Posts Tagged With: Murder

The News This Week Is Terrible


There has been a lot of death and dying in the world lately. I know that there usually is, but it isn’t such a presence in our lives as it has been in mine this past week. Robin Williams was a man who inserted himself and his comedy into my life so I didn’t realize how much he was there. Lauren Bacall was also someone I admired greatly.   She was strong, beautiful, and managed to make a Hollywood marriage work (with a lot of help from Bogey, I’m sure).

The news from Ferguson is so disturbing. I thought we had seen the worst of this kind of thing in the 1960s, with maybe a small reprise during the LA riots. explains the situation pretty well, but it doesn’t touch on the many eyewitnesses who said that Michael Brown was not reaching for the officer’s gun. It also doesn’t mention the tens of journalists arrested for reporting the story. I’m sure that I am one of a crowd of people when I say that my strongest feeling about Ferguson is hopelessness. This world is exploding, and I don’t have any real hope that America will be able to address this in a way that is reasoned. I hope for hope.

The last thing is something I’m probably not supposed to talk much about. But it hit very close to home. An alumna of the college I work for was murdered by her son this week. I am new here and hadn’t met her, but she was an avid volunteer and often came to reunions. To say it was a blow was an understatement.  

I know that the knowledge of death is supposed to allow us to relish life. I can spout Ursula K. LeGuin quotes about candles and darkness all you want. What all of that doesn’t explain is the tragedy of many of those deaths.

I am realizing as I write this that I have no points to make about the above statements. I’m feeling sad, disturbed, and a bit frightened, and I didn’t want the moment to pass without comment. I hope we can find a way to move forward from this week that is constructive.

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Venice Beach


Brian’s sister is here from Virginia this week.  Julie is such a combination of boho hippie, crafty housewife, and real estate agent that it is hard to pinpoint her.  But it is easy to love her.  Everyone does.  She makes friends in a sentence.  She looks oddly like Brian, if he were somehow small and pretty.  She has a boisterous laugh.

The hippie portion of Julie used to live in Venice Beach, California, near the boardwalk.  She had a dog of chow red and black tongue whose short hair and square head suggested nothing of chow otherwise.  His name was Bear, and they would go to the beach drum circle together, or to the free feast at the Hare Krishna temple, or just wander the boardwalk.

We attempted to do the same last night, all three of us.  Bear passed away only a few months ago, but we thought of him and his red well-behaved ways.  None of us has been paying attention to the news over the weekend.  We hadn’t heard about the deaths Saturday night.  We arrived at the Hare Krishna temple, but there were no tables set out.  “We’re doing a huge thing on the beach.  There’s no feast here tonight,” the monk in peach robes said when Brian asked him.  So we drove to the beach and parked.

They were disassembling the feast.  Brilliant tents of primary colors made a warren of temporary streets, but most had nothing beneath them any longer except people stacking folding chairs or moving boxes around.  Two booths were handing out flimsy paper plates of whatever was left in their chafing dishes.  Above the canopy, people flew past on a zip line.  The acrid smell of marijuana floated past us from the skate park.

We ate cold and delicious food on a sandy patch of grass.  The fries were sweet, the pasta salad sharp with vinegar, but my favorite was the curry-breaded cauliflower.  Police cars were everywhere.  We watched the black and white SUV’s roll past on the sand.  The sun set behind the hills making black silhouettes of the palm trees.  We could see the drum circle in the distance, listened to the beat wafting on the air.

And then there were sirens.

The police broke up the drum circle.

“I wonder what’s happening,” I said.

“We should go over and find out,” said Julie.

“I don’t know,” said Brian.

“Are you out?” said Julie.  “Yeah, it’s probably better if we don’t go over there.”

“I’m in if you’re in,” I said.  “I’m kinda dying to know what’s happening.”

“Well, let’s get closer anyway,” she said.

There was nothing to see.  By the time we walked a few yards, the circle was gone, disbursed.

“No! I have to know!” I said.

We passed a man holding a drum over his shoulder, gesticulating to a lady near one of the stores.

“Shh!” said Julie.  “See if he says anything.” We laughed, but we all got quiet.  Nothing.

We passed t-shirt stores selling offensive graphics.  I stopped to take a picture of the Venice Beach Freak Show sign.  In a row of apartment buildings, someone had turned their living room into a palmistry boutique.  On the sidewalk, someone had painted a creepy clown face.  Harry Perry rode past on his rollerblades strumming his electric guitar, dreads streaming in the wind beneath his turban.  A man walked past with a dog of chow red.

“Must pat the redness!” said Julie.  So we stopped.

“Too bad about the drum circle, huh?” said the man.

“Yeah, what happened?” I said.  “Why did they break it up?”

“Oh, pot,” he said.  “They’re all over here now because of last night, you know?”

“Last night?” said Brian.

“Yeah, the deaths.  It was on the news, some guy jumped the barrier and killed a bunch of people by driving on the boardwalk.  There’s a vigil down by Rose, and a bunch of news vans.  You know where Rose is?”

“I know where Rose is,” said Julie.

The vigil was small, a five foot square piled with stacks of flowers, votive candles illuminating every spare inch.  Three or four people had lawn chairs out and were tending to the little flames.  Passers-by stopped with bowed heads.  We walked past.  The crowd had grown when we turned around to walk back to our car.  A reporter stood in front of the pile now, microphone in hand.  I thought about what this man would probably be like, intoxicated and confused.  Maybe hopped up on pot like those at the circle.  I felt bad for him, and regretted the choices he made.

NPR had the story on the radio this morning.  It was nothing like I had thought.  This man, although undeniably mentally ill, was not intoxicated with anything.  He drove around the barriers and aimed for pedestrians.  If it hadn’t been for the loud scraping sound of a bicycle his car was dragging in its wake, more people would have died two nights ago.  The man is in custody.  They’re just releasing the names of some of his victims.

According to my professor Tom Zoellner, good Non Fiction is supposed to make a point about something.  I have no points to offer, uness it is this:  Blame the crazy atmosphere that is Venice, blame the lack of barriers on some streets, blame whatever you wish.  “This incident would have been difficult to stop because the individual was determined to harm people,” said the cop on NPR this morning.   It was no one’s fault but the perpetrator.

I can also offer sadness.

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Valentine Adventure

Brian and I have the romance thing worked out.  This is how it goes:  One person plans Valentine’s Day and the other person plans our Anniversary.  The person who does not plan gives the planner a gift.  Usually, the destination of the event is also a secret.

For example, Brian planned Valentines Day this year, so I gave him a gift.  In return, he did not tell me where he was taking me at all.

“OK, here is what I know,” I told a friend at work.  ” I know it starts at two, we’re going to have a picnic before-hand, and it’s appropriate for me to wear a dress.”

“That could be ANYWHERE!” she said.

“I KNOW!!” I replied.

But, Brian’s track record for amazingness is pretty good.  I bought him a pocket watch, made him a card, and tried to be patient.

He took me to Graystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.  The gigantic house is surrounded by a maze of well-manicured gardens, although evidently they don’t let you do anything there.  No Picnics, said a gigantic sign, and No Photos either. I took a photo of the no photos sign.  Then, I turned my camera on “stealth mode” and took pictures of everything else.

We wandered the grounds for an hour or so, rambling around with the rambling pathways.  We kept running into faces everywhere – on the walls spitting water, surrounding a fountain, sunk into the walls.  We found our way down hill to a rusting greenhouse, and then climbed a winding brick pathway set into a vast, green lawn.  At 1:30, we went to the front door of the house.

“Music In The Mansion, Viola and Piano Concert” said a sign out front.

“I know what we’re doing!!!” I said to Brian.

“Good job, Sherlock,” he replied, laughing.  “There’s a gigantic sign.  And also, you’re adorable.”

“Do we get to go in?!!” I said.

“Yes, the concert is in the living room.”

And the concert was wonderful, full of modern music that was beautiful and lyrical.  I didn’t want it to end.  They had tea and melt-in-your-mouth cookies afterward in the Card Room.  Black and White marble floors reflected the three gigantic french doors leading out to a terrace that overlooked all of Los Angeles.

The park rangers offered a mini tour of the house, too.  Turns out someone was murdered in the guest bedroom – bonus!!! The real tour is two hours, Brian and I will have to go back.  Everything about that afternoon was wonderful.

That was my Valentine’s day.  Did I mention that we really have this romantic thing down?

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