“Hold For Sound” is an excerpt from my first book, Down and Out in California.
It’s a rare cloudy day in San Diego. We stop at Food4Less to talk with Lucas and Cathy. Lucas talks on camera about his friends being unreliable. He says he should find a computer nerd to hang out with. He says he’s got nothing against nerds. I really hope that makes the cut.
We are off downtown again to the maze of the justice system buildings to meet with yet another lawyer, Greg, who takes us on a tour on camera. I wireless mic him on one channel and boom him on the other, which turns out to be a good move. The equipment is not as good this time around and the sound I am getting suffers for it. The boom pole and mic mount screws don’t hold where they need to and whenever they slip you can hear it. I realize it will take a lot of editing, but at least I catch the scene.
We see two jails, from the outside, and the court, and see how close everything criminal justice is to each other. This is where Lucas lived for twelve years, and the only bit of outside he saw.
I’d never come here again if I didn’t have to.
Soon we are worlds away from this. We’re at Lucas’ house and now Cathy and her definitely gay son are singing a church song for us on camera. Yet another act in the dog and pony show. It sure beats interviewing lawyers. Baron, the supposed leader of the gang, comes by and talks with us off camera. I like him. He’s quiet and he doesn’t drink and he’s smarter than most I’ve met. He tells us he knows what black audiences like. I believe him. I believe every word he says.
Micah and I are back at Rebecca’s house and Rebecca arrives shortly after. We hang around a bit and then I am back to Tommy Boom-Boom’s friends’ house. Watch The Simpsons, talk, and catch up. We turn the lights off and talk by candlelight. They tell me that I am more diligent about contacting them when I’m in town than Tommy Boom-Boom.
At this point I’m used to just calling it how it is. “That’s because he’s a drunk.”
The next morning Micah and I are interviewing Kurt, another appellate lawyer. At least it’s easy to get good sound for these stationary lawyer interviews, but they are dull. I have trouble keeping my eyes open during them. After the interview we have a salad lunch and then visit Rebecca at work and interview Lucas’s appellate lawyers.
We are back at Lucas’s house and have him on camera, and catch his washing machine being delivered to his home, and him helping the delivery man unload it into the kitchen. I am trying to get into the house with the delivery man and Lucas and Micah and the camera through the door and hallway, and the ghetto ain’t designed for film crews. I bump Micah’s arm and he’s rough with me for having ruined his shot. Later he apologizes, after admonishing me and making it clear that picture is more important than sound.
It stings, all of it. I feel inadequate.
Back at Rebecca’s house Micah and I help Rebecca and her husband set up for her dinner party. I change into a dress I’d brought for the occasion, my LBD. Rebecca lends me some of her makeup, and after I clean their guest bathroom for them as a nice gesture, which they notice and appreciate, I make myself up, and put my hair up.
All of them are stunned when they see me, but it’s Rebecca’s husband who breaks the silence. “You sure clean up pretty.”
“And how.” Says Micah, blushing.
The dinner party is fun, there’s five people over, mostly lawyers and runners. All white, and successful, and happy, with names like Kate and Brett and Nina and George. I drink wine and talk about smart things. Soon I can’t stand being there anymore and excuse myself. Micah shoots me a knowing look as I say that I’m going to take a short drive before bed.
Indeed, I drive through Lucas’s neighborhood, and smoke a joint. It’s quiet and empty, all the curtains in all the houses are drawn. I try not to think about probability of stray bullets.
The next morning I get up and ready for the day I’ve somewhat been dreading. Rebecca calls and says we have an interview with a cop. We pick her up, and take two cars. I express my desire not to take my car, which has had marijuana in it, into the police station. Rebecca agrees.
The cops are most unfriendly. I sit in the waiting room of the police station in Lucas’s neighborhood for an hour, with the equipment around me in a protective circle listening to Kenny G over squelchy speakers that the police receptionist doesn’t seem to know are repeating an album over and over. Rebecca and Micah are in a deeper part of the station trying to convince the officers to be more amenable and agree to an interview, but it is a no-go. To them, Lucas Porter will always be guilty.
I’m not surprised, Micah is very surprised, and Rebecca has to be surprised to keep doing her day job.
Cops have to see things in Black and White to do their job, and Lucas Porter, as a convicted felon, will always be Black to them.
While there I see a domestic violence case brought in and it makes me feel friendly towards the police to see how gingerly they handle things. I understand the special training the California police receive around domestic violence and sensitivity. Once the police have evidence of violence, the State prosecutes whether or not the victim wants that.
Rebecca and Micah are in a dark mood when they come out of the police headquarters. We drop Rebecca off and then Micah and I drive downtown to meet with Rhett, an investigative reporter. It’s a gloomy day. We meet in the marble and stone doorway of an older downtown building. The reporter has sandy brown hair and wears a trench coat, and is listening to a police radio and monitoring the FBI monitoring a suspect.
He’s smoking a thin cigar, and reminds me of Hunter Thompson and every private investigator from every film noir or detective story ever.
He tells us that the DA’s office is still involved with the case and investigation and that the corruption may go higher than any of us had thought and that the police are still most certainly out to get Lucas Porter, Chester Washington, Brandon Milford (Slate), and Baron Pilfoy. My first thought is “Please be careful, Lucas.”
I don’t take the danger that we might be in seriously, but Micah does. From this moment his behavior changes. He and I pick up the Lucas’s lawyer, Bill, and I follow behind the car as they drive around the murder site and other areas. It’s an odd and distant tour of a crime scene that only locals know about, and hyperlocals at that. I’m hurt when we drive full circle and I see that I could have left my car and rode along with them.
I’m upset with Micah for cutting me out again.
He has the lawyer on wireless and the boom mic taped to the camera. To add insult to injury, he doesn’t stop to change it up when he gets out of the lawyer’s car and back into mine. We meet Lucas once more outside of his house to get some exterior shots on a grey day. Of course, I don’t ask him to let me start recording again. I feel like he’s supposed to know. I’m confused and hurt and insecure, and sure now that the psychic bond is all in my head.
I hug Lucas goodbye with a sinking feeling. What it must be like to really have the whole world out to get you.
I’m silent in the car on the way back to Rebecca’s office. Micah tells me, without me having asked “You heard what the reporter said. I’m not cutting you out because of any poor relationship, I’m cutting you out for your safety. None of us should be doing this anymore. I don’t know whether we will.”
We ride in silence. There is light rain, and the spatter on my windshield and the engine are the only sounds. I drop Micah off at Rebecca’s office, Rebecca writes me a check and I am on my way. This is the last I ever see or hear of Lucas Porter, Rebecca, or Micah. I drive back home, to Los Angeles, in the rain.