My Own Personal D-Day

Glad I checked the archives: Today — June 6, 2022, is the 10-year anniversary of my very first day as a cadet in Rio Hondo College Police Academy Class 2012-1

Back then I was but a lad of (cough) 48 years, daring to put what became a frustrating journalism career behind me and undertake a very much younger man’s endeavor in entering into the field of law enforcement.

In the months after leading up to June 6, 2012, I’d done my best to prepare mentally and physically. I dropped to 220 pounds (10 pounds lost of which was my hair that I hadn’t mowed in more than two years).

I studied codes both radio and penal, ethics, history, grappling and a wide range of law-enforcement scenarios. My new Glock and I got well-acquainted at a local range. I could run a mile in less than seven minutes, three miles in 25, crank out 30 damn good push-ups and 60 solid sit-ups, and a whole mess of (band-assisted) pull-ups.

But all that work wasn’t enough during that slow drive to Whittier for Day 1 to prevent me from questioning my resolve on what coincidentally was the anniversary of D-Day in which in my own small way I was advancing nervously into foreign territory not all that confident I could survive the ordeal.

I don’t think I passed a single offramp the length of the eastbound 60 Freeway from the 101 to the 605 that the doubting devil in me didn’t say was an opportunity to save me from making myself a fool. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t listen, give in and get off at Garfield Avenue.

But I fought the fear and instead of turning tail back west I got going east with my impromptu battle cry as I got back on the freeway being something like “Man the fuck up and let us go see what happens!” And the devil and I did.

Fast-forward 13 months, and having successfully avoided/overcome the innumerable hurdles that DQ’d more than half of my fellow cadets, I stood on stage with the other Class 2012-1 graduates, one of the proudest achievements in my life. But that’ll be an anniversary I recall next year.

P.S. I was not kidding about my hair:

Barnaby Jones: Forty-Four Years Later

It wasn’t long in 1977 after my mom and I moved to 514 N. Wilton Place (she liked to call the neighborhood Hancock Park-adjacent, to me it was still Hollywood) that notifications were posted announcing filming of scenes for an episode of “Barnaby Jones” would be taking place in the alley behind the duplex property that we shared with the landlord next door — a youngish fellow named David Bruns who seemed nice in the beginning but turned out to be a more than partially unhinged Vietnam War veteran we had to call the police on a time or two.

I was 13 at the time and while aware of the detective show it aired too late on a school night for me to watch. I certainly was aware of its star Buddy Ebsen who I long knew and loved as the patriarch of “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Perhaps even more acutely was I aware of Ebsen’s costar Lee Meriwether, who was a major boyhood crush of mine going back to her time as Catwoman on “Batman.”

It struck me at the time as bit of a big random deal that of all the alleys in all of greater Los Angeles, a popular TV show was going to be setting up shop for a day in the one that dead-ended behind our modest residence. But as bad timing would have it the day of filming was a school day so I didn’t get to see a second of it. To add to my disappointment, Bruns, who was home that day, told me that the scene, which was shot right outside our back fence, involved Meriwether. I was bummed not to have been able to see Catwoman in person!

I don’t remember making too big a deal trying to catch the episode. As I mentioned above, it aired too late during the week for me. And bear in mind, this was still B.V. — Before VCR — when, barring lucking into catching a rerun during the summer, you either saw a show when it aired or you just didn’t.

So ultimately I didn’t, but for whatever reason that’s occasionally irked me throughout my life — especially within the last decade or so with the entrenchment of on-demand streaming that has allowed so many old television shows to be rediscovered by old fans or gain fresh life with new generations of viewers. Apparently “Barnaby Jones” is not among them. Sure, DVD boxed sets existed of the series, which ran for eight seasons from 1973-’80, but I don’t buy DVDs anymore and even if I did I was too cheap to want to invest anything more than my time digging a proverbial episode needle out of a haystack of several seasons. So instead I would occasionally check a variety of streaming platforms to see if the show was available, and most recently found it only available on something called MeTV airing Tuesdays through Saturdays at the ungodly hour of 3AM. No thanks.

Fast-forward to this past weekend and an author named Paul Haddad who I follow on Twitter (his handle is L.A. Dork; @la_dorkout) posted about how the Beverly Crest street his family lived on, Betty Lane, was the location where the gruesome milkman scene from “It’s Alive” was filmed (small world-coincidental to Betty Lane, at that same time in the mid-1970s, my godparents were his neighbors living one street up from the Haddads on Stuart Lane). Paul ended his tweet asking his followers who’s had a movie or TV show filmed at or near their house?

I commented about “Barnaby Jones,” which then led me to another round through Netflix et al to see if my streaming dreams had been answered. They had not. That got me to look up the show’s Wiki page and from a detailed episode listing figured the show in question had to have aired sometime during its last three seasons. I found one in the seventh season that was based in Hollywood, and a subsequent Google search for that episode titled “The Picture Pirates” led me to find the full episode on YouTube through a channel called MovieWorld. Scrolling through its timeline did not reveal a location appearing to be an alley, but it did lead me to discover that pretty much every episode of the series has been posted to the MovieWorld Channel.

So with that resource suddenly available it was time to get to work and with nothing particularly pressing to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I started with the last one of Season 8 and worked backward with a methodical scroll-through of the timelines of each episode looking for any exterior scene that might be an alley. While overall it sa bit tedious, it only took a couple minutes to roll through each episode and the process ultimately led me to finding my alley in Season 6 Episode 20 titled “Uninvited Peril” (link to full episode: https://youtu.be/escGrfETaFk) that aired more than 44 years ago on February 2, 1978.

For context/set-up, Lee Meriwether has just fled from a loyal husband and his batshit crazy wife who were holding her and a doctor hostage at his private practice. The clip below opens after Meriwether has run out with the husband (actor Michael Strong) trying to find her.

The large boxes that Meriwether is found hiding behind were props. I remember those being delivered a day or two before the shoot and being gone immediately thereafter. When the husband comes to a stop by the utility post before turning back toward the boxes, the land yacht briefly visible behind him and the fence is our crazy landlord’s car. I was bummed that none of the duplex and only that bit of the backyard is all that ended up in the episode, but I am pleased that the huge avocado tree towering over the garage in the neighboring backyard got some background screen time. The homeowner, a friendly Hispanic woman, would pay me in avocados for climbing up the tree when they were in season and harvesting as many as I could reach/bring down. She would take what she wanted and from my payment I would leave a few in the kitchen for my mom and then take the rest over to Lucy’s El Adobe nearby on Melrose Avenue across from Paramount Studios and make a couple bucks selling them there for a dime a piece.

And that’s it: the alley I biked up and down countless times, where at the dead end I set up my old Pitchback net and threw countless balls and strikes while entertaining daydreams of pitching in the World Series for the Dodgers — all immortalized in a minute of television. Their’s something pretty poignant about seeing this hidden and personal place after all these years, exactly as it was. Exactly as I remember it being.

I have MovieWorld and YouTube to thank for being a surprise “Barnaby Jones” repository, and I have Haddad to thank for his Twitter post setting things in motion that finally allowed me to cross this off my bucket list.

Assistance Is Futile

Late last spring I came to the aid of three eggs that survived a jay attack of the nest the bushtits had built in our backyard Victorian box tree.

It’s the same story almost every year. The gregarious communal bushies work hard together to construct their pendulous nest, eggs are laid, and ultimately either jays or crows find and destroy it and any eggs.

Rarely are the bushies successful in getting a chick to fledge, but in the most amazing exhibition of persistence and perseverance, they never stop trying.

I knew it was futile, but I constructed a wire surround with some old raingutter cover and zip ties that would not win any design awards, but might-could possibly protect against any further corvid attacks. I carefully put what was left of the nest with the eggs inside it and hung it back up in the tree, hoping to draw the parents back.

I pulled it down today. If it had been revisited by any of the group, there was no evidence to support that. The three eggs were still inside, one was broken, perhaps by an opportunistic rodent, and two intact — so small that they fit on a quarter with room to spare. Here they are photographed under my 8x lupe.

Modeling myself on the bushies ability to bounce back, if I had to do it all over again, I would.

Unintentional Bullies

When I was eight or nine years old I had a friend named Martin who, because of our size difference, would get a great kick out of surprising me from behind by jumping up on my back, putting one arm around my neck and with his other hand playfully slapping my head, all the while laughing because it was so much fun. For him.

He did it at school. He did it at his house. He did it at mine. He continued to do it no matter how many times I told him to stop — even after the one time his arm around my neck almost made me pass out and we tumbled to the floor, him laughing and me struggling to breath and stay conscious.

I never returned the favor or reacted in anger more than verbally toward Martin because my mom had made it clear to me since I was bigger than the other kids my age, I had to be very careful how I handled myself, otherwise I might be considered a bully.

I finally told my mom what was going on and she was very upset because she had inadvertently made me so worried about bullying that I was being bullied — however unintentionally — as a result. Then she did the coolest thing. Instead of going to the school or to Martin’s parents, she showed me what to do the next time it happened, guanteeing that it would be the last time. We practiced the maneuver over and over until I had it down. I was both nervous and excited to finally be able to get some payback.

When that day finally came, Martin had come over to visit one weekend. We had finished playing with my Hot Wheels cars in my room and decided to go to the park down the street. I had barely cleared my doorway ahead of Martin to tell my mom in the kitchen when he executed his signature move and started cuffing me about the head, giggling.

I did as my mom instructed: “Stop it!” I yelled. He didn’t. My mom heard me and came out of the kitchen into the living room. I guess I must’ve had a resigned look on my face standing there in the hallway with this kid two-thirds my size hanging off me, because I saw her stifle a smile and replace it with dead seriousness.

“Do you remember what we practiced?” she asked.

“Yes.” I answered.

“Well then go ahead.”

“Now?”

She nodded.

And with Martin giggling and me looking straight at her, my right hand shot back and got good hold of a fistful of Martin’s hair. Leaning forward and pulling him with me, his laughter abruptly turned into a surprised “Hey!?” after which I wasted no time driving my left elbow as hard as I could into his stomach. Martin let out an “Ooof!” and his arm was no longer around my neck and he was off me. In a heap on the carpet looking up trying to find his breath he stammered “Whadya. Do. That. For?”

“I told you over and over to stop jumping on me and you never listen.” I held out a hand and helped him to his feet. “Now you know what’s going to happen if you ever do it again, OK?”

His answer was to rub his stomach and frown in an awkward silence my mom finally broke with a wink at me, asking “Where you guys off to now?” A smile replacing her serious look.

“The park,” I said. “You still wanna go, Martin?”

He stood there undecided, a little sore, and a little sullen at the realization that he’d suddenly lost something he’d enjoyed.

“No hard feelings?”

“Sure,” he said and off we went.

What A Difference A Change Makes

I’m about seven weeks or so into my latest and most favorite evar bike route to and from work that runs roughly 8.5 miles between my home in Silver Lake and my office in Jefferson Park.

It is almost exclusively through quiet (or quieter) residential streets, with the exception of a section on Adams Boulevard which blessedly having recently been dramatically reconfigured between Crenshaw and Fairfax now sports ultra-wide buffered bike lanes.

The route is not without its faults — none across Los Angeles is — but its biggest has been the transition to its third act in the mornings, which begins with a run south on 6th Avenue from Pico Boulevard. Almost exclusively I’ve been getting there in the mornings and coming back evenings through the intersection of Norton Avenue at Pico, which is awkward if I’m being kind and a shitshow if I’m being honest. Thanks to a giant landmarked old church building on the south side of Pico Norton north of that boulevard and Norton south of it are not aligned, and especially in the mornings Pico is always gridlocked with traffic heading west. Couple that to traffic signal timers that heavily favor Pico, when and if I finally get the greenlight to proceed (it’s acutally a pretty big if as I’m forced to roll over and punch the pedestrian beg button if there are no other vehicles waiting with me), I have to often thread somewhat precariously through blocking vehicles whose drivers are far more concerned with getting past the jam than waiting for some old white dude on a bike to get across it safely. Once through that I hang a tight right to access 6th Avenue, which while a two-way street, at that point is ridiculously little more than an alley entrance with parking allowed on its east curb. And because of that narrowness I have to be very mindful of any oncoming vehicles, most of the drivers of which are far more preoccupied with getting onto Pico than with sharing the road.

Here’s a route map that shows what I’m talking about. That blue squiggle (blue means slooooooow travel speed) is a GPS representation of me arriving at Pico on Norton, having to roll onto the sidewalk to press the beg button and then return to await an eternity for a green:

There’s a reason Norton has a No in it.

Norton Avenue from Pico north to Country Club Drive is in and of itself an aggravation, relatively heavily trafficked and often pocked with double-parked vehicles that need to be navigated around.

But habits tend to cement pretty speedily and that’s been the way I’ve come and gone — until yesterday morning. For whatever reason as I was westbound on Country Club Drive approaching 4th Avenue, I thought “what the hell” and hung a left onto it. To my satisfaction I found it substantially less crowded as well as less impacted by double parkers (who I hold in a disdain second only to those who park in bike lanes).

To add joy to my satisfaction, once I crossed Pico (by the way: much quicker and smoother than when crossing at Norton), a very nice buffered bike lane begins that I rode only one block to 15th Street, where I hung a right, traveled two blocks west and then hung a left onto 6th Avenue headed south. Grinning all the way.

Here’s a route map of that (note the lack of blue squiggles:

4th Avenue, I love you!

Is this a little thing? In the grand scheme, of course. But from my perspective looking over a set of handlebars as I thread a bike through a big city, I can’t overestimate the importance and value of such a discovery.

Perishable Skills

I’ve been mentally beating myself up over a confrontation yesterday, after being honked at and screamed at by a speeding motorist to “Stay in the bike lane” while going around another parked car in it.

Of course: the motorist thought he’d left me in his wake, but of course I caught up to him at the next red. I tried to convince myself just to “let it go,” but as I drew closer and the gasshat either needed gas or figured out he wasn’t going to get away with the harassment scot-free, he ironically drove in the bike lane about a block to bypass the traffic stacked up in the No. 2 lan and to dive into a gas station. Empty gas tank, empty head or both? Who knows.

When I arrived I ignored my better self and circled around his car to get a better look at the driver. He got out not liking that at all, and like a fear-aggressive dog feigned a charge, barking at me to “get the eff away from his car,” which I did while remaining on the bike, which put me at a disadvantage, but I didn’t want him to see it as a cue to escalate. Just because a dog is frightened doesn’t mean it won’t bite.

GIF: Unrepentant. Entitled.

Anyway we fuck-you’d at each other for a few moments. He strangely made it a race thing but it all ended without anyone going to jail and me riding away upset for two reasons.

The first and least important is that I reaffirmed for the 1929467567888th time that I share the road with motherfuckers. Proud ones. Unrepentant ones. Who’ll harass and terrorize others with a total disregard and then make it your fault when you call bullshit. These people just suck on a molecular level as if it’s in their DNA.

The second and most important reason I was upset is that I so readily violated my golden road rule: THOUGH SHALL NOT ENGAGE.

I was most dramatically taught that back in 2009 with a similar incident. But no matter how much I make it my mantra it’s clearly a perishable skill, perhaps one that needed this egregious incident — the worst since I started riding again — to reboot/remind/reinforce. It shouldn’t have.

The rest of my ride home I was like Eeyore on a bike, slowly and ultra-glumly pedaling, terrifically bummed out at such a lapse.

And when I got there, I told Susan I could use a hug, which she lovingly provided and when she asked why, I said “Some days you slay the dragon, some days the dragon slays you and some days you slay yourself.”

Officer Discretion

So on my morning bike commute March 10, 2022, I was rolling west on 11th Street approaching Normandie, when I saw in my rear mirror an LAPD patrol car about a half-block behind me. At Mariposa Street, the next intersection, I slowed, cleared it of cross traffic and kept going, after which the officer driving also rolls the intersection,

For the record, this is how I ride, whether or not a police officer is present: Upon approaching an intersection be it a four-way stop or two-way, I slow, clear it from both directions, and if safe keep going. If there are any vehicles either approaching or stopped at the intersection, I will yield the right of way to them. Is it a violation? Yep. The law is clear in that just like any multi-ton motor vehicle I am obligated to come to a full and complete stop at every stop sign before proceeding. Have I been cited for it before? Yep. Is there a chance I’ll be cited for it in the future? Sure. In fact, I was expecting to get cited for it this morning — or at least pulled over and chastised.

Because as you’ll see in the above video from my rear-facing helmet cam, after the aforementioned LAPD cruiser executed the same violation I had done, the officer appears to speed up. Perhaps it was in an attempt to pull along side me and just warn me what a bad bicyclist I was. But stopped vehicles lined up from the red light ahead at Normandie prevented him from coming up next to me as I continued to the limit line, so instead he pulled in directly to a stop behind me while we waited and waited for the green light.

Badge Of Honor

I was quite surprised he didn’t light me up. Maybe it was the cameras on my helmet. Maybe it was the old “Los Angeles Bike Battalion” badge I have pinned to my backpack replete with a black band representing all those cyclists who’ve lost their lives on these streets. Maybe the officer had better things to do than detain and write up some old guy on a bike for executing a completely safe slow-roll through a residential area stop sign. I don’t know why, but he exercised his discretion — as he should have. The light turned green, I continued west on 11th. He turned right on Normandie.