Ever heard of it?
There’s lots of murder here.
I said a fuck ton of murder.
There are other things too, like heart attacks and cats, but mostly murder. This town runs on it (murder).
Sometimes, even the LAPD gets to murder people. It’s an undeniable fact that Los Angeles absolutely loves its murderers. Luckily they have a great variety to choose from.
I guess I’m a coward most nights. A flat-out Adderall abuser to my awful core.
I’m a catty teenage girl with no soul. I’m Barry Bonds.
I’m listening to the radio police-scanner app on my new phone. My hands sweat as the calls come through. “Potential B and E in Westwood.” “Carjacking in progress at the corner of Hollywood and Western.” “Group of black teens playing in the park.”
The juiciest frequency is, of course, the Highway Patrol frequency. All the action takes place there. I can sense that these late-night Adderall binges spent getting cozy with the vernacular of our local boys in blue have helped paint a pretty clear picture for me. I’m already over-qualified to be the mayor of this fine city.
For now, I have fashioned some kind of living out of writing and teaching middle-schoolers how to project their tiny voices while on stage. This is called performing arts. The kids are full of energy. Energy they don’t know what to do with. I want to inspire them. Speeches, I seem to recall, have been known to inspire not-so-great men to do extraordinary things. I won’t list any examples. You should use the first one that came to mind. My speech will follow a short clip of Russell Crowe’s speech after winning his Oscar for Gladiator and will sound something like this:
“Now. How many of you have Instagram?” I expect most hands will rise. “Dabble with video do you? Try this: Mute your cartoons or clips of cartoons you now call cartoons and play a song. Change the feeling you feel as Daffy Duck takes shotgun shells to the solar plexus. To the ribs, and then to the face. Click play on your douchebag stepdad’s iPod and if Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ starts playing, congratulations, you’ve suddenly created a pitch-perfect comedy centered around our obsession with violence, not just as singular people, but as a nation and as a global race, and why for the past three decades (if not longer), we have not addressed how desensitization more than daddy and mommy not being home and even more than Halo or Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto is responsible for the foul-mouthed army of Neo-Nazis dedicated solely to exercising their tongues and thumbs via Xbox Live by doling out no less than 87 uses of the word nigger per hour.”
But maybe that will be too much for them. Maybe I will just keep preaching the importance of feeling important in a world so intently focused on making you feel that you are not. I could also explain that it only matters that you feel important, not that you actually are important because let’s face it — not all of you are important. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to feel important.
Maybe they will get it. Maybe they are smarter than me. I inhale another 30mg.
Back at home. On the tube, an ad for a fictional policeman show flashes across the set.
A hero cop becomes a national hero after saving a child from what appears to be a run-of-the-mill burning building rescue, only to be revealed much later that it had been a drug deal gone awry. They use Bowie for the background music and I’m sick for him. And what’s more, the whole plot, arc, and story have been told in 30 seconds.
I’m late for work.
NPR is on really loud in the Prius. Osmosis?
Jay seems alert and especially in tune with the wave of traffic in front of us. On the radio, there is talk of radioactive wolves not only living but thriving near the location of the Chernobyl Incident, 30 years later. The area is of note due to it being notorious for its potential to be radioactive for at least the next 350,000 years. I rack my brain for a solution as I chase an Addy with warm ginger beer that was left unsupervised in the backseat all weekend.
Come to Daddy.
If anyone knows anything about wolves, it’s Master Miller. I tap my codec and let him know everything pertaining to the radioactive wolves as I currently understand it.
He understands. A call will be made to Pliskin.
I turn off my codec and it dawns on me that I forgot to tell him happy birthday, but it’s okay because he never remembers mine anyway.
We are almost in Arcadia now. Almost time to turn on the lights and attempt something resembling a fully functioning adult human man. I make out “Persuasive Essay” in bold letters in pink dry erase marker on the board, and then when pink runs out, green. The children groan in sync. They share a decidedly acute disdain for writing assignments of virtually any kind, and this piece of truth crushes me infinitely.
“Guys, don’t think of it as an essay per se.” A much softer set of groans can be heard, but they are of the curious variety and aren’t as unified as the previous set. I continue. “Listen up. I’m the judge. You’re the lawyer. Persuade me that your client is not guilty of the crimes for which they have been charged.” Oohs and ahhs decorate the sound waves.
I particularly enjoy little Jane’s essay on why the Joker should not be held accountable for his murder of the vigilante known as Batman because she truly believes that Batman and the Joker stand for something bigger than just themselves. In her very subtle style, she explains to me that Batman only exists as a very ugly representation of America’s current state of affairs when concerning politics and the treatment of its people, while the Joker is in many ways a product of a radically expansive and diverse terrorist network, which exists as an answer to the long-standing, and rarely addressed heavy-handed police responses to critical issues facing poor people in this country.
Grab the gun. Plant the gun. Shoot the gun. Buy the gun. Love the gun. Be sure to make it your friend. Be the gun. Love guns more than your friends, your kids and yourself. Die by the gun. Police brutality. Torture. Unlawful government surveillance of its citizens. Etc.
I awarded the paper, an A+. Not because she earned it, though she did, but because I have always dreamt of having a piece of paper with my name on it hanging on a fridge with an A+ in the top right corner. I sign all A+ papers with my three initials as if to certify this rare feat. This perfect game of the educational world. Take a bow, young flamethrower. You’re a winner.
My last visit to Palm Springs was actually the first and well, coincidentally, the very last. I bumped into several species of dinosaur that I, a man of decent common sense and a genuinely healthy mind of no more than 30 years and eight months of age, wholeheartedly believed to be extinct for at least the better half of the previous 10,000 years.
I was wrong.
There they were — right in front of me! There was the T-Rex buying two tall PBRs at the 76 station while Joy slept silently in the Prius. Six o’clock. There’s another lizard person with tough, rock skin that’s more orange than Dallas Raines with the contrast on your TV set boosted to the max. Her lizard eyes pick up my gaze and she slips into a shadow. Gone.
Seven o’clock. Denny’s.
A kind of pterodactyl man wearing an entire suit of denim, could be seen putting on a brilliant little one-man show for whoever has the time to listen. Whoever has time to spend burning up in the 105 degree sun that we oh so fucking deserve. Time to watch a madman burn.
“You, me, we’re all gonna die! No one lives in the future. This ends here! They aren’t coming back!”
He runs off. He’s heading for the street, and is nearly obliterated by a bright yellow Dodge Ram pickup. Swiped him at least. He’s down, but not out.
I watch him for a little. I see him pick himself up.
I’m back in the Prius. I lean my chair way back and nap. Maybe when I open my eyes, the wind won’t be so punishing. The drive from Arizona has been long.
When I wake up, Jay’s face is covered with a thin layer of sweat and I laugh at her. I’m a monster.
I’m passing out.
Right up against my fucking window!
A velociraptor with a Slurpee cup. He jangles the cup. I look away. Not in horror, but in confusion. These dragon-skinned people were never meant to inhabit this habitat long-term. They are invaders. I take out the pocket Purple Majesty notebook and write a note to myself:
“Find out who the mayor of Palm Springs is. Find out if Palm Springs will be in my jurisdiction once I become mayor of Los Angeles.”
On a different day entirely, I’m grappling with a beast at Guido’s on Santa Monica. I am mentally preparing my exit strategy for a lunch meeting with Jack Hanna.
Yes. That Jack Hanna.
He got drunk, which is neither shocking nor important. He gets drunk every time we meet. He claims to know the Garcetti family. “Tight like a fucking drum” he says. He slaps the table like a drum and bites his bottom lip. Buffoon.
I wonder out loud how long it will take to setup a meeting with the Garcettis and how quickly they can endorse me for mayor once I’ve shown them my proposals — one of which is something I can only refer to as the Spider Extermination Commission, or SEXC.
He pretends not to hear. I lean in. “When the fuck can I meet them?”
“You’ll meet them when you meet them.”
A stray piece of rigatoni falls out of his mouth. An elderly woman notices it, and I’ve never been this low.
Jack says he believes in me and my policies even though he has not one goddamn idea what they might be.
Do I know?
Jack Hanna calls the waiter over.
“Two more whiskeys.”
Maybe I’ll stay.
Jack Hanna knows me. I know him. Jack Hanna is my friend.
Let’s see if I have time to make a federal case against the great state of California centered around ethnic insensitivity. A case about you, me, and who the fuck we should look to. Who in fuck we should look up to at this point in time. At this point in time, a great many of you believe in your heart that you are heading toward a destiny or fate in which you will be rewarded for doing what in any real society — any real advanced, educated, and human society — would be considered the bare minimum.
I was asked to leave the Starbucks. Removed from my soapbox.I was removed from the Starbucks. “I’ll take my business elsewhere!”
The police are here. I don’t talk to cops, though.
I head for Winchell’s on Venice.I rifle through the pockets of my gray tweed jacket. Jackpot. 30 mg of joy. No chaser. Smooth.
Valley Village, Inglewood, NoHo, Koreatown, Frog Town, Downtown, Hollywood, Watts, and Culver City.
Thursday is apartment hunting day. Our lease is almost up at The Harvard. The search has become frantic, yet focused. $1,100. One bed (or studio). Pets allowed. Central air. And so on and on and on and on and on.
I am enjoying my early morning evacuation of an undercooked Philly cheesesteak. There’s ’70s glam rock on the AM/FM radio in the bathroom. I hear a couple fighting in the alley. A gate slams. A woman screams. I shut the window. There’s a knock at the door. It’s Jay. She’s holding a small baggie and a glass marijuana pipe with some cruddy orange paint on it. “I farted. It’s gonna smell a little,” I joke.
She puts the pipe and bag down on the sink. I wipe, then flush and proceed to pack the bowl without washing my hands. Jay puffs the pipe while fixing a hazel eye on the alley below. There’s someone down there. An elderly man with a cartoonish curvature of his spine and what appears to be his son are ambling toward an already running, late-’80s Cadillac. The car is exceptionally clean. It literally purrs while black smoke puffs out like tobacco from a champion’s freshly lit cigar.
The spoils of victory. The boy does not assist the man in his quest to sit in the driver’s seat so that he may pilot his black chariot of infirmity. He watches as a machine, a motorized walker, does its best to propel the old man into a position of power — or at least one of mobility and dignity. Jay looks toward the hilltop overlooking the alley.
“That’s the Black Beverly Hills.” Jay, very softly: “There are people up there.”
I take a puff as if to numb myself in regards to what I am witnessing outside the window — through the screen, and most importantly, right in front of me. “Those people — the ones living atop the hill, they could see us if they maybe had a telescope,” I snap. Her gaze won’t shift. “All they would see is you video recording that old man getting into his car. Then who would be wasting their time?” I ponder her query, but only internally.
Unsure of how much time has passed, I respond: “I’m starting to think they will never see us. Telescope or not. We are not planets in a distant galaxy with the gravitational pull of all your worst nightmares come to life. We are not conjured up out of all this death. We live here too. Down below. Don’t you get it? It’s Rear Window through a classist lens that’s laughably out of focus when it comes to issues of the haves and have-nots. The rich watch the poor while the poor observe the elderly become dependent upon technologies they do not understand.”
My phone rings.
It’s Jack Hanna.
Jay smiles at me. I pop another 30mg and chase it with sink water. My head hurts. Jack Hanna is on speaker asking me about what my policies are. I tell him I’ll call him later and he seems genuinely disappointed. I smile into the mirror.
Sat down too fast in a downtown bar last Saturday night and became dizzy. Dizziness always makes me think of death. The thought vanished almost as quickly as the next round of poison arrived. We were having a few. Just the guys. The bar was cold. The beer was lukewarm. It was July outside and Hoth inside. An A/C unit had caused some kind of an outage, shorting the fridge — and now, like the energy parasite it was, it continued on living and keeping us cool while our beers died a thousand deaths before finding relief in the aterlife. In our chilled bellies.
Everyone in the bar was alone.
I wake up in the bathroom, again. Now I’m alone. The house is quiet. Alone is the best-case scenario for so manyout of whack Angelenos. Death is truthfully the real and optimal best-case scenario, but for the sake of this exercise in fictional scenarios, let’s pretend that it’s “alone.” Now try and pretend that you are not (alone). Join the circus.
Start a cult, and let me fucking join it! Do it wrong, get the fall guy in trouble (you’ll know him when you see him). Lie in open court, just like your mother and father taught you. Pursue that almighty dollar with everything you have to give, and when you’ve given all you can, steal it from the next man and make him give all he can until he’s just skin being dragged behind you in a cart that you’re too embarrassed to just “leave somewhere” despite the flies and the rot and the shit that’s still stuck inside him. Despite every single lie you learned in school. This is how the world works. Take. Take Take Take Take Take Take Take Take Take the red pill, my hand and this copy of The Illuminati for Dummies.
Fucking Jack Hanna is calling me. I turn away from the mirror to take the call.
I pull the phone away from my ear and end the call.
NPR is on at a pretty acceptable volume. The featured guest is a journalist claiming to have heard wolves howling near the wreckage of Chernobyl which happened about 30 years ago. I want to write about this because surely, now they’re “super wolves”, but I’d much rather speak with them in the hopes of gaining some insight as to how they are surviving considering the severity of their conditions. I would ask how they feel about the fact that rabbits don’t live long enough to get cancer, so they remain largely unaffected by the disaster. I would ask them if they feel powerful when killing something at a disadvantage in every measurable category. I’d ask them what it feels like to be alive, and what time means to them.
Oh, what a time to be alive.
Later that night, in a different part of town called Downtown, a man and his confusion go salsa dancing together on the metro red line.
Oh, it’s definitely the eyes that get me the most. So many pairs of beautiful eyes. Light eyes. Dark eyes. Mysterious and dusty, soot-filled eyes redder than Mars and hotter than a Sun that melts my chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream get rich quick scheme.
How long is this train ride?I take note of my surroundings in accordance with my most valued and treasured survival tactics. No threat assessed. Everything is calm except for the train as it moves along at what must be hyper-speed that’s been sped up by drugs and innate paranoia. I’m not blinking anymore.
Jay and I arrive in Hollywood, completely weightless, and I am ready to talk, but the best I can grasp at from the carousel of thoughts sounds like this: “I had that dream again.” Feigned intrigue on her face.
“I’m Luke, and you’re Loretta”, I snarl through a catlike grin as if this phrase could hold some heartfelt meaning to her. I keep smiling through her confusion. She kisses me goodbye, and walks up the stairs to her apartment. No one looks back. Anyway, I have to go. I’m late for lunch with Jack Hanna. He promised we’d go over my first proposal today. He says we can discuss the Spider Extermination Commission.
I’m a man about town. People think the best of me. I am in control.
At the restaurant, Jack is wearing shorts again even though I explicitly told him not to do so in my presence. He is also blindingly drunk. I’m starting to think Jack is using me for my restaurant connections. I sit across from him with what I hope he understands is more than just slight contempt and place several empty wine bottles on the floor at his feet.
Jack is already eating his favorite dish — seafood pasta with red sauce. Jack is the type of person who isn’t too famous to hand out business cards.
I’m pretty sure Jack Hanna has cryptomnesia.
He keeps giving me these hideous business cards of his, and we’ve been acquainted for the better of six months. Late last night, I used one of his business cards to pick up a piece of Ani’s dog shit, and I’ve never felt more alive.
The waiter walks over, but I don’t get to order because Jack insists that we need more time even though he’s already eating.
I should let his wife know that he’s up to his old tricks — that he’s been smoking those ungodly Marlboro Golds again. Jack Hanna is a trainwreck.
I can’t sabotage his marriage. Not yet anyway. Although, it would bring me (I imagine) an unsafe level of elation and/or giddiness. It’s not that I’m interested in Jack Hanna’s wife. I’m not. But I am very much invested in Jack Hanna’s unhappiness. All of that has to wait, though. He keeps hanging the fucking Garcettis over me like a carrot in front of some distinguished Philly down at Hollywood Park.
I know they are my in.
This is how I take the city back from the crooks — from the inept $3,000-three-piece-suit-wearing, buy-one-get-one-free, does-anybody-have-change-for-a-nickel, dime-a-dozen, self-aggrandizing politicians who currently hold this vice-like grip on my sweet City of the Angels.
This is how I interrupt the uptight clown show.
Jack Hanna is blacked out at the table.
I am Jack’s hatred of self — manifested as an entirely real person who participates in actual events, and can prove with some quickness I might add, that he is real — if such proof is ever deemed necessary in a court of law or any entity operating as a court of public opinion wherein said public opinion could result in public execution or stoning.
Later on, I feel alone enough to prepare a speech in the event that I do actually win the election this fall. I decide to wing it, and I begin to take shots at myself in the mirror.
I’m Clint Eastwood.
I can’t miss.
Deadpool. I’m still breathing.
I imagine someone in the imaginary crowd asks me about my beliefs, my principles, ideals, or any combination of those words or their synonyms.
“Ladies and gentlemen … I’ve traveled over half our state to be here tonight. I just couldn’t get away sooner. Yes. What is it exactly that I believe? That’s the question, isn’t it? What are the things that I hold closest in he hour of deepest despair? The trying times of self-doubt and ugliness. I think you will find this refreshing. No, not a bottomless glass of lemonade in hell refreshing, but refreshing all the same. I can start by saying that in stark contrast to my own somewhat sarcastic, yet most cherished upheld ideals about what a man should seek to accomplish versus what man is (based upon thousands of years of human history) more realistically, almost tragically destined to accomplish, are the beliefs of a man I have come to know over the course of a very tumultuous, bewildering, and rewarding 30 years of friendship.
I would like to announce my running mate!”
“Leachim Oznerol Retrop!”
It’s Tuesday again, and I’m just getting to the campaign headquarters. Things are picking up nicely. My smile fades just as I crack open the door.
Jack Hanna is asleep on the floor. Poor bastard.
It’s my own doing, though. I told him he could sleep here, unsupervised, so long as he agreed to sleep on the floor.
Judging by the hitch in his step, he took my directions seriously as he seems to have suffered some sort of hip damage. I smile a wicked smile, internally.
Of course, he’s only here because Jackie Hanna threw him out after finding a very carefully placed pack of Gold’s in Jack’s camera bag. I know I said I’d wait, but I’ve been acting on compulsions more and more, and the results have been astounding. I am brilliant. I am a genius. I am the voice of a generation of sheep. I toss a fucking Adderall down the gullet because I have an inexhaustible supply.
I think about calling into work dead.
The phone rings — interrupting The Bill Simmons Podcast. An unknown number appears at the top of the screen.
The voice says that he is Gil Garcetti.
“I’m Donald Duck.”
Gil doesn’t laugh, but instead asks if this is a “bad time.”
I run the hurry up.
“I’m busy,” I retort.
The word “lunch” makes an appearance. It’s quickly followed by the voice inside and outside my head: “I’m listening.”A lunch is scheduled.
A sleepy Jack Hanna winks at me from the wet bar.
I glare at him and deduce the meaning of the look in his eyes to be that he is afraid of me.
I am in complete control.
Featured illustration by VLADIMIR DE JESUS SANTOS, INK ON PAPER.