“Hold For Sound” is an excerpt from my first book, Down and Out in California.
I pick him up in Los Angeles at LAX. That beautiful airport now with its pillars of color-changing light. These were built just a year ago for the Democratic National Convention held in Los Angeles. I attended the Shadow Conventions there, the day devoted to the War on Drugs. I saw so many inspirational speakers, from Arianna Huffington to Ram Dass to Maxine Waters, the Democrat Representative for Inglewood, who spoke openly about the CIA seeding the crack epidemic in Southern California.
And so when I am left alone with Lucas Porter and his ex and current gang member friends, I tell them this story. They all nod. They all tell me to talk to Baron Pilfoy, the leader. I haven’t met Baron yet, and I tell Micah how excited I am about this. He nods, and I see him take a note and smile.
As soon as we hit San Diego it feels to me as though I never left. I’ve been doing absolutely nothing with my time in between the two rounds of this gig, even though I should be looking for work if I’m going to make rent this month. Being productive and useful again energizes me. We arrive to Rebecca’s house to find Rebecca’s husband there alone.
We check the equipment. For a sound test I sing a little song and Micah laughs in surprise and points the camera at me.
“You’re a star!”
I smile and vogue, and then go back to testing every microphone. Everything is in order. We head out.
We pick up Lucas. It’s good to see him. We go with him to his “crimies” place, meet Baron and Slate, two of his fellow conspirators. I smile at Micah when Baron silkily introduces himself. Slate is tall, big, built, and covered in tattoos, and limping from an injury he suffered from rolling his car after ghostriding while drunk two days ago, a fresh DUI to add to a string. He does not seem to be the brains of the operation.
Micah tells Baron on camera the story of my seeing Maxine Waters say the CIA started the crack epidemic. Baron says
“Oh fer sure. The first time I ever solt crack was because these white dudes in suits showed up and gave us a mess of powder, and showt us how to cook it up.” His voice is hypnotic. I fall into it and believe every word he says.
We leave the OG’s with Lucas and have some lunch. Lucas is more bothered than he was our last visit. He’s seeing more holes in the gang myth, the ethos he grew up in grates against the lifestyle he is trying to create and promote. I still wonder how much of this is staged, especially after believing every Lincoln Park Blood I’ve met so far. I can see that they are all so believable that something must be a con. Can see why they desperately want good PR though, but it’s telling that their achieving it seems forced.
I wonder about Micah’s feelings around it, it seems to me that despite his efforts to keep control of his production, and his condescending dismissal of everyone else’s input, the story is being controlled by the participants.
At the beach, we look for some of Lucas’ young friends who are currently the front of the gang, but they aren’t there, which makes Lucas feel shitty. He berates himself and apologizes profusely for wasting our time. Micah bends over backwards to make him feel better.
The next morning I am up bright and early. Micah and I hang around the house until Rebecca arrives. I am happy to see her. She is still inspiring to me, the lawyer who graduated from a great school and could have had a high-paying career, but chose to be a public defender instead out of her commitment to making a difference within the system. The three of us have lunch. It’s a delicious salad.
Micah and I are off to interview a trial lawyer, Steve, who is very high strung and an appellate lawyer, Linda, who is calm. This is where I learn that there are roles in law for people with different temperaments, and that not everyone is a court lawyer who shines at public speaking. Some are good at pouring over paperwork and noticing discrepancies, and these, with their quiet, behind-the-scenes skills, are indispensable. Linda is one of these.
The interview is mind-numbing, it’s endless legal minutiae and a brown suited lawyer sitting at a brown desk against brown paneled wall.
I watch the needle move and wish we were back with the Bloods, but oh well. We leave here and go to Rebecca’s office downtown where we hang out for a while. Parking here is a nightmare, and getting in and out of the state buildings is frustrating. Micah is exhausted and wants a break.
“Would it be okay with you if we just went to the bar and had a beer. It’s on me, of course. I’m just done for the day. I know all these lawyers are boring. Don’t think the audience will like them either. I need to not think about the case for a bit and just unwind.”
“Sure, I’m down. Whatever we need to do.” He smiles at the way I phrase everything. I smile at his Britishisms too.
We’re downtown though, and don’t find what he is looking for, which is to relax at a pub the likes of which does not exist as much in San Diego as does the restaurant bar, or the bar and grill. And so instead we wander to La Jolla and walk on the beach a little, then find a cheap Italian restaurant. We eat spaghetti and Micah drinks three glasses of wine.
We talk a lot. It’s nice. He tells me about a documentary that he worked on. He tells me about working with my heroes, Laurie Anderson, Peter Greenaway. I’m jealous. It’s odd to me that he’s so accomplished because he is so unassuming. I kind of wonder how someone so un-Hollywood, so un-schmoozy got to where he is now.
After we eat he pays the check and is smiling at me. I lean towards him over the table and he cocks his head, unsure what to expect.
“Would you like to smoke some California weed with me?” I ask. His face lights up.
“I thought you’d never ask. I’ve not had any California weed ever. I haven’t been high in a year or two.” He admits.
“Well get ready to get higher than you’ve ever been.” I smile. Then I’m stern “but take it easy, we have to work tomorrow. A little goes a long way.” I feel warm at the role reversal. I can’t tell if he enjoys the switch of power or just is excited to get high.
We drive to a little bay near the Pacific Ocean. On the way there are fireworks, and we oooh and ahhh. There is a picnic table under some trees apart from the other tables. We sit on top of it and pass my metal pipe. He smokes more than he intended to, and I just about as much as I want.
We sit for a while. Watch the fire that a man leaves on the beach, waiting for it to go out before we leave and staring at it with awe and protectiveness and wonder. We see a couple embrace in the water. Lights reflecting off of all of it. Just beautiful. It’s like a movie unfolding before us, and we sit the audience enraptured.
We laugh, and joke on our way back to Rebecca’s house to sleep. I consider it a triumph having gotten him high. Somehow, though, it seems our relationship turns after this night, and I am reminded of the dangers of mixing the personal and the professional.
I wake at seven in the morning. Micah and I have a good breakfast at a local organic place. I am happy for some cooked food after all of the salad. We talk about weed, movies, and politics. It’s a pleasant morning. Back at Rebecca’s house I stretch and do some push-ups and crunches and dips. I’ve been hitting the gym since being inspired by Rebecca and Jake’s lifestyle and it helps with holding the boom a lot. Turning on my core each morning has become a habit.
We listen to the 911 tape from the incident for which Lucas was allegedly wrongly incarcerated for twelve years. It’s not revealing in any important way. I am saddened by this, as a sound person I’d hoped to hear something no one else had, a la The Conversation, and solve the case once and for all. It doesn’t happen.
Lawyers and Gangsters and Cops, oh my.