Tag Archives: writing

Dog Fight

5 Jan

 

Modern Art and Design auction, October 12, 2014

It was noon and the dogs were barking loud. I ran outside and saw a Mexican guy standing in the road holding a staff with a metal hook on its end. He had two dogs with him. One was huge and black – snarling and gnashing at our dog, Toby. It was a full bore dogfight. Toby was trying to sink his fangs in the black dog’s neck. Blood was going to flow any second.

I glanced at the Mexican and he was unperturbed, as though I should invite him in for tea.

I lost it. This was my house – my property. “Hey, motherfucker. Get your motherfuckin’ dogs under control!”

The dogs were locked together, beating up dust from the road.

The Mexican looked at me with a pleasant expression.

I took a step toward him. “Motherfucker! You think this is funny?”

He backed away, frowned, lifted a hand. “Tranquil… Tranquil…” and then yelled out “Marley!”

The dog didn’t stop trying to kill Toby, so the Mexican had to grab Marley by the collar and drag him away.

By then Sophy and Denisse and the kids had spilled out in the road.

Things calmed down. The Mexican said, in fractured English, “You don’ recognize me.”

“No, I don’t.”

“I’m live in the brick house.”

This meant nothing to me.

He pointed to the stone steps leading to our door. “I made those steps.”

I looked hard at the guy. “You grew a beard.”

The Mexican fingered his heavy beard. “Yes.”

The Mexican – Jose – made a gesture like he was flexing his muscles. “You were very fuerte.”

I took a breath. “You’ve got a big dog.”

By now, Jose had once again let go of Marley’s collar. My grandson Yalith wandered too close to the dog and Jose said, “Careful with the boy.”

I shooed Yalith away while Jose tied Marley to a utility pole.

Jose pointed at his two dogs. “Marley and Rita. After Bob Marley and his wife.”

It turned out Jose had come by to borrow our power drill.

When he left, Sophy said, “He brought that dog here before. It bit Antonio (our worker). Antonio told me if he saw that dog again he was going to kill it. Why does he have to bring that dog here? There was no reason. I told him not to bring that dog here.”

Is it madness? Or Mexico?

Fortune Cookie

22 Oct

 

Man Drowning

Jon, the producer trying to get me to write a film shot in China, told me a story about one of the Chinese industrialists he’s going to tap for money to finance the film, a friend of his named Yunru.

Ten years ago, Yunru was homeless and friendless, living in a mausoleum in a graveyard outside Chengdu. After seven straight days in the darkness of the mausoleum without a crumb to eat, he became delirious with hunger. Yunru staggered out into the sunlight, wailing, “I’m hungry… I’m hungry.”

In seconds, other homeless people emerged from the surrounding mausoleums, moaning, “We’re hungry, too.”

The others – a group of about a hundred – pooled what little food they had and gave it to Yunru. With his strength restored, the others began looking to Yunru as their leader. He told them he’d go to a nearby factory to try and get them work.

Yunru spoke to the factory manager and said his people would work for half what he was paying the other workers.

The factory manager turned down the offer.

Yunru then said, “Twenty of us will work for free for one week. We’ll show you that we can work harder and better than your other workers.”

The factory manager agreed and at the end of one week Yunru had made good on his claim. The factory manager hired all 100 of the workers from the cemetery. Over the course of a few months, production and profits at the factory were way up, attracting the attention of the factory owner in Hong Kong. He flew to Chengdu to see for himself why this particular factory was outperforming the others he owned. He first spoke with the factory manager who hemmed and hawed and didn’t give a satisfactory answer. The owner then interviewed a worker who said, “It’s all because of Yunru.”

The owner tracked down Yunru and in the course of their conversation asked, “Are you happy working for ten dollars a day?”

Yunru answered, “We only make five dollars a day.”

The owner confronted the factory manager, asking, “What are you doing with the extra money we are sending you?”

When the manager was unable to come up with an explanation, the owner said, “You’re fired. Yunru will take your place.”

As time passed, Yunru eventually had 3,000 workers under his control. He invested in coal when it was pennies a ton – now it’s over $50 a ton. Yunru is a rich man with a beautiful home and family. When friends come over to visit, he breaks out $100K bottles of Lafite Rothschild.

Pit Bull Puppy – Sukey

25 Dec

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Christmas Eve day. I was sitting on the concrete driveway of our house, trying to get some sun, when I saw a stray puppy walking by. It didn’t take but a second or two to see it was either abandoned or lost. I picked it up – a two month old female pit bull. It was a pretty color, a mix of soft grays and browns. The puppy was friendly and obviously relieved at getting some affection.

I walked across the street to my cab driver neighbor and asked him if he knew whose puppy it was. He shook his head no and I said if anyone is looking for her, to send them my way.

I fed her some dry dog food with a couple of eggs cracked into it and she scrabbled in the bowl, making the food disappear. I noticed her belly was swollen, which was probably a result of eating all kinds of awful things by the side of the road. I was going to have to get some parasite medicine.

I watched as one flea after another poked its head up out of her fur and then burrowed back down to her skin. I got a bucket of warm water and a bar of flea soap and dipped her in and scrubbed her down. The soap is strong and all of the fleas high-tailed it to hide under the hollows where her legs met her body. I hit them with an extra dose and probably killed a hundred fleas by the time I was done.

The afternoon wore on. She slept with her head on my shoe and I named her Sukey.

I put Sukey on the porch when Sophy and I had to run an errand. By the time we got back it was dark and we learned Sukey had either been let out by one of the kids or she’d wandered off. I figured if she truly chose to wander off that was just the way things go sometimes. But if she was confused or nearby I wanted to give her a choice to come back.

I walked up the dark street. Fifty feet way I saw a man with a child perched on his shoulders. It looked like he was playing with his Chihuahua or similar small dog, which seemed to be scampering back and forth around the man’s legs.

I got closer and saw that the man was kicking dirt in Sukey’s face. When she’d try to run in the other direction he’d step in front of her and kick another mess of dirt in the puppy’s face.

I walked over and picked up Sukey. I was happy to have found her and I just stood there for a few seconds. I hadn’t said anything to the man, who I recognized as the ultra-religious truck driver from across the street.

I said, “This is my dog.”

He smiled and said something I didn’t catch – something that sounded like an attempt to smooth things over.

I walked away, wondering about people. Why a man would take joy in kicking dirt in a puppy’s face. Especially with his daughter perched on his shoulders.

Coleman’s Blues – From BASEMENT

22 Oct

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Coleman leaned back against the park bench and ran his hand down his mid-section. At least he wasn’t fat. Husky, yes, but certainly not fat. And Lord be praised he still had all his hair. Even so, women took no notice of him. He lacked something, but he was hard-pressed to put a name to it. Try as he might, he couldn’t imagine women whispering about him as he walked by. It had been a sad morning several years ago, when looking into the mirror he’d been forced to admit that he was nothing special. For days afterwards it was all he could think of. He’d walk down the street furtively looking at every man he passed, wondering if the guy was special or not. Most guys were just like him, doomed to wear windbreakers from Sears. But Coleman saw others who did stand out. Men whose bearing announced that the world was theirs and they were going to enjoy every minute of it. These were the men Coleman envied.

 

From my novel BASEMENT, available on Amazon (If you’ve read Basement, I’d really benefit from a review on Amazon).

New Home for Rosalinda

2 Oct

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Last weekend we bought a horse that was in really bad shape. Rosalinda was starving – mainly because the owners could barely feed themselves. After only a few days, Rosalinda is doing great, being boarded at a house less than a 1/4 mile from where we’re building two houses. So we see her every day. She’s still skittish because we’re told she may have been abused at a rodeo – not ridden, but roped and brought down. Anyway, Rosalinda is happy now and whinnies when she sees us coming. That’s our dog Kuma under Rosalind’s legs.

Rosalinda

22 Sep

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Rosalinda

 

My wife has a big heart. She came home and said, “Lots of people in Rosarito are starving. They don’t have enough money to eat. A man tried to sell me a horse today. He can’t afford to feed it – its bones are sticking out. It’s going to die.”

We drove over to see the horse, a brown mare. First we stopped off at a guy’s house and bought a big bag of alfalfa, like we were scoring five kilos of weed. We drove to the lot on the poor side of town where the horse was being kept. It came right over to the metal gate. I grabbed some alfalfa and the horse ate out of my hand. Its ribs were corrugated, its hoofs cracked and what looked to be hard ulcers stuck out on its forelegs. A couple of guys came over and told us the horse was ours for a $120. We learned the mare was named Rosalinda.

One of the guys could hardly look me in the eye; his dirty feet were in flip flops and he was missing a couple of teeth. I watched the horse walk over to a water bucket and dip its muzzle down and come up dry. It was one thing to not have money to feed a horse; it was something else altogether to deny it water.

The guy who owned the horse wasn’t around and we were told we’d have to come back tomorrow.

Sophy and I drove up to our lot, where we were building our house, talking about buying Rosalinda. On the dirt road leading to our lot we saw a guy on horseback. Sophy stopped and rolled down the window and started asking the guy questions about the practicalities of buying a horse. I noticed the rider’s mare was sleek and beautiful; calm and following his commands. The guy’s name was Rodolfo and his mare was named Lucero and he lived in the same community where we building our house. By the end of the conversation we learned that Rodolfo was a groom. He offered to care for our horse until our house was built. It was clear I was going to learn a lot about horses from Rodolfo.

Instead of bringing Rosalinda the ten miles by truck, Rodolfo said he would lead her over a mountain trail, with him riding Lucero.

I felt like I’d just parachuted into a Cormac McCarthy novel.

Shame from BASEMENT

6 Sep

 

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Mike sat on the edge of his bunk in the semi-darkness. Slim and pale, his head gave the impression of being too large for his body. Shirley had noticed that he always wore a white dress shirt, though it was frayed and hopelessly soiled at the cuffs. The few times she had seen him out of his chair he walked as though his feet hurt. As far as Shirley could tell, whole days passed without Mike even turning on the light in his cell.

“Why do you sit here in the dark?” asked Shirley. “Are you angry about being locked up?”

Mike shook his head, “I’m not angry. It’s a lot worse than that.” Mike looked down at his Thom McCann brogans. “You know, it’s funny. When you’re a kid and someone says, ‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself,’ you never are. It’s talk, nothing more. And then, when it finally comes to you, real shame, I don’t think there’s anything worse.”

 

From my novel BASEMENT, available on Amazon

Smitty

3 Sep

 

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The electric drill whirred and buzzed as the final screw was sunk into a corner joint of Smitty’s Porto-Unit. Smitty and Coleman stepped back to admire their handiwork. The state issue furnishings were basic: a chair, bed, table and dresser. A tiny chemical toilet sat in one corner.
Coleman rapped a steel bar with his knuckles. “Looks tight as a drum.”
“Better be,” said Smitty. “This isn’t something you take lightly. In some ways, this little house of mine is going to be like a country. With one king and one other fella.”

From my novel BASEMENT, available on Amazon

Born Into This

18 Aug

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Spent July 4th by myself, blowing off an L.A. suburban party that would have created more anxiety than I needed. I preferred being alone, writing and watching movie after movie. I finally got Hollywood Video to accept my membership card from New Jersey. I dove into a four-day DVD orgy, one film after another – from The Squid and the Whale to The Devil’s Rejects.

One film I watched was the Bukowski documentary, Born Into This. In some ways Bukowski was his own worst enemy – the drunken persona he created was so well realized that it made him an easy target. I’ve loved the guy since 1976, ever since I read an interview in Rolling Stone, which printed his poem about the neighborhood mutt tearing the crap out of the doctor’s dog.

The documentary revealed several moments of vulnerability that aren’t expressed in his writing, especially a scene where, reading a poem about the pure happiness he felt with Linda King, he begs her to be gentle when she takes her love away. Remembering as he reads, sitting on a broken down couch in his apartment in Hollywood, the pain is freshened and he begins to weep.

When you add these moments to the mix of his accomplished art, only those with an artistic agenda could continue to disparage him. Bukowski’s not above criticism, but to hate him reveals a small heart. I’ve always felt that artists were working to create a huge mosaic of expression – each of us adds something to the mosaic. Critics who deny Bukowski his part of the mosaic – that’s an impulse inspired by a kind of psychic fear.

One thing made me laugh.

When Bukowski was 54, he achieved success and moved out of a broken-down East Hollywood apartment to a beautiful home in San Pedro.

When I was 54, I moved from a nice home to a dark studio sublet in East Hollywood.

The funny thing is, Bukowski would love this place, Koreatown.

2006

Whisper

11 Aug

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My block is getting even more gang-ridden; with foul-mouthed rap blasting from windows and shaven-headed Mexicans tagging the walls with spray paint. This season in L.A. the Blacks hate the Latinos more than ever; they’re executing each other in an ethnic cleansing of whole neighborhoods.

Where a white guy like me fits in is anybody’s guess. On any given day, I’m either Captain Kangaroo or Paladin.

There will come a day when I’ll have to deal with unwanted attention. On that day or night I’ll call on the ghost of Whisper, a youth who died of an overdose on the sidewalk in front of my building, the night before I moved in. For weeks, gang members tended a shrine of flowers, candles and snapshots. In the mornings I’d tidy up the shrine, up-righting candles that had tipped over in the night.

When I finally face the inevitable moment of truth of living here on this block, I’ll call on Whisper to save me.

(2006)