Chapter One

Wednesday Night/Thursday Morning

Last Wednesday was "hump day" so I went out looking for some. Maybe it was the full moon or the recent arrival of spring. Or, maybe it had been too long since I'd last gotten any. I checked out a couple of places but it was still too early for any action to speak of so I took a walk down by the water. Sometimes you can find some pretty women trying to be mysterious, but usually they're drunk and don't know what they're doing. It's easy to get them out of their clothes; they're mostly hanging out of them anyway.

Instead of somebody living, I found the body of a girl washed up on the beach. It was the first time I'd seen anybody D.O.A. in the L.A. Basin. With the way gangs like to shoot each other up, you'd expect streets lined with corpses. Don't believe that crap about the dead looking like they're sleeping. They look dead, just like a dog that's been run over and made into street pizza.

I had my little automatic camera so I took pictures. That's my job, taking pictures of weird people and awful things and then writing about them for the preeminent rag of Los Angeles, The Daily Purge. When we finally published the photos, along with the story I wrote about the dead girl, even in the black and white of newsprint, the flash makes her look even paler. She has seaweed in her hair and her eyes are open.

She still had her clothes on; the daily newspapers would report that morning that she fell off a luxury yacht by Catalina Island. I didn't believe it from the get-go. If that was true, the current would have taken her north to Santa Barbara. It doesn't make sense she would float due east.

This is how I found her. I was standing on the Santa Monica Pier looking down on the beach at a gang of Crips kicking the shit out of some old wino. They were having so much fun I had to laugh. One of them looked up at me and called me loco en la cabeza, "crazy in the head." It's just like a punk to call you crazy when he's the one doing the weird stuff.

All those greaseballs killed a "civilian," that is, a non-gang member, to be in that gang. Brave stuff, killing someone. Sneak up behind a guy sitting on a park bench. Put a gun to his head. Pull the trigger, and you're in. Easy as pie. If they really wanted to show how tough they are, they would find some other gang banger with a gun and shoot it out in the streets. The rest of us would get some entertainment out of it, at least. Sort of like the opening credits to Gunsmoke. Meanwhile, they continue to show how tough they are by beating up winos.

I don't believe all that sociology bullshit about disadvantaged minorities. They know white people are afraid of them and all that keeps people of color in their place is knowing the cops will come down on them like the end of the world if they step out of line. So, when they need to whale on someone, they find a wino to destroy because they know there isn't anyone who'll complain.

Remember the L.A. riots? Did you see any cops risking their lives to protect the property of the Koreans? No, of course not. The police beat feet out of Jungletown as quick as shit sucked down a toilet. "Let the monkeys burn down their tree," was the attitude.

I did a story on this. The next day every white man flashed down to the local K-Mart to buy shotguns and membership into the NRA. "Gotta protect my famb'ly from them fuckin' coons," said one citizen exercising his second amendment constitutional rights.

Did you see the scene on t.v. where the Korean store owners in Spookville are shooting it out with the rioters with AK-47s? That made a big impression on the people I interviewed. None of them made the connection the police made. The "fuckin' coons" had enough smarts to stay in their own neighborhoods. Had they ventured into Beverly Hills, Pacific Palisades, or Santa Monica, there would have been the biggest pig riot since the 1968 Chicago Convention. The only people with a chance of being safe would have been blond.

Given half the chance, the people living in my town, Santa Monica, would thank the Crips. The cops coddle the homeless people too much, is the way they see it. The "People's Republic of Santa Monica," is what everyone calls it. Somehow, the conservatives in the town elected liberals for the city government. Now they have to stew in their own juices. That's what comes from being a bleeding heart.

It's hard for outsiders to understand is that "Los Angeles" is a generic term as well as a real place. Within, without, surrounded by, and surrounding L.A., are dozens of little cities like Santa Monica. The term, "Los Angeles," refers to an area the size of Rhode Island; room enough for a small state or a large city. I can hardly wait for the big earthquake to come and take out all the freeways. Then, people down here can learn, first hand, how big the place really is.

Anyway, when the wino stopped crying out and begging them to leave him alone, I figured it was time to go. These gangs are like sharks; give them a taste of blood and they go out of control. They weren't old enough to tire out by hauling on a defenseless old fart; they might think I was just frisky enough for them. I've had people think that because I don't have any hair on my head I must be lacking in testosterone. Thanks, Samson.

So I went to the south end of the pier and walked down the steps to where the old guy and his buddies sleep at night. During the day it's upscale restaurants, but the moment they close up and the sun goes down, the fellows with the cheap bottles of wine come out of the woodwork and take over. It beats me why someone would want to pay fifty bucks for a dinner when they have to wade through last night's vomit to get at it.

Further along you get to Venice and there are a row of bars where the really rich yuppies like to go when they're slumming. It'll cost you three bucks for a draft and the guy serving it makes you feel like he's doing you a favor taking your money. Sometimes the women get ditched by their boyfriends or lose their way to the toilet and end up on the beach. Usually, they think it's funny and try to pretend they're MM in some movie and you're Yves Lauren or some other french guy. It doesn't bother me; they can call me anything as long as I get their panties past their knees and their heels up in the air.

That's what I was looking for when I found the girl. From where the light of the bars end I walked down to the beach. She was just above the surf line. The tide must have planted her there and then ran out.

In the moonlight you could see she had a pretty face and the kind of body men would kill for to run their hands over. Someone must have poured her into her clothes like jello into a mold. Too bad she was dead was my first thought. She had on somebody's idea of what you're supposed to wear on a boat; white duck pants, a blue navy shirt with little stars on the piping, and sperry topsiders. No socks.

I dragged her up the sand a bit just in case I was wrong about the tide. I must have looked at her for an hour trying to decide what to do. No need to hurry. Finally, I got the camera out of my backpack. I like to take pictures at night. There's something pure about night scenes in southern California. The smog is gone and there aren't any crowds. The lights only illuminate what someone thinks is important; their house number, the name of a business, street corners so the drunks don't get lost, and the sidewalks in front of the banks so the cops can spot the robbers.

The Purge lets me write about anything I want as long as I give them a thousand words every week and a sufficiently "arty" photograph to go along with it. In return, they give me enough dollars to pay rent and eat dinner on alternate days at Tom's #5 on Pico and Ocean Park. The fries are greasy and the chili dogs remind me of what I hate to step in but it cleans out the gut and I read someplace that's important.

I don't know why I did it but I told the cops about the photo. Because of my journalistic credentials, they didn't confiscate the film, but I could tell they wanted to. The Sergeant in charge looked at me like I was some sort of pervert and said I shouldn't have even moved her, much less taken her picture. Maybe they were angry because I waited until 4 a.m. to call them. Maybe they thought because my last name's Garcia, I'm a Crip. Maybe they just like to push people around.

They didn't want to hear how I'd found her or that I fell asleep waiting before I called them. They weren't interested in knowing my family arrived in the Golden State in 1814 and that I was more American than any of them with relatives who came across the Atlantic in cattle boats after the war to end all wars. They were interested in acting tough so I let them have that. If a man wants to feel big and strong then there isn't anything I can do except stand out of the way.



Copyright 2009 by Peter Stekel, all rights reserved.

updated on 04/07/2009

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