In a Grieving Mood

The first anniversary of her death will be on September 1st.

In the year since my mother died, I have experienced days of grief that just came over me, an intense sadness: unshakeable, persistent and gripping.

And then, inexplicably, the darkness leaves and I’m set back into temporary equilibrium. I no longer cry easily and my laughing is real.

But the fragile happiness goes away again, and then the days of moodiness, anger, sadness, loneliness, self-destructive thoughts and a yearning to have someone hold and comfort me, comes back.

These are those days: these late August days.


Since I was a kid I’ve always hated August.

I hated its hotness and its humidity. I hated its interminable thirty-one days of family beach vacations. I hated coming back to “reality”, to school and to work. I hated August holding us in its grip of tall corn and short tempers, melted ice cream and burning asphalt. August is the threat of impending hurricane, school, and work held back by the ruse of calendar.


There is really nobody close to reach out to.

The advice, always, is to just get busy with something. If you had a full-time job, if you had kids, you wouldn’t be in this state-of-mind.

I think of that stinging indictment delivered by a friend in Chicago: “You’ve chosen a selfish life.”  How selfish to feel.

So I go to MacLeod Ale and have a few beers and talk to people I know, not about anything deep, just something human and non-virtual.


I hire a model and take photos and think I’m taking great photos. He puts them on his Instagram and I put them on mine. And then he takes my photos off his Instagram. And I close down mine.

There is no solace or satisfaction in art when you go online. What seems great to you is crap if it doesn’t garner 8,000 likes.

There is a mighty fine job interview with some super smart people and the opportunity to work on something interesting. It pays well, it’s nearby, it might turn out to be stimulating.

So I go in for the job meeting and then I wait for an answer.

And I must stop myself from imagining the rejection, even though that is what happens most of the time.

This morning I wake up and see a gruesome news story about the killing of a news reporter and her photographer, the wounding of another woman, and the pursuit and eventual death of the suspect.

It is just another morning of murder in America, refreshed every single day by the shooting of some other strangers in some other states.

I follow the story of the news crew killings on Twitter. They reveal the identity of the killer. Then he posts his POV video on Facebook and I watch it.

What kind of madness is this?

Is social media making people ill?

We are all enraged by something. The ubiquitious gun and smart phone make our most bestial and primitive urges possible. We can act, produce and distribute our own unspeakable fantasies for the world’s consumption and entertainment.

In this new epoch of human life we are  all Gods stage managed by the Devil.

I decide the cure is to lessen my place in the virtual world. I will delete something, I will stop doing something online, I will take my eyes and thoughts out of the Internet.


When you are in mourning, they say there is no time- table for recovery. You imagine that the hour will arrive where grief, a monster of no particular form, shall scatter and take with it remnants of memory, love, and attachment.

You go through the day, in motions: working, cleaning, driving, shopping, cooking, and watching television.

You drink a beer or two and feel something elating, calming, relaxing and pleasurable.

And when the beer wears off, you are deep in touch again with something you tried to forget. And you cry and cry but there is nobody to pick you up and hug you.

You are alone, facing something final.

You are in a grieving mood.

Awaiting redemption and answers and the return of normal life.



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





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.




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.


The Barbara Jean Jepsen Murder: January 31, 1956.


Jepsen_murder_1956 copy

15050 Victory



On January 31, 1956, Barbara Jean Jepsen, an 18-year-old married woman, was found stabbed to death by her husband Joe Earl Jepsen inside their unit at 15050 Victory in Van Nuys.


The murder of the young woman shocked the city.


Photos of the crime scene exteriors are kept in the USC Digital Archives and offer a glimpse of detectives, in long coats and hats, gathering evidence and questioning blond, leather jacketed Mr. Jepsen.


As the investigation proceeded, other women in Los Angeles were also mysteriously knifed to death, and the killer or killers remained at large.




One of the suspects was Liberace’s younger brother Rudolph, 24, whose strange (?) behavior in Granada Hills caused neighbors to call police. Rudolph was later released and not charged with any crime.


The cottages where Mrs. Jepsen and her husband lived, and she died, have been torn down but are remarkably similar to ones still standing near Lido Pizza on Victory.


As far as I can ascertain, the murder of Barbara Jean Jepsen is still unsolved 58 years later.



Death Ends Police Chase: August 24, 1959.




From the LAPL files:

“Robert Lee Daily, aka John M. Savage, aka George R. Gibb, was being sought in connection with over 60 burglaries in the Hollywood and Beverly Hills areas. He was shot dead by Investigator James McGrath when Daily tried to flee from McGrath in Encino. Detectives carry body of Robert Lee Daily, burglary suspect, from car in Encino after he was shot by district attorney’s investigator when he assertedly tried to get away. Police found nearly $15,000 in loot in his Woodland Hills home.”

Meanwhile in Los Angeles….

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

Armchair Psychology Nation.

Dad and Son Thanksgiving 2008

Dad and Son Thanksgiving 2008

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.