Friday, April 29, 2011

April 29th, 1992

Los Angeles, CA

Nineteen years ago today LAPD officers Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno stood trial on charges of assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force for the brutal beating of Rodney King, a parolee who was pulled over by the CHP for speeding and reckless driving.

All four officers were acquitted on the charges of assault and the jury deadlocked on Powell's excessive force charge.

And Los Angeles went bugfuck.

Six days later fifty-three people were dead, 2000 people injured. Around 3600 fires had been set destroying 1100 buildings costing between 800 million and a billion dollars in damages. The California National Guard came in to set up checkpoints and enforce curfews.

The cause of the riots is not simple and is debated to this day. Racial tensions, money, politics, an Us vs Them mindset between the police and the community. Like all riots it shifted rapidly from any sort of political protest to blatant looting, making it easy to dismiss real world problems as common thuggery.

My memories of the event are chaotic at best. It was nineteen years ago, after all. I can't remember last week. Hell, I forget my own fucking birthday sometimes.

But here are a few things:

  • Traffic jams on Lincoln, people getting out of their cars to help direct and move cars out of the way because all of the police were somewhere else on tac alert. Ambulances weaving through the gridlock of cars. Better route than the one I had planned, which went by the burning shopping mall.
  • Standing in line at an almost empty grocery store talking to a Vietnam Vet who was there when the U.S. pulled out. Looking around, shaking his head and saying it reminded him of Saigon. Not an encouraging conversation.
  • Driving down to USC to help a near stranger get her stuff and get the hell out of there after she tells me about the dead guy in front of her dorm.
  • Friend of mine in the National Guard called up for duty and stuck in South L.A. with a gun, but no ammunition. Hey, at least the gangbangers giving him shit across the street were locked and loaded.
  • Paramedics getting shot. Guys on rooftops with shotguns.
  • Thinking I was well away from any of the crap going on when my roommate turns on the television and says, "Huh. Isn't that right down the street?"  And then hearing gunfire in the distance.

In all, I got off light. No one I knew was pulled out of their truck and beaten, or shot at, or stabbed. Nobody had their car stolen, or their house broken into. For the most part it swept right past me.

But for a lot of people it didn't.

We're a different city now, but not so different that something like this couldn't happen again. There's just as much rage, just as much as poverty. Our unemployment rate hovers just over 12%.

Nineteen years on and we're still a powder keg.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

like a trifle

In the opening to his collection of poems IS 5, E.E. Cummings writes, "If a poet is anybody, he is somebody to whom things made matter very little--somebody who is obsessed by Making."

It's an excellent point. Writers are creators. We can't not do it. Even if we try. We build words into sinew and bone, breathe life with verbs. We twist the world to suit us.

And sometimes the world twists back.

You can see that twisting in the latest issue of THE LINEUP: POEMS ON CRIME, edited by Gerald So, Reed Farrel Coleman, Sarah Cortez, and R. Narvaez.

These are, after all, poems on the horrible things we do to each other. Out of desperation, anger, sometimes even love. Joy is subverted, hope bent back in on itself.

Take Coleman's poem SLIDER, PART 7 about wartime murder, which ends with an image of bodies buried one atop the other.

"Layers and layers
like a trifle"

And like all great poetry these are all layers and layers. Nancy Scott's THE SHEARLING is as much about a boy stealing to survive as much as it is about young love. Paul Hostovsky's poem STEALING THE BOWLING SHOES isn't, as he says in his opening line, about the shoes, but about oh so many other things.

As with previous issues of THE LINEUP, the editors have collected a vast array of talent, Ken Bruen, Stephen Jay Schwartz, Steve Weddle, Keith Rawson, Kieran Shea and many others.

You owe it to yourself to pick up a copy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lateral Thinking

Azusa, CA

Question: You're barricaded in a motel with armed police outside.  You've got a gun, sure, but they've got more.  All the exits are blocked by cops.  What do you do?

Answer: Make your own exit.

Azuza police received a domestic disturbance call around 3am from the Arrow Inn Motel this morning from a woman claiming that one Fernando Sanchez, 34, was making threats and brandishing a handgun.

When they arrived police Mr. Sanchez refused to come out of his room, prompting an hour and a half stand-off before the cops just said fuck it and went on in.

Where they found a hole he had kicked through the wall leading to the next room.  And another hole next door.  And another.  And another.  And another.  He tunneled through a total of five rooms looking for a way out.  Talk about paper thin walls.  

Anyway, Sanchez has been booked on suspicion of making criminal threats, brandishing a firearm, battery, felony vandalism (about $3K in damages to the motel), resisting arrest and violation of a restraining order.

A for effort, I guess.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Laid Low By Mister Peanut

Los Angeles, CA

Tattoos can be so many things. Symbols, a chronicle of life's events, a warning to others of what not to let your friends needle into your forehead when you're passed out in an alley in Galveston.

Sometimes, they can even lead to homicide convictions.

Back in 2004 23-year-old John Juarez was shot to death in a Pico-Rivera liquor store. Detectives were stumped.  The murder went into the cold case file.

And then L.A. Sheriff's deputies arrested Anthony Garcia on an unrelated offense. Turns out he had tattooed the murder scene onto his chest. Had the liquor store, the streetlamp across the street, the way the body fell, the name of the gang, Rivera-13, that did the hit. The body of Juarez was pictured as a peanut, a rival gang member.  Top hat and everything.

L.A. County Sheriff's detective Kevin Lloyd, who had been at the scene of the 2004 slaying caught sight of the tat while flipping through mugshots in 2008. One thing led to another and a couple years later Garcia's rattling on to a Sheriff's detective in a jail cell about how he murdered the guy.

Of course he thought he was a fellow gang member in there with him at the time. I mean he's stupid, but he's not that... Okay, yeah, he's just stupid.

I mean, come on, he tattooed his murder scene onto his chest.  Boy's not exactly Mensa material.

(Hat tip to Mack Reed for the link)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Best Laid Plans

Azusa, CA

If you've got a body to dump, then the Angeles National Forest is the place for you. It's got ravines, coyotes, cougars. Pull off the 39, toss that corpse out the trunk and you're good to go.

But then your back hurts from hauling 200 pounds of dead weight, you have to clean the trunk because you forgot to put the plastic down, and that never helps, anyway, what with all those potholes, and now you're covered in this poor bastard's blood.

What's a thug with a blackmailing bookie to do?  Easy.

Drive him up there, then shoot him. No muss, no fuss. Simple, foolproof, flawless.

Except for that bit where the three bullets you pump into his back don't kill him.

It's always something.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Beach Blanket Brawlers

Venice, CA

Venice Beach has been getting a little rough around the edges, lately. Oh, sure there's always some crazy shit going on down there. You got your Hobo fights, assorted brawls, Venice 13, Shoreline Crips, homeless stabbings.

And this last weekend we have a massive gang smackdown with gunfire, assorted assaults and a stabbing.

Fun times.

What gets me is how many of them look to be centered around the drum circles in the middle of the beach. Most of the ones I've seen have been full of Deadheads too stoned to keep a beat much less wail on each other.

Check out the video in the first story. That is a fuckton of people.

And just think, it's not even summer.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kiss Kiss Stab Stab

Santa Monica, CA

And follow that right up with a Bang Bang, too while we're at it.

Santa Monica PD responded to a domestic dispute last night in the 2400 block of Ocean Park Boulevard. Next door neighbor called them when the apartment got broken into. Turns out her ex was inside losing his shit. Cops broke through a window to find him stabbing the holy hell out of her.

Unsurprisingly, they shot him.

He's dead and she might be joining him soon. She's in the hospital with life threatening injuries.

Love makes you do weird things. But this ain't love. This is psycho obsessive bullshit. Macho male privilege at its finest. Twenty bucks says the word "disrespect" pops up before "schizophrenia" does.

Never sad to see psychos like this guy take a few rounds to the head. Wish it hadn't taken this to make it happen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Embrace Your Freakitude

Outside of porn writing's got to be one of the most awkward occupations to have to tell your family about.

Think about it. You write an emotionally charged, beautifully told love story of the forbidden romance between height challenged, same-sex circus performers. You know what mom and dad are gonna remember?

Gay midget.

"It's okay, honey," they'll say. "We love you, anyway." And then they introduce you to Raoul, a little person from Brazil they "met" on the internet.

Doesn't matter that you're writing some of the most beautiful prose out there, somebody's going to jump to conclusions about you, your book, your inspirations. Cousins you haven't seen in twenty years are going to think it's all about them. Ex-girlfriends are going to give knowing nods and say they always knew that about you.

Write horror? You're a baby eater. Killed a woman in your novel? Misogynist. Asian guy? Racist. Wrote some bondage erotica? Get ready to fend off the crazies with the ballgags.

Every writer worries about this shit. We put something down and think, "Oh no, I can't write that. What will they think of me?"

And then we change it. We water it down. We don't go there, wherever there happens to be. Doesn't need to be lurid. Maybe it's just an unpleasant truth. And any truth is unpleasant to somebody.

You can't win. So stop trying.

You ARE a freak. Own it. You're putting word to those fucked up thoughts bubbling in the back of your head. You're challenging people's preconceptions. You're stamping your name all over them.

That's a good thing. Nobody changed the world by saying the same milquetoast bullshit everybody else is saying.

Be daring. Be rude. Be visceral and raw. Fuck what other people think. If they don't judge you for your writing they'll judge you for something else.

So stop worrying about it, sit your ass down and just do it.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Supreme Commander Has Patton's Balls

El Monte, CA

Most citizenship scams run along the lines of "Give me money and I'll give you official looking papers. Just don't look at them too closely." The point isn't to fool the government, it's to fool the mark.

There's a reason this works. It's simple. It's straightforward. You're in, you're out and the guy you just ripped off isn't going to go to the cops because, well, he's afraid he's going to get kicked out of the country.

But if you've got giant brass cojones, balls the size of melons, well, then you take it a few steps further.

Yupeng Deng, 51, a Chinese national, is being held on $500,000.00 bail for 13 counts of theft by false pretenses, manufacturing deceptive government documents and counterfeit of an official government seal.

What did he do?

He convinced a load of other Chinese nationals that he was the Supreme Commander of the U.S. Army/Military Special Forces Reserve and charged them $450 bucks to join up, saying that it was a path to U.S. citizenship. And to screw them just a little bit more he nailed them for a $125.00 annual renewal fee.

That's right. They paid to be in an army that doesn't exist. And kept paying.

He provided them with false documents, uniforms and "training", whatever the hell that means and he did it all in an office he mocked up to look like an Army recruitment center. He even got them to march in a parade in Monterey Park.

This is like some weird General Patton / Sergeant Bilko mash-up. I am both appalled and impressed.

I wonder what he did when he ran into real soldiers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Pulling Your Punches At Terribleminds

I'm guest blogging today for the inestimable, inimitable, insoluble Chuck Wendig about why you shouldn't pull your punches in your writing.

Go, read, enjoy. And come back enlightened or some shit.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

New In The Homeless Arsenal: The Mortar

Santa Monica, CA

Last week an explosion went off outside the Chabad House synagogue in Santa Monica. First it was a bomb, then it was an industrial accident.

It's back to being a bomb.

What took them a while to figure out is that it's a weird bomb. The explosive was in a trash bin, over which a few hundred pounds of concrete had been poured with a big-ass pipe stuck in the middle.

The blast launched the whole thing into the air and sent it into the next-door neighbor's house.

Either he hates the neighbor, or he's got really bad aim

Cops and the FBI are now looking for 60-year-old Ron Hirsch, a homeless guy who's been seen sleeping outside the synagogue and has been known to hit them up looking for hand-outs.

Creepy Santa

Okay, so what did he use? And how'd he got his hands on enough of it to toss a 300-pound chunk of pipe and concrete through somebody's roof? We're not talking the PC/Vaseline trick here. That's not going to give you nearly enough boom.

Anyway, if you see Crazy Eyes up there around call the cops.

And if he asks you for spare change, for god's sake give it to him. Never know what'll set him off.

Role Models

San Diego, CA

You know those parents who get all bent out of shape when Little Timmy gets a bad call at Little League? Yelling, jumping, freaking out. Calling the ref names, shit like that?

Even better when the coach does it.

Seems Pee-wee league football coach, Saivaauli Savaiinea got into it with one of the parents, 32-year-old Mark Cannon. And he hit him.

Hard. Now he's looking at felony battery charges.

So now one of them's in the hospital and the other one's in jail.  Way to go guys. You just gave all those kids an object lesson in why it's a good idea to keep your head.

Friday, April 01, 2011

No Happy Endings

Los Angeles, CA

My kinda dame.

Noir City, the 13th Annual Film Noir Festival opens tonight at the Egyptian with High Wall and Strangers In The Night.

Twenty-three of the movies aren't on DVD.  This is the only way you're going to see them.

Every year I say I'm going to see all of the films.  This year I will.  Got a pass and everything.

If you get a chance you should check it out.  It's bound to be a blast.  Always is.