Something Quiet and Urgent…


Something quiet and urgent was hanging over the radio this morning soon after I awoke in the darkness at 5:30am.

LAUSD was expected to make an announcement.

It was forthcoming:  a rumor the schools might be closed down here in Los Angeles.

The sun rose, the skies were clear, the winds blew, and it was a cold morning in December, 9 days before Christmas.

Then it was official.

The schools were, indeed, closed.

A bomb threat had been “sent electronically” (how else are communications sent these days?) and over a half million children would not go to school. Which made many of the students happy, but caused those parents, who work at jobs, to work at worrying, about their kids.

Our alerted and nervous minds went to school, where poisons and dangers and societal toxins lined up near the entrance, under the flag, ready to march past the lockers, down the hall and into the classroom. The diversity of fear, one nation under lockdown, forever ready to give up liberty before death.

Internet, Islam and San Bernardino, caution, children, unforeseen terror, substantiated threat, hoax, fear, prayers, moms, guns and explosives.

It was a day of mayoral and school chancellor pronouncements, of the FBI, the White House and the LAPD, all speaking in front of reporters, and the line of authority acting competent when deep down we know that the sick and the violent soul of humankind casts a darker shadow across our nation these days.

No wonder the blurted and un-thoughtful utterances of Mr. Trump lure us into his mad funhouse of revenge and strongman demagoguery. We know or think we know that he knows what we know. When he blurts out what’s on everyone’s minds, we imagine he can fight and win the battle.

In our country, there are many days when children go to school and nobody tells them to go home, but instead someone armed and ill enters a school and kills.

Those are the days we should fear. Those are the days that have already come too many times.

But it is hard to know what to fear first, so paralyzed with dread are we at red blood under the blackboard.

Paris


Paris

First there was youth and young people, fresh faces, and smiles. There was festivity and the night, wine and laughter, the scent of exotic perfumes, the smell of jasmine, vanilla, sandalwood, tuberose and citrus, the flirtations and sensuality of life, the swing of partiers having fun. Music and entertainment and the dark, gathered inside a red Chinese concert hall built in the 1860s, some place historic, cultural, significant, simultaneously frivolous and majestic.

And there was the stadium, and players and the cheering crowds, the fast game, the movement up and down the field, the lines and the rules laid down, with everyone playing fair, and the adjudication of sport overseen by referees, players, spectators and cameras.

November in Paris, a Friday night, and the restaurants were full, and diners were devouring mushrooms in wine sauce, risotto, saffron flavored rices, rare beef, sautéed spinach and roasted garlic; red wine, sparkling wines and many glasses of beer and whiskey.

There were lights, and people holding hands, and lovers kissing, and boats sailing down the Seine, and the monuments lit up and illuminated and beloved.

And anger was nowhere to be seen because it was extinguished in warm fragrant showers, in grassy burning candles, or under blankets where people made love in bedrooms where the windows were swung open and the drapes swayed in the breeze.

Chocolate cake and buttered bread, hot coffee and cream, soft cheeses; and women with red lips and tousled hair and cashmere scarfs tied around their necks, and young bearded men with long hair and a long life ahead of them.

Children only yesterday, born after 1990, so young and so unaware of the temporal and the fatal; and perhaps they died as they lived, in a spasm of ecstasy, with no foreshadowing or fear of the barbarism that would end their brief lives within seconds.

Why, why, why, why, why, why?

Why, why, why, why, why, why?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Local Sweeties and Public Safety.


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Courtesy of a community minded neighbor, we folks gathered tonight in a computer lab inside Casa Loma College on Kester to hear Senior Lead Officer Erica Kirk, Gang Officer DeLeon and a man from the Los Angeles Department of Building Safety speak about property crimes, prostitution and gangs.

The people were mostly older, largely white, and on friendly terms with one another. Before the speakers began, two chatted up about church, “I don’t hear the bells ringing any more!” and on grandchildren, “My granddaughter still works in Woodland Hills for a sod broker!”

Around the building, within spitting distance, ghetto apartments were sprayed with gang signs, prostitutes walked freely, speeding cars plowed through red lights, and old refrigerators and couches were dumped alongside the road.

But inside the room, reassuring voices of authority, festooned with badge and pistol, spoke of laws and arrests, patrols and progress against criminal activity.

Abandoned houses, trashy front yards, barking dogs at 3am, explosions, gunfire, helicopters, stolen cars, discarded marijuana containers, dumping, ubiquitous sex trade, stinky winds that blow sewage smells into the bedroom, none of these facts of life in Van Nuys would soon disappear, but some attendees were damn angry and determined to speak up and put a stop to the madness.

“Why don’t you arrest these prostitutes and ship them up to Nevada where it’s legal!” one man yelled. “They’ve been at it for forty years on Sepulveda.” And I pictured a sad whore, walking in the sun since 1975, wrinkled, abused and hated by local homeowners.

Another new arrival to Orion came with his pretty wife and spoke about his accounting of the used condoms found on streets around his beautiful estate.

“Since August 1st I’ve counted 33 condoms on Blucher, 44 on Langdon, 53 on Peach Avenue and 27 on Blucher!” he announced. My mind, always visual, imagined a sticky, gooey condom near a peach. For his wife, inviting the grandchildren into the front yard while a sex act was going on in front of the roses and white picket fence was quite appalling.


 

Some gentle people seemed innocent as to the fact that they lived amongst violence and anarchy. “The Mexican Mafia? What’s that?” a woman asked.

Another older woman spoke of her son coming home at 3am and passing three young men tagging a stop sign near Valley Presbyterian Hospital. “He stopped his car and rolled down his window and asked them why they were doing that,” she said. Officer DeLeon advised that it was, perhaps suggestible, not to confront three taggers at 3am in Van Nuys.

If Donna Reed and her family were transported to tonight’s meeting they would fit right in. That old time Angeleno, who came of age after WWII, whose life was formed in a sea of childish televised wonderment , made an appearance tonight, as delightful and improbable as Walt Disney meeting the Devil.

The local sweeties who came for this meeting were the nice ones who make up the silent and invisible and powerless backbone of Van Nuys. They cannot compare, in numbers or influence, these citizens, to the 180,000 who are in Van Nuys illegally, and whose presence regularly is spoken of in terms reverential and pandering, as when immigration reform comes up, as if we as a nation are commanded to do something to break the system further and destroy national sovereignty in the name of political correctness.

These people who gathered here tonight are regularly told there is not enough money for law and order, but when I spoke up and asked the crowd if they would pay fifty cents a gallon tax on gasoline to double the size of the (13,000) LAPD and bolster it, nobody raised their hand. “Why don’t you tax cigarettes?” a female cancer patient asked.

There will no doubt be more community meetings in the future, but the prospect for improvement in Van Nuys is dim. Without leadership, even the best intentioned community group, even the best cops on the beat, cannot hope to overcome the nonsensical and insane carnival of crime that dances all around us day and night. IMG_9557 IMG_9552

 

 

June 24, 1960: Murder at 13944 Valerio St. Van Nuys, CA


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Crime scene photos courtesy of the USC Digital Archives.

Even in 1960, people in Van Nuys were getting gunned down and killed.

As originally reported in the Los Angeles Examiner, on June 24, 1960 police discovered murder victim Shaik Dastagir, 49, dead in front of his home at 13944 Valerio St.

Shaik Dastagir was the owner of a furniture store and two apartment buildings. He often carried large sums of cash.

18-year-old Jim Shields, an employee of Mr. Dastagir’s, later confessed to police that he had tried to rob his boss by gunpoint, but his boss resisted, and in the struggle the killer accidentally shot himself in the arm. Mr. Shields needed money to repair his car and thought he would rob his employer to get the funds. Conscience later caught up and the tearful suspect surrendered.

The dead man, of Indian origin, was also the brother of an actor named Sabu Dastagir.

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Sabu was an actor of some repute. Born in 1924, he was the onetime “Elephant Boy” of the movies, discovered in India by a documentary filmmaker who later brought the boy to Hollywood where he starred in several films, most notably “The Thief of Bagdad (1940) directed by Michael Powell. During WWII, Sabu became an American citizen, joined the Air Force and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery.

Sabu’s career declined after WWII.  He married Marilyn Cooper and had two children, Paul and Jasmine.

Paul Sabu (born January 2, 1960) is a singer, songwriter, producer, and guitarist.

In 1963, Sabu, 39, went for a medical checkup in Chatsworth.

His wife later said that Sabu’s doctor told him, “If all my patients were as healthy as you, I would be out of a job.”

Three days later, on December 2, 1963 Sabu died of a heart attack.

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Stop, Thief!


Yesterday, around Noon, I went to meet my brother for lunch near his office at LaBrea and Wilshire.

I was early. We weren’t meeting until 1pm so I took a walk along the south side of Wilshire heading west, passing Detroit, Cloverdale and S. Cochran.

On the north side of Wilshire, I saw a middle-aged Asian woman in a green apron chasing a red-haired, plaid shirted male east towards Detroit. She was screaming, “Stop him! Stop him!” He kept looking back and outran her, eventually boarding a bus parked at Wilshire and LaBrea.

I ran too, crossing the street, breathlessly getting on the bus and telling the driver, “You have a man who just robbed a store on your bus. He is in back. I am calling LAPD!”

The driver waited. I called LAPD and reported a “hold-up” of a store on Wilshire and that the suspect was aboard a Metro bus. The police operator made me repeat the description of the suspect several times (“red hair, plaid shirt, middle-aged, white”).

I stood next to the bus, on the sidewalk and waited. The bus and its passengers, including the suspect, waited.

Then after about ten minutes, cops arrived.

Two police cars, including one unmarked, pulled behind the bus, shoved the rear engine cover up and crouched down, drawing their guns. Another car of cops went in front of the bus, and the police told us to all get out of the way.

I ran to the corner with others, and we watched, behind building at LaBrea, as the cops worked.

Then the driver got off and pointed at me, and a cop, his silver gun drawn, rushed at me and told me to put my hands up, to face the wall, to get down on the ground. His partner also ran at me, and I yelled, “I’m the one who called the police!” My hands up in the air, guns aimed at me, I was suddenly endangered and suspected of something. I don’t know what.

I was told to hand over my wallet and ID. And then I was allowed to put my hands down. The officer asked if my current address was the same as the one on my driver’s license.

“Yes, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir…”

The suspect was removed from the bus, laid down on the sidewalk, handcuffed, and the other passengers got off and ran to another bus, parked down the street.

My brother came out of his office in the Samsung Tower, crossed the street, and asked me what happened.

Sweat poured down my face. We walked over to a restaurant for lunch. I ordered an iced tea, sat down at a table, wiped my face with a napkin and told him the true crime story.

Later, after lunch, I walked down Wilshire to find the lady who had been chasing the robber. I found her inside a little Korean convenience store. The cops had already visited her. Speaking not much English, she thanked me for my apprehension of the suspect, an action that might have ended my own life.

She gave me a cold iced tea.

Oh, and she said the thief had stolen three packs of cigarettes.