Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Renovation 6

“What we would like to do is change the world--make it a little simpler for people to feed, clothe, and shelter themselves as God intended them to do. And, by fighting for better conditions, by crying out unceasingly for the rights of the workers, the poor, of the destitute--the rights of the worthy and the unworthy poor, in other words--we can, to a certain extent, change the world; we can work for the oasis, the little cell of joy and peace in a harried world. We can throw our pebble in the pond and be confident that its ever widening circle will reach around the world. We repeat, there is nothing we can do but love, and, dear God, please enlarge our hearts to love each other, to love our neighbor, to love our enemy as our friend.” ― Dorothy Day

Picture Legend

1. Los Altos
2. Catherine Morris & Jeff Dietrich
3. Hardy in a contemplative moment
4. Whittier Narrows Recreation Area
5. Legg Lake
6. Ducks
7. One footed goose
8. Megan
9. Obon
10. Traditional Japanese attire
11. Shrine
12. Rev, Peter Hata
13. TaikoProject
14. Bishop Noriaki Ito
15. 11 year old Meivelyn Noemi Cacao Mendoza
16. Fracking next door
17. Light’s journey
18. Eclipse
19. The Dude
20. Michael Deutsch and Michael H. Parsons
21. The tunnel
22. What we saw
23. Resting
24. Someone had come before us
25. Michael Deutsch’s Ruminations
26. Bats!
27. Big bats!
28. Traversing
29. The River
30. Continuing On
31. Parsons Smoking a Cigarette
32. Adrienne Barbeau
33. Amazonian Giant Centipede
34. Leipsic, Ohio

Los Altos, California.  Jesuit Retreat Center.   July 27 1:37pm

   Fr. Kirinan McCalister walked along one of the many secluded paths which interlaced through out the 36 acre retreat center.
   Although the sun was high in the cloudless sky, and the day warm, his thoughts swayed toward a brooding eventuality laced with bitter resolve and dull foreboding.
   A neophyte, a young boy of 16 dressed the same as the Father hurried up the path to meet him.
   “Father,” he called out.
   McCalister turned around and received the written message the boy handed  to him.
   McCalister glanced at it, already fairly sure what was written on it.
   He read it, looked around at the beautiful surroundings, then began walking back the way he had come.
Los Angeles, California. Hospitality Kitchen. July 28 8:22am Friday

   The new laundry room doesn’t have a sink. It used to. The large sink in the old laundry room was useful for just about everything a large sink normally does, plus one could hand wash large items in it if one had a mind to, which I often did.
   But now we don’t have one. It’s as if someone, or something, zapped it out of existence.
   Basically the renovation planners and workers did not renovate the laundry room. What they did, what took them 18 months to do, was make a small room where one had previously existed, then place inside that room two washers and two dryers.
   There’s a small chair in there presently. That will come and go as it’s not attached to the floor.
   And there’s no coffee! All laundry rooms and laundromats should have coffee!
   Anyway, I was at the Hippie Kitchen (what the Los Angeles Catholic Worker, nominally run by Catherine Morris and Jeff Dietrich, naively call the Hospitality Kitchen. The L.A. Catholic Worker is an offshoot of the Catholic Worker Movement, founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933) this morning to go on a picnic!
   The annual July Picnic!
   I had come down to the kitchen yesterday and got a ticket for this event. It wasn’t hard. They were just giving them away.
   I was #32.
   Hardy has Hippie Kitchen connections, and didn’t even bother to get a ticket, and he got on the bus before I did, the little brown nosing bastard.
   Why was I going? I feel the need to get closer to the community I live in. I live on the outskirts of Skid Row but rarely deal with the homeless themselves other to pass them on the streets. If I survive the renovation I hope to work more intimately with this population, and the Hippie Kitchen, and this picnic is as good a place to start as any.
   Ann herded everyone on the bus and we began our journey to South El Monte (34° 2′ 56″ N, 118° 2′ 54″ W), a trip of some 13.4 miles via the mighty CA-60 E.
   I found it mildly amusing that Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama,” was playing over the radio, on a bus almost filled to capacity with black people.
   Our destination was the Whittier Narrows Recreation Area, and it’s Legg Lake.
   We got there around 9:30. Catholic Worker people (mostly very young men and women in their early twenties) gave us chips and salsa as we exited the bus.
   And then we walked over to the picnic area and waited around for lunch. Or at least that’s what I did. I was at a picnic table with four other picnickers. I tried to read from “The Essential Shinran,” Shinran Shonin (1173 – 1263) being the founder of Shin Buddhism, or Jōdo Shinshū, but I kept falling asleep. Some people threw a football around. Some people, like Hardy, took a nap. Some people played chess and board games.
   I began to fall asleep without reading. I was either tired or being asphyxiated  by the smoke from the hamburger grill.  
   At one point I got up and walked around. I found some geese that I walked amongst, which is something I rarely do. I had no idea geese liked to stand on one leg, but I saw this happen. I had thought that only flamingoes or storks did this, but I was wrong. Lot’s of birds do it.
   Later I asked Hardy about this phenomena, and he told me that birds' legs have an adaptation called "rete mirabile" that minimizes heat loss. The arteries that transport warm blood into the legs lie in contact with the veins that return colder blood to the bird's heart. The arteries warm the veins.
   It all made so much sense then.
   A short, pretty, brunette spitfire by the name of Megan seemed to be in charge of everything at the picnic area.
   This is what I know about Megan: Megan (also spelled Meagan, Meghan, Meagen, Meagan, Meaghan, Megyn etc.) is a Welsh female name, originally a pet form of Meg or Meggie, which is itself a short form of Margaret. Megan is one of the most popular Welsh names in England and Wales; it is commonly truncated to Meg.  Nowadays it is generally used as an independent name rather than as a nickname.
   Urban Dictionary: “Megan is a girl that no matter how hard you try you can't stop thinking about her. Whether you spoke to her yesterday or 3 years ago you still think about her everyday!”
   This is true. I think of her often. She frightens me.
   Before lunch was served she gathered everybody into a large circle for a prayer, but before that she laid down the law. Two burgers for everybody. Veggie burgers were available but please leave them to the real vegetarians. After the staff gets to eat if there is anything left we will hand out seconds. If you take a nap after eating make sure we know where you are as the bus is leaving promptly at 1:30, and if you’re not on it you will be left there.
    Damn! I briefly thought I was back in boot camp!
   She threatened to leave us there! 13.4 miles is a pretty long walk.
   If I was duck I could flap my wings and fly home, but I’m not a duck.
   Accordingly everyone was on that bus at 1:30.
   And so we made our way home.

   Later, while looking over the Los Angeles Catholic Worker web-site, I discovered that this year’s pool party, scheduled for July 30th, had been canceled due to a frightening infestation of ravenous, chlorine loving jellyfish... the bad kind, not those nice jellyfishes.  

July 29.  Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple (34° 3′ 25.2″ N, 118° 14′ 16.8″ W). 1:37pm

   Today was the first day of the annual Oban Festival (often called the Japanese Day of the Dead, Obon is an annual summertime celebration that honors loved ones who have passed away, similar to an Irish Wake in not very many ways). 
   I prepared for the much anticipated festival by walking to the library and back in the 82 degree heat, ensuring that I was nice and sweaty before I left for the temple.
   Fortunately I had purchased an official 2017 Obon Festival T-Shirt which I had never worn before, so I took off my sweat stained regular T-Shirt and on my new Obon T-Shirt (accidentally  backwards), and went to the festival.
   The festival resided in the temple’s ample parking lot. There were a lot of people already there, maybe thirty thousand or so. I wanted to buy either an Obon or Higashi Honganji ball cap, but they didn’t have any. I would have bought a Happi Shirt for $60, but they didn’t take credit cards and my cash was limited.
   So I bought nothing at that time.
   A band was playing popular music. There were booths selling chicken teriyaki bowls, hot dogs, hamburgers, and tacos, beef bowls, shaved ice with different toppings, cold drinks, even beer. 
   On the other side of the parking lot there were ring toss games, bottle knocking over games, face painting, duck squirting games, etc.
   Little girls were dressed in traditional Japanese attire, like in picture #10 above.
   Everything was quite festive, so I went home.
   But not before buying a serving of Japanese somen noodles.
   They seemed like regular noodles with some tofu and other spices in it.
   I had forgotten that these were served cold, so I took them home and microwaved them for a minute and a half, and golly, they were good!
   I had volunteered to work in one of those booths, but Higashi officials had forgotten to get back to me, so I could go there at will and with a clear conscience about not having to do anything, which I do particularly well.
  I returned to the festival shortly before 4pm and bought a lottery ticket. Perhaps I’ll win. Probably not.
   My esteemed teacher, Rev. Peter Hata was giving a talk on mindfulness in the hondō, or meeting hall where the stage or shrine is located, and from where the Rev spoke.
   Basically I’ve forgotten what it was he said because I forgot to bring my notebook and pen, but the talk was very informative, I’m sure.
   After the lecture I had the extreme pleasure of watching a live performance from the TaikoProject, which consisted of mostly young men and women beating poor defenseless taiko drums (a broad range of Japanese percussion instruments) in a choreographed manner.
   They were absolutely amazing. Here is a clip of them filmed at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts // St. Paul, Minnesota, earlier this year.
   I bought a nice chicken teriyaki bowl before leaving for the day.
   I was exhausted.

  July 30. Central Ave headed North. 10:35am.

   As I passed Palmetto St a lady in a car asked me for directions to the homeless people.
   She had some kind of foreign accent and may not have been familiar with the downtown area. She and her friend were there to give the homeless people some food, submarine sandwiches to be exact.
   I told her to make a left on Alameda, a right on 6th St, another right on Central, then a left on 5th. She’d find plenty of homeless people around there.
   Lot’s of nice people bring food to the streets of the homeless. They are usually affiliated with religious organizations. Not always, but most of the time.
   That, and the missions that serve meals every day, and the Hippie Kitchen, pretty much ensures that no one will ever starve on Skid Row.
   I was headed back to the temple for the annual Obon/Hatsubon service, which honors members who have passed away since the last Obon/Hatsubon service.
   I bought a beef bowl before leaving and stopped at the Japanese Market to consume a plate of curried shrimp. It was good.
   I returned to the temple by 4:00pm to hear Rev. Hata’s talk on an introduction to Buddhism, which included the song "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" by Green Day, and a clip from the 1995 animated film “Pocahontas (Colors of the Wind).”
   I left for a meeting of the Drifters at 7:00pm, after which the power in the east side of my room (which included my computer and TV) shut off  for no apparent reason.
   When I returned I switched the circuit breaker back on and the power was restored.
   About an hour later the power shut itself off for about half a second, long enough to screw up my computer and TV.
   No one knows why.
   No one.

July 31. The Las Americas. 10:32am.

   The exterminators came today. I don’t know why.
   I mean, there are plenty of things to exterminate with the snails, rats, centipedes, and all, but those animals are never around when the exterminators come.
   It’s as if they knew they were coming somehow.
   Maybe that’s why the exterminators came today rather than the second Wednesday of the month. Maybe they’re trying to mix the critters up a little.
   The exterminators don’t really strike me as being that smart or clever though. They were probably here for some other, unfathomable reason.
   A SRHT maintenance person came and fixed my fire alarm today. He only did it because Tommy noticed it hadn’t been fixed when the exterminator came, and my room is scheduled for an inspection by the Housing Authority tomorrow, otherwise I’d still have wires hanging out of my ceiling.
    A tiny, tan colored moth alighted on my shirt today as I watered the thirsty plants in the garden. It told me there were dark forces afoot in the bowels of the Las Americas trying to break free and that I, and everyone else should leave the vicinity immediately.
   I have never had such a message from the moths before.
   I usually get my information from the sparrows.
   For some indeterminate reason Miracle gave me a piece of barbecued chicken, and ear of corn, cornbread and greens as I watered the garden.
   She probably did it because she was happy that I was not getting water on the mud below her window as she was afraid of mosquitoes that might evolve from that wet mud. 
   And because she had been drinking.
   The only mosquitoes around are the ones in her head.
   Plenty of snails, rats, and centipedes though.
   And Martian Mousetraps (Nepenthes spathulata).
   They’re proliferating.

August 1. 10:31am. Tuesday.

   Tommy knocked on my door this morning. He had the Housing Authority’s official inspector with him.
   The inspector inspected my room. He checked the newly installed fire alarm. He asked me if my window was working.
   “Brand new,” I told him.
   “We just came from a room that had a brand new broken window,” he told me.
   “Really?” I said.
   “Yeah,” Tommy said. “Your friend, your best friend... ah, what’s his name... Francisco... had a broken window that he didn’t tell anyone about.”
   “Oh gosh. Did he say how it was broken?”
   “No,” Tommy said. “He wasn’t there. His room was empty, and it looked like it had been vacated quickly. It as if someone, or something, zapped him out of existence.”
   A cold shiver ran up and down my spine.
   “Well I’m sure he’ll have a good explanation when he gets back.”
   “We’ll see,” Tommy said.
   The Housing Authority inspector checked my electrical outlets and if water was flowing from the sink spigot.
   It was.
   And then they were gone.
   I know what you’re thinking. I had the perfect opportunity to let someone in authority know about the sinister going’s on at the hotel. I could have passed a note to the inspector directing them to this detailed account, but I didn’t. Why?
   I don’t know. I got spooked. I  found myself paralyzed with uncertainty.
   We’ll continue to hope for the best.
   In any case I’ve been inspected and am good for another year.
   It’s as if someone, or something, wants me to stay right where I am.


   I saw Megan at the Hippie Kitchen this morning spooning out diced onions to those who wanted them.
   Tuna casserole today!
   I got up the courage to briefly talk to her and told her that I had written about her in conjunction with last week’s picnic. I gave her my card and told her I would post “The Picnic,” excerpt from this post for three days so she could read it if she wanted.
   She told me to get a haircut, and that I would be inspected Thursday at 10:30am sharp!
   I got myself some tuna casserole and left... quickly.

1:22pm. Downtown Los Angeles. 5th & Broadway.

   I got a haircut at the LA Barber College in the little mall just north of 5th Street on Broadway.
   They’ve raised the price of a simple haircut from $5.50 to $7.50.
   Plus a buck tip.
   I returned to the Las Americas feeling somewhat more secure.

August 3. 8:16am.

   The pretty black girl and her little dog are still sleeping near the west bound 18 bus stop.
   During the early evening she sets up her baby stroller and blanket in front of the Metro Division 1 building across the street from the bus stop, and a few hours later moves over to the bus stop proper. 
   She makes me sad, but there’s nothing I can do for her if she doesn’t want help.
   The residents of the Las Americas (SE1) were notified last Friday that workers would either come today or tomorrow to install fire alarms.
   As previously noted I had a fire alarm installed Monday in order to pass the annual inspection by the Housing Authority.
   I did not expect the workers would come this morning just after 8 and install a second ceiling fire alarm.
   Now I have two.
   Usually I applaud redundancy in critical and complex systems, but this had me scratching my head a little.
   “So I have two alarms now?” I asked the installer.
   He shook his head in the affirmative.
   Perhaps each fire alarm is for a different kind of smoke or fire. Maybe one alarm is primarily for electrical fires and the other for oil, or combustible fires.
   I doubt it though.
   I have no idea why I have two fire alarms, but I will endure.
   Last night as I was paying my bill to Children International online I discovered that a new photograph of the little girl I’ve sponsored for almost 5 years in Guayaquil, Ecuador, 11 year old Meivelyn Noemi Cacao Mendoza, was now available (picture #15). 
   On July 22nd I received Meivelyn’s Report, an annual report that lets me know what she has been up to.
   Here’s what Meivelyn has been up to:
   Details About Meivelyn

   Meivelyn turned 11 years old on her last birthday, which was April 7, The last time she was measured and weighed, she had grown to 4 feet 7 inches tall and weighed 73 pounds.


   Meivelyn attends school. According to Meivelyn , her favorite subjects are art and math.

   Like other Ecuadoran children her age, Meivelyn loves to spend her free time engaged in activities like playing with dolls and listening to music. She counts drawing among her talents or hobbies.

   Home Life

   Meivelyn lives with her parents in a community where most families survive on incomes that average around $327 a month. Frankly, because the unemployment rate is high, many parents struggle to find a steady job. When they do find consistent work, most adults are laborers, bricklayers, and vendors.

   While the income varies, they usually average about $318 a month.

   The family lives in a house, which is constructed of concrete block walls, concrete flooring, and a corrugated metal roof. It has a kitchen, two bedrooms, and one multipurpose room. Meivelyn sleeps on a wooden bed. Cooking facilities consist of a portable gas stove. The home has electricity, and the sanitary facility is a latrine. The family is fortunate to have running water.

      I’m fortunate to have running water.
   If memory serves, her father’s name is Jose. He is a bricklayer. Her mother’s name is Cecilia. She is a homemaker. And Meivelyn has a little brother, Johan Jose, who is 9 years old.
   My hope for Meivelyn is that she continues her education, and does not get caught in the marriage, child bearing cycle that would more than likely subject her to unrelenting and abject poverty for the rest of her life.
   The chances of that happening are small, but I will continue to do everything in my power to help her along, whatever she does.  
   Her existence makes me happy.
   The garden ladies didn’t show for a second week in a row. Very strange.
   They were expected at 9am, and once again Hardy and myself were outside in front to greet them.
   At 3.12pm we decided they were not coming and went back inside.

August 4. 10:52am.

   The mist next door briefly cleared this morning to reveal what appeared to be a small fracking facility.
   I had no idea there was oil or gas anywhere around the Las Americas.
   At 11:03 the mist returned obfuscating our new neighbor.
   At 11:42pm the Las Americas began shaking violently due to a small earth tremor, causing some of my books to fall from their shelf.
   A relatively minor tremor, with preliminary magnitude of 3.5 on the Richter Scale.
   The quakes epicenter was not immediately pinpointed, but seemed to emanate from somewhere in the downtown Los Angeles area.

August 7.  9:31am.

   When I returned from a late shower this morning the power was off in my room in a way that had never occurred before. The lights were off but all of my appliances were on and working.
   My computer, TV, fans, toaster, microwave were all on and running, but the room light and the light above my sink were off and would not switch back on.
   How could this be?
   My fans, toaster and microwave are all connected to the same breaker that the lights should be on, but they were working and the lights were not.
   I became frightened and insecure.
   I found some breakers off in Jose’s janitor closet and switched them back on, and the power to my lights returned.
   Very strange.
   The entities that inhabit the Las Americas are making themselves known.

August 21.  9:00:58am. Monday.

   At about 227,497 miles due north of the planet’s surface our moon... the Moon, had the effrontery to place itself between the Earth and the Sun... our sun.

August 21 Solar Eclipse as seen from Los Angeles:
33°30'18"N 122°46'59"W
Partial solar eclipse visible (58.91% coverage of Sun)
Magnitude: 0.6671
2 hours, 32 minutes, 33 seconds
Partial begins:
Aug 21 at 9:00:58 am
Aug 21 at 10:12:56 am
Partial ends:
Aug 21 at 11:33:31 am

   Dubbed "The Great American Eclipse" by the media, it was a total solar eclipse visible within a band across the entire contiguous United States, passing from the Pacific to the Atlantic coasts.
   Was this some kind of sign? Was the Moon trying to tell me something?
   Probably not.

August 22. 12:05pm. Tuesday.

   It looks like we might get a sink in the laundry room yet.
   There’s a counter in there now, with a rectangular hole in it, suggesting a sink will be installed eventually.
   Although when it might be installed is anyone’s guess. I returned from a short walk about an hour ago and noticed there were no renovation workers about, and therefore no work was being done, which is rather odd considering the renovation process doesn’t seem to be anywhere near complete.
   For example, that room inspection by the Housing Authority that transpired on August 1st... well I received a determination in the mail a few days ago.
   I failed.
   Or rather, the building that surrounds my room failed.

   Dear Tenant:
   TO TENANT AND OWNER: The unit referenced above failed inspection. The deficiencies (problems) and who is responsible for correcting them are noted below. A re-inspection has been automatically scheduled for 8/29/2017 between the hours of 8:00am and 4:30pm.

   The letter goes on with a section for the tenant describing what might happen if my “unit” failed the re-inspection due to deficiencies that I was responsible for (the portion of my rent that the Housing Authority pays), and a section for the owner describing again what might happen if said “unit” failed the re-inspection due to deficiencies the owner was responsible for (that Housing Authority payments will cease, and the owner will have to make up the deference).
   And those deficiencies “noted below” are the following (please excuse me. This section is a little dry but necessary for a complete record):

ROOM           DEFICIENCIES                                                                         RESULT/

Bathroom        Electrical Hazards
                        Repair ground fault interrupters (GFI) in bathrooms                 Owner Fail/
                        on 3rd floor (No power)                                                             Owner

Bathroom        Tub or Shower in Unit                                                                  Owner Fail/
                        Install shower heads in stalls on 3rd floor                                    Owner

Entrance Halls,         Security/Door                                                                      Owner Fail/
Corridors, Halls,       Install locks on corridor doors                                            Owner

Entrance Halls,           Ceiling Condition                                                                 Owner Fail/
Corridors, Halls,         Cover openings on ceiling showing exposed                       Owner
Staircases                    wires in hallways and above unit front door

Entrance Halls,           Wall Condition                                                                       Owner Fail/
Corridors, Halls,         Cover openings on walls showing exposed wires                 Owner
Staircases                    in hallways

Entrance Halls,            Electrical Hazards                                                                  Owner Fail/
Corridors, Halls,          Secure dangling light fixtures and fire alarms                       Owner
Staircases                     in hallways as needed

   Now this report is strange in several ways, first and foremost, these deficiencies have nothing to do with my room, so why was I failed?
   Don’t know. Perhaps this is just Housing Authority standard operating procedure. Obviously the hallways, ceilings, and exterior bathrooms do not collect Housing Authority rental assistance, so the only incentive the Authority can provide to the owner to fix said deficiencies is to fail a room and threaten to withhold rental assistance.
   I guess I answered my own question.
   In any case it’s not my problem. Ultimately it’s SRHT’s problem... one that they don’t seem very concerned about, as I said earlier, there is no one working around here today.
   So the Housing Authority is pissed off about the general condition of the hotel, something I’ve suspected for many months now.
   And the Housing Authority, I believe, carries a lot of weight around here.
   And so does the Los Angeles Fire Department.
  They were here last Saturday night when a black girl on the second floor began suffering from unexplained seizures (she was not epileptic, and had no prior history seizures).
   Unfortunately she succumbed to the attack and passed away.
   In any case, the night time security guard told Hardy, who told me, that the fire people were not at all pleased with the state of the Las Americas, citing many of the same deficiencies cited above.
   So now we have two huge agencies that weld not a small amount of power, I imagine, over  SRHT, who are upset with the progress being made concerning the renovation.
   Hardy and I thought about the possibility of being evicted, not through any fault of our own, from the Las Americas, and relocated to one of the other hotels.
   Considering the events currently transpiring within the building perhaps that would be best... before more people disappeared or were hurt.
   We shall see.
  SRHT ambassador John  came by my unit this afternoon, with another man who needed to check something in my room.
   I mentioned to them both that my room had failed the Housing Authority’s inspection.
   “Yeah,” John said. “All of the units have failed inspection.”
   “Doesn’t Skid Row Housing Trust suffer from this?”
   “Oh yes, we do.”
   “Well what’s going to happen?”
   “We prefer to get the building up to code by finishing the renovation.”
   “I hate to tell you this John, but one one seems to be working around here today.”
   A pained expression came over his youthful and handsome face.
   “Yes, I know,” he said. “We’re negotiating contracts right now.”
   There you have it. SRHT is openly ignoring Housing Authority protocol, apparently not overly concerned about the consequences of doing such.
   Why? What drives them?
   At 9:47pm downtown Los Angeles experienced a 2.4 trembler.
   I hardly felt it.

August 25. 5:27pm. Friday.

   Went to the showers this morning, using the main shower room on the 3rd floor.
   I found the sink about half way filled with urine.
   Whether it was half full or half empty is at the cruxes of an ongoing philosophical debate that I’ll leave for a future time.
   I put my towel on the one available towel rack which promptly disengaged itself from the wall and fell to the floor drawn toward the planet’s center due to gravity.
   The shower worked!
   And I need to report that throughout the entire week no work was done, and no renovation worker showed up to renovate.
   Perhaps next week.
August 31. 3:50pm. Thursday.

   Another resident died last night.
   As I left my room to attend the weekly Garden Group I saw the police in the third floor hallway talking to emergency medical personal.
   Apparently it was a male who passed away during the night. Cause of death unknown.
   It’s unreasonably hot in Los Angeles. 99 degrees today. It’s been this way for the last several days, and isn’t expected to cool down anytime soon.
   I’m experiencing a deep seated cough for the last week and a half. A dry cough that does nothing to break up the congestion in my lungs. I’ve skipped four yoga classes because of it.
   I’ve also been very fatigued for as long as I’ve had the cough, and take several naps during the day, something I don’t normally do.
   Perhaps it is walking pneumonia, acute broncitius, whooping cough, or some other foul medieval disease. If it’s not better soon I will seek medical attention with the goal of treating this with antibiotics.
   With the draining heat and this fatigue I try to stay in my room as much as possible.
   But it’s hot in there as well. The air conditioning units that the renovators installed on our walls in the rooms have not been activated.
   I did walk to the Hippie Kitchen at around 10:50 to load up on split pea gunk. I put some diced ham, cheese, peppers, and soy sauce in it, and mixed it with rice for lunch.
   It was good.
   The pretty black lady and her dog are still out there on the sidewalk in front of the MTA’s office.
   I wonder what her plans are.
   The noise from the misted over fracking site next to our building is irritating.
   I spoke to SRHT employee John yesterday. I asked him when it was expected that workers would return to the work of completing the renovation as they have been absent this week as well.
   “Hopefully next week,” he said.

September 2. 10:25am. Saturday.

   I used our new laundry room this morning to wash two pair of pants and a towel. Still no sink, which is to be expected as no renovation workers showed up last week.
   I did discover that there is one washer to five dryers which is interesting, don’t you think?
   I believe it’s the only laundry room I’ve ever seen with such an emphasis on drying clothes rather than washing them.
   Of course somebody had left a load of washed clothes in the washer which I had to remove, which is always a tricky business. Some people get very upset when another person touches their stuff, even when they are decidedly in the wrong for not having taken the responsibility to remove their clothes themselves.
   Last night a man of Hispanic heritage came out into the garden as I was watering. After asking me if I spoke Spanish, I told him “No, amigo mío, no hablo español. ¿Cómo puedo estar de servicio?”
   He told me that I was getting water in his first floor window which was getting some of his clothes wet.
   I showed him how I watered the plants directly below his window and that no water was getting anywhere near his room.
   He persisted.
   I told him that I was not the only one who watered the garden, and that if he had a problem the garden being watered he should talk to Tommy.
   He persisted, and begged me not to water his window anymore. “I’m saying please!” he cried.
   This is a perfect example of dealing with people who know they’re right even when they clearly are not.
   “Alright. I will stop,” I told him.
   He went away then.
   On my way back to my room I noticed that there were actually three washers in there, and three dryers. I had mistaken two washers as dryers because all of the machines are front loading.
   Following the principles of the scientific method I had to bow to new evidence that had presented itself and change my position accordingly. Now I admit there are an equal number of washers and dryers.
   The semi-wet clothes I had removed from the washer I had used earlier were still on the counter where I had placed them hours before.
   I snuck up on Kevin, the assistant residence manager, and got him to give me my mail, a difficult feat as half of the time both Kevin and Tommy are no where to be found.
   I received a great many things in the mail, some of consequence.
   Most importantly I got my Monty Phyton and Dude T-Shirts.
   The Phyton shirt is black with the symbols and words “The Royal Society of Putting Things on Top of Other Things,” printed on the front.
   The Dude shirt just had a picture of  a long-haired, and bearded Jeff Bridges portraying Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski, smiling and holding a glass of kalhua.
   I am an ordained minister of The Church of the Latter-Day Dude, and can officiate marriage ceremonies in Los Angeles.
   I have a certificate to prove this.    
   I also received a letter from my doctor at the Veteran’s Administration, Dr. Garcia, informing me of the results of my latest blood, urine tests, and chest X-ray.
   It told me my urine was slightly hazy.
   It also told me that all of my tests were normal except for my thyroid level, which was “not controlled.” He sent me some more levothyroxine with  a higher dose than that I had been taking.
   The letter did not mention the results from my electrocardiogram and FOB test.
   What are they trying to hide?
   What gave me pause, what got me a little excited, was the section describing the results of my chest X-ray, which at first glance looked like this:

                                              There is no acute cardiopulmonary disease.

                                              The lung fields are overall clear. There is no focal air space

                                              There is no gross pulmonary edema, or gross pleural effusions.

                                               The cardiomediastinal silhouette is overall normal. There is

                                               evidence of gross cardiomegaly.

   Cardiomegaly! WTF is cardiomegaly!?
   Wikipedia tells us: “Cardiomegaly is a medical condition in which the heart is enlarged. It is more commonly referred to as an enlarged heart. The causes of cardiomegaly may vary. Many times this condition results from high blood pressure (hypertension) or coronary artery disease. An enlarged heart may not pump blood effectively, resulting in congestive heart failure. Cardiomegaly may improve over time, but many people with an enlarged heart need lifelong treatment with medications. Having an immediate family member who has or had cardiomegaly may indicate that a person is more susceptible to getting this condition. Cardiomegaly is not a disease but rather a condition that can result from a host of other diseases such as obesity or coronary artery disease. Recent studies suggest that cardiomegaly is associated with a higher risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD).
   Sudden cardiac death!
   After I wrote my will I looked at the letter a second time, and a little bit closer.
   I discovered I missed something.

                                              There is no acute cardiopulmonary disease.

                                              The lung fields are overall clear. There is no focal air space

                                              There is no gross pulmonary edema, or gross pleural effusions.

                                               The cardiomediastinal silhouette is overall normal. There is
                                               evidence of gross cardiomegaly.

   Jesus H Christ and his mother Alice! I was about ready for the bone yard and that little two letter misplaced word saved me!
   I think Dr. Garcia is trying to kill me to reduce his caseload.
   I also got an interesting letter from the Housing Authority. It told me that “The unit listed above [my unit] failed the reinspection on 08/29/2017 because the deficiencies listed below have not been corrected. Effective the day after 08/29/2017 the Housing Authority Payment (HAP) for the above referenced unit is hereby abated. This means no further payment will be made on the unit until it passes inspection and such payment will be retroactive only to the date the unit passes inspection. The tenant will continue to pay only the tenant portion of the rent.”
   The letter went on to list the same deficiencies that were listed on the letter I received August 22nd.
   So, SRHT really is suffering from the lack of progress being made around here.
   How long will this continue?
   How long until this whole nightmare ends.

September 5. 11:02am. Tuesday.

   Some renovation workers are back!
   They were on the first floor doing electrical stuff, which was rather frightening considering their tendency to turn the building’s power off.
   I got two notices on my door this morning. One telling my I had to let workers into my room so they could replace the fire sprinkler, and one telling me there would be no hot water from 8am until noon.
   So, at least something’s being done.
   As I passed the corner of Central and 6th on my way to the Hippie Kitchen (pasta with chicken and red sauce. Megan served me, with a sly, come-hither look) I noticed a billboard with the words “In The Beginning, God Created.” with a evolution symbol, but with an X drawn through it, which I assume meant the people paying for the billboard believed God created everything and discounted Darwin’s theory of evolution.
   I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Anytime, anyone uses "God" in an argument, any argument (or to state a position), I have to ask, first of all, please provide unambiguous (not antidotal) evidence for the existence of this "God." The onus or burden of proof is on the one using "God" in an argument. It is not on those faced with this argument to disprove the "God" theory. If no evidence can be provided, then whatever argument is being made cannot be taken seriously.
   There is ample evidence that the theory of evolution is a fact. There is no evidence that God exists.
   Which reminds me of what happened last Sunday.

September 3  Las Americas 5:48pm. Sunday.

   I was sitting in my room, minding my own business, watching “Sharknado 5: Global Swarming ("Make America Bait Again").”
   I must say the whole sharknado thing seems highly unlikely.
   Anyway, Tommy knocked on my open door and asked me if I had a water key (the four pronged metal tool that opens up the water faucet in the garden).
   “I have a key... yes.”
   “Can I borrow it? I’m trying to clean out my grill. I’ll bring it right back.”
   “Sure,” I said.
   He didn’t come back. At 6:45pm my neighbor Arnold called to me from the hallway, then entered my room.
   “Rick,” he said. “Why would the water be off on the weekend?”
   “The water’s off?”
   I checked my sink, and indeed, the water was off.
   “I don’t know,” I said. “Tommy’s downstairs. You should ask him.”
   “No. It’s the weekend,” Arnold exclaimed.
   “Tommy lives here now. He just borrowed the water key from me a little while ago.”
   “Oh. I didn’t know that. Where’s his room?”
   “It’s the room right across from his office.”
   Arnold left, then came back.
   “It’s alright,” Arnold told me. “Tommy shut off the water himself. He’s working on something and he’ll turn it back on when he’s finished.”
   It was time for me to leave for a Drifters meeting anyway so I went downstairs to find Tommy and my friend Cliff trying to break into Tommy’s office as Tommy had locked himself out.
   The water key was in there as well.
   They had to unscrew a large rectangular piece of plywood that was covering a rectangular hole in the side of his office that would normally be a window if the renovation process were complete.
   Tommy stood on a can of paint while he leaned into the window/hole and fished for his keys with a long piece of metal.
   “What happened?” I asked Cliff. 
   “Rats,” he said.
   “Tommy left his keys in the office and three rats rushed in and closed and locked the door.”
   “Come here you little bastard!” Tommy called out.
   “Geez. The rats are getting pretty bold,” I said.
   “I’ll say. Last week they kidnaped Fernando,” Cliff told me.
   “Really? I was wondering why I hadn’t seen him.”
   Suddenly Tommy’s rear end and legs were roughly pulled  into the office, and sound of a huge scuffle could be heard inside there as Tommy negotiated with the rats.
   “Gimme that, fuckers!” Tommy screamed. “Take that, and that, and that!” He was now beating at his rat attackers with his office broom.
   A loud crash issued from his office.
   “Maybe we should call nine-one-one,” I suggested to Cliff.
   “It wouldn’t do any good. The police and fire people won’t come here anymore.”
   I leaned over the open window and called out, “Tommy, are you alright?”
   A loud boom echoed through the office and hallway, several, kicking noises and beating noises could be heard.
   At last the office door opened. Tommy came out looking quite disheveled, his clothes torn and in tatters, several deep scratches could be seen on his arms, face, and chest. The broom he was holding head was missing so he was actually holding a long pointed stick. And in the other hand he had his keys.
   “Gottem,” he said triumphantly.

   Speaking of rats, back in July, Dr Parsons and his crew followed me as I descended the back stairway that led to the basement.
   “We have to be quiet. The resident manager didn’t give me permission to come down here, let alone bring you guys."
   Michael H. Parsons of the the Department of Biological Sciences, Fordham University in New York, had brought ten of his students and assistants with him. Don’t worry,” Dr. Parsons said. “We’ve conducted clandestine operations before.”
   As we reached the floor of the basement I looked around and found the light switch.
   The cavernous room was washed in dull white light. The men and two women adjusted their equipment as they looked around. No rats could be seen... yet.
   We walked around the the walls of the buildings lowest room, starting from north to the south.
   At the southern end we stopped, having found nothing.
   “I don’t understand it,” I said. “I know for a fact that the rats come from here.”
   “Yes, I know,” Parsons replied. “Look at all of these droppings.” He pointed to the floor that was littered with pounds of rat shit.
   “See! They are here, somewhere,” I said.
   “Yes, indeed. But where?”
   “I feel a breeze here, doctor,” one of his male assistants said, pointing to a section of the wall the had been covered with several sheets of pressboard.
   Parsons walked up to it, took off one of his rat gloves, and felt around the pressboard.
   “There’s something behind this,” he said. “Let’s clear this away.”
   Which they did, discovering the passageway shown in picture A21 above.
   “Wow,” I said. “I’ve never seen this before.”
   “Somebody’s trying to hide it,” the doctor said. “I wonder why.”
   “Well, let’s get started.” Parsons led they way, I followed him, and the rest followed me.
   “I really need to thank you for coming,” I said. “The rats are really getting to be a big problem.”
   Parsons looked back at me. “It’s a real opportunity to come out here. The most difficult challenge of urban rat research is finding suitable research sites, such as this, if what you indicated in your letter is true.”
   “Oh, it’s true all right. Just you wait and see.”
   “Well, city inhabitants often believe they know more about rats than they actually do. Nearly all urban-dwellers see rats on a frequent basis and assume familiarity with these animals. However, due to the tendency to overgeneralize and the challenge of identifying individual rats, a few rats, the most brazen and risk-taking individuals, are responsible for most of our collective knowledge. For instance, the public comes into contact with a minority—the boldest and the most desperate rats—and rarely the ‘silent majority’ which consists of many more risk-averse animals. These over-generalizations fueled by anecdote and popular social media, are becoming entrenched in lieu of ecological knowledge. Compounding this problem, a cursory search through the literature will identify thousands of research papers on rats. Rats are the most common models for human illness and metabolism. Further, studies of rat physiology and behavior are also well-represented. However, the vast majority of these studies are performed on lab rats due to their similar sensory acumen. The sheer volume of these papers may lend the false impression that we know more about urban rats than we truly do.”
   “What made you get into rat work?”
   “Rats! Rats, of course! We need to increase our knowledge of these magnificent creatures. Rats are the ‘pariahs’ of the animal kingdom, linked with disease, poverty and fear, topics that society may wish to avoid. A two thousand sixteen report from the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene noted that twenty three percent of seven thousand seven hundred and seventy six restaurants in Manhattan showed signs of rat activity. Each of those restaurants would have been embarrassed, cited for active rat signs and/or faced fines or possible closure.    Humans detest rats enough so that an association with rats causes more depression than does crime. The entities that harbor rats have strong incentive to quickly hide or exterminate rats. The property owners or managers rarely have reason to study rats, an option that requires rats to persist in areas they are unwanted, and only offers hope of a better solution in the long-run rather than immediate gratification of their demise. Unfortunately, this wicked problem has historically kept rat research from being taken seriously enough by the public, funding agencies or other researchers.”
   “But not me,” Parsons said gleefully. “I’ll study rats until the day I die.”
   “Did you know that rats originated in Asia, and that urban rats have evolved over thousands of years to be commensal, and by that I mean not competing while residing in or occupying the same area as another individual or group having independent or different values or customs? Rat migrations have followed our migrations, and they are mostly restricted to human-built environments. Thus, in the city, they inhabit artificial environments owned by multiple private entities such as municipal commerce and dwellings. Here, the very act of locating a private area with a rat infestation, and then gaining entry to this area can be prohibitively difficult in the city. That’s why when we heard from you and your unique problems with rats, we jumped at the opportunity to come out and study the situation.”
   “At the present rate of human urbanization, compounded by climate change and inefficient rodent  control, is leading to a proliferation of rat-related risks.  From two thousand to twenty thirty, the global human population is expected to grow by two point two billion, with two point one billion of this increase in urban areas. By twenty fifty, almost seventy percent of all people will live in cities. These densely packed cities will inevitably proliferate the resources that support commensal or anthropo-dependent wildlife, especially rodents. In nineteen eighty two, commensal rodents already cost the world’s economy more than three hundred billion US dollars. These costs, however, were estimated from food losses and did not factor the impact on native or threatened wildlife, fires of unknown origin [from gnawing of wires], or the lack of medical assays to directly associate rat-caused diseases with their vectors. Compounding this problem, climate forecasts suggest an increasing trend in terrestrial temperatures, resulting in longer warm seasons and shorter cool seasons. These seasonal changes limit the cold-stress that influences the range and distribution of insects and arachnids. Taken together, these trends suggest rodents will be exposed to more people, while the arthropod fauna and infectious organisms they vector will persist longer. Conversely, humans are increasingly vectoring antimicrobial resistant microbes back into wildlife via rodents and rodent-predators. The science behind mitigating these expenses and risks like efficient rat control and pathogen monitoring has not progressed as fast as the wildlife are evolving.”
   “You’re going to get rid of them aren’t you?” 
   “In time, my friend. In time. Researchers like us have a duty-of-care to the welfare of society to not put the public at risk while carrying out research. It is our duty to remove the rats. Researchers must exercise precaution and due diligence anytime we consider a new research site, especially if we are purposefully allowing rats to survive beyond a time when they would otherwise be exterminated. Part of the solution may be to mitigate any immediate threats posed by rats, perhaps controlling numbers below a critical damage/threat threshold to allow study at the same time as managing the worst impacts.”
   “Ah, okay.”
   “You should stop talking now, or else we might scare away our specimens.”
   “Ah, okay.”
   The tunnel became narrower as we continued walking, and began a downward slant. If I had to judge the distance we had traversed to that point I’d say around 800 meters. That’s when the tunnel walls gave way to a large open space, wide and dark. Fortunately we were all equipped with state of the art Fenix TK35 Tactical LED Flashlights and Petzl specialized TRIOS caving helmets with ultra Vario multi-beam LED headlamps, and good old fashioned torches.
   The floor beneath us became rocky as did the walls. It’s as if we had entered a vast underground cavern that was located somewhere beneath the Las Americas.
   “I had no idea this was down here,” I said.
   Parsons turned to me.
   “Someone did.”
   He pointed his light to what appeared to be the skeleton of a previous explorer.
   “Oh my God!” I exclaimed.
   “Yes. Your God. Your God might not be able to help you here,” Parsons said rather cryptically I thought.
   The others muttered between themselves as I suggested turning back.
   Parsons looked at me with an air of defiance. “There’s no turning back now. We’ve come too deep,” he said.
   Parsons was beginning to sound and act rather strange, as if the oppressiveness of the passage, or cavern was wrecking havoc upon his psyche. 
   “Let’s move on,” Parsons commanded.
   We continued on inside the large open space as the first of the giant cave bats attacked us. Apparently they considered us a nice tasty, unexpected dinner. We took cover as best we could among the varied rocks and oddly deformed stalagmites, but to little avail, as two of our group were carried off into the dark recesses of the cavern, never to be seen again.
   The men screamed horribly as they were taken, but that did not help them as bats care little for the sensibilities of humans prey.
   Usually bats don’t carry away people, but these were giant bats.
   Parsons yelled hysterically, “Bats! You didn’t say anything about any stink’en bats!”
   “I didn’t know bats were down here! I didn’t even know down here was down here!”
   “We’ve got to get out!” Parsons cried.
   We used our torches to fend off the flying invaders, and when the bats dissipated somewhat we made a mad dash back the way we had come only to discover that the cave was now blocked off with tons of ruble, most likely due to the nearby fracking activities so prevalent in the area. We had little choice other than to progress further into the cavern, and hopefully find an exit, somewhere... anywhere.
   We got out of the bat cave and made our way stealthily into the depths of the unknown.
   We went on for several hundred yards, picking our way through maze of rocks and empty beer cans. At one point Parsons motioned for us to halt.
   “Do you hear that,” he asked suspiciously.
   “Yes doctor,” Deutsch replied. “It sounds like water.”
   “It’s coming from that direction,” Parsons pointed off into the distance. “It’s sounds like running water... a river...”
   “We can follow it out,” Deutsch insisted.
   “Yes,” Parsons replied. “Maybe.”
   We continued on until we reached the banks of a slow moving stream. As we waded in the clear water came up to our mid-thighs. It was slow going at first. The rocky streambed was a little slippery, and none of us wanted to get emersed in the cold, icy, briny channel.
   After the first piranha attack which took out two more of our crew, and our photographer was sucked down a rather large and unseen whirlpool, our pace quicken quite markedly. After three other succumbed to the ministrations of various tentacled water snakes (Erpeton tentaculatum), dragonfish, and water spitting archerfish, we started running, made more difficult by the now swift flowing water, which quickly transformed into a series of dangerous rapids. Deutsch broke his left leg before he was able to extricate himself from the abyss. One man was swallowed whole by a giant clam, one was almost electrocuted by an eel, and a pod of killer whales made off with our hair stylist.
   “Killer whales, for freaking sake!” Parsons screamed while smoking a cigarette. Clearly he was upset.  
   As he was saying this an Amazonian Giant Centipede came out of a hole in the rocks and made off with Deutsch.
   Parsons exploded.
   “Jesus Christ! An Amazonian Giant Centipede! We’re no where near the freaking Amazon! I blame you for this Joyce. You and you alone!”
   I was suitably flabbergasted.
   “I had no idea, I assure you. I’ve only seen rats,” I said.
   “Rats! Yeah! haven’t seen many of them have we?! As a matter of fact we haven’t seen one freaking rat!” Parsons exclaimed.
   At this point a giant rat, the size of a grizzly bear, came from behind and ripped off Parsons head.
   I ran blindly in the dark, following the path of the water when I could. I was breathing heavily, but did not scream as I didn’t want that rat to get me.
   After several hours I saw a bright light ahead.
   I climbed out into the stale sunshine of an overcast day. The stream was exiting from the side of a large embankment. I was beat up pretty badly, dirty, covered in mud and bruises.
   I saw a small town in the distance and  wondered where downtown Los Angeles had got to.
   I found myself in Leipsic, Ohio (41°6′6″N 83°59′3″W), in Putnam County. The people were very nice there, and bandaged me up a little before I got on a Greyhound bus back to L.A.
   The Los Angeles Greyhound station is only a couple of blocks from the Las Americas. 
   I was very tired and needed rest. I made my way up the stairs to the third floor, then to my room.
   I entered and found myself back in the cave, tied to an alter with millions of rats all around me with gleeful expressions on their little rat faces. 
   I had never left the cave! It had played an awful trick on me!
   I’m still there!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

The Death of Kristi Johnson

Today is the birthday of Kristi Johnson. She would have been 37 years old today. As promised this is a re-post of a story first published on Feb 27th 2011

Another sad story for me to write involving a beautiful young girl from Michigan.
A few weeks ago, a little more than a month, I wasn't feeling very well, and between bouts of running to the bathroom, for a time I stayed in bed, covers up to chin, while I watched MSNBC on my television. This was on a Saturday, near noon, and because there is no news on the weekends, MSNBC devotes it's programming time to stories about being locked up in prison, or in this case, the NBC newsmagazine, Dateline, of which most of the information in this post is based.
As I laid in bed I began watching the episode entitled "Death in the Hollywood Hills." The correspondent who reported this story was Keith Morrison, and it was first aired on March 1st, of 2007. It concerned the young woman mentioned above, 21 year old Kristi Johnson.
Like so many other hopefuls she came to Southern California in 2001 in search of a job in the entertainment industry.
Terry Hall, Kristi's mother: “She thought, 'I would really like to be involved in this industry but on the production side of it, on the other side of the camera.'”
She was exceptionally pretty, as the pictures above indicate (Hall: "She could you know tie her hair back in a ponytail and wear no make-up and look absolutely smashing. Or she could put on her high heels and a great outfit and look a totally a different way too"), and was repeatedly told she should audition for acting jobs.
Hall: "Kristi loved the beach. And she told me you know how beautiful it was and how much she was enjoying being in California."
Kristi and her mother were very close and spoke to each other every day. In 2003, on Valentine's Day, another Saturday, Kristi called her mother and told her she was going shopping at the mall. That was the last time she got to speak to her daughter.
A nightmare was about to begin for Terry. One that every caring parent must dread the possibility of enduring. Thousands of miles away, the link to Kristi's existence suddenly faded away. She should have called her mom back the next day. No word was heard from her.
Two days passed. No word... no call.
Terry filed a missing person's report with the police in Santa Monica. Det. Virginia Obenchain was given the case.
Det. Obenchain: "The original patrol officer that was sent to take the missing persons report didn’t feel too good about the circumstances, so he came upstairs to the detective bureau, and I was the only one upstairs. So he told me, and I remember when he explained the circumstances, the hair on the back of my neck started to rise.
We talked to the roommate, and the roommate told us that she had gone to Century City mall, went shopping there and was very excited when she came home because she was going to audition for a James Bond clip.
There are some girls that will go with perfect strangers in the hopes that they can make it big. They don’t know Hollywood. They just come in, and they figure, 'Oh, back in the old days where you used to meet at the drug store counter and then you’re all of a sudden a star...' some gals still believe that that can happen."
Morrison: "Does it?"
Det. Obenchain: "Not that I know of."
Kristi remained missing, and Det. Obenchain had few clues to work with. She held a press conference and explained Kristi's case, and got a call from another young woman on a tip line, who said that she had been approached too in the Century City Mall.
21 days before Kristi went to the mall to look for a Valentine’s gift, Susan Murphy was approached by a man who claimed to be in the entrainment business, and that his name was Victor Thomas.
Murphy: "He looked normal and he just said, “I think you’re very attractive. He said, 'I’m a director of photography and we’re casting for the new James Bond movie.' And he said, 'We’ve been casting all day and you’re the look we want, you’re perfect.'
I’d had enough experience to kind of know that this was a come-on, a pick-up. And I knew that and— I was very intrigued. If it’s true, hey cool, that’d be great. How fun would that be, to be a 'Bond Girl?' I think every girl has a dream about that."
Five years earlier this happened to yet another pretty girl, Cathy Debuono.
"He told me he really liked my legs and that he was working closely with the James Bond movies and that they were looking for new people, people who weren’t so recognizable. He talked about 'big bucks.' He named numbers of money that I can’t recall today, but it was a lot of money."
To Cathy the man's name was Brian.
"He wasn’t lascivious at all. He didn’t try to touch me. He didn’t try to flirt with me or come onto me. He seemed like he could be legitimately in the business and talking to me about a real opportunity."
Susan told Det. Obenchain that the man had requested she ware specific types of clothing for her "audition."
"He said it’s very important that I wear stilettos," she said. "Black stilettos as high as possible. And then he said a black mini-skirt preferably, but any mini-skirt would be great. Panty hose, pantyhose not nylons, a white man’s shirt, hair slicked back really tight in a ponytail. And a man’s tie. And he said he would provide the tie."
Det. Obenchain: "And, that happens to be everything that Kristi purchased on February 15."
In the hours before she disappeared, Kristi Johnson bought a black mini skirt, sheer nylons, stiletto heels, and the white shirt. This is what was so heart wrenching for me as I watched this on my television. You see there was actual video footage taken in the Mall of Kristi on that day, footage of her being approached by a man, although his features were indiscernible, and other footage of Kristi making those purchases. What I can't seem to wrap around my head is the report of Kristi's roommate saying that Kristi was so excited, so happy to be getting this break, and her apparent joy and happiness as she bought these items, you could almost see it in the videos, her hopes of getting that impossible opportunity that thousands of men and women dream about, only to discover a human monster instead, one that would use her and end her short life.
For that's exactly what happened very soon after those last video pictures of Kristi Johnson alive were taken that day. I'll never get those images out of my consciousness for the rest of my life.
I'm not a father. I've not been fortunate in life to have had that privilege. But I can imagine the pleasure of having a child that is part of you, to share that beautiful creatures early life, to help mold that child's world view, helping it to understand, and one day cope with the world's intricacies and joys, and dangers. Of sharing birthdays, and Christmases, and spelling tests, and first dates, and Halloweens, and everything else, and then to suddenly have all of that abruptly taken away by the insane acts of that human monster. Maybe just monster, for the act perpetrated upon Kristi can hardly be called human.
It rained hard during the winter of 2003. In the hills above Hollywood rivers of water poured off the hills, and mud, and one day some hikers found what looked like the remains of a female body.
Det. Obenchain: "Kristine’s body was found. Her hands tied behind her back. Her legs tied. She was partially in a sleeping bag, and she was severely decomposed from the shoulders up."
Morrison: "Simply by being out of doors in a very rainy, wet season."
Det. Obenchain: "Correct."
Morrison: "Dumped."
Det. Obenchain: "Dumped."
Terry Hall: "I think Kristi appreciated life very much. She was very aware that what there was in this world, you know that was beautiful about this world."
The name of the man who murdered Kristi is Victor Paleologus, 40 years old at the time, and had no connection with the film industry. I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about this piece of filth. The two women he had attempted this scam on before had taken precautions when meeting him for the "audition," one taking a male friend along. They were able to identify Paleologus, after a police sketch had been issued of the person of interest in Kristi's case. A parole officer contacted Det. Obenchain and told her he was one of theirs. Fortunately for Det. Obenchain, Paleologus was already in county jail for an unrelated offense. He admitted to meeting Kristi on that day, but nothing else.
Any physical evidence that might have tied Kristi's murder to Paleologus had been washed away, but after his arrest got a little publicity other witnesses came forth, and...
Det. Obenchain: "We had another woman call us on the tip line, and she said that she saw Mr. Paleologus at the Century City mall on February 15. We also got a call from Mr. Paul Cady who is a realtor, who had shown Mr. Paleologus numerous houses, particularly one house on Skyline Drive that was several hundred yards away from where her body was found."
The prosecution brought in Susan Murphy, Cathy Debuono, and other women who had encountered Paleologus in the past.
Susan Murphy: "Anyone who was in that court will tell you my voice. I was shaking. There’s a jury right there. And then just looking at her family, that broke my heart. Broke my heart. And I kept thinking about, what if that was my dad sitting out there?"
Over 3 years after her disappearance, 13 days into his trial, Paleologus decided to make a deal and pled guilty to Kristi's murder.
The deal: He would escape the death penalty and get 25 to life with the possibility of parole but without the right to appeal.
Morrison: "Was it important to the family to hear him say, 'I killed your daughter?'"
Det. Obenchain: "It was."
Morrison: "Did they get as much as they wanted in that respect?"
Det. Obenchain: "No. I think they wanted to know why she had to die. I have a theory. I can’t prove it. Only Victor knows if it’s true. But I think he lured her up there for the purposes of raping her. He assaulted her, she fought back, he strangled her, went a little too far, she lost consciousness, he thought he had killed her and he dumped her over the hill."
Morrison: "You think it’s even possible she went down the side of that hill still alive?"
Det. Obenchain: "According to the coroner the head wound was peri-mortem, which is on the brink of death, so she may have still been alive."
Then Paleologus asked the judge through a letter if he could withdraw his guilty plea. The judge denied his request.
Kristi's parents were then allowed to address the murderer of their daughter.
Kirk Johnson, Kristi’s father: "The reason we are here is because of Mr. Paleologus. And there is a reason why this happened. Only God knows. And I can’t find an answer for that."
Terry Hall: "Victor Paleologus has been allowed the freedom to let the evil in his life escalate, resulting in the heinous murder of Kristi my beloved young daughter, a beautiful young woman on the threshold of her life."
Judge: "For the willful deliberate and premeditated first degree murder of Kristine Johnson, the court sentences the defendant to serve 25 years to life in the state penitentiary."
Christine Kludjian: "One had to die for us to pay attention? One had to die for us to look at a situation and say, 'Wait a minute, what is going on with our laws in this country that put repeat offenders who are not rehabilitateable out on the street again and again and again?'"
Back in jail Victor Paleologus continued to deny killing Kristi, stating he only pled guilty because it would cost too much to go to trial.
He continues to deny the murder to this day.
Here is the link to the Dateline story:

  Today would have been Kristi's 37th birthday.

Below is an essay written by Kristi's mother, Terry Hall:

I reported Kristi as missing on Monday morning, February 17, 2003. It was about two weeks later that I retrieved a phone message telling me her body had been discovered. I was alone in the back of a limo at night heading into New York City. The plans had been to speak on a national talk show the next morning to continue efforts escalating publicity on Kristi’s disappearance in the hopes that she was still alive and would be found. The words on the voice mail from the chief of police confirming Kristi’s death extinguished all hope. I was engulfed with an overwhelming physical hollowness and a mental paralysis. At the same time, I was filled with a presence of strength and love. I was not alone in the back of the limo; a spirit resided within me. Kristi was now at peace in an everlasting world filled with love.
During the search for Kristi, everything moved rapidly — but not fast enough. The last time I had spoken with Kristi was on Saturday, February 15, 2003, the day of her murder. We spoke with each other daily. That morning we chatted a little about this and that; I thanked her for the e-Valentine she had sent me the day before. It was a sweet message accompanied by a song she liked. She was going to go to the mall later on; she wanted to buy some candles. I told her to pick some out. The candles would be my Valentine Day present to her. President's Day was going to be on Monday, she had to work but I had the day off.
Later during the day, I tried to call Kristi. She didn’t pick up. The next day I tried several times to call her again, still no pick up. I thought it was odd; maybe she didn’t remember to charge her cell phone or maybe she was busy with friends. Whatever the reason, I’d try back on Monday morning.
Monday morning came and still nothing. At 9 a.m., I called her office number; no pick up on her direct line. I called the main number and they hadn’t heard from her either. This was unusual since Kristi was always on time or would have called if running late.
The next call I made was to the Santa Monica Police Department to report Kristi as missing. I was concerned she had been in an accident. The SMPD suggested I contact local hospitals. I called multiple hospitals. Kristi had not been admitted to any of them. I called SMPD back to confirm reporting Kristi as missing. An officer was deployed to her apartment around noon to interview one of her roommates. The search for Kristi was on.
Every waking moment was spent ramping up the search efforts for Kristi. Any possible scenario of her whereabouts was ever present in my mind. Phone calls became constant. Missing persons and search organizations, the media, the police department, family, friends, Kristi’s co-workers. Pictures of Kristi were put together to assist in building the awareness of her [being] missing. The circumstances related to Kristi's disappearance combined with her beauty and innocence heightened media interest. I was grateful to get the attention to build awareness of search efforts. Time was lapsing but never my hope that she would be found. I hadn’t known at this time the fact that after 72 hours of a person [being] missing, they most would not be found alive.
Kristi’s birthday was coming up soon. She was born on February 27, 1981. She would have turned 22 years old on that birthday had she lived. I reached out to the Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to organize a vigil on Kristi’s birthday. I had been an Episcopalian all my life and Kristi and her brother grew up attending the Episcopal Church. Saint Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica welcomed me with love and support.
A candlelight vigil was held on Kristi’s birthday, February 27. On the evening the vigil was held, I received much love, support and prayers. The music at the service was beautiful. Two songs were sung, one “You Are So Beautiful To Me,” a song I used to sing to Kristi as a baby when I rocked her to sleep. The other song, “Hero,” by Enrique Iglesias, was the song Kristi had sent to me in her e-Valentine. The crowd that had gathered for the vigil proceeded outside to the courtyard while singing and holding lit candles. A circle of prayer was formed under a beautiful tree within the courtyard. This would eventually be the location of the Fountain of Joy in Kristi’s memory.
On March 3, 2003, Kristi’s body was discovered down a ravine in the Hollywood hills. The circumstances of her murder are beyond horrendous. After receiving the news of Kristi’s death, all my energy immediately went to planning a beautiful funeral. This was my last opportunity to lay Kristi to rest with the respect and dignity her life deserved. The activity of dealing with details of funeral preparation somehow kept me functional. It diminished my deep dark grief.
I shopped for Kristi for the last time, picking out a lovely sleeping gown and wrap for her to be dressed in. Even though the casket would be closed, it gave me comfort to know I could somehow make a contribution to honor her, no matter how unnecessary. I could barely see the road driving home as my eyes welted with tears, the shopping bag on floor next to me containing the sleeping gown packed in a gift box.
Kristi’s funeral was held at the Episcopal Church in the town where I was then living, Los Gatos, Calif. Simultaneously, a memorial service for Kristi was being held at the Episcopal Church in Saugatuck, Mich. A memorial service was also held later that week in Santa Monica, at St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church.
While Kristi's brother and I were planning her funeral with the Father at St. Luke’s in Los Gatos, he told us that his mother had always said, “Funerals are for the living.” These words still reside with me. Not only was Kristi’s funeral for the living, but also any future tributes to Kristi’s life would be for the living. Kristi loved life and that’s how she would want us to continue ours.
An incredible amount of people had given time, effort and support during the search effort for Kristi. People continued to give of themselves and made financial donations in her memory after her death. I contacted St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica to discuss possible projects to channel contributions to. The church had started a project a couple years before to erect a fountain in the courtyard but the project had taken a back burner.
A fountain sounded perfect. My parents have a fountain in the courtyard at their home. This fountain had always been a focal point of family photo shoots during gatherings and events. The fountain could represent so much of what Kristi’s life emitted, it would be called the Fountain of Joy.
It’s been over three years since Kristi’s murder. The trial just recently completed with an outcome we can be satisfied with. The Fountain of Joy project is still living. As with many projects, it’s evolved into a larger undertaking than originally anticipated. The Fountain of Joy’s concept and intent have grown as well.
The Fountain of Joy is still a tribute to Kristi’s life and a gift to all inside and beyond the community who gave so unselfishly during a time of another person’s tragedy. Many of the people who donated their energies did not even know Kristi or anything about her. It was inspiring for me during my difficult journey to see how truly loving and generous people are.
In addition to these tributes, the Fountain of Joy will also be presented to anyone seeking a place of respite and meditation from the challenges of daily life. The fountains beautiful final design, comprised of natural elements; water, stone and light, will evoke the essence of the project, to “Celebrate the Quiet Power.”
How wonderful it will be to see a tranquil welcoming spot in the middle of a busy metropolis welcoming the human sprit to pause, gain strength and celebrate the beauty of this world. I hope the Fountain of Joy will help flourish the joy, love and celebration encompassed in Kristi’s life. Terry Hall, November 9th, 2006

I'm sorry to report that I took a trip to the St. Augustine by the Sea Episcopal Church in Santa Monica one recent Sunday morning, and no one there could point out, tell me about, or remember anything concerning the Fountain of Joy. After only five years it seems to have been discarded and forgotten, or perhaps it was never built.
But I, and this website will always remember Kristi and her short, beautiful, wondrous life, and will repost this story every February 27th for the remainder of Joyce's Take's active existence.
Not only for Kristi, though she would be enough, but for all of the children who have tragically died under similar circumstances. All of those children who disappear. All of the ones we have loved and refuse to forget.