[Ed. Note: The author of this article, whom we believed to be a respectable Midwestern gentleman of position, feels that sometimes facts get in the way of good journalism, which, he says, prevents the truth from being aired. His article, as spurious as it may be, is nonetheless printed here. Some characters exist only in the author’s mind, others, unfortunately, do not. We strongly suggest reading this piece from a safe distance.]
The heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness.
— Ecclesiastes 9:3
The year of our Lord 2014 was, in the end, the ugly beginning to another wretched year, in a country where the amoral work with a careerist’s passion to ensure the most perverse among us rule us all. We are, after all, the country whose “moral majority” last year screamed vitriol at child refugees and killed black people for kicks when they weren’t torturing. And by anyone’s honest estimation, 2015 will be worse.
But I wanted to start the new year in style, and with good people. That is why I spent this past New Year’s Eve at the California Club, in downtown Los Angeles, relaxing with the landed gentry. The Club, which was established in 1887, is LA’s hub for the rich, powerful and influential. It is a place for them to socialize and determine how the rest of us are going to live.
“Now that Dick Cheney chap, for instance, he’s not afraid of America’s enemies,” said Karl Grossheimer, who was sitting next to me at the card table. “He’s not afraid to face the dark caverns of an Arab’s anus and give it a blast of democracy.”
Grossheimer is a regular at The Club. He’s a sharp businessman, and fortunately for me, he is horrible at poker. I was hoping to win enough off him to cover next month’s expenses for LA Activist, my news website, which is suffering financially because it does an equally good job of repulsing investors as it does readers.
“I really have to hand it to the Bush administration for having vision, and the willingness to invade the rectum’s of our enemies,” Grossheimer continued. “Compared to the Bushies, that Kenyan communist has no guts. Yes, he kills ragamuffins with antiseptic drone strikes, which admittedly does have a certain gentlemanly style to it, but the Bush guys literally rolled up their sleeves and got up in there for the sake of commerce and the American way of life. That is a willingness to face our enemies that, I’m afraid, that black fellow in the White House doesn’t have.”
The sentiment around The Club was that torture, though unpleasant and brutish, is acceptable if it will protect the flow of capital. Some of the world’s best business people died on 9-11, and none of the members have forgotten the intellectual loss global capitalism suffered that day. Most members of The Club, if you ask them, will tell you they understand the pain and fear former Vice President Dick Cheney felt that day, hiding alone in his underground, concrete bunker, while his like-minded compatriots in New York perished in a horrific and cowardly act.
“I tell you, that black man is more interested in starting a race war in this country than protecting our overseas investments,” said Lady Fairbanks, another Club regular. Her specialty was in torturing her staff while she lived on a steady diet of G and Ts. She preferred to have her staff deported, which often tore apart their families, rather than simply sack them for substandard work. Inflicting overdoses of pain, she once confessed to me, had replaced normal sex for her years ago. Now, in her 70s, it was all she had to put a smile on her face.
“I, for one, am prepared,” she said. She studied each of us at the card table slowly through her pince-nez. “I’ve boosted security at the estate, raised the walls from 12 feet to 18 and my staff are now armed. Plus, the police chief has placed a patrol car near my mansion at all times. Isn’t that lovely?”
Then she shuddered as her mind drifted into a dark corner. She held her poker cards to her heart, and said, while looking at the crystal chandelier above us, “No filthy urban mongrel is going to corrupt my bodily fluids.”
As we conversed over numerous cocktails, I learned there was no sympathy for dead civilians at The Club. Whenever police killed an unarmed, or innocent, surplus worker, they understood it was for a good cause.
“It’s all a matter of keeping the organs of this city running the way they’re supposed to,” said Lady Fairbanks, while pointing angrily at her near-empty G and T as a flustered waiter hurried to her side. “Sometimes, if there’s a little plaque building around the arteries, it needs to be removed — through force, if necessary.”
“But what about public opinion?” asked one of the newer members at the card table.
“Public opinion?” Lady Fairbanks replied, her eyes widening in indignation. “What was public opinion when we smashed those wretched tramps in Skid Row? Ha! The public thinks what we tell them to think. We’ve got the Times to thank for that, haven’t we gentlemen?” There was a gruff murmur of agreement from three elderly men with translucent skin sitting nearby at a table, drinking sherry. One of them held his cigar in his mouth like a pacifier, sticking straight out and pinched by circular lips that looked like a boar’s puckered ass. He winked at Lady Fairbanks.
Club members in the past have demanded of the police more aggressive actions, such as military-style round-ups of “unruly low-incomes.” The police considered that idea, they always considered their suggestions, but they were concerned about a public relations backlash. It might not, they said, look good politically. Though the idea never became city-wide policy, it was implemented on Skid Row.
Because of people like Dick Cheney and institutions like the police department, things were going well for Club members. And yet, a weighty silence hung over the card table as we approached nearer to midnight. I couldn’t understand what was bothering them, until I noticed they were each staring blankly at their cards, not moving a muscle except to breathe, like they were freaking out because they were each holding black aces and eights, the cursed Dead Man’s Hand. I suspected that each of them, even the lovely, blonde socialite sitting across from me, were reflecting upon the degradation the past year had wrought upon them.
“Forgiveness is too good for any of us,” said the socialite in a daze. No one acknowledged her, nor did they look at her long enough to notice her eyes were tearing.
“Forgiveness is too good for any of us,” said the socialite in a daze. No one acknowledged her, nor did they look at her long enough to notice her eyes were tearing.
They knew they had crossed a sacred line in 2014. It was obvious, as many Americans privately held this social wound. They had faced the fact, that as a nation, they had tortured people. But that wasn’t what had bothered them so much. Americans had always been hypocrites and still managed to think highly of themselves. No, what was bothering them most significantly was they had discovered in the process they had become disturbingly comfortable with cruelty. Not even the lives of children mattered to them anymore, if they ever did at all.
Sensing the party may be in peril, I called a waiter over.
“Archibald, dear,” I said, “another round for everyone. And would you be a good sport and put on some Wagner? We need a bit of a pick-me-up.”
On my way to the lavatory, I met Vera, a business lobbyist who greases political wheels in downtown. She was standing near the ladies room lighting a cigarette, which was attached to a slender holder made of jade. Her delicate black evening dress clung to her curves with no more weight than an ocean mist. The white mink stole that was softly draped over her shoulders stood in contrast to her hard, unfeeling, lobotomized eyes. On Skid Row, she was known as “the Cruella de Vil of Los Angeles” for her tireless work to have homeless people — rather than homelessness — eradicated.
“Well, if it isn’t my favorite muckraker,” she said. “Tell me, are you still writing for that shitty leftist rag?”
“Why?” I asked. “Are you going to finally give me an interview this year?”
She replied by blowing smoke in my face. I knew she was taunting me. She always liked to do that. I put my arm around her waist, pulled her toward me and we kissed. Vera had never shown any respect for me, because I came from poor stock and knew dangerous people, but when she was in the rut, like that night for instance, those qualities only excited her. I didn’t care either way. I just wanted my interview, and I hoped someday I might soften her up enough to agree to one.
I had a lot of questions for Vera, and the homeless on Skid Row deserved an honest answer as to why they were a hunted population — targeted by police and private security — fined and jailed and robbed. Was it really just to get rid of them so greedy developers could build an empire?
“Is the police chief here tonight?” I asked.
“Oh, god no! Didn’t you hear?” she said, glancing around to make sure she would be overheard. “He’s at the mayor’s estate, cleaning up a little mess for him. Apparently one of the mayor’s chambermaids is pregnant. The child is his and she wants a lot of money to stay quiet and raise the bastard. Which is fine, but she caused a scene at the party, and we can’t have that, now can we?”
Chief Charlie Beck had a reputation at The Club for being an expert “cleaner,” which is what members call someone who makes uncomfortable situations, ones in which the upper classes occasionally suffer, go away.
Causing a scene is intolerable for Club members, especially from staff, and Chief Charlie Beck was the perfect man for the job. Beck had a reputation at The Club for being an expert “cleaner,” which is what members call someone who makes uncomfortable situations, ones in which the upper classes occasionally suffer, go away. The problem at the mayor’s estate explained why no one from the police commission or DA’s office were at The Club that night. No doubt an entire army of cleaners were at work at that very moment to preserve the ruling structure of LA from scandal.
I once got to see Beck et al. at work. They are impressive. It was in August, at the Paradise Baptist Church in South Los Angeles. Police and city officials attended a public forum to quell the neighborhood’s anger over the LAPD’s killing of Ezell Ford. The 25-year-old Ford was unarmed and had suffered from mental illness. Police say Ford struggled with his arresting officers and reached for one of the cops’ weapons, at which point they shot him. Witnesses, however, have said there was no struggle and that Ford was complying with police orders when he was gunned down.
Normally, in Los Angeles, the death of an innocent nobody at the hands of police holds little attention and is considered a “tragic fact of police work,” as the Los Angeles Times editorial board described it. But a similar shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, which had led to violent protests, looting and the deployment of the National Guard, had energized victims of police racism and violence earlier in the year. Activists organized endless demonstrations in LA since the death of Ford, giving many at The Club sweaty palms and nervous stomachs. They feared most of all that an uprising among the commoners would result in the destruction of private property.
Hence the heavy presence of police brass at the community forum. In attendance with Beck were one lieutenant, two captains, one commander and the assistant chief. They were joined by a city councilmember, the president of the police commission, the inspector general and Deputy District Attorney James Garrison. There job was to smooth things out, allow calmer emotions to prevail, so the flow of capital would not be interrupted.
“We want the truth just as you want the truth, and we’ll do everything we can in order to get it,” said Beck.
But those in the audience were not about to be snowed by officialdom and readily jeered Beck’s weak answers. When one person asked how many LAPD officers had been “charged for murdering people in this city” while in the line of duty, the reason for so many people’s anger became understandable. No official had an answer to their question. Though Beck said he wanted the truth, he and Garrison could not say if they had ever brought an LAPD officer to justice for murder while on duty. But the audience knew the answer already. Their collective memories, spanning more than seven decades, could not recollect such an event. This is the difference between a savvy community and an out-of-touch political establishment — and why City Hall will never pacify South LA. No matter what any official could say about promising a thorough, unbiased investigation, everyone in the church knew the futility of even bothering with an investigation in the first place.
But, as a true professional would, Beck remained calm and fought back. He said he wanted body cameras placed on all patrol officers, and many nodded in agreement that this was a reasonable response to his department’s corruption and murder. Later in the year, however, the lower-classes would see that even video evidence meant little to their lords when a man in New York, who, while screaming he can’t breathe, would be slowly choked to death by a cop on camera and the cop wouldn’t be so much as scolded for it despite the evidence. But that event wouldn’t be for several months, and so the crowd in the church that night began to feel an inkling of hope — however misplaced that hope might prove to be.
That’s when I understood the genius of ol’ Charlie. Beck is a true artist. He faced an angry, passionate crowd inside a house of God and he gave them hope. That night he was a one-man traveling salvation show as he danced with his fictions underneath the Christian cross. It was the most beautiful performance art I had ever seen, and why I will always have a soft spot for him in my heart, just like the rest of the members of The Club.
I was suddenly pulled from my meditation on Beck and noticed Vera had her eyes locked on an Army colonel. He was talking to a few members about his holdings in various oil companies and why the war on terror was so vital to our national security.
“You’re staring,” I said. “You mustn’t be too obvious.”
Vera came to life again and smiled at me. “Oh, ducky, I’m just window shopping. Why don’t we go to my Flintridge estate and bring 2015 in with zest, like we did last year?”
An hour past midnight, my valet, Nils Utby, brought the car around. Lady Fairbanks was getting into her car. She waisted no time in chastising her driver. “Maybe in Tijuana, or wherever it is you’re from, it is normal to wait 10 minutes for your car, but here — are you listening to me? …” I took off my dinner jacket and laid down on the back seat as we began our sleepy drive back to LA Activist’s offices in Historic South Central.
Except for Nils, I was alone. Vera’s offer was an appealing option, but some years are too horrible, when you stop to think about them, to celebrate with the kind of sex that requires a special room and stainless steel equipment. Twenty-fourteen was a son-of-a-bitch. It was the year America ejaculated a massive load of authoritarianism onto the face of Lady Liberty. It was the year cops and police unions told the public that our lives didn’t matter, that we should keep our heads down, follow the rules and stay silent, because anything less would be disrespectful to them. And while conservative media pundits put on blackface and entertained old white people holed up in gated communities, the rich bought the Supreme Court and Congress, despite squeezing out Michele Bachmann like puss, became more ignorant — and then, if that wasn’t bad enough, everyone argued the merits of torture. No, this was not a year to end with something as lovely as coitus. Mournful silence seemed more appropriate.
The corpse of 2014 was already beginning to bloat. Flies were crawling into its nostrils and mouth. Soon there would be maggots to feast on its rotten slime. By the end of the week, the burgeoning gasses inside 2014 will rip apart its stretched yellowy skin and poison the atmosphere of 2015. It will smell awful, and linger.
“How did you do at poker, sir?” said Nils.
“Fantastic. I dare say we have enough money for rent and payroll.”
“Oh, that’s great news, sir,” he said. “Would you like your coco tonight before you retire?”
[dc]“I[/dc] should think not, Nils. I am feeling the need to write, and bury a rotting corpse. Perhaps a brandy Manhattan on the rocks with a Benzedrine chaser would be more appropriate.”
“Very well, sir. … Oh, and happy new year.”