Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Mo

On the bus, two passengers said, the suspect would make people move out of his way when he moved about. At one point, they said, he pulled out a handgun and, unprovoked, shot another passenger.

“He was acting weird, he was trying to press on people,” said one of those passengers, Carlos Hurtado, 23. “He was trying to make people know he was a bad guy.”

Said the second of these passengers, Luis Rodriguez, 41: “It could have been anybody. I could have sat where (the victim) was sitting. It’s like he was going, ‘Eeny, meeny, miny, mo.’ ” *

Imagine you’re on the Orange Line on a weekday afternoon and you see this guy acting out. He’s not physically imposing, just oddly aggressive.  If you were a nice middle-class lady on your daily commute from work, you might be inclined to express your disapproval at his behavior in a non-threatening way.  What reason would you have to think he was carrying a gun? You’re in the Valley.  Why would you think he killed his parents that morning in Canoga Park, killed two others at a gas station in North Hollywood, and was now riding the bus, waiting out the helicopter search?  You wouldn’t.  Your good manners would be your undoing.  You would be victim number 5.

I picked up two guys in Fairfax the other night, but only one got in the Uber.  Is your friend coming? I asked.  That wasn’t my friend, the rider replied. That was a homeless guy, bumming a smoke. I attract them. Recognizing their humanity is my weakness. They can sense I’m a listener.  I’m an easy mark. I’d rather be living in a tent on the street myself if the alternative was never talking to anyone.

This tender particularity of character is what makes it possible for 5 million people to share a single city. It also opens the transom for the deranged, the conniving, and the evil to elide the limbic danger detection systems under which we operate. You can share a smoke with a stranger, rarely will you be smoked.  But it happens.

We live in this tension between prudence and brotherhood. The urban reforms of the 90s: broken windows policing, determinate sentencing laws, civil anti-gang injunctions, were so complete in their victory over random street crime people under the age of 35 have no living memory of it.  I’m old enough to have lived through the tail end of urban decay, and even I have let my guard down.  I say whaddup to everyone, including people I probably shouldn’t.   My name is Eeny.  Someone else is going to be Mo.   Someone on the evening news.

That’s another of the 23 Lies We Tell About LA: we can empty the jails, abandon quality of life enforcement, vilify the police and the crime rate will remain unchanged.  Because Lake Balboa is safe today, it will be safe tomorrow.

*Photo credit, Leo Kaufmann, LA Daily News

Eat Not the Pig, Say Hot Vegans

What is prosciutto?
Prosciutto, me?

There are two forms of persuasion in the militant vegan arsenal:  Behold The Horror, and Wouldn’t You Rather Be Pretty? If I didn’t already know this cause I married one, both were in abundant evidence at the VegFest at Woodley Park Sunday, which I was dragged to attended willingly!  Let’s gets started:

Horror #1:  Are you going to let this happen?
Horror #1: Are you just going to stand there and let this happen?
Beagle Face
#2: Beagle Face. Say no more.
#3: Wait, there's more. Enter the VR kill floor
#3: Wait, you haven’t seen the kill floor
On the other hand, hula hoops
On the other hand, hula hoops…
Ignore his Ugg boots
Ignore his Ugg boots. Watch the lady in the green kerchief 

IMG_5717

The star attraction: Freelee the Banana Girl and her amazing torso, all the way from Australia, posing with star struck teenaged girls. She claims to eat 30 bananas day, and posts YouTube videos where she frets about becoming too skinny.  She also denies any use of supplements.  Cocaine, for example. Or Marlboros, or liposuction.  Plant-based gains! Everybody suck it!  Consider not Occam’s Razor. Enjoy the view.  I have no reason not to be persuaded.

The last summer of drones

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You know this isn’t going to last much longer, don’t you?

Mounting a GoPro camera on your personal falcon to fly around the Valley at tree-top level…obeying your commands, delivering messages, packages….sniffing out backyards, taking inventory of the City from a vertical perspective, that’s just too cool and/or creepy and/or empowering, depending on your view.

Soon, the people’s airspace will be subject to regulation. Everything ten feet off the ground will be a subsidiary of Google.  The City will withdraw the air from the public domain. It’s only a matter of time.

There’s my snarky libertarian thought for springtime.

Welcome to Cratchit-ville

Home sweet casita
Home sweet casita, only $900/month

Last week I gave a co-worker a ride home.

‘Pull into this alley here. Now turn into this service alley.  Now slow down…stop here. This is it.’

What, this?

I was looking at a pair of hinges embedded in a wooden fence, next to garbage cans.

‘Yup. This is it. Thanks for the ride.”

“Is there a crazed ex-boyfriend lurking around your life?”

“My landlady won’t let me use the front entrance.  She is very adamant about it.”

She reached over the wall, grabbed a string and the wooden slats parted about thirty degrees and she slipped through. The ‘gate’ closed behind her, Bat Cave-like,  then looked like an ordinary fence again.   There was no street address or unit number to mark where she lived.

A few days later, it got cold.

‘There’s no heat in my place,’ she lamented.   Ask the landlady to fix the furnace, we suggested.  It’s Christmastime.

‘There’s no furnace.’

No furnace?  No wall heater? 

‘My apartment is kind of attached to the garage.  I don’t think it’s legal. I wanted to buy a space heater and deduct it from my rent, but she won’t let me.  Arguing with her about it is like trying to grab water.’

The person of whom I am writing is a) white,  b) educated,  c) sober,  d) works two jobs, like everyone else north of Ventura Blvd.   Van Nuys may not be Vladivostok, but a heat-less domicile is her lot this winter and she’s resigned to it. One might consider her at a slight advantage to the other tenant, the one who lives in the garage proper, who also has no heat…plus no insulation. No kitchen, either. $600.

Turning right at the corner, I was back on a street of ordinary mid-century homes in White Van Nuys, otherwise known as Lake Balboa, lined with sweet gums shedding the last of the autumn leaves.   Nothing suggested the parallel world of Bob Cratchit-like cells, small, cold and dismal, concealed just beyond the hedge work, from which certain homeowners profited handsomely.

There is a deep sub-culture of illegal units in Los Angeles.  Historically it has served the needs of the extended immigrant family: second cousins tucked away in converted Home Depot tool sheds.  The City has never taken it on directly because this would mean addressing the larger issue of the vast population of undocumented laborers concealed within its borders, without which the Westside would cease to function.  The Problem which has No Name in Polite Society.  We can’t enforce laws relating to citizenship so we don’t enforce laws relating to those would exploit the legal disadvantage of the undocumented.  Once you carve out a zone of immunity in civil society, it doesn’t stop with Hondurans. We all take a step back in the direction of Dickensian London, toward a Manicheanistic world of the propertied and the un-propertied.

Welcome to Cratchit-ville.

Signpost at the oasis

Anything to bring in the trade
Anything to bring in the road trade
I'm not sure it's working
I’m not sure it’s working

I hadn’t heard of alkaline Kangen water and had to look it up.  It promises to promote good digestion, reverse aging, fend off cat allergies, ameliorate acid reflux, restore pH balance, ease arthritis pain, among other maladies.  Then again, as with so many products hawked by 2 AM cable TV pitchmen, it may do none of the above.   Tony Robbins loves Kangen water. Make of that what you will.

Here’s an alternative suggestion:  ICE COLD BEER $4. A/C ALWAYS ON

Springbok, 10 AM

Germany 1, USA 0
Germany has just scored. One person on the patio is happy.

I spent the Ghana-USA match chatting with a guy from Guadalajara, now an American citizen,  who candidly told me he had a public breakdown, with tears, on the patio of Springbok in 2010 when Mexico was eliminated. In the round of 16. If they got past the quarterfinal this summer, he couldn’t be responsible for himself.

Both Mexico and USA have advanced to the knockout round. Only Belgium, Argentina, Netherlands and Greece stand between the joy of the past two weeks and a city-dividing, household-dividing, bullets-in-the-air, flags-on-trucks, beer-bottles-in-the-streets test of loyalty in the semi-finals. What then? A moment of truth for Los Angeles.

It could happen
Dual loyalty on Delano Street