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Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Can You Hear the Drums Fernando?

Grumpy Monday: I don't want to go to L.A. I don't think I have much chance of success taking a Collections Company to court, for not fulfilling their contract. My flight is delayed. No wonder United Airlines are the cheapest alternative. I hate using a toilet that thinks it's smarter than I am about flushing decisions. I just had a toasted ham and cheese sandwich that, even to someone like me, who considers bread "but a vehicle for butter", was too greasy to eat, (and, by the way, it wasn't butter, it was certainly a petroleum by-product that was excreted by the oozing, rubbery mess they euphemistically call cheese)! I also want to know what ingredients there could be in mustard that have stained my trousers neon yellow?
There is a sleeping traveller stretched out on the waiting area seats, coughing pitifully. As I wonder about Swine Flu and contagion, I realize that he is an employee of the food-court, complete with apron, taking his break before going back to spread whatever he has to the maximum number of passengers, who will pay through the nose for the privilege.
Update - 6:10 p.m. I must be doing something right because, even though I haven't yet embarked on my flight, I have already received a preliminary settlement offer phone call from the Collection Agency's lawyer. I tell him it is insufficient and that I have an appointment the next day with the District Attorney, to present my case of their fraudulent practices. I don't really have an appointment, but I am convincing. He disputes my reasoning. He has a pro-forma contract. I say that I have a copy of a fax sent eight months previously that trumps his contract. He is willing to wait by his fax machine for me to travel to my hotel and transmit my Ace in the Hole. I feel as though I have them on the run.
LAX is teeming with life. It seems appropriate that the balmy late-evening air carries the saline scent of the Pacific Ocean. I find my shuttle bus and arrive at the car rental desk 5 minutes before they close at 9 p.m. They have a fax machine so I take care of business, faxing my new best friend, the lawyer, whilst my car is brought around. I call his cell and leave a message to confirm that the ball is now in his court. It is never sufficient to assume that faxes or emails will automatically reach their intended target.
The drive to my hotel (motel) in Van Nuys is a straight shot and surprisingly agreeable. On the 405 freeway, traffic is cleanly zipping along at 60 mph, unheard of in L.A. I head north, passing well known exits for Wilshire, Santa Monica and Sunset Blvd. The City is so much more attractive softened by darkness. The sleaze factor is transformed; jewel bright as all that is visible are the colored lights.
The air is, again, surprisingly breathable; warm citrus is the predominant tone. This may well be a once in a lifetime L.A. moment.
Tuesday - 1 p.m. I've been at the Municipal Center since 7 a.m. Court wasn't until 8:30, but the address was ambiguous and I wanted to be sure to have time to relocate if I was not in the right place. I have been trading phone calls with the company attorney who had made the initial settlement offer. I feel as though I can't leave this place, or I will lose my leverage of threatening to lay out my case with the commercial fraud unit.
The pedestrian plaza is modern, well-groomed; a combination of trees, grass, cement and even a water feature; surrounded by Court buildings, The Library and Police Department Buildings. The jail is around the back and there are an array of bail-bondsman's storefront offices, conveniently lining the street nearby. Not a Starbucks or Jamba Juice in sight. I've moved around from varnished wood backless bench to granite wall seat. The criss-cross grid pattern of the green metal stools, which are now in full sun, is permanently imprinted on my rear end. I have a book and people-watching to keep me entertained. I am feeling at home here, my temporary world delineated by the stately monoliths and their supplicants. I become one with the Municipal Plaza. This is my fleeting cosmos.
Three well-mannered, fresh-faced boys and a Dad sat near me for a while. The youngest wearing Clark Kent reading glasses and twiddling away at his Game boy. Dad went to take care of business and I moved to a new spot near a walkway between two buildings, enjoying the contrived breeze blowing from the man-made canyon. Later, I grew tired of reading and gazed straight ahead. A suited, lawyer-type with a woman companion bends to retrieve something and looks questioningly around. He addresses another man, who shakes his head and shrugs. From 100 ft away I interpret what I see; I had heard the young boy mention he had his Dad's car keys. They've wandered off and left them there. The lawyer-type is grateful to hand them over to me. I have time to fill. I revisit the square, keeping my eye out for "my" lost boys. Keys reunited, my Mom-job done. My feet are starting to hurt in my smart shoes, the soles are warming from the heat of the ground.
The line to enter the courthouse has grown long now. Every size and shape and color of humanity is represented, dressed in every style and un-style imaginable. They wait, two-dozen deep, to pass through the security check point to the lobby.
I too am waiting. Has the lawyer been unable to reach his client for a response or are they playing me, trying to wear me out?
The light beige sidewalk is a sticky polka dot hazard of circular black chewing-gum embellishments. I widen my territory in search of a decent cafe. Crossing the street by the jail to go to the Workers' Comp. building, I experience sudden exposure to overhead sun, which drills down on my head and reverberates up from the black-top road, like molten lava steaming the humidity out of the air.
The cafe is a pleasant surprise; I don't care about the food or decor; the seats have cushions! I select a sandwich and bottle of water. There is a wisp of an old woman sitting on a stool at the register. Small of frame, accented voice, dark olive eyes. She tells me she is Greek and thanks me for smiling today. As I pass some time with my book and food I hear her interacting with her regulars. She is well liked. One professional woman in a smart suit and heels takes napkins and wipes down the coffee serving area where she said she had spilled a little sugar. I didn't see her spill anything. It seems to have been a gentle gesture towards easing an other's life.
The sun is fully overhead. I claim a seat in the leafy dappled shade of a plane tree. The birds that were chatty and chirping in its branches this morning are silent; not a peep or a flutter anywhere. The crowds of people have diminished too, all but a few stragglers and I, drawn inside by the lure of air-conditioning.
There goes a woman I recognize from this mornings' ebb and flow. Petite, bright orange hair, indeterminate age. Moving purposefully towards the steps, greeting other habitue-es. Her lime green blouse, titian bob and carmine lips an aesthetic assault on the monochromatic architecture. She's older than the building, for sure.
Lunch must be over. Activity increases again. There are some pretty girls and some pretty dresses. Not necessarily pretty girls in pretty dresses. The shoe choices are intriguing. I've seen a lot of flip-flops and sandals. The glint of patent leather pumps and designer shoes and purses. The best legs of the day just walked by in sneakers. Long, tanned, refined muscle definition all the way up to the short white athletic shorts and tight butt-cheeks. Shame about the grey mustache, balding tome. and the coach's whistle around his neck. Honors due to the legs still.
My eyes continue grazing the range and light upon a youthful cop in relaxed-fit summer khakis which do nothing to hide his body from my imagination. Lithe, blond, energetic with shoulders tapering to waist below. I like his poise and unconscious air of authority. He bounds up the steps and leaves the landscape a poorer place as he disappears from view.
My phone has not rung in a while. If I call the lawyer back for an update it lessens my power. If I wait too long I will be out-manoeuvred, stuck facing a mad dash through turgid freeway gridlock to return my rental car and get back to the airport.
I called him. The trouble is that I am starting to like him. We are adversaries with the common goal of moving on with our lives ASAP. We tentatively close our deal. Not exactly a fight to the death but a tussle of wills and stamina.
Before I leave, I decide to take a closer look at the large bronze statue of a Hollywood-esque Indian that has been in my line of sight all day. He is front and center, facing the courthouse doors. I approach, pre-disposed to assume this is somewhat offensive and politically incorrect. His name is the first thing I see. "Fernando', the plaque says, not what I would have expected. I lean towards being disgusted at the insensitivity of the City Fathers who belittle this hard-bodied representative of the West's dubious past, but I read on. Fernando is so named in honor of the last indigenous people of the San Fernando Valley - The Fernandeno People. This, larger than life, "American Indian Brave" by sculptor Henry Van Wolf has recently been restored and stands in silent vigil, stern and stoic; a solitary sentinel, overseeing the people still optimistically petitioning for justice today; reminding us that justice, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
Can you hear the drums, Fernando?


  1. Incredibly vivid images in a beautiful piece of writing.

    Strangely enough the waiting and sitting have brought out a portrait of the world few people see as they rush along too busy with "doing" to actually appreciate the life around them.

    Wonder if all courthouses have those little cafes nearby. When I was involved in a land use case my friend and I ended up lunching in a similar little spot...and sure enough the opposing lawyers ended up there too. It made your description even more real to me. *l*

  2. That's some ferocious writing!.... love the best legs bit, and I could actually feel the sun and heat... how I long to feel sweaty, don't think I've ever felt the power of the sun as you described (through the top of your head and through your shoes)... my soul cries out to drink bad coffee and watch people in a little cafe in L.A... *sighs...... it all sounds so exciting!

  3. When you write like that, I can hear the drums beating loudly ! That molten lava beat... vibrant descriptions, steamy temperatures. Hopefully you came out of the battle of wills unscathed and perhaps a little wealthier... At the very least this tautly written story is the direct benefit...

  4. Thanks for wading through such a long post. I find people and life so interesting around me. I always want to join in and connect in some way.

  5. So expressive...really terrific.
    She's older than the building, for sure. That is great!

  6. It can be no co-incidence that no single language on earth has ever developed a phrase meaning "as lovely as an airport lounge"!

    I love the flow of this piece - really descriptive and taking us with you. You have a real eye for what's going on around you and a talent for expressing it

  7. Hungry Pixie, I may be tempted to use that in the future. Thanks for the kind words.
    Lydia, Hi. Thanks for the comment. That lady was like an even more brittle version of Nancy Reagan.
    Owen, I did receive a check by Fedex the next day, thanks for asking. I have Abba's Fernando song in my head still. You are all lucky I haven't learned how to post videos yet or they would be here.
    Watercats, I've been meaning to ask: The Cool Cats of Waterford County? Is that where your name originates? I can visualise Ireland, all green and soft and damp and horse-country, to boot. Plus the fact I have liked all the Irish people I have ever met. I wouldn't go there expecting sunshine, for sure. We tend to schedule dog walking, riding and gardening around the heat-level of each time of day. It has its disadvantages.
    Jean, I wore out two pencils and covered many pages with notes. If I had a lap-top I could do "plein aire" writing like the Impressionists with painting. I see each person or situation as a piece in a bigger picture. As if there were a big peg-board with a half completed puzzle. Some are recognizable as fitting somewhere within the existing elements, some need to be placed off to one side until we find their frame of reference.

  8. Damn, Madame!

    Need I say, "I told you so."?

    I. told. you. so.

    And all these folks have me to thank, thank you very much. I feel like the guy that discovered Lana Turner at the lunch counter and put her on the big screen.



    Yes. If you had a laptop...


    My personal fav:

    "Her lime green blouse, titian bob and carmine lips an aesthetic assault on the monochromatic architecture."

    Make my day!;>D

  9. Hi Fr'amie, It has been hard to find enough time to visit everyone recently. Catch up this weekend, if the computer-hog is otherwise engaged. I can still work a mean pencil and paper. It was nice to just focus on the world close around me. You may take credit for launching me. Thanks again.

  10. This is so good...I can't tell if it is real or fiction...whatever, you should be writing for a living or screw that, you should be writing to give people the pleasure of reading it.

    By the way, "American Indians" were not US citizens until 1924, they still don't know much about "justice". They still find out the "hard" way if they complain about anything too loudly.

  11. @eloh, this is real. This is how I spent my Monday/Tuesday of this week. I don't pretend to know the full history of the American Indian. I assumed I would be able to pull a photo from the web once I got home, not the case. The sculpture is well-intentioned and well-done by an acclaimed artist, several decades ago. With that perspective and the words of Abba's song pounding in my head I decided it was a good place to hinge my story. No one can ever be 100% satisfied with "legal justice". I achieved more than I expected and, thanks to the lawyer deciding that my husband, whose name is on the sole proprietorship, should be the one to sign our non-disclosure settlement agreement, I feel free to pursue my revenge or retribution, and protect others from this predatory company. This mistake will bite them in the ass, big time! I'm looking forward to it. An investigator from The Ventura County DA's office, who has his eye on them, called me back yesterday and gave me additional people to contact in LA county. My well-prepared file should not go to waste and it is good for them to know this is one witness who will take the time and effort to do what is right. They have no idea who they messed with.

  12. p.s. "You never learn anything for free" applies equally to me, the American Indian and, my prey, the collections company!

  13. Hi English Rider
    I've had great difficulty getting on to this comment box. Google wouldn't let me through for the past two days.

    What a Tour de Force! You are one formidable lady, I wouldn't like to get in your way. The tale of revenge and retribution is well told and very interesting; more power to your elbow!

  14. While you were waiting you were communing with your surroundings and sharing in this post, so we were able to see through your eyes. The descriptions of the people in particular intrigued me.

  15. I really loved this post, such vivid and well-realised images! If you've some of the sunshine to spare, we could deifnitely use it here in Blighty!

  16. Friko, Google and Twitter were under hack-attack for a couple of days. It's not you, it's them. Thanks for your comment. I'll keep you posted on the sequel.
    Technobabe, I am always surprised at how many people can look but not see all that is around them. I love travel for the moments spent waiting and observing. Paddington Station is one of my favorites. (I like the little bronze bear there and the foods O.K. too). Heathrow Airport International departure as well.
    Argent, If I could I would send you some. I am happy it was less hot than usual in LA that day.

  17. Good for you, good for you, and good for you. I can't say it enough.

    I only told you that about our indigenous people here because it's a fact most people born here don't know.

    I'm probably safe here in your comments section to tell that I am just having a horrible time (legally), I can't say anything until it is over and then I can let it fly. My lung doctor got the jury trial was supposed to start Monday. When I can tell you all about it you will laugh yourself sick. In the mean time the stress is keeping me sick, plus living next to a crazy...oh well.
    I erased some stuff, you never know what will goggle.

  18. @eloh, fingers and toes crossed for a good outcome and a rip-roaring story to read in the future. Take something to read any time you go to court. Waiting is a big part of the experience.

  19. I kept hearing the Law & Order "Dah-Dah" between paragraphs.... I would love to learn more about your lawsuit against the collections agency. I wish I had known about it earlier as there is a lot I could have told you! I got the impression that you settled, but a comment above makes me think it is still going on?

  20. Dave, the above comment was regarding @eloh's upcoming suit. Mine is settled business/money-wise. I might not be done with the "justice" part. They solicited my business and lied, saying they had found someone who owed me a large amount and would levy his $50,000 bank account, if I sent them $3,000, which I would also recoup. We agreed they would get 18% overall and they told me to expect a check in a week or two. 8 months, multiple lies and crazy stories later, I realized I had been duped. One look at CII on line and there are so many red flags and other victims. They did nothing for me but waste my time. I did get my money back but there are several investigators in a couple of district attorney's offices who may be helped by my meticulous file with notes of each conversation and transaction. We'll see.

  21. Dear English, not only the story, but all these comments are what I'd call, were I english too, a smashing good read !

    Saw where you said the video of Abba's song would have been on the page if you knew how to do it... if you do want to do it, it really is simple; on the YouTube page where the video is, just to the right of the video you always have two little boxes, one that says URL, which is the address of the video in question, the second says something like "Put the video on a web site" In that box you have a line of code that starts with < object...

    You just need to copy that entire line of code, and then paste it right into the post you are creating... simple as that.

  22. Owen, This story has taken on a bit of a life of its own. Someone must take up Hungry Pixie's challenge and invent a word for "as lovely as an airport lounge". Comments are so appreciated and so interesting when everyone takes a different piece to heart.
    Thanks for the instructions. I will give it a shot. La Fram gave me a blogging book but I put it down and haven't taken it up again, although it was interesting.
    I didn't visit the link you gave on the mistreated horses. Coward that I am, I couldn't face it. Thanks all the same. Enjoy your hols.

  23. I gleaned from some of the comment responses that these events were real,but to me they read like a wonderfully descriptive treasure of a short story.Hard to pick out a particular jewel but that 'carmine lips' someone else mentioned, is a real smacker!

  24. Eejit, thanks, glad you enjoyed it and welcome aboard. I used to imagine the words I would use describing all I saw in letters home to my parents. Those days (or rather, my parents) have past but the habit remains.

  25. Owen, I just succeeded in following the directions you gave. Keep eyes open for my first post with video insert. Coming soon to a blog near you! Thanks for the help.

  26. You are very welcome ! Am off to read the new post...