Our nation and the world is horrified and sickened by the bloodshed in Aurora, CO.
Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, here are some of the local headlines of what is happening in our neighborhoods over the last four days:
- 15-Year-Old Boy Shot to Death in North Hollywood Identified. The deadly attack occurs on the 11000 block of Tiara Street, according to police.
- Man Shot in Butt at West Hollywood Park
- Second Anaheim officer-involved shooting during weekend kills man
- Man holding knife to baby’s throat shot by Moreno Valley police
- Suspect in L.A. homeless stabbings linked to two other attacks, police say
- Man killed, woman injured in Boyle Heights shooting
photo by Gilda Davidian
“Something to Live For”
A young man without direction idolizes an older man with money and a mysteriously tragic past.
part 2 of the Billy Strayhorn trilogy
The revelation that someone we have known for 31 years, indeed admired, might have killed his wife, is something unbelievable, akin more to science fiction than reality.
In our national narrative, character is destiny, and we tend to believe that the right blend of inner morals and outer achievements will somehow pay off in a life of virtue, happiness and success.
The subject of this essay, who I will not name, possesses all the right stuff and more. He is loyal, brilliant, smart, savvy and funny.
What always amazed me is that he seemed to just have good luck bestowed upon his life. He was raised in a fine town, with good schools, in a Norman Rockwell place. His home was just behind the police station, next to the fire station and the boro hall.
In his youth, he played around with a group of friends and they often produced funny videos. They shot baskets on the hoop at the end of our street. They rode their bikes through the woods, across the lakes and reservoirs and ate pizza in the basement of our house.
He is an only son. And he is close to his mother, a wonderfully articulate and well-spoken woman who writes poems.
In his 38, almost 39 years, he has never been arrested. Never fought. He was not a drug user. I don’t even know if he drank liquor. He liked to work out, but he did it for recreation– not competition.
When he and his parents moved to Florida, he went to school down there on the West Coast of the Sunshine State and I heard it was one of those colleges where the children make up the curriculum: Liberal arts and liberal ideas.
If it were not for the ambitions of others, he might have ended up as a lifeguard on a beach or teaching English in Costa Rica.
After he moved to Los Angeles, he teamed up with a childhood friend, and together they collaborated to build careers producing television. They were well respected as a team not only because they created some hit TV, but because they knew how to work hard and get things done. And they were not ass holes to their staff. As so many in Hollywood are.
I heard he was not happily married. But who really is? On those occasions when we went to his house for Thanksgiving or other holidays, he was a gracious and kind host. His wife was warm and loving to us. She was strong, and at least six feet tall, nearly as tall as him.
There must have been times when he, like all of us, just wanted to run away, to get out of those traps and prisons of life: work, family, wife, money. He had a lot to take care of. And he bought, for some unfathomable reason, a very expensive home in a blandly rich ocean town. He said he moved away from LA to go somewhere safe to raise his kids. And he was doing what good men do-providing for the welfare of his family.
On many occasions, I saw his goodness and empathy for others.
- When my father became ill, and had trouble walking, the person of interest took the arm of my dad and helped him to the table.
- He showed his love to his friends when he helped them move, when he stuck up for them to brutal bosses, when he spoke at weddings and funerals for people I hold dear.
- He is someone who even the victim’s friends believe is a good person.
This is my armchair psychological analysis of someone who has more good than bad in him, whose life, up to this point, nearing the four decade milestone, has been mostly calm, nearly normal, and not indicating, by any stretch of the imagination, that he might be capable of murder.
But I trust in forensics and evidence, more than intuition and speculation. And whatever the facts of the case are, those will be the predominant and determining factor in how this man spends the rest of his life on Earth.
Spring this year was thrilling. After a winter of rain, the sun came out and heated up a fragrant cornucopia of roses, orange blossoms and jasmine.
I went around the old neighborhoods of Los Angeles, with my house-hunting cousin. I rode up hills, and into scenic valleys, discovering streets and architecture decades old.
There was Passover and family, old relatives I had not seen for a long time, and the traditions of celebrating the rites of Spring and the end of slavery.
I broke two toes at the gym and have spent the last month limping around in a post-op shoe, unable to run or bike. People rush past me now because I move slowly. But I just accept this injury and know it will heal. And I can swim or lift weights as long as I don’t bend my left toes.
For a time I felt very alive in a good way, seeing this poisoned metropolis of deceit, decay and decadence in a virginal way, made anew by my willingness to just live here in the sun and enjoy it.
Then last week, as I was driving down LaBrea, my phone rang. Someone asked if I heard the news about a family friend missing in Mexico.
A day passed and the lost person became the dead person.
And the suspect was someone I loved, respected, admired and trusted.
He was a stand-up man. Someone who stood by my family- always.
He spoke at my father’s funeral service last April.
And if anyone were a rock of intellect, wit and character that you could depend on…it was he.
There was simply nothing in him but conversational gentleness and physical strength. A reserved, private, masculine, educated guy.
He was cynical and smart and apolitical. He used the word “idiots” a lot. To describe people in power: politicians, agents, lawyers.
If you needed someone to help you move, lift heavy furniture, work until all hours of the night-you called him.
I thought of him sometimes as a golden log floating down a green river. He didn’t try too hard, but somehow he managed to amass a career, a wife, a family, money, a big house.
He traveled to South America and Fiji while I walked around Van Nuys. He was an Executive Producer, whatever that BIG title means. And I was saving coins in a glass jar.
And we ate Thanksgiving at his home, and hugged the big, lovely, warm vivacious woman who was his wife.
He had it all. And it all had happened to him. He didn’t seem to go for it. It was bestowed upon him.
I admit I was jealous.
He had a special relationship that I did not with someone I should have.
On April 13th, it will be the one-year anniversary since my father died in a hospital in Santa Monica.
We, as a family had been progressing and healing and trying to heal the wound and gaping hole left by my father’s death.
It was a week of gore and death and the news media circled around like vultures.
And we went to meet the house-hunting cousin at Ginger Grass in Silver Lake this past Saturday night, just to get out of the house and enjoy ourselves.
After dinner, we stood on the sidewalk talking about the future and what we might do for work or investments.
We heard a strange sound, a woman screaming “No, no, no!”
People ran out of a parking lot. A man crouched behind a car.
Another man took off and ran up the hill, full speed, in the darkness.
We stood there, frozen.
“What was that?” someone asked.
We slowly walked around corner.
A young woman was lying on the pavement in a pond of her own blood. People surrounded her.
“Why did he shoot me? Mom, mom, mom….”
Haven’t you heard the great news? Crime is way down in Los Angeles. We are all living in a very safe city:
People are being shot and killed all around this city and here in Van Nuys, where three fatal shootings in the last month are putting death to the lie that crime in down in Los Angeles.
This is a serious illness, one that boggles my mind. How can we speak of spending billions to police Afghanistan and Iraq while people are being randomly killed by domestic terror here in California?
Where is outcry for the loss of human life? Where is the humanity of Los Angeles?
Man Killed in Van Nuys Shooting
Updated: Friday, 23 Oct 2009, 6:02 PM PDT
Published : Friday, 23 Oct 2009, 5:37 PM PDT
Posted by: Tony Spearman
Van Nuys (myFOXla.com) – One male was fatally shot in Van Nuys on Friday. The shooting was reported at 3:50 p.m. in the 15400 block of Vanowen Street, near Sepulveda Boulevard, said Officer Norma Eisenman of the Los Angeles Police Department.
Police were looking for two suspects described only as males between 17 and 20 years old, she said.
The motive for the shooting was unknown.
I took a bicycle and a camera over to the neighborhood where baby Andrew Garcia was murdered in his mother’s arms this past weekend.
There were cops parked in front of a frame house and a satellite truck crew from Univision hanging around. A helicopter had just circled the area, and women and children were walking home or back from school or errands.
A curbside shrine with balloons and burning religious candles marked the spot of the atrocity.
I expected some sort of a “slum” with garbage, graffiti, loud music, prostitutes and thugs. But what I found here was a decent place, of fairly well kept apartments, bordering an old and diligently tended street of small pre-war homes with green lawns, picket fences, front porches and flowers.
Maybe it was my projection, but parents seemed to guard their children more closely, and there was an air of mourning on the block, written on the faces of the living.
We want, so fervently, to believe that whomever died, was somehow the victim of gangs or bad parents, because this frees us from the moral responsibility of correcting or helping to change the ghastly culture of gun violence which makes urban life in America uniquely barbaric. No knife or rope could have shattered through the windshield glass and robbed a four-month old infant of 85 or 90 years of life.
All the official, educational and religious cornerstones of what we believe make up a civic and moral neighborhood are present in this district. Up the street are several churches, and a bible bookstore. The LAPD, the Municipal Building, the Superior Court, the Library are just blocks away.
Just yesterday, some of us observed a Day of Atonement, and accounted for our sins. Today, I came and recorded, on camera and in my heart, and later wrote about, the ultimate sin.