I wasn’t there when our redneck neighbor came over and shot the alligators in our pond. I did come home in time to see him string one of the gators up and cut the meat out of the tail. After he cut the meat out he left it over night in a bucket of salt water in our driveway to soften it up.  The night after that we fried the meat up and ate it. Not surprisingly, it tasted like chicken.

The other alligator that the redneck neighbor shot was to have a much more humiliating afterlife. This alligator was smaller than the other one, so it was decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to get the tail meat out. Instead we tied a rope around its neck and dragged it to a pond down the road. For the next few weeks my brother and I would show anybody that visited our “pet” alligator. That lasted until the heat and gas caused the alligator to swell up like a balloon and we had to call someone from the city to take it away.


One day after school we all met down at our friend’s boat. It was a pretty small outboard motor boat but it was big enough to get the four of us down the Essex River and out to the backside of Cranes Beach. We ran the boat up the beach and got out to play in the dunes. Back then the dunes at Crane’s Beach were huge and went on forever (or at least that is how it seemed). We ran and jumped off the tops of the massive dunes and rolled and sledded down to the bottom before running up the next dune and doing some variation on this exhilarating sand surfing.

We lost track of time frolicking on those dunes and soon it was close to getting dark. We made our way back to boat only to realize the tide had gone out and our boat was now twenty yards up on the beach. Immediately the four of us ran down to the boat and started pushing and pulling it, trying to dislodge it from the sand it get it to move the impossible distance back to the water. The sun was going down quickly and we feared we would freeze on the beach over night in our wet clothes. At least one of the boys among us began screaming and crying that his parents would kill him if he missed dinner. It is possible the panic gave us a collective shot of adrenaline because soon after the crying the boat began to slowly budge and soon picked up speed and we made it the rapidly receding water.  It was a cold dark ride back to the dock and we were all late for dinner but felt we had been given a second chance at life.


We all came to work that day excited about the new offices we were moving into that morning. All of the computers and office stuff had been moved over when we first got in so all we had to do was excitedly explore the new space. The furniture was brand new and all the walls had been painted white, which made the small streaks of blood on each wall stand out even that much more.

There was much conjecture as to what had happened to produce these bloody streaks on the wall. It was suggested that maybe a cleaning lady was menstruating and accidently got some on the walls or maybe a bleeding rat had run through in the middle of the night. We were not any closer to an answer when it was announced over the loudspeaker that there was an all company lunch. Immediately several of the older people in the office announced they would not be going.

I went down to the company lunch and was unsurprised to find rice, beans and chicken being served. The only odd thing about the all company lunch, besides the absence of most of the older workers in the company, was that the chicken was not like most supermarket chicken – it was bony and stringy, like we were eating a lizard.

When we got back up to the office the older people in the office called a quick meeting. They explained to us in hushed tones that the blood streaks had been from a chicken and that the owner of the company had invited his Babalao into the offices the night before to sacrifice the chicken and bless the new offices. They also told us that the sacrificed chicken was the one we had just eaten. I remember thinking that sacrificed chicken didn’t taste very good. All of us younger employees that had eaten the chicken go laid off from that department a few weeks later.


It was a sort of pilgrimage, going to see Ernie K Doe at the Mother-In-Law Lounge. The place was hard to find, an old concrete building nestled under a freeway overpass. Ernie K Doe’s wife Anoinette was behind the bar and rather than order a drink, she convinced you of a drink that she was making and either you had it or not. Sitting at the bar, was Ernie K Doe himself, he carried himself like royalty and was very nice, asking us questions about ourselves.

Ernie K Doe told me where the bathroom was and I went around the back to find it. The building smelled like people lived there and had used furniture strewn about haphazardly. As I approached the bathroom I looked down at one of the couches and saw an old woman sleeping there.

When we finally finished out strong, bitter Anoinette drinks we started towards the door. Visiting the Mother-In-Law Lounge always carried a whiff of fear to it. There was a rumor that a few years before that a reporter had visited the Lounge and was kidnapped by Ernie K Doe for a few hours because he felt the interview wasn’t going well. The reporter still wrote a nice article, despite the kidnapping. That evening the door opened without a problem and we escaped into the New Orleans night.


I was working for a photographer and used to get invited to his parties in the Hollywood Hills. The photographer had a friend from Harvard who lived in a small bungalow adjacent to a pool on some gorgeously landscaped grounds high in the hills. The pool had gaudy three hundred and sixty degree views of twinkling Los Angeles at night. The pool bungalow was fancy and modern and had Kama Sutra wallpaper in the bathroom.

These Harvard buddies would throw huge parties, inviting all of the young actresses and models that posed for the photographer. The guy that lived there would walk around in a bathrobe, calmly chatting with some of the prettiest people from all over the United States. Up until that point in my life, these were the most decadent parties I had ever been to.  I used to spend extra time in the bathroom looking at the crazy poses in the Kama Sutra wallpaper.

At one of these parties I noticed a team photo hung over the wallpaper in the bathroom. It was a football team photo from Harvard and I looked closely at each face and to my surprise found my high school football coach. I was shocked and excited when I found him, he had been a fascinating character – the high-minded English teacher who would smash chalkboards with his head at halftime, even if we were winning.

When I got out of the bathroom, I went to find the bathrobed guy that lived there. I noticed him in the team photo as well and was excited to ask about my coach. I interrupted him talking to a young blonde model and told him excitedly that he played football with my high school coach. He looked at me strangely, and not in a friendly way. He then turned and walked away and I never spoke to him again.

Photo by: Hussein Katz