Sunday, March 20, 2016

Into the madding crowd

I believe it was in the early 2000s that LA Times journalist Jill Leovy first started reporting on the murders taking place in South Central LA.

Not from the aggregate, the usual statistical perspective that keeps murder and violence at arm's length (unless your arm can't escape the thick of things), but she took on the murders, one individual victim at a time. She wrote about his background, his life -- because it usually was a man, though sometimes, of course, a woman or a child. Who killed him and how, and the possible reasons why. Then the response from police to EMT to coroner. Notification of next of kin, the effect on the next of kin and friends, the funeral, the grieving, the aftermath and possible retaliation.

Gut-wrenching is a term that gets tossed about a lot, but maybe that's just because so many things in life do that to the gut. Her stories certainly fit the bill. 

When I still worked at The Times, a small group of us met with Leovy, and we asked some rather typical questions, you know, how did you research each story, gather information, meet with the families, that type of thing. And then one guy asked, "Writing these stories, week after week, does it take it's toll on you, personally?"

And she rubbed her arms nervously, up and down and up and down, and finally said, "Oh, I'm a wreck."

This Sunday's LA Times has Leovy's review of a book about the history of murder in LA from 1840-1870. Before it was a city at all. And like today in LA and the world over, sometimes violence is gang against gang, tribe against tribe, ideology against ideology, and sometimes it's got nothing to do with any of that at all. 

Apparently, the book also delves into the various concepts of justice. Something of immediate fascination since the internet has already proved to be the most successful instrument of mob justice mankind has ever known.

The book is titled "Eternity Street." Even if you don't read the book, read her piece. It's something more than the parts of its sum -- better than a book review; more than a discussion of LA's history, more than just really, really fine writing.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

It's a Boy!

For the past couple of days the cat had been sneezing and choking on her food, so I took her to the vet. It was time anyway, as I figured a year had passed and she needed to get vaccinated for whatever it is cats get vaccinated for. I know nothing about cats.

I was rather worried that perhaps I'd put off the vaccines too long. Maybe the vet would say, "You are a horrible, evil person; if only you'd bothered to come last month. But now, thanks to your lassitude, your cat has rabies, AIDS, and pneumonia."

The vet took her temp, listened to her heart and lungs, checked her ears and paws, asked if I'd given her flea preparations (yes), then picked her up and hugged her and asked, "What's his name?"


"His name."

"Uhm, it's ..."


"Billy. His name is Billy."

And the vet and her vet intern looked like they'd heard worse. 

Then they showed me how to give Billy his pills for the next seven days. Tilt the head back and the mouth opens naturally, so pop it down the gullet.

I suppose now I have to retire certain nicknames  -- Swiss Miss, Miss Peepers, and Sweet Girl. Though Jujube swings both ways, in my opinion.

Back home, I broke it to Albert that his best girl is actually his best boy. He doesn't seem to have a problem with that.