy paper, stamps, a candy bar, this type of
thing. Junior had been someone who really loved women.
He had always loved his Grandmother, his Aunts, his Mom &
of course Josie. During his stretch in the joint, it was the worst
thing in the world to not spend time with a woman or a girl.
All those years deprived of the basic and simple touch of a
woman's hand, the sound of her voice, the smell of her clothes.
Junior built up a world in his mind that was like a television
show or a film or movie that he could repeat over and over:
"The Summer of Junior and Josie". Not unlike one he saw
in school during a social studies class, the teacher wheeled
out a television and everyone watched a show that had
been produced for boston public television, he never forgot
it, it was called, "James at Sixteen", where this kid is trying
to get through life and he's in love with this girl. One night,
they steal away and spend the night together out in the wild.
He and Josie had done that, they'd gone swimming, they'd
gone to see The Shylites, they'd seen Fernando pitch for the
Dodgers, they even went to a freaky punk rock concert at
a burnt out church in Hermosa beach one night. So, in his
mind, he just relived it all, night after night, day after day,
month after month, year after year. It was like a regular
show with different episodes, a mix between "Chico and the
Man", "The Partridge Family" and "James at Sixteen".
That was how he survived it all. There were about a dozen
or so episodes & he just watched them over and over again.
Of course there was that tragic last episode & unfortunately,
he was forced to watch that one just as many times as the rest.
The one thing he realized right away was the fact that he had
no friends, knew nobody and nobody really knew him. Alone.
He had his dad, but that was not very solid. He had his sister
and now she had three girls, but all they had heard of him
was probably tainted. People feared ex-prisoners, mistrusted
them, were suspicious and often blamed them for whatever
went wrong in their lives. He had heard a thousand different
stories through the years about guys returning home and coming
right back due to some family member who dropped a dime
because something had gone wrong, a valuable item had been
misplaced or any number of things. He promised himself that
he would never, ever go back, no way, no how, no, no, no.
So as soon as he hit the street he headed straight over to the
outreach where he had been receiving letters from a priest.
It took him half the day to get over there by bus and the other
half to get back down to the harbor where his Dad, sister and
little nieces lived. The priest had explained that they needed
guys like Junior. Everything on the streets of Los Angeles was
changing. There had been a truce between several rival gangs
and guys like Junior had a place in the church. "All right
Father", he had said. " We have work for you, come back and
see me tomorrow morning, we have a lot of work to do."
The Father gave him five dollars for bus fair home, they shook
hands and Junior walked back out into the street, a bit blinded
by the light. He'd been living in dark grey hallways and closed
quarters for years now, all this sunlight and open sky was new.
He wasn't ready to see his old man and hadn't seen the old
neighborhood where they had grown up, so he made it a point
to check it out. When he got there, the house was gone, in fact
the entire block was gone, it had been razed by the city and
nothing at all had been built on it, just a chain link fence.
Then he remembered hearing about how the local chemical
factory had been polluting the fields directly behind their home
and had to pack it in. They bought out anyone who could prove
that they or their property had been damaged. They had never
even owned the property and by the time his mother found out
she had ddt in her blood, a year had passed and it was too late
to collect. She had been visiting a sister in Texas when it all
went down, never even heard about until after the fact. "Mom",
he said out loud. He stared at the open field & looked above him.
A red tailed hawk circled over his head several times, it landed
on the only tree left in the entire field and screeched at him.
The bus dropped him off in the harbor well after dark, he
had been given the address and knew it was blocks away
from where his Mother was buried. His old man had
written that he would walk to her grave all the time.
When Junior found their house, it was fully lit. A big
house out of an old movie. He could see the table set
for dinner through the windows and what must have been
his niece's bicycles and toys splayed across the front yard.
Music could be heard from the house next door and then
he saw his sister Celia in a white cotton dress and what
must have been her new husband, bringing food from the
kitchen into the living room. The house glowed with a
picturesque energy that looked like something he couldn't
relate to. It was almost too perfect to the point where, it
seemed fake to him. He became scared that maybe he
would say the wrong thing. What did he have to talk
about ? Junior realized all of this was happening too
soon, he wasn't ready for this at all. He walked back
down the street toward the waterfront and stared at
the water for the next few hours. When it got past
midnight, he strolled back up the hill, opened the front
gate and found a yard chair under the tree in the backyard.
He didn't really sleep anymore, so he just rested, looked
at the stars and wondered what he would do with his life.
After all the planning and scheming to stay alive and out
of trouble while inside, Junior hadn't had much time to
plan what to do when he finally got out. Well, he had his
appointment with the Father tomorrow morning, guess
he'd just take it one day at a time, as those dudes in the
program say. Then, he couldn't help it, just like clockwork,
he decided to watch an episode from "The Summer of
Junior and Josie". The one where she can't stop laughing
at his stupid jokes and they end up asleep in each others
arms. When Junior awoke , it was morning, his new
brother-in-law handed him a cup of coffee in a big white
mug that said ' Support Your Local Police ', he looked
kind of familiar.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Twelve: Moon
Moon was once a lifeguard. Her older sister had been
a forester and later joined the piece corp. They were a
Venice Beach family from as far back as the late 1950's.
Moon was what they now call old school, she baked pies,
mixed her own essential oils, her special patchouli, sandal-
wood, mint and lemon with a touch of rosemary, was
especially popular. She sewed quilts, grew her own
tomatoes, and occasionally imbibed a few herbs, but
only for ceremonial purposes. One late Summer or was
it early Fall ? Moon had been working the coast as a junior
lifeguard, she was still in high school when a giant swell
hit the Southern California beach side. It was strange to
have such big waves so early in the season, tourists, locals,
amateurs and professional wave riders all came out to try
their luck. Every registered junior lifeguard was called in
to watch the beaches. Already several kids had drowned
along the coast. From Swami's surf spot down South, to
the County line up North, there were reports of near
drownings, accidents of all sorts. Moon had only been
working officially a few weeks when the waves hit Venice
Beach. She knew the locals were not going to sit this one
out, swells in Venice were gigantic. Boards were being split
in half by the pylons along the piers most notorious break.
It was not unusual to see even the most seasoned locals
washed up along the shore with a wound of some sort.
Some of these boys considered it a right of passage.
One of them would soon become her most intimate
Mickey was not the best surfer in his crew, in fact he
was most likely the worst. But he had guts. No one could
judge him on style or bravery, he just needed a few more
seasons in the water. Having been more of a so-called,
grease monkey, rather than a beach bum, delayed his
experience as a kid. While his dad was still around, he
could always be found just about two or three yards from
wherever and or whatever the old man was doing. Usually,
fixing someone's Harley. These were not regular motor
cycles, per se, these were incredibly complicated Rube
Goldberg type contraptions that just happened to also
be vehicles. Were talking about choppers with chrome
beyond chrome, candy coated paint jobs with more coats
of varnish than anyone could imagine. These were complete
works of art. Upon inspection, it was hard to believe anyone
actually rode the things. There were a good number of
bikers who actually parked their bikes, inside the house.
That was how important a man's bike was in his life. If
their wives or girl friends ever got jealous of anything, it
was seldom another woman. Time, money, care, pride,
attention, all seemed to be focused on the ride. When
Mickey's old man disappeared, he started hanging out
with the older surfers in his neighborhood, gravitated
towards the older brother types, most of them had been
surfing since childhood, many had even started shaping
their own boards and some had gone professional, suffice
it to say, he had some great teachers. But every man rides
the waves alone, having a good teacher only got you so far,
in the same way that having your bike tuned by another
man only meant that if it broke down out on the highway,
you might not know how to get it home yourself. The day
Mickey paddled out on eight foot waves with ten foot swells,
none of his pals could teach him the lesson only mother
nature could provide. He dropped in on a wave that was
so powerful, so beautifully shaped, so massive, that it gave
him the ride of his life. People were shouting from the
coastline, tourists took pictures and locals were in awe.
And then, he had to pay the piper, hadn't gaged his exit
properly, just by a few seconds too many, like cinderella,
boom, way past midnight pal. The wave picked him up,
about six feet mid-air, swiftly and without warning
slammed his body into the grey sea, he might has well
have been dropped from a roof onto concrete. That was
just the beginning, from there, he was thrust under water,
hit the bottom, bounced back up to the surface and back
down again. And then, as if being spit from the mouth of
giant, he was thrust upon the shore, like an octopus might
shoot out the remains of a recent meal. Onlookers gasped,
he was, as they say in the movies, dead in the water. Moon
was the first person to reach him. She lifted his arms,
cleared his breathing canal, pumped his chest three times,
and for the first time in her life, began to push the life force
from her body into another human being. Alternating the
three point pressure pushes on his chest with the air in his
lungs, for all of twelve minutes, she had been taught well.
Mickey coughed up a half a gallon of salt water before
coming back to full awareness. Looking up to see what
appeared to be an angel of some sort. He was overcome
with a strange mixture of fear and thankfulness. He reached
up like a child might reach out of a crib, wrapped his arms
around Moons waist and cried. He cried just like a new born
baby. She joined him.
Some years later, Mickey would claim that he did the
whole thing on purpose, just to meet her, some of his
pals believed him, but Moon knew better. He had almost
died on the beach that day and she was well aware of his
appreciation. Not just for his actual life, but for all of the
other things she was. Moon was the type of person who
completes a man. Respected by women and admired by
men. A lot of people fell for her. Mickey's family had never
been able to deal with the girls he had dated in the past. But,
to his Grandmother, Moon was a homemaker. To his Mother,
Moon was loyal and trustworthy. To his little sister, Moon
was supportive, caring and didn't judge her for being such
a tomboy. She fit right into their family. The only thing she
had to give up was being a lifeguard. Mickey became extremely
insecure. He thought that maybe everyone who she might save
would have the same reaction he did and begged her to quit.
She eventually, a Summer and a half later, granted his
immature request, on one condition, they move in together.
She moved in with him and together, they looked after his
grandmother. Mickey's Mom was often on tour with bands
during those early years. So Moon and Mickey were like
parents to his little sister. Grandma added a bit of old world
spice to the mix. She was the original rebel. Grandma had
opened one of the first and longest running bookstores in the
beach area. Moon started working there part time and slowly
began to manage the place. It was one of those historical
literary spots where all the beat poets had read their work.
There were two literary institutes in Venice beach, Beyond
Baroque and their store. European writers, New York writers,
San Francisco writers, Chicago writers, all had done readings
there through the years. From Henry Miller to Arthur Miller,
it was a great place to buy a book and had a long standing
tradition with edgy, respected authors of all sorts. Moon
became a familiar fixture. She was the go - to - Gal.
When the phone rang, Moon answered it, she had been
ringing up a couple from Europe who had heard about the
bookstore from their hometown of Paris France. There had
been a poster in the window of a bookstore up the street
from their apartment called Shakespeare and Company.
The two stores were like sisters. They shared an equal
history and created an unofficial exchange program.
Moon didn't know what to think of Mickey's quick and
deliberate statement that his dad was alive and he would
call her back later. She had never met the old man and
wondered what it would do to Mickey. For years, that was
all he talked about. His old man this, his old man that.
She packed up the couples five vintage paperback novels
and hoped he'd call back. All of the stories she had heard
through the years about Mickey's infamous dad began to
sift through her mind. She knew that everything was about
to change. The entire life they had built up together. Moon
got the sense that a new storm was about to hit the beach,
she could only hope that Mickey wouldn't paddle out the
way he tended to do when things got crazy. How many
times could she save him ? When she got home that night
Mickey and the old man sat at their table in their kitchen.
Talk about Shakespeare and company. Moon got the sense
that a king had returned and a prince was handing back his
crown. She didn't like it one bit. " Moon, this is my father."
His Old man looked up, smiled and said, with his trademark
sarcasm, "The Son and the Moon ? Now all I need are the
stars and I'm good to go." He took a shot. Moon tilted her
head and quietly stared like a cat might look at a sparrow.
She smiled & poured herself a shot, " Heres to you."
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Thirteen: Fred
Fred was not his real name, but like a lot of immigrants,
he had wanted to represent America, by becoming a real
American and so, he started going by Fred. You know,
like Fred McMurray, he would say to people. He knew
three different guys from his region who had taken the
name Sam. You know, like Uncle Sam, they would say.
Mostly unaware that not everyone in America in the late
sixties & early nineteen seventies related very much to
either Fred McMurray from the television show, 'My
Three Sons' or Uncle Sam, who had just sent thousands
of young men to their deaths in Vietnam. But, these new
immigrants had to believe in America, and they did.
Many bought property, businesses, and encouraged their
first born to join the armed forces. Fred and one of his
partners from back home had invested in a liquor store
located in the center of Los Angeles. When they first
purchased it, they had both been working in the local
factories in the day, and by night, they held jobs as
security guards. Full time all day, part time all night,
for about a decade. Finally, they bought the store, put
up a big neon sign, Fred & Sam's Neighborhood Market.
Since the initial purchase the neighborhood had changed.
Los Angeles had grown into the proverbial melting pot
that is always talked about in Sociology classes at big
universities. In the old days, its was New York or Chicago
that was often used as the example of a new America,
now it was Los Angeles and Fred was happy to be a part
of it. That was until Sam had a heart attack and Fred was
left to not only run the store full time, which meant he often
had to pull all nighters, but also keep the books, order the
product and find a way to either, buy out his dead partners
in-laws, who knew nothing about the store or business in
general or continue to cut them checks. He was in a quandary
and more and more the relationship between he and his wife
became strained. Losing Josie was the beginning of a chasm
that only deepened in time. On somedays, they worked in
When Fred got word that Louis Junior was to be released
from prison, he started thinking of ways to deal with it.
Imagined the worst things he had ever imagined, that he
would like to run him over, shoot him, stuff like that. It
was terrible, he knew it. The boy had been locked up for
years and had paid his debt to society and still Fred was
unable to forgive. Every thing he had ever been taught,
philosophically speaking, had been thrown out the window.
He just couldn't get over it and it began to gnaw at him.
The liquor store was situated in a part of Los Angeles
that bordered three different groups of people and within
those three groups, there were sometimes factions between
the groups themselves. There might be three rival territories
for one particular group. Which meant his customers were
sometimes clashing over issues he had no knowledge of.
For instance, The Strolling 40's might come into the store
at say, 1:30 AM before closing, to buy a case of Cold Duck
for a Ladies Night party that just wouldn't quit. Well, if it
just so happened that some dudes from the 12th Street crew
were looking to buy a pack of blunts and a tall sixer of Malt
Liquor, 'Don't let the smooth taste fool you' , the advertising
stated just above the register, with a half naked woman who
had probably been paid less than a months rent to bare her
body for the sale of this fine, cold beverage, than, there might
be a problem. One night, just before closing, a Chevy Impala,
full of locals, rear ended a group of kids in a VW, while one
of them was exiting from the back seat through the drivers
side door. The VW was thrust forward and the door slammed
shut while the kids arm was still in its path, so he was standing
outside the car, but his shoulder was pinned between the window
and the door jam. No matter what they did, the door wouldn't
open up. The kid is screaming, the dudes in the chevy don't want
to stick around to meet the man, and all this is happening in
Fred's parking lot. What could he do about it ? Nothing.
These incidents became more and more frequent and he
became well schooled in the ways of street life in L.A.
He had left his country to get away from things like this
and here he was in the middle of a territory not at all unlike
the very place he was brought up in. Killings in his region
were rampant, there had been fields of dead bodies eventually
discovered. Sometimes he would get home and have nothing
to say, just plain numb from the day, didn't even want his wife
to know about what was going on out there in the world.
Eventually, he was forced to buy bullet proof glass, cameras
and a permit to buy a gun. Then he had to learn how to shoot.
On Saturday mornings, from eight to ten in the morning, he
went to a local shooting range and slowly began to meet some
of the local cops. When he told them where his store was
located, they started to fill him in on a few inside tips. Fred
learned about 'sweep days', certain days of the month when
local cops scrutinized certain areas. He learned about quotas,
and which days would be especially, what they called on the
streets, ' HOT '. Fred had heard his customers talking about
these things through the years, but it was like a code he
didn't understand, now he was in on it. Fred was wising up.
Through the years, Fred would be forced to call the police.
He knew there was a code and yet there were times when
he absolutely had no choice but 'call the man'. He had met
a bunch of these guys in the parking lot of his store in the
early days and later would see them at the shooting range.
Fred and Chuck became friends outside of their official
business and realized that they both had things in common.
Namely: Louis Junior. It was a high profile case, Chuck
was a witness, but Fred had been in shock, he didn't really
remember the faces of his lawyer, his judge or even Chuck.
The only face that stuck in his mind during that entire ordeal,
was that of his dead daughter, "Daddy", he could hear her say.
There was nothing comparable to losing a child to Fred. He
had lost a piece of himself. That child, to him, was his Mother,
his Grandmother, all the women in his family, it was his
future and all of it had been taken away, over nothing at all.
Fred called Chuck at his home office the week before Louis
Junior was released. He thanked him for the good work he
had done and expressed that maybe they should talk some
time soon. When Chuck got the message, he remembered
the scene that night, thought about his own daughters and
realized that no matter what, he still had to follow through.
Chuck got in his car, drove downtown & requested a wiretap.
He couldn't go directly to a judge, but he went to his pals at
the division and they put forward a formal request. On the
way back home , he exited the 110 freeway and walked into
Fred and Sam's Neighborhood market, he was in plainclothes,
" I got your message and don't worry, were working on it. "
Fred smiled for the first time in a few months, said nothing.
He didn't charge him for the soda pop either. It was a 'HOT' day.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Fourteen : Turtles
Turtles lived a long time. Ancient and modern Native
Americans know that some turtles live over a hundred
years. In fact, if circumstances allowed, just about any
living being could live an extraordinary amount of time.
Jordan had been given a set of brushes that was his
grandfathers from the early nineteen thirties. It came
in a black leather case that housed two or three brushes,
a glass container for some type of hair tonic, a stylized
scissors and a container that might have held a bar of
soap. He had never used the family heirloom and now
that he had some time off, he unpacked it. He decided
that this would be a safe place to put this newfound
package of dollars bills he had recently acquired.
When he opened the container for soap, what appeared
to be the oldest and largest daddy long legs spider ever,
peaked from out of the soap container. It was ancient
and had a vibe to it like no other animal of its kind.
It's eyes had lids and lashes, it's face, expressed some
kind of emotions: pain, regret, loss, just plain tired.
Jordan right away knew that this was a spider that
must have been living in the kit as far back as the
nineteen thirties, when his own granddad was just a
boy . He'd heard of things like this and immediately
and quite carefully put the spider back into the soap
case, zipped up the brush kit and as far as he was
concerned, that spider actually was his grandfather.
Jordan drove up the coast to where the accident
happened, pulled over and just sat there. He began
to study the landscape from every imaginable angle
and point of view, there was the derelict in the trailer
who pulled out without looking, there was the beach
comber, there was the turtle and of course his own
point of view. He'd been having some strange dreams
ever since the thing with the turtle happened. It all
had something to do with nature and his connection
or maybe disconnection with the elements, the basics.
Maybe he just had too much time on his hands. Or,
maybe it was the money. Either way, he was noticing
things that had never meant much in the past. Jordan
had never gone to the bookstore in Venice Beach
when he wasn't driving a bus, but for some reason,
he decided to head down there. They had a whole
section on native americans and animal medicine,
he bought a book on turtles. He had been experiencing
a recurring dream of swimming with a group of turtles,
but the image was from a whole other lifetime, it was
weird, you know how dreams can be, a whole other set
Apparently, animals had been popping up all over
Los Angeles in strange and unexpected places.
There had been a coyote sighting in the middle
of downtown, a family of raccoons had been seen
swimming across a pool which had been built for
the nineteen-eighty-six olympic games, a rattle
snake on the streets of Westwood, these were not
your run of the mill animal sightings, something
was going on. What was the deal with that turtle
and where did it go ? As he was walking out of the
store, he noticed Moon getting off the back of a
motorcycle in the front of the store. This was
probably her boyfriend and he didn't want to
make a big deal out of anything, so he just
smiled and waved, but she jumped off the bike
and pulled him over to the edge of the street.
"Hey, I want you to meet my old man, Mickey."
Jordan was a little embarrassed but felt obliged,
" Mickey, this is one of our customers ..." He
extended his hand, looked into Mickey's eyes and
said, "The names Jordan, nice to meet you." But
he was thinking, 'Damn, that's the dude who was
on the bus that day.' Mickey recognized the face,
but didn't make the connection right away, "Nice
to meet ya." Mickey drove off thinking that maybe
they had met somewhere before. Jordan drove
off thinking that life was pretty weird and getting
weirder by the day. When he pulled up to the stop
sign, he looked down at the cover of the book and
noticed that the tile on the turtles back was the
exact same shape as the stop sign, it had eight
sides. Like a Pythagorus pattern he had admired.
Some of the ancient tiled patterns through the
centuries utilized the octagon as a sacred symbol.
They hinted at the idea that we are all connected
in one way or another, the patterns of life.
He hadn't smoked anything for over a year, not
since the quartet disbanded, but he was beginning
to feel kinda, out there. He looked left, than right,
then left again, put his foot on the gas pedal and
noticed a group of fire trucks parked a block down,
they were spraying water onto a giant palm tree.
He didn't know what to do with himself, nor did he
make any decisions as to what he might do with
the money. He hadn't counted the bills but he did
peel back the brown paper, which, upon inspection
had lots of little designs and was broken up into
squares in perforated form, like a postage stamp.
They were hundred dollar bills, so he had to guess
that it was a hell of a lot of money. He got nervous
thinking about it. When the cops had showed up,
he had seen them scoop up the other packages
along with the guys other things, a bag of clothes,
a few blankets, they gathered everything into a
bag marked 'evidence' which had been dated with
a black marker. When they tossed it in the trunk
he wondered if a guy like that would even miss it.
Since then, he had been talking to some of the
more experienced drivers about incidents such as
these and several had suggested that he ought to
get a lawyer. You could never be too careful.
Jordan figured that he could definitely afford one
if he needed to and wouldn't it be ironic that he
would be using the funds to protect himself from
the very dude who he might go to court with. But
that wasn't what the other drivers meant. They
were suggesting that he get a lawyer in case the
transit authority fired him. They might just use
this as an excuse to can him, even if it wasn't his
fault. He was already the odd man out. What
his fellow drivers didn't know was that Jordan
had gained a few franklins recently and didn't
really care about his job driving a bus. He had
become fixated on the turtle. He was tripping.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Fifteen: Dora
Dora worked for a very big firm, right out of
college. Their clients were large corporations,
food chains, car dealerships, hospitals, major
sports teams and entertainment personalities.
She would often be one of a dozen different
lawyers assigned to a case. They were extremely
powerful people who had ways of influencing
decisions that went far beyond what everyday
people could even comprehend. If her firm had
been defending a food chain for say food poison,
then they had the power to have articles placed
in newspapers, opinion pieces on the radio, even
news stories on how that particular company
was doing good community work and improving
its nutritional value or helping kids with polio or
donating funds to a particular recent tragedy.
She learned a lot about how things worked
and after five years, became so disgusted with
the firm, that she flat out quit. Dora had watched
hundreds of individuals cheated out of situations.
They had been poisoned, they had driven cars that
were ill equipped, they had been plagiarized, they
had been injured and still sent out to play the game,
they had been operated on the wrong bodily organ,
all sorts of situations where the individual was
wronged and her firm defended the large company.
She realized that after all she had learned in school,
she had been working on the wrong side, for the
wrong people. So she went back to school for three
years and came out a new human being. She had
learned in those first five years how the big boys
wielded their power and was ready to take them
on for the sake of the individual and she did.
Dora took on cases that involved most of the same
types of issues that she had worked on those first
five years, but now, she was working for the person
who had been wronged. When a football player
had been injured, an employee had been crippled,
a resident had been stricken with a disease which
had been prolonged by chemicals, she prosecuted
the big companies. She never spoke about cases in
public, was aware of illegal wiretaps, never met her
clients in public places, she had learned well. Dora
knew that there was nothing the large firms wouldn't
do to win a case. During the first five years she had
seen it all. Placing individuals at designated locations
to get information on a witness, getting the low down
on a certain assistant's personal habits and indeed
utilizing any technical device to further the source
of information for one side or the other, it was a
game of one-up-man-ship with no regard for the law.
At least not until the actual day in court, prior to
that day, anything was possible and just about every
one could be influenced, scared, cajoled, even bought.
As soon as she found out who was being sued in a
conversation with a new client, she would hold up her
hand and pass the victim a blank sheet of paper, as
if to say, 'Here, write it down for me.' She trusted
no one. That is why she won so many cases and
became well known for being extremely dedicated.
Even feared. She had friends in the universities,
forensic scientists, professionals who trusted her
opinion on wether the fight was worth it or not.
People knew that if Dora thought it was a worthy
cause than, it was indeed, a worthy cause.
When she got a call from a bus driver who said he
had recently been in an accident that was entirely
the other persons fault and feared he was actually
being fired for his religious beliefs, she met with
him. Sure enough, as soon as he mentioned the
Transit Authority, Dora raised her hand and passed
him a piece of paper with a pen. There had been a
series of cases involving the transit authority and
most of them had settled out of court. There was
even a current case involving a group of people
suing over the schedules not being met, a union
had been created among the actual riders and they
were seeking to keep the transit authority honest
about the hours in which they claimed to be servicing.
Dora knew that religion had become a point of
reference in not only the united states armed forces,
but also in many large companies, corporations
and even in schools. She had been raised believing
that church and state were a separate institute
all together. Dora had once been surprised, even
shocked to find a sculpture of Moses and the ten
commandments attached to the side of a courthouse
where she sometimes worked. After a few days of
investigation, she told Jordan that if indeed he was
fired, that she thought he may have a case. She was
not a trial lawyer anymore, but knew one who had
specialized in this rather successfully in the past.
The events he had sited in his casual deposition had
exposed a system of favoritism that was based on
affiliations and not on seniority or performance. She
wanted to know if some of his friends or fellow workers
would back him up. She called a friend who had tried
this type of thing in the past, some were race related,
others were systematic. They needed to get witnesses
who had been retired early for the same type of charge.
Witnesses who had nothing to lose by testifying for a
just cause. Dora put the word out among her circuit.
That night, after picking up Cliff , Dora and Stan
discussed how best to handle this recent event at
Cliff's school. They decided it was best to correct
the school and request a change of policy before
taking it any further. They liked the school, it was
close to home and her office. If the school were to
utilize trained employees with certifications during
outings, then they would not sue. Cliff had friends
there, they felt it was more important that they make
changes rather than waves and indeed they did. The
school swiftly rid the volunteers and hired three new
employees to handle the excursions. Dora was disgusted
that someone would do such a thing, who were these
people that would dress her child a certain way to send
a personal message to someone else ? Unfortunately,
one of the volunteers got a copy of the letter Dora had
drafted with her letterhead and the address of her office.
Not only was Dora about to find out what kind of person
does such a thing, she was about to find out just how
disgusting some people will go to attempt to make two
wrongs a right. There was a sickness in society and
Dora had always been someone who had worked to
heal that disease. She had been tested thousands of
times and had almost always achieved her goal, but
coming up against a vindictive ex volunteer would
soon prove to be more challenging than her previous
accomplishments. This particular volunteer was insane.
Dora put Cliff to bed and her and Stan shared a glass
of sherry as they had done customarily for many years.
He told her about the recent release of this kid he had
put away fifteen years ago, the boy had been Cliff's age
and had been tried as an adult. He was now having some
second thoughts about the whole case. Dora reminded him,
' Once the decision has been made, there is no turning back,
your a judge. Evidence is presented, a jury made a decision,
end of story.' He didn't want to tell her about the wiretap
request, so he simply let it go. He was good at that. He also
knew, deep down inside that the only places where stories
actually ended were in movies, plays and books. This was
real life, where the story never really ended, it just lingered.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Sixteen: Home
God had a lot of different definitions to a lot of
different people. Junior wasn't exactly sure if he
totally understood the concept of what god was.
He had seen how people who believed in god had
sometimes transformed themselves. He had been
accepted by a group of firm believers and felt a
certain amount of gratitude for being accepted.
Deep down inside, he still had some real doubts.
For the past two weeks, he had settled into his
new home, had been given a key, so he could
come and go as he pleased, but had no idea of
the kind of culture shock that pervaded his
every thought. That many years away, locked
up, had taken away his identity as a person.
He had become a unit within a machine and
was now searching for who he actually was.
Louis Senior had brought out boxes of old
family photographs that junior sifted through.
He rebuilt his existence by putting together a
sort of road map of his life before the accident.
He had taken a series of odd jobs, but none of
them seemed to fit. The priest had introduced
him to a social worker who gave him a bunch
of temporary job options, a program wherein
you could work for three days at various jobs
to see if you had the skills. He had tried his hand
at cleaning windows on skyscrapers downtown
with a crew of guys, but the height prove too
much for him. He spent a few days cleaning out
the public bathrooms all along the harbor, grunt
work that only reminded him of prison. He had
gutted fish in one of the last canneries that still
existed in the harbor, came home smelling of guts.
None of it meant anything to him, but he was thankful
for the opportunities and had, on several occasions
spent time in the church to show his gratitude.
The priest explained that, on some days, even he
had questions about faith that could not always
be answered directly. He would tell Junior that,
"It's an ongoing relationship, have patience my son."
Junior had seen a lot of different types of faiths,
while in the joint. There were all types of believers,
he was very interested in the native american dudes
who believed in the animals, let their hair grow long
and had ceremonies that allowed them to practice
their own belief system, they fasted, held prayer circles
and chanted during certain moon and sun phases. He
had also respected and became friends with a group
of Buddhists who shaved their heads, meditated and
had found a way to tolerate just about any type of abuse
that the system or other inmates could dish out. There
were plenty of Muslim's who had strict rules on what
to eat, when and how to bathe, what direction to pray.
Of course, he had plenty of friends who were down with
the Jesus thing and having been raised in that faith
himself, naturally gravitated toward it. Most of the
people in that circle believed that Jesus was the only
way, but somewhere in Juniors mind, he had built a
map that had more than one way to get home and he
quietly tolerated those who felt differently about it.
He had a common sense about him that allowed for
there to be a, 'constant maybe', to just about anything.
There were no guarantees in this world, that was clear.
One of the big boys had given him an address, that if,
in case of emergency, he could go to, for work. He had
done enough favors, cooperated enough with heavies
to gain their trust and respect. He had the address
memorized. It was the kind of work that no one actually
talks about, no applications to fill out, no supervisor
to report to, no waiting two weeks for your first check.
You were paid in advance and you did the job quickly.
It was the last thing he wanted to do. Since finding
out that his brother - in - law was a cop, he became
cautious about anything he said or did at all times.
He still hadn't put it together that Chuck was the cop
who had testified against him. Back then Chuck was
clean shaven, with a full set of hair, no glasses. Now,
Chuck was balding grey, with a mustache and specs.
Junior had come to admire what his sister had done,
built a family, bought a home, taken in their father
after his mother had passed away. His little nieces
were funny, sarcastic, nerdy, the way that kids can
sometimes be, they said stuff that had more truth
to it than some of the adults. He respected people
who told the truth more than those that put up a
front. Chuck and Celia had done something with
their lives, they had created a family. Junior was
almost positive that he would never do such a thing.
One day, while Chuck was at work, Celia and Junior
were having lunch in the main house, she ran out
front to catch the delivery driver who was just down
the street. Junior had walked down the hall towards
the bathroom and accidentally opened the door to
Chucks office which was normally locked. He entered
the room to find himself surrounded by a litany of facts
and graphs regarding the things going on the city.
Recent arrests, murders, rapes, drug busts and the
recent palm tree burnings that had pervaded L.A. with
news clippings, photographs and police reports. When
he looked at the top of Chucks desk he read a tear
sheet that had been faded and worn. It was a headline
that read, 'Local Teen Tried as Adult for Manslaughter'.
He had never even seen the paper the day he was
convicted, but there it was in plain sight. He looked
closer and studied the photographs, one of him, the
day of his arrest, one of the vehicle, a picture of
both Josie and Ryan from the high school yearbook
and a picture of a young Officer Chuck. 'MotherF*#@'.
He looked out the window which faced the guest house
and saw a cord that ran from the guest house roof
over to Chucks window and into a phone jack unit
that looked freshly installed, pieces of paint had been
scraped away, exposing wood slivers around the jack.
He closed the door and rushed to the dinner table
before Celia came back in with a big box containing
some dresses she had ordered for one of the girls
upcoming birthday party. He smiled and said he
had some work to do down at the church. It wasn't
a total lie, he had promised the father that he would
stop by and mow the lawn sometime in the next few
days. But instead, he got on a bus and headed for the
address he had been given. He was scared for the
first time since leaving prison and it wasn't the fear
Junior remembered a story he had been told long ago.
It was about the town where his people had come from.
Back when his grandfather had been a small child, there
had been a sort of Robin Hood, who was an outlaw, but
had protected his townspeople, had gotten rid of a local
merchant who had been abusing his power. When the
authorities came to arrest him, the people of the town
got together and decided to do what they could to assist.
From his window in the local jail, they would put on a
sort of show, 'Teatro de la Calle'. By wearing certain
costumes, affecting certain body types, they were able
to send him messages about what was really going on.
It didn't take him very long to learn how many days he
had left and where and how his fate was to be sealed.
It was an amazing effort how the citizens were able to
communicate in this way and he felt honored. He did
escape, but was eventually killed in cold blood. Since
that time, the system that had been created was still
in existence. Whenever there had been an injustice by
the authorities, the people had gathered to help inform,
in one way or another the Robin Hood's of the region.
Word got out and this way of communicating became
well known. It was exported and utilized throughout
the regions where oppressed peoples had little power.
Junior began to relate to that story and decided that
he had to tap into that same type of tradition. How
could they have not told him? His own father ? His
own Sister ? He felt betrayed and indeed, he had been.
He walked up to the house, checked the address again,
rang the bell, the door opened, he walked inside, the
door closed. 'Welcome back', a voice softly said. He
was finally home.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Seventeen: Stones
The Stones had been reunited. For the past few weeks,
with Charles back at home, the house became full of
energy. For years, it had been more like a place with
a large memory. Now it was, once again, a real home.
Charles, Maggie, Micky, Calley, Grandma and Moon
found themselves thrust into the public eye, due to the
sudden return of Charles 'Big Daddy' Stone, as he had
been known throughout the art world all those years.
He had been a part of the nineteen sixties counter culture
revolution that included guys like Robert Crumb, who
had famously designed the 'Keep on Truckin' image
which had been tattooed, reprinted & even bootlegged
ever since it's inception. Charles had been made famous
around the time that Andrew Wyeth' s son Jamie had
painted a biker riding one of Charles' famous choppers.
Charles began to sell drawings and became collected
by the top notch musicians & later by everyday hippies.
Mickey had kept the legend alive by reprinting his fathers
famous, 'Dude on a Chopper' logo on stickers, t-shirts
and posters. It was the family business, helping to pay
the bills, as well as make ends meet at Grandma's
bookstore and of course, it payed for the house they
were all now living in. Since Charles' return, a slew of
interest in his art had created a bit of a controversy.
When an artist either retires or dies or in this case
disappears, the value of the work goes up, since there
will most likely be no more new works. Charles 'Big
Daddy' Stone's sudden arrival had coincided with an
interest in counter culture art and graphics worldwide.
His generation' s contribution to the art world was now
being celebrated, accepted, lauded. A new credibility
was being attributed by the current art critics. Due to
his mysterious disappearance and sudden return, the
'Dude on a Chopper' logo was slated for the cover of
Artforum magazine, he was about to be rediscovered.
Charles had disappeared in nineteen-eighty one. At that
time, there was absolutely little to no interest in his work.
Since then, people began to realize that American Rock
& Roll and the images that defined it, were valuable. His
generation had changed the way we think about our lives.
People all over the world had been influenced by guys like
Charles and the bands that his wife Maggie had taken on
tour. It was a new world and for whatever reason, Charles
was being welcomed back with full honors across the board.
Rolling Stone magazine had called recently for an interview.
Before the kids were born, Charles had been a roadie
and later handled security for bands up in Woodstock.
He had met Maggie while she was managing Bob Dylan.
It was rumored that Dylan had written the famous lyrics,
' Everybody must get stoned ... ' for Maggie and Charles.
They had become an item after being married on the road,
with Robbie Robertson as their witness in Nashville, they
had become known as ' The Stones '. When the film, "Easy
Rider" hit theaters and Peter Fonda was seen riding one
of Charles' trademark choppers, he became the man, with
a new waiting list for client orders and enough financial
security to actually have children. When Mickey was born,
they moved to Venice Beach, closer to Maggie' s mom.
The center of the music business, by then, was shifting
from New York to Los Angeles and they moved with it.
After the disaster of Altamont, the last place they wanted
to be was in Northern California. They had plenty of friends
there, but by nineteen sixty-nine, the whole movement
peaked & Maggie was touring with a new group of bands.
By the time Calley was born, she was working with a new
writer who just penned a tune that personified everything
that had happened in America in the past ten years. ' Bye,
bye Miss American pie, drove my Chevy to the levy, but the
levy was dry and good ol' boys were drinking whiskey and
rye singing this will be the day that I die, this will be the
day that I die. For ten years we were on our own and moss
grows fat on a rolling stone ...' . Music now, had a sadness.
Vietnam, the Kennedy's, Martin & Malcolm, Hendrix, Janice,
Kent State, had all left it's mark and artist' s like Carol King,
Burt Bacharach & Don McLean were explaining to the world
what we were going through. Bands from the sixties, like the
Rolling Stones, the Who & the Beatles were all going through
a transitional period. Phil Spector and his 'Wall of Sound'
vibe ended, Brian Wilson & the Beach Boys took it's place.
Maggie had managed Wilson's tours, up until he lost it.
The person most happy to see Charles was his daughter.
Calley had recently become a hair dresser & esthetician.
She sat Charles down, trimmed his hair and beard, cut
his nails, soaked his feet and even gave him a pedicure.
His toe nails had grown over his toes like talons. Like
so many homeless men who drift through life unnoticed,
Charles had let himself go. Calley had immediately forgave
him for disappearing. 'You bad boy, how dare you run off
like that.', she said to him jokingly. Maggie was struck by
how handsome he still was. A full set of hair, tan skin, he'd
lost his beer belly and after Calley cleaned him up, Maggie
got rid of the boyfriends and found herself admiring Charles
in a way that she had years ago. By the first week of his
return, they had slept in the same bed together. That
Sunday morning the entire family ate breakfast together.
The only doubters among the group were Moon & Grandma,
like a couple of birds on a wire, that chortled and fidgeted
their way through the morning, before driving off to the
bookstore together. They had wanted to ask Charles the
obvious questions like, "Where the F@%! have you been
for the past ten years ?" But they didn't want to ruin the
family reunion, so they talked about it on the way to work.
Calley was so happy to see Charles, she brought her girl
friend to the house for Sunday breakfast and announced
they were moving in together. Everyone knew that Calley
had been more than disinterested in men. Mickey always
figured it had more to do with the line of men his mother
had brought home since Charles' disappearance. In any
event, Charles' return gave Calley a new found strength
and she used it to be herself immediately. She announced
that they wanted to open their own shop and needed some
help from the family. Charles donated five thousand dollars
on the spot, it was the least he could do .
Mickey and Charles sat in the back yard playing catch up.
Charles' old studio had been preserved with a few minor
updates which included a modern hydraulic rack to lift
the bikes six feet high. Mickey had poured a slab of new
concrete inside and out. They had an account with Snap-
On tools & endorsements from a dozen small companies
that had created accessories of one sort or another.
Charles explained where he had been and what had
happened.Mickey didn't really want to know, "It doesn't
matter." But Charles knew it did , he had abandoned
the kid without word, without warning, just up and left
the boy to fend for himself. Charles had been around the
world and back again. He had a post office box in five
different cities where his partners sent him his cut of a
business he had long since walked away from. Charles
had been a dealer of various substances back in the day.
Nothing lethal, never anything heavy, he didn't believe
much in poison. He had once taken the fall for a famous
rock & roll star. He did a year & a half for possession of
illegal substances while crossing the border from Canada
into the United States. Since then, he had been supported
and respected by that particular person. By taking the fall,
Charles saved the entire North American Tour which netted
over eighty-five million dollars. It was well known, among
the underground, that he was royalty and because if this,
received royalties. He had spent a good amount of time in
both Amsterdam & Mexico, finally drifting closer to home
along the coast of California for the past few years. Once,
he told Mickey, he saw a group of kids wearing his art on
T-shirts. When Charles inquired wear they had gotten them,
the kids said, 'From a department store'. That's when Charles
knew that Mickey had preserved the catalog. But, it wasn't
that simple. Charles had no idea how hard Mickey had
fought bootleggers and rip off artists. Constantly sending
cease and desist letters to protect Charles' legacy. Mickey
didn't bother to set him straight. Not now anyway. Father
and son sat in the back yard, drinking beers & telling stories
late into the night. The Stones had finally been reunited.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Eighteen: Hole
Fred hadn't been home in days. He had no reason to be.
Running the store on his own now was his only purpose.
When he did go home, it was just a reminder of what
once was, a daughter and a wife that he had survived.
Fred had set up an old army cot in the back of the store.
It was easier to just stay there, especially since he had
begun to smoke and drink. He hadn't been golfing for
over a month and his pals began to get concerned. He
was a great golfer, the best in his circle of friends. They
all owned shops along the central portion of Los Angeles.
Serving the community by supplying liquor, furniture,
toys, glass, sporting goods, all kinds of small businesses.
Fred's ex-partners in-laws had been pressuring him to buy
them out. But he had no way of keeping the store together
and buying them out at the same time. He would either
have to sell his house or sell the store to do so. Fred and
his wife had never been particularly close to his ex-partners
family. Through the years and especially since her death,
his relations with them had gotten worse. He had no idea
how desperate they had become for money. They had a
bunch of grown children who knew that if Fred would buy
them out, that they could put down payments on their own
homes. One of the young men was especially distraught
about his own dilemma, he had recently gotten engaged
and was expecting a child in the next few months. Every
one in their house seemed to blame Fred for their problems.
The young man had been hearing his mother & uncles talk
discouragingly about Fred ever since their dad had died.
The young man had been rummaging through his dead
dad's legal documents for the past year, thinking of ways
in which he could get Fred to buy out their partnership.
They had made a false complaint a few years back, which
got Fred audited by the Internal Revenue Service and only
ended up hurting their own income. His books were clean
and in the end, he proved to be an upstanding and loyal
business partner. When the young man came across the
insurance policy, he noticed that they had full coverage
for theft, disaster and for fire. Strangely enough, the policy,
which had originally been drafted way back when, also
included the parking lot as well as any living creature on
it's premises. That would include a security dog, which they
once had, back when the store first opened and the giant
palm tree which was not like the other trees that were
planted along the sidewalk. Those trees were owned by
the city. Their palm tree was situated behind the store,
it had cost them a pretty penny to trim it once a year
and in itself had raised the value of the property by about
fifty thousand dollars. The insurance on the tree would
give Fred enough money to buy out the partners, or so
thought the young man, who was not entirely educated.
He heard about the famous 'Palm Tree Burnings' in the
papers and on the news and got a bad idea in his head.
Fred was awoken by the rattle of the chain link fence.
It was four in the morning. He took out his pistol, climbed
the ladder in the rear supply area & unlocked the skylight.
He could see a young man pouring water all around the
base of his palm tree which sat just feet away from the
cinder block store and inches away from the power lines
up above. He shouted to the figure, "Hey you, what are
you doing there?" The young man lit a book of matches,
tossed it on the ground and the entire base of the tree
lit up in flames. Fred was a perfect shot, he could have
easily, taken the life of this person, but instead, he shot
him in the leg. The bullet passed through the young mans
calf and entered the palm tree. The young man ran toward
the fence. Fred climbed back down the ladder, opened the
back door and ran toward the young man, "Stop right there."
Fred ripped the hat off the young man's head & recognized
him right away. He was the splitting image of his dead
partner Sam. "What are you doing ? Why would you do
this ? Why ?" The young man had no proper answer.
The roar of the fire was immense, it was reaching the top
of the palm tree and was beginning to melt the power lines.
Fred opened the padlock on the back fence and instructed
the boy to leave. He owed it to Sam, who had been a life
long friend, to take care of the boy, even under this type
of circumstance. " Don't go to the hospital, you'll have to
just sweat it out. Don't tell anyone you were here either.
Don't even leave your house until you hear from me.
Understand ?" The young man said nothing. "Understand?"
Fred repeated, the boy was now openly crying, he shook
his head, yes, that he understood and limped down the
side street out into the darkness, leaving an orange orb
of light that could be seen from miles away, it lit the sky
like a giant torch, by now the power and phone lines were
on fire and fred had to run across the street to call for help.
By the time the fire department showed up, all the power
lines had been downed and half the block, including the
street lights, had gone dark. Fred explained what had
happened in all it's detail, except for the last part. There
was a police report. Several detectives were assigned
to the case. Because it was a part of the famous, "Palm
Tree Burnings", he also had, not only the Feds, but a local
reporter for The Weekly, which had been following the case
since it's original inception. She had solved a series of cases
through the past ten years and got the sense that something
was different about this particular burning. Fred didn't get
to sleep that entire next day and the store had to remain
closed for the next few days. Of course, all the news teams
came out and it became another item for conversation.
When the insurance investigators came out, they asked
to view the video. Fred had installed three video cameras,
one inside, at the register, one out front and one out back.
The cameras took stills every ten seconds or so. Fred could
only hope that the power lines had been severed before he
had opened the gate and let the boy run to safety. When
he finally got back inside the store, he looked up, there
on the wall, was a picture, it was a snap shot which had
been enlarged and framed, a smiling image of both Fred
and Sam, with cigars in their mouths, wearing sports shirts
out on the golf course. They had both been so hopeful of
their new enterprise. Fred looked closely at the picture,
Sam seemed to be looking at his partner from the grave,
saying, "Thanks." Sam had always been lecturing Fred
about this new generation. "You have to believe in these
kids Fred, their the future." Fred thought to himself, 'If
this was the future than were in a hell of a lot of trouble.'
Little did he know, that this was the future and yes, he
was in a hell of a lot of trouble. He closed up and for
the first time in a month or so, he went golfing.
Fred hadn't golfed alone for years. But he was in no
mood to talk to the other members of his unofficial
golf club. He would have to lie to them and didn't feel
like acting. He had done so over five times since the
fire and hadn't the energy to do so over a game of golf.
He had repeated the story to the fire department, the
police, the feds, the detectives and the insurance guys.
Later,he had the choice to talk to reporters & had a
feeling that the lady from The Weekly knew her stuff.
Maybe it would be good for business, he figured that
he would do as he had always done. Go with the flow.
Fred had always prided himself on only needing three
clubs while playing golf. He used a putter, you had to
have a putter, a Three Iron, for Bogies and the like &
a Nine Iron. He had an awesome swing that seemed to
utilize all of his frustrations and anger and loss into a
single guided focus that harnessed his concentration.
He had been called a lot of names through the years.
The kind of monikers that people gave to foreigners.
Things that had enraged his friends only solidified his
resolve to be successful, to be good at what he did, to
be what he considered a good American, a good father
and in the case of Sam's youngest son, to be a good
partner. His pals were enviable. Fred was not the
jealous type, if a guy was better, he would simply
study his technique. The sun was setting, Fred was
the last guy on the course. He had the green all to
himself. The course was peppered with palm trees
and he had to laugh, otherwise he would have to
cry, he laughed and laughed and laughed. If anyone
was there with him, it was the spirit of his pal Sam.
They had been golfers from the first week they came
to this country. It was the thing you did in America.
They had seen it in the movies and on television. All
great business men in America played golf. Business
deals all went down over a game of golf, everyone
knew that. They had decided to buy the liquor store
together at this very golf course and had made a pact
that they would get the hell out of the warehouse
together. He stepped up to the Eighteenth Hole,
the sunset glowed, the sky seemed to speak to him.
Fred swung, he watched the ball as it hurled toward
the green. It landed in the hole. The flag shook for a
second or two and settled. He slowly and methodically
walked toward the green. Fred was an American.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Nineteen: Roots
"Gimme some skin." , his Dad's friends would say as they
walked in the door. Jordan would put out his palm flat
and the dudes would slide their hands across his as they
walked past and into the living room to hang with Pops.
Jordan had lost touch with all of that in the past decade
and was now making up for it. He had ' Gone Native '.
That is what the fella' s in the park called it. Shook off
all that urban vibe and was searching deep for his roots.
He'd been dipping into his new found savings in the past
few weeks. Every time he opened the black case where
the money was hidden, he would unwrap the brown paper
that it was encased in and, like his dad often did, he
would lick his thumb and count out a few bills, than he
wrapped the money back up, in that funny paper design
and stashed it away where it couldn't be found by Wanda.
Jordan had no idea that the bundle of cash was actually
wrapped in a very precious substance that had not been
on the market for decades. It was a sheet of the purest
L.S.D. that had ever been produced, the very best.
The money had originally sat in a post office box before
the beachcomber picked it up and had been carrying it
for the past few years. So, although Jordan didn't exactly
know why he was having strange new ideas about life,
he was actually, 'Tripping - the - light - fantastic' as it
was commonly known in the old days. Every time he even
touched the paper it absorbed into his skin. He had never
partaken in anything like that voluntarily before, so he
had no reference point for what was going on. It wasn't
like he was ingesting it fully, but this stuff was so strong
that he was definitely 'Out There'. So much so that, when
he went to the pawn shop to pick up his bass guitar, he
saw a ring, bought it for Wanda and totally forgot about
the instrument. Another time, he had gone down to the
park to pick up that incense she liked and ended up buying
a drum that had been made in Mali and stretched with a
real goat skin by an ancient shaman, or so he was told.
He bought a bunch of fabric and some rugs, original
bamboo tiki lamps and started digging up a fire pit in
the back yard. Wanda had seen this kind of thing before,
but she was still concerned for him. He borrowed Old
Man Withers truck the day they were cutting down an
Oak tree, grabbed a bunch of the stumps and created
what they called a tribal circle around his new drum-
circle-fire-pit. When she got home, he was in the back
yard stripped down to almost nothing, playing his drum
with a bunch of cats he had met in the park. The house
was full of new plants, a few sculptures, he had even
redesigned the living room with all of this original fabric
from the motherland. Bought a bunch of weird vegetables
that even she was unaware of, some kind of macrobiotic
root vegetables made from lotuses. When he gave her the
ring, she really got scared. It was a real diamond with
little rubies set all along the top and emeralds all along
the bottom with some kind of amber along the sides.
She hoped he wasn't doing anything illegal, getting into
trouble or messing up. Of course, she was also elated,
proud, even turned on by this new identity thing he was
going through. When she asked him where it all was
coming from, he said that one of his uncles had passed
away back East and had left him some money. "What
Uncle?" she asked. "On my Daddy's side, he had a piece
of property that they sold and I got a piece of it, just in
time too." It sure was on time, because the Transit
Authority still had him waiting for an answer. Wanda
made good money, but they depended on his income too.
During the past year, Jordan had seen a lot of weird
things and heard a lot of strange stories related to
bus driving in Los Angeles. There had been a stabbing
on Alameda, a lady had broke water up on Wilshire,
an old man had a stroke down in the Harbor. Some
times a group of people would aggravate someone,
all along the route, a different person would bump,
push, start an argument with some unsuspecting
person. The drivers were sometimes aware of it and
even worse, they were sometimes a part of it. It was
a battle ground for all kinds of people. Homeless folks
used the night lines to have some shelter, they would
ride all night, and who could blame them ? Religious
groups used it to recruit stragglers of all sorts. Drug
dealers were sometimes peddling. A Driver was some
times briefed by the Transit Authority prior to a shift,
if there had been any recent or on going incidents.
The drivers were expected to do a whole lot more
than simply drive a bus, they were expected to role
play, ask questions of certain riders and even get
information. Jordan wasn't interested in being a
soldier for the man, he simply wanted to drive a
bus, take a check and have a regular life. Half the
dudes he grew up with were being shipped out to
fight a war in The Gulf. Now he got a call to have
his vision tested again. He had already done all of
that before. The beachcomber was not even pressing
charges, it turned out that he had been missing for
years and the entire incident had reunited his family.
Why were they stressing me ? He wondered. He knew
drivers that were cool, but he also knew some pretty
mean dudes that, one way or another, for whatever
reason, just didn't like the job and therefor didn't like
the people and ultimately, were not good drivers.
Maybe they were just unhappy at home or were going
through a tough time or had recently had some illness.
Whatever it was, they would tend to take it out on
the passengers. If a driver was a racist, he or she
might just pass someone by, in the middle of the
night, in the rain, on the last route. Or if they saw a
mixed race couple or some regular passenger who
had once complained, they might not make a stop.
Jordan was the youngest driver and so he was most
likely the least jaded. Some of his fellow drivers had
been doing it for thirty years, they had been either
burnt out or had become excellent. He knew both
types. He wanted the certification after sticking it
out for a year, so he played along with the process.
He was told that the goat skin would eventually speak
to him. Drums were the original way that people would
communicate with, back in the day. "Get in touch with
yourself." , the dude had told him, play that skin." Skin.
Skin. Gimme some skin. Give - Me - Some - Skin. He
kept thinking about his Mom and Pop and all that sh*t
they had gone through. All that history. He had some
deep history, part Indian and part French, they had all
kinda names for it, be it didn't matter to him anymore.
He stared to get in touch with his roots, not just H-I-S
roots but the real roots, the roots of primal energy.
Sound, light, color, taste, the sky, the wind, the earth,
fire, back to the elements in a big m*%$+*@&!ing way.
His lovemaking had become absolute. Wanda had always
appreciated his attentiveness, his sensitivity and all of
that. He had once shared a story with her, the first time
they had ever stayed the night with one another. Jordan
had been just a boy, his mother was in the kitchen making
breakfast, she looked down at him & said matter of fact,
" Jordan, when you become a man, don't you ever pass
out on the woman you love." He looked up at her and
although he had no idea what she actually meant, he
looked her straight in the eyes and said, "I won't." It
was one of the few pieces of advice he had ever received
from the woman. Now that he was rediscovering this
whole new way of being, he would look at Wanda like
she was the first woman who had ever walked the earth.
The women at work noticed how she began to carry
herself. "What's up with you?", they'd ask, "Oh Nothing",
she lied. Jordan was 'up with her', sometimes late into
the night. Now that he wasn't working, he would make
breakfast, a salad for her lunch and when she got home,
he already had dinner on the stove. Not always. There
were some nights where he was off on some adventure.
He'd gone to some sweat lodge with a bunch of guys or
went walking clear across the city. He'd gotten in the habit
of using a walking stick and wore a pair of old sandals.
One day, he drifted downtown, walked into a bank, got
change for a hundred dollar bill, "Gimme-a-bunch-a-ones."
The teller gave him the change and walked the hundred
dollar bill over to her manager. She explained that she
was having second thoughts about the recent exchange.
He took down the serial number and made a call. The
bill had been put on a circulation list twelve years ago.
By now, Jordan was down on Main street handing out
dollar bills to every person on the street. People were
downtrodden all up and down that area: homeless, run-
a-ways, hungry, strung out, drop outs, stragglers, drug
addicts, the forgotten. Who knows what had possessed
him to do such a thing. Maybe the goat skin had spoke to
him. The man at the bank called the authorities and they
downloaded a picture of him walking out of the bank.
It wasn't a very detailed rendition. You couldn't see his
face. With his ancient outfit and walking stick, he looked
like Moses parting the Red Sea, one of the disciples or
even Jesus himself. The image was reprinted & sent out.
It became another item for the strange and regular events
that seemed to happen only in Los Angeles. A week later,
the photograph was reprinted in The National Inquirer,
right between an article on a recent UFO sighting and
a baby that saved a dogs life in the family swimming pool.
The headline read in bold letters, "Jesus Passes Counterfeit
Bills to Feed Homeless". They had never actually found
'Jesus' and Jordan never even knew what had happened.
He got home late that night. The Moon was full. A few
clouds had splayed across the sky. He had been reading
the clouds and the landscape like a student might read a
textbook, it all had a new meaning. One of the clouds was
shaped like a giant turtle, he smiled. After all, he had
recently found himself. Jordan had finally found his roots.
They Call It The City of Angels
Chapter Twenty: Heart
Cliff was up all night. He'd been working on the
largest painting he had ever created. The entire
wall had been covered with large sections that he
would attach wi