Archives for posts with tag: death


My favorite high school teacher is dying. I recently learned that she has end stage pancreatic cancer. Interesting combination of words: end stage. It makes her death seem imminent though I don’t know how much time they suspect she has. I hope it is long enough for me to have a dialogue with her. I have written her a letter. I don’t have an email address for her, only a home address. When time is so precious, I resent having to rely on the United States Postal Service. I worry that some scrappy man is riding a pony across country with my letter stuffed into the bag slung over his shoulder, and he may not make it all the way to Michigan in time.

What do you say to someone who is dying? The last time I did it, I was horribly inept. I talked a lot about myself, which is what I thought my friend Irene most wanted, but it didn’t feel satisfying for me. I talked without saying much. I certainly didn’t express what she’d meant to me. Sure, I’d told her often over the years, and she was clear about the depth and breadth of my love, but in my final visit with her, I had no courage. And I still feel ashamed.

It’s easier in a letter.

(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

I used to make it a point to call Jeanette every year on February 8th, and then she wisely proclaimed that she didn’t want to mark the day as if it were some kind of anniversary commemorating something.

This year, February came and went as best as I can remember.

Then one early morning, it might have been in March, I was in my car going somewhere I no longer remember. I weaved my way through the Venice streets heading toward Abbot Kinney Boulevard—the Melrose of the Westside. I waited at the corner of Palms and Abbot Kinney for the traffic to clear. On my left side was an overpriced clothing boutique named Steven Alan, and there was a man outside with a hammer smashing the ceramic lettering on the side of the building. The traffic cleared, and I eased my way onto Abbot Kinney thinking, hmm, they must have gone out of business. In my mind, for a brief moment, some construction worker was out early removing the signage. But then clarity struck me: That wasn’t a construction worker; it was an angry homeless man causing vandalism.

By the time I’d swung my car around and headed back with my iPhone ready to capture him in the act, he’d disappeared. I circled several blocks looking for him to no avail.

Later that afternoon, I went back to the store and told the manager I’d seen a guy smashing his sign. I gave him a description, told him the approximate time and left him with my contact information. Several days later he phoned me to tell me he’d contacted the police and had pulled some surveillance footage of a guy in front of the store matching the description I’d given him. He told me that the police had requested he gather all the material and show up at the station with the witness who could identify the vandal. We agreed to meet at the Pacific Division of the LAPD the following day.