Archives for posts with tag: venice

I used to come to the Rose Café every morning. For a scone and a cup of coffee and a table all my own. I’d prop open my laptop and the creative juices would begin to flow. I did some of my best writing at the Rose. There are certain comforting fixtures: the man who cleans the tables who provides a ready smile; another who works the parking lot wearing a brimmed sun hat and an easy laugh. Every day I would greet these men like friends. And then I stopped going. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was just a routine whose time had ended. I also got a job for a couple years, and the life of lazy mornings and creative cultivation went on pause.

SconeAndCoffeeToday I came back. I have needed to write again. I have needed lazy mornings. And I have especially needed creative cultivation. Everything about the Rose is both new and old. New outdoor patio. New succulents. New paint. New bathrooms! Same old staff though, now much more gray to my surprise. But today, even after all these years away, the men smiled at me and greeted me as if I hadn’t missed a day. Well, now THAT is like coming home.

The Buddhists have this saying, “beginner’s mind,” which is an attitude of openness, a lack of preconceptions. I am embracing the concept fully today. And, as a close associate of beginner’s mind, I have beginner’s legs. Because after several months of waiting for the early morning temperatures to stay above 55 degrees, I have once again pulled my bike out of the garage and started all over. Several months of not riding takes its toll. I have an extra EIGHT pounds I put on over the winter, which is eight more pounds I have to drag up San Vicente Boulevard with legs that have gone a bit flaccid and lungs that launch their protest. San Vicente is the perfect training road, not just a discovery of mine but of every other cyclist on the Westside. We turn out in droves, decked out in our finest polyester kits, and attack the road, which rises steadily at a 3 to 4 percent grade—what we like to call a “false flat.” There are only two lights, at 7th and 26th, then a loop around the golf course with a short 12% grade at the end, and back down San Vicente to do it all again two more times for a nice 30-mile workout.
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(This story is the beginning of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice.)

I thought that my only encounter with police detectives would be on television. I was a huge fan of Cagney and Lacey in high school. Before that was The Rockford Files, Barnaby Jones and Mannix, which I saw in late night reruns. And so meeting Detective Melissa Mora was highly unexpected, both in its delightfulness and its awfulness.

She showed up one night at my house and identified herself as a detective with the LAPD. She looked very much like television’s version of a police detective—blond, beautiful, vibrant and even tender. I had spoken with a crotchety, matter-of-fact detective that morning who’d informed me that because we had no evidence, our case was basically closed. The case was certainly not closed for me but I was still too traumatized to have yet developed any kind of formidable strategy.

As I led Detective Mora to the guesthouse in my backyard, otherwise known as the crime scene, she explained that she was just following through with things the day detectives hadn’t finished. I unlocked the door and let her go in first. The place creeped me out. There was blood everywhere: pools that had dried on the carpeting where I’d knelt over Jeanette trying to comfort her until the paramedics arrived, and what must have been a gallon more splashed across the tile kitchen floor. Bloody hand and footprints, both hers and mine, had stained the walls, the phone, the door, the steps.
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(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)


Even though all those late night cop shows I’d watched had given me the basics, I was about to be schooled in the art of becoming a police detective. I suddenly wished I’d been far more interested in piecing the clues together and solving the crime instead of being so caught up in the character development and unfolding relationships. Plot has never been my strong suit.

When Cagney returned to the crime scene the second night to tell me that she’d taken the case herself, she also revealed that the officer who’d been over to dust for prints had found none. So far, any attempt to recover evidence had been unsuccessful. But she brought with her a pair of space-age-looking night vision goggles, which she positioned over her eyes explaining that they were for the purpose of detecting sperm residue. Even though it was determined that Jeanette had not been raped, apparently some men get off on beating women, she told me as she scanned the room. Although I didn’t want this beast to have enjoyed the violence of his actions, I sure as hell wanted some DNA. I was already beginning to think like a cop. And miraculously, Cagney was already accepting me as her partner. When she removed the goggles and shook her head, she asked if I could think of anything at all that might help, no matter how bizarre or remote. That’s when I reached for the piece of paper that had been burning a hole in my back pocket.
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(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)


Jeanette had moved from Washington, DC, by way of Ohio University where she earned a master’s degree in film studies. She arrived in Los Angeles ready to launch her career as a film director after more than a decade stage managing regional theater. My neighbors, Rob and Amy, held a barbecue in her honor knowing full well that what Jeanette cherished above all else was a sense of community.

Rob and Amy lived in the duplex next to mine. We shared a wall, a yard and a palpable affection layered with dimensions—length, depth, breadth. We grew herbs and vegetables, we composted our waste, we ate like epicureans, and we enjoyed fine wine by candlelight, firelight or starlight. We believed in the idea that only the right things happen. We asked deep questions and attempted to answer them, and when we couldn’t, we’d divine meaning from both sensible and absurd sources, measuring each with equal weight. In a place where people came carrying big, artistic dreams, ours was an enclave of the idyllic, framed by a mosaic tile garden that was literally a work of art. Raised flowerbeds ringed the perimeter, a maze of concrete benches rose up from a tapestry of colored cement, and a towering fig tree in a vase of stone proclaimed its status as centerpiece.

From the moment Jeanette entered our beachside haven, she immediately knew that she’d arrived. I had been the one to tell her that our landlord was moving his graphic design business out of the converted garage and preparing it as a rental unit. I urged her to wait while he completed the renovation, not knowing that it would fall far behind schedule. Still, Jeanette was convinced that this was her new home. She spent months sleeping on various couches, including mine, while her tiny oasis was being prepared for her. When she finally moved in, she lived there for fifteen days.
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(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

I tried to muscle my way into the ambulance because I didn’t want to leave Jeanette alone but the paramedics held me off, suggesting I follow behind in my car so I would have a means of getting home. It sounded perfectly logical at the time but as soon as they’d shut the doors and jetted off toward the emergency room I realized that my ability to operate a motorized vehicle was nothing short of impossible. I was on the verge of vomiting, jumpy and shaking and sweating like a crack addict in detox. And someone was calling my name.

My neighbor Amy had arrived home from work but the cops wouldn’t let her into the backyard. One of them propped me up and moved me toward her so I could explain to her why a cavalry of black-and-whites were blocking off our street, lights flashing and bouncing across the front of the houses, flashlights darting into the garbage bins and alleys. I have no idea what I told her. It was all so nonsensical anyway.

Jeanette has been assaulted. No, I don’t know why. I don’t know who did it. I don’t know if she’s going to be okay. I don’t know anything anymore. People don’t just get attacked like this for no reason. At least that’s what all these cops keep saying. They’re saying it was a boyfriend. A coworker. An enemy. They’re saying she knew this person. I’m telling them she didn’t. She lived here for fifteen days. She doesn’t know anyone.

Amy called her husband Rob who was supposed to be working late but promptly came home to escort us to UCLA Medical Center. We stopped by In-n-Out Burger on the way, and the smell of takeout only added to my sense of nausea. Rob phoned their friend Mary who lived in the valley and had gone to college with Jeanette. Mary would know how to contact Jeanette’s family.

When we arrived at the hospital, we were told that the police thought it was possible Jeanette had been a victim of gang violence. As a precautionary measure, she’d been admitted under an alias: Kandy (with a K) Diaz.
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(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

Although Cagney worked the night shift, she stopped by the following afternoon. She was going to visit Jeanette at the hospital and came to see if I wanted to go with her. It was two days after the attack, and Cagney was on the case. The night before I had given her a copy of the notes I’d taken from my conversation with John Edward, and she said she had an idea of who the perp might be. She’d spent all night looking through the computer to no avail: the guy she had in mind was already in prison. I followed her to the unmarked vehicle in front of the house.

“Should I sit in the—” I pointed to the back seat.

“You’re riding shotgun, partner,” she said, smiling.

I opened the door. There was an antiquated computer console between the seats, and a rifle jutting up from alongside it. A bouquet of flowers lay on the passengers’ side. I picked them up and got in. “You got her flowers?”

She nodded. “It’s the least I could do.”

I shook my head. “I don’t think you’re a cop,” I said. “I think you’re an angel.”

Detective Melissa Mora had been on the Los Angeles police force for just over 20 years. She lived alone. She rescued pitbulls. “You should think about getting one,” she said. She had three rescues at her house for which she was trying to find homes. “They’re actually the sweetest, most loyal dogs you can imagine. They’re incredibly gentle dogs. People don’t realize that.” She proceeded to tell me about the three she was taking care of, clearly trying to entice me.

“I have a commitment problem,” I told her.
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(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)


Jeanette’s surgery was a success but her forehead had become infected so the doctors inserted a drain. The new device, in addition to the stitches, the wired jaw and the swelling, made her appear like a wounded alien. Jeanette had not yet gotten out of bed since she’d arrived—which meant she hadn’t seen herself. But that was about to change. Her nurses were eager to get her on her feet the following day, and her doctors were expecting to release her the day after that.

I had wanted Jeanette to stay with me in my spare bedroom during her recovery but I knew how unrealistic that was. Not only was I unable to spend a night at home myself but my spare room was just steps from the scene of the crime and her sister Karen would never allow it. Instead, Jeanette would begin her healing at her friend Mary’s home in the valley.

As the days wore on, I was eager to find some sense of normalcy but I knew that was still too big a word. Instead, I’d reach for equilibrium and settle for moments of stillness. They were fleeting at best.

I went to the gym to work out and discovered the anger I’d been holding below the surface. I pushed weights and pulled at pieces of equipment with increasing aggression. Would I have been powerful enough to ward off that attack? I daydreamed scenarios of walking in on that man, pulling him off of Jeanette and beating him to oblivion. With one, I used the frying pan. With another, it was a baseball bat. I ran through in my mind what I knew about self-defense tactics, and I imagined kicking my foot into the side of his knee and hearing his cartilage tear. He fell to the floor, screaming. I held a knife to his throat as Jeanette called the cops, and we waited for the handcuffs to ratchet around his wrists.
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