Monthly Archives: September 2012

Played Misty for Me

This is a nicely done story, the real deal, by former LAPD cop and ex-sheriff of Jerome, Idaho, James D. Weaver. Enjoy!

West Los Angeles Division, Bel Air, 1980’s

I’ve just arrived for work when Officer Bob Stout, aka “Fatty,” the guy who coordinates all off duty cop jobs, approaches me. Bob tells me I am up for the next assignment. He maintains a list of officers who want to work off duty – the pay matches the LAPD’s hourly wage, and serves to keep the bill collectors off our backs. Having child support and numerous monthly payments to meet, thanks to my recent divorce, I gladly reply, “I’m your guy.”

“This job only became available because the vice guys are too busy,” Bob says.

He tells me I am to meet with the manager of a hotel who has a prostitution problem. Right there, Bob has gotten my attention. I’m used to high school dances, athletic events, and private parties, that sort of thing.

After filling out a Form 1.47 (Permit for Outside Employment), I call the hotel and am connected to a Mr. Checkers, the manager. I explain the reason for my call.

“I’d like to meet with you, ASAP,” Checkers says.

A short time later, I’m in his office. I sit on the opposite side of his fancy executive desk. As if I can’t tell already, he tells me that his hotel is high-end, very private, and extremely discreet. As part of their service, the concierge obliges those male guests who occasionally request a female companion to accompany them to business dinners, or simply to have a cocktail with.

Checkers says, “Jim let’s cut to the chase. Most of the ladies are high-class call girls.  You know—top of the line. We don’t get too bothered by it, as our policy is what happens here, stays here.”

He isn’t telling me anything I don’t already know. The hotel’s Bistro Lounge is home to the west-side “beautiful” people.

“Jim, one such lady, Misty, is stealing money, credit cards and jewelry from her ‘dates.’ Naturally, the guests she victimizes don’t want the police involved—the embarrassment, you know—and we prefer it that way, but she is posing a problem—risking the hotel’s reputation.”

Checkers leans forward, elbows on his desk.

“Bob Stout assured me he would send over someone like you, Jim, to work Misty—catch her with the goods, so to speak . . . and so, I went ahead and set up a date with her for next Friday night at 9 o’clock, here at the Bistro Lounge. I gave her the name Wally Woodstock. Misty told me she would be in a white dress, and would wear her red hair down over her shoulders. I told her which suite went along with the Woodstock name.”

Sitting back, he adds, “I’ve arranged to have a BMW in the garage for your disposal, should you need it, and I will provide you beforehand with $1,000 in marked bills—also, dinner reservations in the Lounge have been made under the name ‘Woodstock.’”

Checkers then says, “If you make the arrest, please be very discreet.”

“No problem, sir, but I will need a partner as a backup and witness.”

Checkers quickly agrees to pay for the second officer.

Later that day I meet with my long-time partner, Ron, and give him the scoop. He’s up for it, saying, “I’ve never been in the fancy joint.”

“Yeah right. OK, Ron, when I get the violation, I’ll say ‘fantastic,’” and then you bust on in. OK?”

He nods, his face forming a Cheshire cat grin. “I bet it will be, too.”

We review the legal elements needed for a violation of 647.B (Prostitution) in the California Penal Code—basically: naming the type of sex act, and hearing the offered price for said act.

Friday night, Ron and I arrive at the hotel, right on schedule. As expected, the suite is “top floor” quality. I hand Ron a key. Without having to say a word, I know he will watch my back and be ready for any problems. Even though he’s a carefree character, he knows how to take care of business.

We go down to the bar and take up our positions. The barroom is doing a good business, a place where guests relax while waiting for their table in the Lounge.

Around 9:15 pm, I spot the redhead, my date. Who wouldn’t? She jounces into the bar wearing a low-cut white dress, allowing her small breasts to rise visibly. Her hair hangs to the center of her back. Over her shoulders?

As she approaches the bar, several men’s eyes follow her sashaying hips.

I step up. “Misty?”

“Mr. Woodstock?”

“The one and only.”

I take her arm and lead her to my table. It’s set up for two. Candlelight flickers between us as our drinks are served. Soon, her leg is against mine. She also squeezes my hand.

“I’m sorry I’m late—you know how horrible LA traffic can be.” Her emerald-green eyes, twinkling from the golden flame, gaze at me longingly. “May I call you by your first name?”

“Sure . . . it’s Wally.”

“Wally . . . I like that. Well, Wally, I promise I will make it up to you.”

Casually, I scan the bar. Ron holds his favorite drink, a Glenlivet, neat. Typical Ron, he’s jawboning with a busty cocktail waitress.

After several vodka-and-Seven’s, the maitre d’ escorts Misty and me to our table in the dimly lit Bistro Lounge. I have to agree with what I’d heard: it is an ideal place for a rendezvous like the one we’re supposedly having.

Once seated, Misty again presses her leg next to mine. Her tongue peeks over her ruby lips, moistening them as she bends slightly toward me, enough to give me an eyeful of milky breasts, a smile on her made-up face.

She orders a lobster; I smile and do the same. I also order a bottle of Dom Pérignon.  We chat about what is going on in our lives over dinner. During dessert, Misty gets down to business.

“Wally . . . I think I’d like to have an after-dinner drink.” Her tone is questioning.

“I would like that,” I quickly say, admittedly feeling a rise in my groin.

“Wally . . . I like you. Would you mind if we had it in your room?”

As we walk out of the Lounge, I look for Ron. He’s nowhere in sight. I should be concerned, but I’m not. The drinks, the mood of the evening, and my groin have me feeling no pain. It’s about show time. I must focus on the bust—not hers, Jimbo! 

We enter the suite and I immediately ring room service for another bottle of Dom. Misty is sashaying in front of me, giving me a seductive stare. Thankfully, the bellhop soon knocks at the door. After he wheels in the cart with the bottle settled in a bucket of ice, I ask him to open the champagne. He does, and fills two glass flutes. I tip him and he departs.

Simultaneously, Misty throws her arms around me, blows in my ear, nibbles my earlobe, and kisses my neck. I’m getting tumescent.

Things are moving way too fast.

I quickly untangle myself. “Let me wash up, hon—enjoy your Dom.”

When I return she is on the sofa, down to her pink underwear and lying on her side. One of the best bodies I have ever seen.

“Come and get it cowboy,” she purrs then empties her stem glass.

Having no vice experience, I only know I need to get a violation. But she hasn’t even hinted about wanting money. I can’t expose myself, especially not with a hard-on—then she saves my ass.

“But first, cowboy, it’ll cost you $500 for a half-and-half (street vernacular for a blowjob and a straight lay.)

Sighing in relief, I say, “OK, lady—but first, let me see that fine body of yours.”

Misty eyes the swelling in my crotch, and quickly slips out of her bra and panties.

“Misty, you’re fantastic,” I say loudly with my head facing toward the hallway door.

I stand stupidly waiting for Ron to bust into the suite.

No Ron.

I repeat, even more loudly, “yeah, you’re really fantastic!”

I hear a scraping noise at the door, then a banging.

Misty sits up, obviously startled.

Ron staggers in and shouts, “Los Angeles Police, you’re unner arrest.” His words are slurred.

Misty immediately puts on the sob scene, like she’s been here before. “Can’t we work something out?”

I read Misty her legal rights.

“I got nothin’ to say to you fuckin’ assholes,” she spits out.

I landline Dispatch, and request a radio car to transport her to the West Los Angeles Station.

Later, while completing the necessary reports, Ron joins me.

“Misty just beat us back to the streets, pardner—she made bail.”

“Sorry I’m so slow.” Ron knows that report writing isn’t my favorite piece of police work.

“No problemo. I’m heading out, Jimbo—see you at Westside Frank’s for a nightcap.”

“OK, give me thirty.”

Arriving at Frank’s, a cop bar, I see Ron sitting with Fatty Bob. Feeling magnanimous, I announce, “I’m buying gents.”

I open my calfskin wallet to pay for the round.

“Oh shit!”

Mexican Train

Not this.




Mexican Train.

You might think I am referring to a locomotive that rattles noisily down steel tracks somewhere in Mexico. Well, I am not. I am talking about a popular board game using dominoes that I discovered through friends.

A year ago or so, when in Mexico, Tom and Dee Grant, along with another couple, Don and Leslie, introduced my wife, Barbara, and I to the game. I forgot about the fun event until our last visit to the Grant’s home. That evening we again played Mexican Train, but with another couple as Don and Leslie weren’t available.

During the game, funny little things occurred that brought chuckles. Soon the double entendres were flying. I laughed until my eyes were blurry. The game went on for five hours. Barbara won. She’s a games person.

Anyway, when we returned to our home in Oregon, I decided to buy the game. Fearlessly, I went online and found

Wow! Check out the website and you will see why it nearly blew my mind. It’s not exactly the slickest website in the world, but boy is it ever filled with, well, content. I thought I’d find a simple game featured here — you know, a box full of dominoes,  the other necessary pieces, and some simple instructions. Wrong. Instead, I was faced with a a long list of choices.

First, which set did I want? here were five options: a Double 6 with threes and fives (the number of pips on a tile), the most popular size, along with a Double 9, a Double 12 with 91 dominoes with the tile pips ranging from blank (0) to 12, a Double 15 with 136 dominoes ranging from 0 to 15, and a Double 18 featuring 190 dominoes, with the tile numbers ranging from 0 to 18. This one allows you to play more complicated games.

The website features a video to help you see the games and the colors on the various sets. In addition to dominoes with pips, they’re also available  with numbers (makes ‘em easier to read). There are various racks and trays (wood or plastic), a rules and strategy book, tournaments to sign up for, and domino clubs to join. There’s even a blog site for players’ comments.

For example, a question was posed on the site about a player announcing that he wanted to “go out” on a double (a tile with the same number of pips on each half), but not having a tile to answer it. The rules were checked, and seeing a name of a recognized expert on the game they called her. Her response was that you must answer a double to go out. This changes the strategy of the game a great deal, since you should try to hold a tile that coordinates with a double, or be sure to play a double earlier if it doesn’t match anything in your hand so you can go out, or, if it is a low double, hang onto it to the end because it will be low points in your hand. Get it?!

You are wondering why I don’t explain the above in greater, more lucid detail, it’s because I really can’t, at least not yet. I am still a novice. Like I’ve said, I’ve only played the game twice. I’m not Barbara!

I have learned one important detail, however. It turns out that the owner of the premises where the game is being played is the final arbiter in all disputes. It might pay to host the game.

What’s available on the website doesn’t stop there. They sell train markers, a set of eight that come in solid colors or with glitter, or a Double 6 with black dots and brass spinners (don’t ask). You can buy a container (case) in vinyl, tin, wood, or aluminum, and carry it in a tote bag with a Mexican Train logo. Ot how about a yard sign for advertising that Mexican Train is being played at your place tonight?

They sell train hubs in clear plastic, or wood hubs for six or eight players. Some sets have train hubs that come with sounds. Even chicken sounds! And why not also get yourself a set of 10 colored chicken markers while you’re at it? Or there’s always the interactive yellow hub with chicken-foot and train graphics and sounds. Simply push “train sound” when you start a train, or “chicken crow” when you start a double (again, don’t ask!).

There are attractive red caboose pencil sharpeners, dominoes with jumbo sized pips or numbers, even a spiffy, four-fold domino tabletop. There are large train markers, the Mexican Train whistle key chain, and, best of all, a large glass train in a silver gift box. And of course you have to have scorecards, and an official train pen.

It’s apparently highly recommended that you cover your game table with felt. It makes for quieter play, and the tiles slide more easily. Also, since dominoes pick up dirt from table surfaces, people’s hands, food, and drink, over time they become dirty. You guessed it. The site offers cleaning remedy suggestions.

Being a party animal, I decided I wanted to be able to play with eight players, so I opted for the professional-sized Double 15. Hey, it was on sale, at a whopping 19% discount. I saved $16. Plus, bonus, it came with a faux cowhide Leatherette case with a snap closure. And the train hub is interactive. You know, with those funny chicken sounds.

I stopped short of purchasing the game night lawn sign. I like to think that shows a certain steely sort of masculine will and determination.

On the other hand, it could simply be because I don’t have a lawn.


Our four-legged security system, Thor, at four weeks

We’re moving to Mexico soon. While the area we’re moving to is far safer than many a neighborhood in the States, home security is still an issue.

Thus Thor.

This cute little denizen of Camp Verde, Arizona, will be picked up en route to our lovely new digs south of the border. Before you can say “Bob’s your uncle,” Thor will have grown a bit, ready and able to make unwelcome visitors to our hacienda nueva wish they’d dropped in somewhere else!

Who needs a .357 magnum?

So when you drop by for a visit, be sure to ring the doorbell, smile a lot — and bring a Milkbone or two!

The birth of cool

Legendary cool jazz trumpeter, Chet Baker

1958-1964 bore a different look, attitude and sound than anything that had come before. It was that brief, eventful era that bridged the gap between the old-school glamour of Hollywood’s Golden Age, and the, hipper, harder-edged times that would follow. It was during these years that rock and roll was born, and, while not marking the birth of the blues, was the period when this form of distinctly American music finally received broad public recognition. Blues had been around for decades, but mainstream America paid little attention, until it was discovered that the blues were the root of rock and roll.

A new generation began to emerge, embracing music and fashion that directly expressed the changing times. It was this sexy combination that soon inspired the rest of the world to get with the new program. Blues and rock and roll were this new wave’s musical meat, and folk music was their potato. Then punks came on the scene, along with rebels, hipsters, potheads, and loud ‘n fast guitars.

The times, they were a’changin’.

The atmosphere in the smoke-filled jazz clubs of that era was stifling. Windows and doors were opened to allow some “cool air” in from the outside, to help clear away the suffocating smoke. It was inevitable that the slow, smooth jazz style that was typical for that late-night scene came to be called “cool.”

Marlene Kim Connor connects cool and the post-war African-American experience in her book, What is Cool? Understanding Black Manhood in America. Connor writes that cool is the silent and knowing rejection of racist oppression, a self-dignified expression of masculinity developed by black men denied mainstream expressions of manhood. She argues that the mainstream perception of cool is narrow and distorted, that it is too often seen merely as a style or a sign of arrogance, rather than a way to achieve respect. Designer Christian Lacroix is onside with Connor, noting that, “…the history of cool in America is the history of African-American culture.”

While speaking of cool, anyone interested in this “new” jazz phenomenon is well advised to check out Ted Gioia’s excellent book, Cool Jazz and West Coast Jazz.

Postwar cool

World War II brought the people of Britain, Germany, and France into intimate contact with Americans and American culture. The war brought hundreds of thousands of GIs to these countries, men whose relaxed, easy-going manner was seen by young people of the time as the very embodiment of liberation. They brought with them came Lucky Strikes, nylons, swing, and jazz, in addition to this laid-back attitude—the new American Cool.

To be cool or “hip” at the time meant hanging out with buddies, pursuing sexual liaisons, displaying the appropriate attitude of narcissistic self-absorption, and generally expressing a desire to escape the mental straitjacket of “old-fashioned” ideologies. From the late 1940s onward, American popular culture influenced young people all over the world, to the great dismay of the paternalistic elites who still ruled the “official” culture.

The stage was set for one of the greatest eras of social unrest and upheaval in Western history.


I was born under the astrological sign of Aries, the ram. Two days later and it would have been Taurus, the bull. Mother, bless her heart, told me she really wanted her baby to be born on a Sunday. I don’t know why. I don’t think she thought about astrology. Well, ever the doting son, I arrived just after noon on a Sunday, as scheduled. I suspect I actually wanted to come days earlier. Maybe that explains why I tend to be impatient.

According to mythology, in Hellenistic astrology the sign of the ram was associated with the golden winged ram that rescued Phrixos and his sister Helle from the altar, where they were to be offered as a sacrifice to Zeus. The golden ram carried them to the land of Colchis, but on the way, Helle fell into the sea and drowned. When Phrixos arrived at Colchis he sacrificed the ram to Zeus and presented the Golden Fleece to his father-in-law, the King of Colchis. The fleece was then hung upon a sacred oak and guarded by a dragon, until rescued by Jason and the Argonauts. The myth recounts that Zeus was so moved by the ram’s fate that he gave it the greatest honor possible, that of being moved to the heavens.

Although the zodiac element of Aries is fire, I am not passionate about many things, but I’ve been known to blow up on occasion. Still, I don’t see myself as a fiery person.

Another Aries quality is cardinal. All I can say is that deep scarlet is my favorite color. Maybe reading about the zodiac sign has unduly influenced me, but I doubt it.

The ruler of the Aries sign is Mars, the Roman god of war. Mars represented military power as a way to secure peace; Mars had a love affair with Venus. I hesitate to comment on how that might affect me, however, considering that Venus is seen as a detriment in the Aries sign, I wonder. I’ve been wedded four times, although my last marriage, nearly 23 years ago to Barbara Kay, took. Perhaps, like John Gray’s book, Men are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex, suggests, my first three marriages were doomed — it was a Venus-Mars matter. No further comment.

Under Aries, the exaltation is the sun. All I can say is that I like being in a sunny clime. That’s why I’ve decided to settle in Mexico. Thankfully, Barbara loves the area we’re headed to, too.

Anyway, most of my life I paid little attention to the astrological sign I was born under. Yet, as I grew older and thought about events in my life, and my behavior generally through the years, I thought about Aries and the ram sign. I considered what I’d experienced in life, and compared those experiences with what people who specialize in horoscopes wrote, like the late Sydney Omarr.  I often found I could fit what astrologists stated to some small event that had happened to me on any given day. It was easy to read in what I wanted to see.

The bottom line is, while I’m unsure about a connection between the alignment of planets and my individual actions, I do feel we humans generate energy that can cause things to happen. I say “things,” because I can’t put a label to it. I’ll leave that to the specialists.

I recall seeing a large billboard on Cahuenga Boulevard, where the winding pass from the San Fernando Valley entered Hollywood, when I was a youngster. It displayed a couple with clasped hands, and the phrase, Prayer Changes Things. I wonder about the energy thing and the power of group prayer. I have read that when people concentrate in unison on one specific thing, positive results sometimes follow.

Anyway, I am fascinated by astrology and phenomena that can’t easily be explained; but, honestly, I rarely read books on the subject.

One other thing. For years, number 48 was my favorite. I was born in the fourth month, when there were 48 states, and World War II ended when I was eight. But the number has never been lucky for me. I have never won a thing by betting on it. I still like the number, though. A good reminder that winning isn’t everything!

Learning good manners, Mexican-style

Mexico — Viva la differencia!

Preparing for our move to Mexico, Barbara and I have read and reread Judy King’s article she published in the Lake Chapala Review in February of this year.

It contains valuable information that I am copying and offering to those of you planning to visit Mexico.

Judy’s advice is to start by learning her list of “basic etiquette tips and customs.” She says not to be discouraged, as it might take time to automatically respond correctly, and stop saying “Good bye,” when you think you mean “Hello.”

OK, here we go.

Adios: Whenever driving and you want to shout a cheery greeting to those you are passing, or when you meet someone on the sidewalk, but can’t take time to stop and visit, the correct greeting is “Adios.” The only time you say “Buenos dias,” (Good day), is when you have time to stop and chat. Coming or going, you are blessing those you meet by saying, “Adios.” In effect, you are placing the person in God’s hands.

Eye contact: I was taught to look one in the eyes when speaking to them. In Mexico, holding one’s gaze is deemed aggressive or flirtatious behavior. So, look at or near the other person’s eyes. With the opposite sex, intent eye contact can be considered a come-on. In some rural areas, looking intently at a baby can be interpreted as an attempt to cast the “evil eye.” You can show your good intentions and release the parents’ concern by reaching out and softly touching the baby’s hand or foot.

Introductions: When you meet someone new, be the first to respond vocally to the formal introduction. That way you can be the one to say, “Con mucho gusto” (with much pleasure). Your new acquaintance will then respond with one of the several more difficult phrases.

Handshaking: Men always shake hands at a first introduction, and at the next several meetings. Just a gentle squeeze, pr favor, as a bone-crushing grip is considered aggressive and invasive. Men’s handshakes evolve into a traditional abrazo (hug), where the handshake is used to move in closer as the men exchange a hearty hug, and three warm pats on the upper back. Women must initiate all handshakes. More often the handshake between a man and a lady or between two ladies is just a soft touching of right hands, and a kiss near the right cheek. Even the tiniest toddlers are taught to offer their hands for the saludos (greetings), often before they learn to talk. All girls and many little boys are accustomed to giving each adult un besito (a little kiss) when they arrive and as they prepare to depart.

Tossing and throwing: Never, ever toss something to a Mexican, even a close friend. The simple act of lofting a pencil or a key ring across a room is viewed as a harsh insult and can cause an immediate hurt and an angry reaction.

Physical contact: It might take you some time to learn to cope with being bumped, jostled, and touched in crowded situations. My cop street-wise side likely would have me immediately reaching for my wallet, thinking I was surrounded by pick pockets. In large crowds, as at fiestas, street markets, parades, and sporting events, I noted that when I paused to clear a space and waited for others to pass, those coming toward me never exchanged the courtesy, and often nudged me out of the way. When I realized that the constant contact was a normal situation, I wondered if they were being deliberately inconsiderate? My attitude changed, however, when I realized that many Mexicans grow up with whole families, including three or four children, sleeping in a single room. With the extended family living in a single dwelling, the inevitable and constant physical contact at home gave bumping and touching on the street a different context. Studies show that North Americans reflect their need for space by communicating most comfortably at a distance of 36-48 inches. Hispanics, on the other hand, move in closer to about 18 inches.

The shopkeeper: Try to remember to say “Buenos dias” or “Buenos tardes”  (Good afternoon) as you enter a business, even if the owner or clerk is not in sight. We’re accustomed to not “bothering” the clerk until we need help. Delaying that first greeting is considered not only unfriendly, but also dismissive to Mexican employees.

Put the money into the hand: OK, a small detail, but an important one. At the grocery store, the taco stand, even when paying the housekeeper each week, put the money directly into their hand. Placing it on the counter or tabletop for them to pick up is considered a snub—an indication that you don’t want to make direct contact with them.

The (even slightly) bad words and smutty jokes: Don’t learn to swear in Spanish (too late for me!), leave the Spanish words for pirates and parrots. That way you won’t be tempted to disgrace yourself, or even let a bad word slip accidentally. Today’s Mexico, even among the rich and famous, is more like it was north of the border in my grandma’s day—at least where language is concerned. Yes, you might hear workmen drop a string of expletives. So be it. While slightly off-color jokes and double entendres often are bandied about when the men and the women are in separate groups, it is extremely disrespectful in the presence of the opposite sex or in front of children.

Remember. Mexico is not North America. Viva la differencia!

Homeless vendors sell beer on the streets — and dodge police!

Being a cop in L.A. isn’t always glamorous (photo courtesy of Barbara Davidson/ LA Times)


Being a cop can be a hugely rewarding profession. Then there are times when it can be a real drag.

A recent court ruling has made it difficult for patrolmen in Los Angeles to crack down on street people selling beer and drugs on the sidewalks. Here’s a fascinating (and well-written) article on the subject by Sam Allen in today’s Los Angeles Times. Enjoy.




The lady singer at Sardi’s in Hollywood


It was a sunny Sunday afternoon in fall. My army buddy and I were on leave before being shipped out to our next outfits. I would be heading for New Rochelle, New York, to attend the Army Information School. My friend was going elsewhere. We’d just completed three months of boot camp in Fort Ord, and had flown to L.A. from Monterey the day before.

We were wearing our “greens,” the brand new dress uniform that replaced the OD, olive-drab, dress wear and the old Ike jacket.

Every once in a while, as we strolled down Hollywood Boulevard, servicemen from other branches, seeing us, saluted as they passed by. Being courteous guys, we returned the greetings, and then laughed our asses off each time, once we were out of earshot. It was obvious that the enlisted men from the other armed forces branches were unaware of the Army’s new uniform. To them we looked like officers in our saucer-shaped hats.

As we strolled by Sardi’s, we heard cool jazz music wafting out. Neither of us were twenty-one, the legal age for consuming alcohol, but we tacitly decided to see if we could get served. We were relying on our uniforms to avoid being carded by the cocktail waitress.

Inside the dimly lit lounge, we were shown to a seat in the rear. We ordered beers. After the waitress went to fill our drink orders, we winked at each other, our faces beaming.     We had passed the test.

On the low stage a woman began singing some scat jazz. She was good, and her style had me grooving. I was already into jazz, having been hooked by Johnny Hodges’ tenor sax while attending city college a year earlier.

After our beers were served, we relaxed and settled into our seats to suck up the suds and the soulful sounds.

At one point, while the lady on the stage sang, the cocktail waitress, carrying a tray of drinks, walked right in front of the singer to serve a front row table. Since the stage was low, the waitress blocked our view.

It was apparent the singer didn’t appreciate the interruption. Her frowning expression displayed that; still, obviously a pro, she continued singing.

When the music set ended, the singer stepped off the stage and came around the room heading toward the rear. Her route took her by our four-person table.

As she passed by, I called out, “Great voice, ma’am. That wasn’t very polite of the barmaid.”

The singer paused, studied us momentarily, and smiling, stepped closer.

I quickly stood. “Please, join us,” I said, nudging my friend to get to his feet. He did.

She said, “Don’t mind if I do.” She drew up a chair and sat across from me.

The waitress immediately stopped at our table.

The singer ordered a soda water with lime, then looking at me, she asked, “So, you boys enjoying the music?”

For the rest of her twenty-minute break we chit chatted.

When she got up to go back to the stage, I scrambled to my feet. “I love your voice,” I said. I’ll be buying your albums.

She looked back. “You boys are sweet—do enjoy the show.”

To this day I will never forget my afternoon sitting with Lady Jane, the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald.

The Polar Palace

The interior of the Polar Palace


Saturday mornings on occasion found me at the Polar Palace, a block south of Melrose Avenue at the corner of Van Ness Avenue and Clinton Street. I was a teenager, no longer riding the red car from the San Fernando Valley into Hollywood. When I was fourteen, Mother decided I was old enough to take care of myself while she was at work.

So the Polar Palace it was, with its painted mountain scenes on the end walls, a neat place to meet girls. It was the largest indoor ice surface in the world—110 by 230 feet. It cost 75 cents to enter, 25 cents as a spectator. A lady named Gracie sat at the cashier’s booth. She’d been a Mack Sennett bathing beauty years before.

One Saturday when I was there, the pretty blonde actress, Vera-Ellen, was skating at the rink. She was practicing for her upcoming film, White Christmas. She played the role of Judy Haynes. Rosemary Clooney played her sister, Betty. Bing Crosby as Bob, and Danny Kaye as Phil, pursued them.

In the finale, Bob and Betty declare their love, as do Phil and Judy. The background of the set is removed to show the snow falling in Pine Tree, Vermont. Everyone raises a glass, toasting, “May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white.”

That reminds me. Christmastime found my mother meticulously decorating a silvertip pine with tons of tinsel. My wife, Barbara, says I inherited Mother’s idiosyncrasy. She laughs whenever I walk through the kitchen and can’t resist straightening items on the counter, or the times I walk through the garden and have to pull a weed or two.

Anyway, the Polar Palace with its hanging incandescent lights was a fun place, but it wasn’t insulated, so a sort of fog misted inside. I dressed for the cold conditions. Oftentimes, in the summer, as much as four inches of water accumulated on the surface. I recall little lumps of ice that formed from condensation caused by an overhead pipe that dripped rusty water. The pipes held the lights. At least the rust stains alerted skaters to the crusty deposits that were hazardous.

The Polar Palace, a huge wooden structure, burned down in 1963. The cause: faulty wiring in the coffee shop. After the fire, it was discovered that permafrost went as deep as forty feet into the ground. For many years the property was not suitable to build upon.

The coffee shop was where all the non-skating action occurred, where I flirted with the pretty girls. They made hot and cold sandwiches, including a great hot meatloaf sandwich, but my favorite was a bear-claw heated on the grill in sizzling butter.

What I called the professional skaters, paid 50 cents a month for personal lockers.

The guards, a guy named Dick and several others, resurfaced the ice (this was pre-Zamboni) with hand scrapers and a device that looked like a ten-gallon drum with a wide strip of chamois hanging from it. The drum contained water and fed the top of the chamois, which laid a smooth surface on the ice. The corners used to have a big buildup of ice from the hoses.

Cliff Oddson was manager of the skate shop, and was one of the best sharpeners in town. He’d skated in Sonja Henie’s shows and a couple of her movies. He had a great collection of antique skates which all went in the fire. A guy named Bob also worked there.

In 1954, the U.S. Nationals were held there. Tenley Albright was crowned national champion for her second women’s singles title.

I have wonderful memories from those Saturdays—the music, the smell, the cold, the sounds of skaters whizzing past me. The Polar Palace seemed so huge back then.

Out my window…

The view out my window.


I am gazing out my office window at the Pacific.  It’s four o’clock and the sun finally has burned through. Whitecaps glisten about five miles offshore. The wind has yet to reach the beach, a normal occurrence along the southern Oregon coast. It’s a pleasant Sunday; the nip of fall is in the air, to be expected. It’s Labor Day weekend.

Quiet times like this I thoroughly enjoy life. It is a time to relax, to put worrisome thoughts out of my mind. Tomorrow, although a holiday, will start a new week and bring new challenges, hopefully easily surmountable.

My Sundays have not always been so idyllic. For too many years, actually decades, I dreaded this hour on Sunday afternoons, because it meant being taken away from my mother’s arms and being delivered to a foster home over the hills, far away.

Being a working, single parent, Mother had little choice but to have me cared for on weekdays. I never fully understood being “farmed out” until I became a dad.

In my novels, Mike Montego shares that difficult part of my life. Some of what I experienced in those days is revealed in my fiction. Still, Mike is not Jess Waid.

As a young boy, like so many kids, I read a lot of books suitable for my age: Bambi, Call of the Wild, Robinson Crusoe, Smokey, White Fang, Zane Grey’s many westerns, any story that would take me away from reality. As a result, I dreamed about being a writer who told stories that transported the reader away from his or her current circumstances, especially if they felt lonely and/or unhappy.

When I took up writing, rather late in life, it was as a hobby. I soon found it gave me a means to fantasize and reshape earlier parts of my life to my liking; not my police career, even though I write police procedurals, but other experiences where I had either screwed up, or had not taken full advantage of whatever life threw at me.

Writing allows me to recapture those fleeting moments. For me, writing is a discrete form of daydreaming . . . something I did way too much in my pre-college days, mostly because I was bored in school.

Three years in the armed forces, however, changed that. I had to perform

After boot camp I was sent east to the Army Information School on an island in the Sound just off New Rochelle, New York. Then I shipped out to West Germany, where I was sent to the Seventh Army’s NCO Academy in Munich. The training in both schools was academically intense, with very little physical exertion.

The best part of the NCO Academy was the three-day weekend break we got. It occurred during the Oktoberfest. Munich had turned 800 years old that year. That’s a story in itself. As is the marriage that ensued.

Mike shares a bit of that time in my life in that he, too, gets married, but literary license allows me to modify what I experienced and have fun reshaping the scenarios Mike Montego lives.

At writing seminars one constantly hears, “Write about what you know.” I can’t disagree, but for young people with a desire to become authors, I suggest this: do not wait to write. Take notes. Write about what you’ve encountered in your young life, it might bring about an appreciation you otherwise might miss. Everything that happens to you is a memory, sometimes a pleasant one, sometimes not. Write about them.

It’s those events that often make great stories. Besides, it’s fun to fantasize about them.