Published: December 24th 2010
December 20th 2010
Tuesday 7th September to Monday 20th December, 2010
Curly, Larry & Mo; In Da House.
Sad man. A face that tells a million tales.
As I made my way agonizingly slowly through the carnage of rush hour Los Angeles en route to rendezvous with my newest influx of visitors I was feeling a bizarre sense of boyish excitement and for the life of me I couldn’t think why.
Okay, reunions by their very nature have a tendency to ignite such feelings and one of the three imminent arrivals was after all the big brother with whom I’d shared a bedroom for the first fourteen years or so of my life, accompanying him someone I’d classed as a close friend for nigh on three decades. But even so, it was only a couple of months since I’d last seen them both and with the wonders of modern technology and social networking rendering the age old adage about absence making the heart grow fonder virtually redundant I was at a loss as to the origins of my feelings. Aside from the inevitable male bonding and memory inspired giggles their presence was going to bring I could foresee nothing but inconvenience and reckless, out of control expense.
For starters I think it’s fair to say that a
one bedroom apartment is designed primarily as living space for one person, two at most. Housing four adult’s for however brief a period of time within the confines of such a space smacks of a return to the chimney sweep days of two up two down pre-industrial revolution Britain and pushes the boundaries of inhumanity to the point of almost pleading for the intervention of social services.
Furthermore letting three single guys off the leash in foreign climes is inevitably going to herald some seriously expensive recreational time, for the main part a direct result of ‘letting the hair down’ and as the obligatory Las Vegas field trip had been sandwiched into the midst of their vacation schedule for months prior to arrival the four figure bill it was likely to generate and its effect on my threadbare bank account had for weeks been giving cause for concern.
Their visit was also going to burden me with three weeks of tackling an assault course of grunting, groaning bodies strewn haphazardly across my floors each morning simply to get to work, like a bleary eyed trooper stumbling blindly through the corpses and knee deep mud of no man’s land
in response to the whistle to go over the top and finally, added to all those disturbances the daily discovery, scraping and plucking of an assortment of bodily residues and discharges, some identifiable some not from the enamel of my sink and toilet bowl and you can perhaps begin to understand my feelings of surprise.
Within forty eight hours of their arrival my apartment had not surprisingly transformed itself from a neat and compact home for one into a cross between a Somalian refugee camp and an airport lost luggage office, claims had been staked to various square footage of floor space and I was beginning to appreciate how fascinating a life renowned Primatologist Jane Goodall has had the privilege of leading.
A lifetime spent studying the habits of the wild chimpanzees of Tanzania has justly earned Jane the right to be classed an expert in animal behavioral psychology and I wondered to myself how, given the opportunity she would no doubt have relished she would have interpreted the behavioral traits and nuances of the three hairy arsed primates who’d invaded my living space. I’m sure the scribbled observations contained within her notebook would have read something along
the lines of this;- Spike, Youngest member of the troop by a generation. The baby. Missing the maternal figure ? Possibly. Prone to engaging in prolonged periods of preening and self grooming after bathing, anything up to half an hour being spent gazing forlornly at his reflection in bathroom mirror. He would always be found on my return to the camp either glued trancelike to the television irrespective of whether it was actually switched on or not, alone on the balcony with his head in a book which mysteriously never seemed to go past page twenty seven or, when the weather finally sorted itself a week after their arrival sat out on the beach, often alone, attempting to squeeze the last of the rays from a low Autumnal sun striving to get the elusive tan which for the second year running never quite materialised. Maybe the reason for his apparent sorrow ?.
Peter. Senior member of the troop in years although obviously living in denial either unwilling or unable to accept the fact. Engages in regular ‘coloring’ of his fur using improvised dye concocted from the leaves of the ‘Just for Men’ plant and appears to have an
allergy to cold which could well be due to the onset of years and the thinning of his cloak. My return to camp from the office each day would inevitably find him assuming the feotal position wrapped mummy tight in a blanket or over cover which would be clutched tightly to the chin complaining not only of the extreme cold (this was in temperatures touching seventy degrees Fahrenheit) but also of how he had been transformed into an alcoholic over the course of one weekend. Exists on diet of pastries and cakes.
Curly, Larry & Mo; In Da House.
Worldly belongings. Sad man again.
Big Jerry. The alpha male. Prone to disappearing from camp alone and unannounced for hours on end. Initially mistakenly thought to be out on hunting missions collecting food for the group but later realized just to be satisfying the need for his own space. When he is in camp will usually be found away from the communal television area where the others congregate sat at the dining room table studying the statistics and placings of the Premiership league table on the laptop, working through every possible permutation should his beloved Manchester City win their next game with a fifty second minute winner from a twice taken penalty kick. These periods of intense study would be interrupted at regular intervals simply to walk the three yards or so to the fridge to claim further regular sustenance in the form of another monster sandwich. Prone to emitting regular repetitive calls that sounded something similar to “City won again Piggy’
When any band of intrepid explorer’s first set foot on foreign soil the customary thing for them to do is to unravel the standard of their homeland and hoist it high, firstly to stake a claim for Queen and country should the land be up for grabs and secondly to announce their presence to any unsuspecting locals. My visitors arrival was no different and within two hours of touch down three huge lions accompanied by a large red cross were adorning the side of my apartment block. Little did we know two weeks later it was going to be the literal spark for a KKK style example of racial hatred !
Halfway through their first week the guys flew off to Vegas leaving Phil and I to take in a visually spectacular Thursday night Muse show before catching them up at the weekend and as we hurtled through
the desert, music blaring leaving a plume of a yellow dust cloud in our wake I couldn’t help but compare our journey to that of infamous Gonzoid journalist Hunter S. Thompson and his unnamed attorney, portrayed so comically by messrs Depp and Del Torro in the movie ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ .
A week or so earlier I’d completed Thompson’s book of the same name in just five days, a personal record for someone whose powers of concentration are such that he usually can’t read more than three pages in one sitting and whilst unlike them we weren’t off in search of the American dream, whatever that may be, and weren’t cruising pedal to the metal in an open topped crimson Chevy with a trunk crammed full with every narcotic know to mankind we were, as they were, on our way to sin city for a weekend that had ‘irresponsibly expensive’ written all over it.
The recent economy has seen to it that competition for business amongst the hoteliers of the Vegas strip is currently cut throat to the extent that rooms can quite often be nabbed for a song but it was just our luck
that this particular weekend saw the city hosting yet another convention that ensured the ‘no room at the inn’ signs were out in force and the prices were through the roof. With room rates hovering around the five hundred bucks a night mark in the interests of financial survival we were left with no option but to join forces and shack up together.
If four grown men spending three weeks cooped up in a one bedroom apartment can be classed as uncomfortable then five in a single room, even a rather large room could best be described as cosy in the extreme. Had they been fully aware of the facts of exactly what was behind the door of room 4238 I’m sure the girls of the front desk would have been reaching for the phones to contact Amnesty International.
It was democratically agreed as we prepared for our first night out that bed space would be taken on a first come first served basis and my fear of missing out (FOMO) affliction allied to a Vegas track record of minimal sleep had me half preparing myself for a night on the floor. Fortunately however, Manchester City Football Club,
the wonders of satellite television that enables live premiership matches to be beamed stateside at some unearthly hour of the morning and big Jerry’s slot machine addiction allowed me two much needed four hour morning session’s of top and tail shut eye and saw him spend two successive mornings on a poolside lounger with just a hotel towel for a sheet, the hot Vegas sun heralding the welcome return of his infamous alter ego Jonny Red Legs.
I’d love to elaborate on the happenings of the weekend but if you’ve seen ‘The Hangover’ you will no doubt be aware that what happens there stays there and after just two nights, both of which ended long after the sun came up we found ourselves heading back to Long Beach with Peter, who was returning to England the following day, a prostrate shadow of his former self floundering on the back seat.
When we finally arrived back in Long Beach after the four hour drive it was dark but not dark enough to mask the fact that a large chunk of the flag that still adorned the side of the apartment was missing, not by neat scissor cut or careful
tear but ravaged by fire, what could only be deliberately started fire, the darkly charred edges clearly visible from the street. It was obviously apparent that we’d been the victims of an alarming example of racialism.
Halloween is the time for the annual pilgrimage to Monster Massive, the fancy dress electronic music festival which Phil and I have attended for the last two years and having handed responsibility for outfit selection over to him with a week to go we were still unsurprisingly costumeless, that is until I arrived home from work one day to find a pink fleeced cotton nightdress and a curly grey wig sitting on my table courtesy of neighbor Dana. From that moment on we were sorted and the vision of Riding Hood, Grandma and the Big Bad Wolf was born.
The outfit was completed with a trip to the second hand stores of Fourth Street where I picked up a gold rimmed pair of bi-focal spectacles and a beautifully embroidered leather handbag containing a matching comb holder and a packet of unopened tissues hallmarked 1964 off an eccentric and slightly ‘not all there’ Asian shopkeeper, a pearl necklace and a night cap all
for a total of just ten dollars and we spent a VIP free gratis evening posing for photographs with all and sundry keen to have their mugs snapped with three legends of Brother's Grimm's fairytale land.
Aside from the three stooges trip which lasted through September visits have been welcomed since my last blog from Mr Tony Swift, on business in Orange County who contacted me out of the blue and met me for an afternoons golf and Mr and Mrs Paul Lacey, a former footballing colleague and his wife Carole who were in town for four days following the cancellation of their Mexican cruise.
When I received the phone call to inform me of their arrival in town it was mid afternoon on a Sunday and I was out on my bike a few miles from home. I arranged to pick them up at 4.30pm and as was heading back home to pick up the car when I passed a second hand bric a brac bazaar whose contents were spewing out onto the pavement. Loving nothing more than to spend time browsing such treasure troves of times gone by and having half an hour to kill I
Curly, Larry & Mo; In Da House.
Grandma, The Hood and The Big Bad Wolf.
decided to stop and enter.
The elderly proprietor was sat behind a battered old desk at the far end of the shop untidily scribbling prices onto small white pieces of card whilst some jazz played on an old record player and after greeting him with a nod and a smile as way of a conversation starter and without really giving any thought whatsoever to what I was saying I spoke.
"How much is the bear" ?
I was referring to the big brown bear that was sat in a rocking chair outside the front of the store with one leg lazily propped over the arm although for the life of me I didn't know why. The old man looked at me over the top of his glasses as if checking for my sanity, spent a couple of minutes mumbling about how he'd never really thought about the old grizzly being for sale and then out of the blue replied in a manner that was more question than answer "twenty dollars"?.
The word "done" had come out of my mouth before I'd had chance to blink and half an hour later I found myself sat in the
Jeep at a set of traffic lights attracting all sort's of looks from adjacent motorist's and pedestrian's with a six foot stuffed brown bear strapped into my back seat.
The Lacey's greeted me at their hotel with a mouth watering surprise, three large bricks of priceless Cheshire Cheese and two jars of Branston Pickle that had travelled half way around the world by way of San Francisco, Las Vegas, Pheonix and Long Beach to their new albeit very temporary home in my fridge. I always knew there was a valid reason for writing these blogs and having showed the bear, soon to be christened Brian by Phil's niece Suzie, to his new home by the water we immediately adjourned to Second Street for cocktails and to catch up on all things Portside. When the young waitress arrived to take our order Paul and I ordered our beers as Carole, still undecided scanned the menu for inspiration. Suddenly she spotted something she liked the look of,
‘Ooh, that’s good isn’t it Paul ?’ she observed pointing to the twelve bucks a bottle champagne listed at the foot of the page, as she did so and without awaiting response
turning the menu through 180 degrees to face the waitress and adding “I’ll have one of those please”.
The young girl scanned the entry that sat just above Carole’s finger and responded with an uncertain smile as she prepared to scribble into her notebook, “You’d like a glass of champagne” ?
“No” Carole instantly replied almost dumbfounded at the incredulity of the waitresses remark, “a bottle”!! The girl’s face, obviously unaware of the Sunday afternoon drinking traits of us English was a picture worth a thousand dollars.
The Lacey’s visit coincided with that of Phil’s livewire niece Suzy, as happy go lucky a person as you could ever wish to meet who was over for a three week stay with her uncle and on Thanksgiving Day the four of us spent a day walking the boardwalk of Venice Beach after an almost perfect full English at Santa Monica’s world famous Ye Olde Kings Head. I tell you a sausage has never tasted sausage so good !
Just recently I’ve been experiencing that feeling of wonderlust that overwhelms me every now and again and persuades me to just pack a bag and go and in lieu of
a lack of adequate vacation time and funding I attempted to satisfy it by this time exploring somewhere a little closer to home. A fifteen minute cycle ride to downtown Long Beach and a forty minute train ride through the gang infested suburb’s of Watts and Compton and you will find yourself, courtesy of the Metro Blue Line, alighting in the downtown neighborhood of one of the most famous cities in the world, Los Angeles.
As far as cities of the world that I’ve visited go Los Angeles to me is by far one of the least charismatic and if it wasn’t for its undisputed attraction as home of the world wide movie industry and its proximity to the Pacific Ocean it would no doubt be one of the least visited, a massive urban sprawl of clogged freeways and bland, non-descript architecture. As if almost in an effort to convince itself of its importance signs are dotted around the downtown area pointing visitor’s in the direction of the ‘historic district’ but when all is said and done it’s a district that consists of nothing more than a handful of late nineteenth century lofts and a couple of now long
As with every rule there are exceptions of course, The Getty and the City Hall to name but two. My principal goal on the first of two successive Sunday visit’s was to view another, the Disney Concert Hall, a breathtaking space aged example of futuristic architecture, clad entirely in stainless steel and perched atop a hill in the heart of skyscraper land. I’d been shown a photograph by a colleague days earlier which was enough to persuade me I had to see it and having spent the best part of an hour or so marveling at its how’s and why’s I saddled up and rode the three blocks or so across to skid row.
Skid row in Los Angeles I was totally unaware is the original, ‘the’ skid row, a five block by five block area of littered and filthily impoverished inner city desolation also known as Central East City that is ‘home’ to 7,000 or so desperate souls with one thing that not one of them possesses in common …… a home.
Something that almost all the sidewalk hugging wrecks do seem to possess besides a blanket however is a brown paper bag used
as a thinly veiled disguise to conceal a bottle of vodka, meth’s or other mind bending liquid and this fact allied to the stomach turning stench of dried piss that hangs in the air and the never far away threat of violence makes the area feel hopelessly sad and very depressing.
Once I’d managed to get myself back into the real city I was making my way to the metro station when a figure that seemed to epitomise all that I’d just witnessed caught my eye, a hunched black man wearing a thick leather jacket, battered shoes, half mast trousers and a wooly hat who was manfully struggling to push a rickety old shopping trolley overloaded with blankets and other personal belongings up the kerb.
I observed him for a couple of minutes longing to know his story, how ? why ? where ? and then cycled alongside him, reached into my pocket and pulled out the contents of loose change within which amounted to about three dollars. His expression barely changed as he held out his shaky, dirty hand to accept my offering but did so enough to express his extreme surprise and gratitude. He never spoke
a word throughout our encounter and almost as an afterthought I asked him if I could take his photograph. It’s one of my favourite pictures, his reddened eyes alone summing up completely the lonely life of a homeless man on the streets of a big city.
The following week I made the same Sunday morning pilgrimage and upon emerging from beneath the ground into one of LA's warmest December days on record was confronted by as bizarre a scene as could possibly be imagined. Streets were closed in preparation for the start of a peace rally as demonstrators milled around awaiting the off under the watchful eye of the LAPD. Nothing unusual there except the march was organised and carried out by chanting, chest beating Muslim's carrying banners and placards proclaiming peace on earth. Who'd have thought it ?
If you’re a regular reader of these blogs you’ll be fully aware of my opinions of the ubiquitous Long Beach Police Department and their machismo bully boy methods of maintaining law and order. Time after time I have had to bite my lip and count to ten upon witnessing their strong arm methods of dealing with jay walkers, sidewalk
cyclist’s and other scum bag members of society but even so, I was still shocked and more than a little saddened when stories started circulating through the neighborhood grapevine that one of their number had been shot dead in the stark daylight of last Sunday afternoon just four blocks from my apartment.
Needless loss of life is always tragic, even more so if the deceased is someone trying to maintain the health and well being of others but as is often the case with stories of this nature as time went on slowly and surely more and more elements of truth started to filter through. Before long the real story had been revealed.
It turns out that a thirty five year old father of an eight year old boy had been out for a few Sunday lunchtime scoop’s and, reluctant to pick up a DUI for getting behind the wheel in his tipsy condition was sitting on the doorstep of his friends’ apartment awaiting his return. As a regular visitor to his buddies place his face was well known to the other’s living in the block but unfortunately for him a newly moved in resident happened to glance
out of his living room window and, quite understandably, mistake the hosepipe the man was holding for a deadly six shooter. Without further ado the Samaritan reached for his receiver, dialed 911 and reported the inebriated and armed nuisance who was quite innocently hanging around his home to the authorities.
The LBPD sprang into life and within a couple of minutes two of their finest had taken up positions of concealed observation at the scene. Erring on the side of caution and following the policeman’s textbook to the letter they decided between themselves to instead of announcing their arrival and attempting to verbally diffuse the situation to remain incognito and to wait for backup which was winging its way across town in the shape of squad cars, helicopter and mental health assessor. And that is where it all started to go horribly wrong.
Before back up had had chance to arrive the man, still blatantly unaware of the police officers presence recklessly and as it panned out fatally grasped his watery weapon in both hands and pointed it at his friends’ apartment. Whether or not he was planning to surprise his friend upon his return with sparkling freshly
Curly, Larry & Mo; In Da House.
Grandstand. Hollywood Park Racetrack.
washed windows will never be known because according to the police report released 24 hours later it was at this precise moment that the hose nozzle he was holding made a noise ‘like a gun’.
Quite what that means is anyone’s guess but whatever it was it startled the two hiding deputies and prompted them to, again understandably if you were to listen to the chief of police, stand and unload the contents of their weapons, a shotgun and a hand gun, into the man’s unarmed form before cuffing him as he lay spluttering in a pool of his own blood. Eight bullets pierced his flesh and he died at the scene before paramedics had had chance to arrive.
The man’s family have understandably spoken out with anger about the injustice of the whole situation, a vigil was hastily arranged and a couple of evening’s later I jogged past a candlelit shrine to the man that was dominated by a cardboard sign reading simply ‘LBPD – Shoot First, Ask Questions Later; Murderers’.
But it has been laughable, almost pitiful, to see the police chief defending his officer’s actions. Even if the man had been brandishing a rocket
grenade as opposed to a hosepipe a single bullet to the leg or shoulder would have been more than sufficient to persuade him to drop it, a verbal warning from their concealed position an even more satisfactory outcome. As it is an eight year old boy now has to spend the rest of his living days without a father.
I sincerely hope justice for the man prevails but don’t hold out much hope. In a couple of weeks the incident will be forgotten by all but those closest to the deceased and the LBPD will no doubt resume their tyrannical reign of terror as if nothing ever happened.
And now Christmas and the end of another year is here. It won’t be long until the next visitor’s start to arrive in LAX, first Jamie for a new year stopover then Margy for six, yes six, weeks. In the meantime as 2010 comes to a close I would just like to take this opportunity to wish everyone reading this blog a happy Christmas and a wonderful new year.
Footnotes; Just a couple of clarification’s to make;
i) The lads visit wasn’t really a bind, it was a
Curly, Larry & Mo; In Da House.
Xmas prezzie. Signed by Ted beginning Piggy...
pleasure to have them here as it will be to welcome them anytime again soon.
ii) The family of the dead man are sueing the City of Long Beach for $1,500,000. Unfortunately I have mixed feelings about their success. I hope they are successful but know that if they do win that the City will go to untold lengths to recoup their money off residents via tickets for jay walking, talking in public and any other trumped up and ludicrous means imaginable.
iii) The arsonist has been exposed. A couple of weeks after discovering the flag Kyle, a neighbor came round to apologise for his bully head friend who’d took a dislike to the flag. I told him not to worry, that it wasn’t his fault but he insisted on giving me a skateboard as an apology. Me on a skateboard !!!
iv) There's four pages of piccies.
There are more photos below