Totally reorganizing everything…there were far too many words to keep on one website and even I was getting confused. So I set up a new site called brickpicks.com that covers broadly cultural things. It’s me in my critic persona. There’s another new site called brickspolitics.com that is my shill site, in Bernie-speak, though I thought shills got paid. Brickshistory.com is about the past. Bricksscience.com is about (or vaguely about) things scientific. Bricksbrain.com is about brains (mine, yours, anybody’s). There might be another site to come. Meanwhile, this here old site, brickwahl.com, will emphasize my usual storytelling and pretty writing that makes the ladies roll their eyes.
My wife and I have lived in Silverlake for over thirty years now. Excuse me, Silver Lake. Back when we moved to Silverlake people who had been here thirty years called it Silver Lake. Then they all died and it was Silverlake for a few years. Then it got on the cover of Los Angeles Magazine and was Silver Lake again.
Thirty years. Maybe 31. Maybe 32. Whatever. You think we would fit in by now. But every time we start to fit in the neighborhood changes again. Now we know maybe four people in Lago del Dorado, and none of us fit it. Sketch Hall, who lives over by the Bates Stage and does his laundry in the San Gabriel Valley because that is where all the Chinese restaurants are; Carey Fosse, who also lives over by the Bates Stage but never does his laundry; and Mikaleno, would hang out by the Bates Stage a couple sheets to the wind before heading off to Sketch’s for a night cap but who lives south of Sunset and you know how we north of Sunset people are. Actually all three of these guys lived south of Sunset. That just occurred to me. Shows you the class of people I have been hanging out with. But at least Mikaleno does some great laundry, perfect Navy creases, he gave me a lesson in folding a handkerchief once but no matter how I tried his looked like a guy who had folded handkerchiefs in the navy and mine looked like a guy who had been a college drop out. I can’t remember who the fourth person is. Maybe they bought a fixer upper in Highland Park and are being picketed as we speak.
Anyway, we used to be the cute straight couple on the street and now all the unstraights have moved to Boystown or out to the country to live in a cute little cottage and go mad with boredom and have been replaced by beautiful young starlets who could be my children if not grandchildren but they are far too beautiful so I must have adopted them.
And that is Silver Lake to me.
Once, at a nice little cocktail party in town, I met one of the women who’d proposed to Richard Ramirez. The Night Stalker? Yes. Why? He was nice, she said. She’d written him lots of letters. He’d written some back. He was into pentagrams, she said. She was pretty, quite sweet, a little off, but not so off that you’d imagine her wanting to marry Richard Ramirez. I didn’t say anything. You’d be surprised how tongue tied you get when someone tells you they want to marry Richard Ramirez. Of course, he’s long gone now, and the woman who did marry him–breaking this lady’s heart, apparently–is a widow who for the rest of her life will have to explain why she married Richard Ramirez. I doubt anyone will understand.
Well, Charlie Manson’s wife would. He’s going on 80, she’s young enough to be his great grand daughter. She loves him. Manages all his social media sites, and even cut an x into her forehead to prove it, though it’s just a little scar now. She doesn’t believe a word about Helter Skelter. He had nothing to do with killing all those people, she said. He doesn’t manipulate anybody. The only thing that he’s trying to manipulate people into doing, she said, is planting trees and cleaning up the Earth. Charlie is nice to everyone.
Richard Ramirez’s wife said the same about her betrothed. We don’t know the real Richard, she said. He’s kind, he’s funny, he’s charming.
I didn’t ask the lady at the party anything about Richard. I got a bad vibe and snuck off to the other side of the room. Everyone was eyeing her. She was pretty, after all, with very nice legs. She was striking in her black dress and lace and raven hair. She was crazy. And she’d wanted to marry the Night Stalker.
Love is a beautiful thing.
Post script: Manson’s marriage never happened, so I pulled this story, apparently. But what the hell, here it is.
Found this essay from a few years ago I’d never posted. It was back during that spell of ricin tainted letters in the mail, you might remember those, and then they popped the dude mailing them. He was from Mississippi, which automatically confuses a Yankee like me. It’s a whole other civilization down there, exotic, inexplicable and sometimes downright weird. For starters, the ricin mailer was an Elvis impersonator. That was weird. Funny, yes, but weird. This particular Elvis impersonator, the ricin mailing one, was a martial arts instructor on the side. Odd too, perhaps, but it would have helped with some of those latter day Elvis judo steps. But why an Elvis impersonating, martial arts instructing, organ harvesting (organ harvesting?), paranoid novel writing (one plot involved a involved the CIA, the president and a secret airbase in Arkansas) would send deadly ricin in letters to a left wing president and a right wing senator and sign his own right wing nut of an Elvis impersonator’s name makes any sense at all completely escapes me. But I did know an actual Mississippian, blonde and proud and drawling and belle-like, and I asked her how it all made sense. With antebellum grace she apologized and said she doesn’t watch the news. Oh. The matter was dropped, and I forgot all about it.
Good thing, too, as the whole story, it turns out, was screwed up. The Elvis impersonator was off the hook, it was just some wacko behind it all. Some small town hatred. I can’t remember the Faulknerian (if Faulkner was John Kennedy O’Toole) details. Fortunately, soon afterward more ricin laced letters emerged, again from Mississippi. The president got one again, and Mayor Bloomberg. No one got hurt, and they found the ricin in a guy’s refrigerator. His pregnant wife fingered him. She, perfectly, was a beauty queen, and more perfectly, a former reality TV star, a pregnant former reality star. Pregnant again, that is. Her earlier progeny by a flurry of fathers scampered about the house, the little darlings, cute as bugs. Most perfect of all, delicious even, was the fact that she had lied and it was not her husband but she herself who mailed the letters. Revenge, she said. Depression, they said. Some sort of deep south zaniness with ricin in the icebox. She’d ground the castor beans in the kitchen. It got all sad and tawdry and Tennessee Williams and doubtless screenplays are being passed around as we speak.
She’s in jail now. I lost track of her. Where once they brought her a crown and red roses by the dozen, now they bring her meals on a tray. That’s not funny or ironic, it’s just sad. Mississippi madness. There’s not a chance that a Yankee would understand it, not at all. Elvis and beauty queens and ricin don’t really mix up north or out here on the Coast.
I remember re-reading this thing a few times, and not liking it. Oh, I liked parts, but it was such a mess. I pulled things out and it didn’t get any better, so I put them back in, and it still didn’t get any better, so I pulled them out again. Then during a southern California heat spell a couple years back, when the air hung limp with humidity late into the night and there was an eerie southernness to everything, I wrote a beautiful and evocative final paragraph that talked of fireflies. I miss fireflies. Then the weather broke and I reread that paragraph and deleted it. Zapped it into the cornfield. I just tried rewriting it now but it was no good. So I deleted that one too. And now either I junk this thing or post it. I still haven’t decided.
If I could I’d vacation every year in the south, just to see the fireflies. I have fond East Coast memories of chasing fireflies. Maine fireflies. New Jersey fireflies. Fireflies like faraway fireworks on balmy Virginia nights. I wouldn’t chase them now, those fireflies, I’d watch them. I’d swat mosquitos and drink spiked lemonade and watch the fireflies. Then I’d fly back to Los Angeles and bask in the cool night air.
[A Facebook post….]
The wife’s tribal records still list her by her maiden name and we’re trying to get her name changed to reflect her married name. Tribal land she owns, etc. It’s complicated. They asked us to fax our marriage certificate. Turns out we were married so long ago and in such a technologically primitive time–1980–that the state seal watermark on our marriage certificate won’t show up when faxed–faxes hadn’t been invented yet. They asked about the file number on our certificate, too–but there is no file number on the certificate, since computers hadn’t yet reduced us all to ciphers. I believe we did have electricity, however. As the Office of the Trustee of the American Indian won’t accept an emailed scan (too easy to fake) I am going through the nostalgic ritual of putting a piece of paper in an envelope and then mailing it. Licking the envelope. Remember that? All those germs sent coursing through the mail. Saliva had household purposes. We don’t lick emails. Well, I don’t. Not usually.
Of course, in 1980, I would never have told five hundred people this story. We were not fascinated by the inanely trivial then. Maybe it was the threat of nuclear war. Maybe we were too high. Or maybe we didn’t know five hundred people. Whatever. So sad to invent social media and then use it to blow sweet nothings into each other’s digital ears all day. Or perhaps that’s a sign of progress.
And no, I did not lick this before posting.
One Saturday night a couple years ago we were out in Palm Springs watching their Christmas Festival of Lights parade. Fire trucks and marching bands and agricultural machinery and prancing queens and everything bedecked in lights and fiber optic cables, as beautiful as it is absurd. The parade goes down Palm Canyon Drive and we’d booked a room on Indian Canyon Drive a block away. Two minute walk. It was chilly, not a cloud in the sky, a bone chilling desert winter’s night. A zillion glittery stars over head, and faint smudges of galaxies unimaginably far away, so far and so vast it’s better not to think of them at all. We didn’t. Continue reading
A few christmas parties ago our techie neighbor gave us a robot alarm clock….you set the alarm and when the time hit it would go berserk and roll around frantically, bumping into things, racing about, its alarm screeching and whooping and generally being absolutely awful. He set the time for 11 pm or so, wrapped it with pretty christmas wrapping paper and put it under the tree. By 11 pm the party was truly happening, packed and loud and not out of control but threatening to. A good party always threatens to. The sofa facing the tree was full of pathetically stoned people. It’s liked they showed up, sat down, and hadn’t moved since. They couldn’t. They’d melted into it, become one with the fabric. It was almost zen.
Suddenly our neighbor’s present began thrashing about in its wrapper and screeching and whooping. No one noticed but the stoners, since they were staring at the tree and had been for hours. All the pretty lights. Now one of the presents starts thrashing about and bleeping and screeching and whooping. Ummm wow, that’s fucked up. Fuck. Dude, yeah, that’s fucked up. Then stoner paranoia set in. Maybe it was terrorists. Dude, terrorists at Brick and Fyl’s party. Fucked up. The whooping and thrashing suddenly stopped. Someone fired up a bowl. Continue reading
Signing my wife up for Indian Health Services to see if she can get a break on increasingly expensive dental care (even with dental insurance), the case worker asked my wife what tribe she was. She pulled out her tribal ID. Yankton Sioux. Don’t get many Sioux in here, the caseworker said. What tribe are you, my wife asked. My father was Lakota Sioux, the caseworker said, my mother Rosebud Sioux. They talked about South Dakota and I thought to myself in like Flynn. Sioux Nation looking out for its own. She wrote my wife’s name in at the top of the list.
If there was only an Irish equivalent. Somehow free drinks at Harrigan’s doesn’t quite cut it.