17 May 2009

Occam's RAZR

It was on a sunny Spring day like today, Watson, on which El General, whose acquaintance I’d had the pleasure of making over a year prior, summoned me.

On this particular day, Noon found me strewn across the 3-seat maroon sofa in the living area of my rooms. I was in one of my throes from which you’ll recall I suffer, during which time my mind craves so much for stimulus that I withdraw from life completely in its absence. How I wished for some narcotic to give me even the will to turn my body that I might watch TV. Such as it was, however, that seemed impossible.

Shortly thereafter, a heavy knock came upon my dark-wooded door. I ignored it at first, as well as the second, louder, more insistent knock until I heard the distinctive slide and click of a Glock pistol being readied for action. My visitors were about to kick down my door and take me with force! Finally, I thought, some excitement!

I sprang from my position of repose and jumped spryly to the door, which I opened quickly and much to the surprise of the foot soldiers I later learned were sent on the errand of obtaining me. So quickly and with such fortuitous timing did I open the door that the younger and less tattooed of the two—from the follow-through to his great kicking motion—fell over and into the apartment past my left leg. I retained as straight a face as I could, though you, I believe, would have noted my slight smirk of satisfaction.

“Hello, good sirs. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?”

“You Sherlock Holmes, puto?” asked the older and more decorated man.

“The very same,” I replied with a slight bow of my head.

“El General sent us to get you.”

“Ah yes, El General. A wise man if ever there was one. Well, then, what reason did he give for me to leave my most fascinating researches?”

Just then, the younger thug, who’d now righted himself from off my floor, put the muzzle of his gun to the back of my head. “He said we could kill you if you refused, ese.”

“Oh, I very much doubt that, sir. But if that’s the case, please feel free. I expect that you’d receive the same treatment were you to return without me in tow. Go on, then. No? Very well, then, what did El General offer to lure me from my rooms?”

The gun was withdrawn at a nod from the senior grunt in front of me, who simultaneously produced a small—very small—baggie of cocaine; an answer to my prayers! I pocketed the token of esteem and eagerly followed the gangsters to their cheaply lowered El Camino; telltale grey dust caked to the rear of it revealed it had been lowered by cement bags, at least one of which had broken some time ago.

We drove an indirect route meant to prevent my ability of finding El General’s compound on my own, but I noted it carefully should the need arise. Hollywood, Burbank, Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Venice... Finally we came to a long and inconspicuous driveway in Inglewood, which, with an approving nod from a plainclothes guard, we turned onto and drove slowly down. The drive was narrow with tall brick walls on either side, making any unwelcome visitors easy prey to the men El General could station on either side; very clever. We came to a crossroads and made a sharp left turn onto a new, less coarse type of gravel composed doubtless of large and flat smooth stones of the type one might skip across the water at a lake. This had to be the way to the posh living portion of El General’s estate.

Once the car was parked, I was ushered into a large two-story house, shown to a comfortable sitting room and offered drink, which I refused. There I waited for not less than thirty minutes before El General drew open two doors and greeted me with his hand.

“Sherlock Holmes! I am very sorry to have sent two such disrespectful children to bring you to me. I promise they’ll get theirs for the way they treated you, ese. Please, sit.

“I have a situation with which I can use your help,” he said and produced a black Motorola cell phone, which he tossed to me and which I quickly studied. “I think my wife is cheating on me. This is her phone, but I can’t crack the password to look at her texts. Can you?”

I looked closely at the phone using my magnifying lens and quickly—and perhaps not with proper emotion—let El General know that his wife was likely faithful to him, though his two new mistresses of poor means were having a Lesbian affair with each other.

He looked at me seriously for a moment, and then erupted into a roar of laughter. He motioned for some companion to join him, whom he next addressed: “See? I told you there was no fooling him!

“Sherlock, how did you know? What gave it away?”

“Well, sir, the phone is older and the fingernail polish chips of paint cheaper than what your wife must surely keep upon her person, meaning the phone belongs not to your wife, but to some other woman of lesser means. The battery is of a slightly different shade of the phone’s body, indicating the battery was purchased aftermarket, something only done by someone budget conscious or having poor credit, given the going price of a RAZR2 versus the price of a battery. There are two sets of female fingerprints roughly diagonal to each other on the back of the phone, suggesting two distinct hands using the phone a great deal. While women lend each other their phones all of the time, there being only two sets suggest these women are very, very close, likely intimate for there to be so many instances of them. Also, when it was closer to my face, I detected two scents of perfume lingering about the phone, further suggesting two women, both of whom used the phone a great deal. That it’s an old phone and that the nail polish is cheap suggest that you only recently started seeing these two women.”

He laughed more and patted his dumbfounded companion on the back most vigorously, who then produced several $20s which he handed to El General.

“Surely, though, you didn’t bring me here for parlour tricks, General.”

“No, my friend, no I did not, but I had to prove to Carlos here that you could be trusted and were just the man we needed. Come, let me show you to my den and we can talk business.”

And so began my second contact with El General, the rest of which I shall record for you shortly. Suffice it to say for now that the simplest solution to any problem is usually Lesbianism.

21 March 2009

The Case of The Black Shedding

Having been in the military, Watson, you must certainly be acquainted with the deeply unsettled and jarring feeling of waking only to find oneself in a strange bed. Imagine if you can, good fellow, the shock to one’s body and mind ’twould be to awaken from a sleep lasting nigh 100 years. For this, Doctor, though I have not yet an explanation that would satisfy your or me, is exactly what I experienced not so very long ago!

I awoke to the sensation of my body sitting up quickly and the sound of myself gasping for and drawing in the longest breath of my entire existence. Next, I found myself flying as though hurled towards the nearest open door—thankfully enough, the toilet—emptying the surprisingly copious contents of my stomach by force into the commode.

After spending no small amount of time there easing the occasional heave of bile and mucous, I wet my face in the odd wash basin and lay back down on the bed on which I had awoken in order to regain my strength and vigor. I rested with eyes closed on that mattress with no thought in mind, save the faint awareness of my own drawn in and expelled breath, and for how very long I cannot say, thought I believe the sun had faded considerably. ‘twas noticing the sun’s change that, finally and, after perhaps several hours, engaged my mind to take in my surroundings.

Apart from the sun’s shift, the first thing I noticed was a large bowl of fruit beside my bed to which I lunched with a speed beyond my control and I, seeing a domesticated bird partaking apparently healthily of the food, I judged it to be safe, ate furiously until I could feel the warmth of nutrition spread over me.

Once sated, sleep overcame me once more and, when I awoke, the intense sun casting rightward shadows through large windows visible in part outside the open bedroom door told m e it was morning once more in my Southerly-facing rooms.

I feasted again on the fruit to the right of my bed and noticed it had been replenished with new fruit and beside the bowl were also toasted bread with butter, tea—strong, thankfully—and a newspaper, all indicating someone had entered the flat in my sleep to provide me these rations and the news of the day.

A quick skim of this newspaper, if it was to be believed, indicated the date was 16 November 2007, 153 years and one day from the date of my birth. I rejected this at once as fancy for reason o f the date, the paper and print used, and the notion that a black Irish-American named O’Bama might attempt to enter the office of the Presidency of the United States of America. No, for neither could an American slave—American as clearly told by the grammar and spelling of the paper—own land or gain suffrage, let alone hold political office. Yet, after the strange fixtures on the wash basin I encountered the day prior, this paper and its outlandish date was the second clue left to indicate that I was in quite another time and place from my own.

Over the next several days, consumed with the question of how and I why I found myself in my present circumstance, I examined each of the rooms closely, seeking some trace of the person or persons responsible. I found the rooms to be quite like those we shared at Baker Street, Watson, but with a kitchen in place of one dormitory and a large black glass over the mantle.

Pressing a button on this glass brought to life the most startling sight—recorded pictures, Watson! Pictures recorded and played at great speed giving the impression of the subjects’ motion, complete with voice. A visual and auditory phonograph had been invented, further suggesting my place in a future time. I found myself quite taken by these audio/visual recordings and, before realizing it, all of my days for at least a week were spent in front of it soaking up news of the day and recordings of various types, all feeding my more and more information of the world I found myself in. Of particular interest to me were certain dramatic programmes of depicting the detection of solution of crime upon crime both heinous and vile.

And the manner of person and colorful expression I found, Watson!

In any case, each day I awoke to a delicious breakfast, cleaned rooms, and freshened clothes. Whoever my opponent in this mystery was, also served as my very magnanimous benefactor, caring for my every need while staying beyond my grasp. Yes, this person had even provided for my mental need to solve this problem of the empty rooms, knowing, I now believe, that it’s in my nature to exhaust myself in resolving the problems that would otherwise go unexplained.

Do you recall, Watson, of the occasion whereupon our caretaker, Mrs. Hudson, demanded whoever of us was at blame for clogging the bath take action to avoid the problem’s recurrence? While you protested and swore yourself not to be the culprit, an examination of certain evidence proved it to be you who caused the slow drain of our bath.

Well, aside from those spent staring at the glass, my days of searching yielded me nothing; not one clue. I was so near giving up hope that I know it to be true that you would not believe me. However, while upon my hands and knees in the toilet, I found—A-ha!—the clue I’d been seeking: a single, black, curly hair, doubtless from the pubic region of my curious benefactor or benefactress! Applying the same reasoning I’d shown you—that the length, color, stress and curl pattern of the found hairs would match exactly those remaining on the groin from whence it was shed—I now had the evidence I’d need to identify my keeper.

Additionally, dear friend, for my invasive methods used in that case, I continue to offer my most heartfelt apologies.

In any case, and to borrow a phrase from the staring glass, I know find myself in possession of my opponent by the shorthairs, and am cocked and loaded to identify them.

07 March 2009

The Adventure of the Missing Wallet and the Tall, Cheap Man

Watson, I must explain to you that, while, for the sake of order and to avoid your confusion, I’ve been thus far presenting my notes to you in chronological order, I, as I’m quite wont to do, have grown quite bored with documenting them thusly and would, instead, like to fast forward, as they say, to a slightly more recent adventure. I shall henceforth do the same; flit forward and back in time in order to inform you and, I hope, entertain the both of us in doing so. This tale begins as follows:

On a blue-grey day in October I disembarked the bus headed towards the pier in Santa Monica, hoping there to observe the drug and weapons trade that occurs below it. I stepped off the last step and, as I heard the pneumatic pump and rubber against rubber of the closing doors, I looked down and saw something unusual, something I daresay has not been seen in this area for perhaps as much as 15 years.

At my feet, on the cold cement, lay a Quicksilver velcro-close wallet of electric Blue and turquoise – or at least those had been its colours new as it had since faded considerably—of the type not made nor sold since the early 1990s. Velcro, I should explain, is an ingenious hook-and-loop fabric closure system. It operates as two fabrics, one of hooks, the other of loops, but with both in such density and number that the closure is effortless; as soon as the two sides meet, the seal is made and will not be broken without some effort and, one should note, noise.

It was clear that the wallet belonged to a left-handed man of above-average height as could be determined by the shape and location of the wear on the velcro flap as the upward curve was situated on the right-hand side of the wallet and its peak to the left, indicating the use of a long and large left thumb to open it.

A quick scan of the area showed no slightly billowed left hip pockets where the wallet, not now or ever stretched to a great thickness, was doubtlessly carried up to its dislocation.

I knew before picking it up that the billfold had not been there more than 25 minutes and that the money inside would be intact, for, had the wallet lay there for longer, a passenger of the prior bus would surely have discovered and plundered it. One of the disadvantages of living in such a huge metropolis as this Los Angeles is that the anonymity it affords one makes it easy to steal without remorse or even afterthought. As for the second point, that of its undisturbed contents, had anyone stolen the cash inside, it surely would have been left opened and probably not in such a conspicuous spot.

Upon inspection, the construction of the wallet showed little sign of compromise and clearly belonged to someone of meticulous habits. This gave me hope that its owner would not be hard to find, especially in this bay area where shabby and worn clothing was the norm.

I opened the wallet and was unsurprised to find five hundred-dollar bills with the likeness of a man you’ll have heard of and seen, Watson, one Benjamin Franklin, American statesman.

Given the route of the bus I just departed and those the others that run nearby, the owner of the wallet would have to be found within an area of sixteen city blocks and could likely be found within the day. However, having other things requiring my attention, I decided to employ other methods.

I didn’t feel it to be a safe assumption that the wallet’s owner was a routine visitor of these parts—surely something out of the ordinary occurred to cause a man of such meticulous habits to drop a belonging usually stowed so safely away upon his person, else I would have simply been waiting at the bus stop for him on the morrow. While pursuing this course might yield the desired result of reuniting man and wallet, I hadn’t the time to waste chasing what could be a dead end. No, I resolved to make a posting on the Internet. When first I found myself in this place and time, Watson, I found myself decrying the lack of ads in the newspapers that we employed to such great ends in our day. For while the newspaper has such sections now, they are read by very few, meaning the money spent is typically money wasted. A short while later, however, I was ecstatic to find a web site frequented by people from all walks of life and social status: Craig’s List. I’ve since employed its Lost & Found section to successful result on numerous occasions. It also has the singular advantage of being free, though there is quite a bit of blowback due to and fun made of my archaic diction... This not to mention that my name is usually met with incredulity and mockery.

In any case, I posted having found a wallet containing $500 that I would return to its 6’7” owner if they could tell me where it was lost. After reading 67 e-mail messages (which I shall explain to you at a later date, Watson), I came upon the sole message from a man who admitted that he did not know where he lost the wallet, but in our subsequent exchange of missives was able to describe it in detail. His language was succinct and felt likely to correspond to the careful regimen observed behind the good care of the wallet. We arranged to meet the following morning at Starbucks staffed by the lovely maiden Hillary Goode, allowing me the chance to bid her hello, having arrived there to do so on numerous occasions only to find her not working at those times.

20 minutes before the pre-arranged time found me seating myself in the corner darkest and furthest from the door to observe the tall man. I knew there was a likelihood that the man of such exact habits could be one to arrive either very early or at least prepared to do business at the exact time agreed upon.

17 minutes transpired and the tall man arrived, early enough to purchase his coffee and meet right on the hour of 10 o’ clock. While appearing nonchalant, I watched carefully to make sure that he handled his money and drink with his left hand. On seeing that was the case, I approached him, introduced myself, gave him his wallet and bade him good day.

He insisted upon paying me a reward, and, while I initially scoffed, he begged and pleaded and bought me a Starbucks gift card as well as a plain bagel with cream cheese. The bagel, I’m happy to tell you was fresh and filling. The gift card, however, was for a mere and paltry $5. Apparently a man doesn’t come to carry such funds as $500 on his person without being a bit of a miser.

19 February 2009

Getting There is All the Fun

On a sweltering day in what I was told was an unusually hot April, I departed my rooms and, in order to immerse myself in this place and better understand its ways and secrets, set forth for an area of great interest to visitors; Hollywood. Hollywood is but one small township in the great city of Los Angeles, but to many it embodies all of the city and, for some, the entire state of California. In being a popular destination for travellers, I reasoned that I should find some small amount of criminal activity to pique my interest.

You’ll recall, Watson, that I had only just previously become enamoured of riding in the taxicabs about town, but in availing myself of their usefulness too often, I soon found myself pinched for capital; this despite the modest though mysterious allowance I find myself in receipt of each week, whose mystery I’ve not yet begun to detail for you. In any case and to make industrious use of the moneys provided me by my yet unknown benefactor, I resolved to find another, more affordable, mode of transportation.

I directed my step to the nearest thoroughfare, walking past no more than two intersecting avenues before I came to a sight that made me feel as though I’d stepped back into London with you, my friend. Before me were people looking vaguely down the street at nothing in particular, glancing at their watches, consulting small timetables and occupying themselves with reading or hobby. Why, here were modern gentlemen and ladies awaiting the next train!

I waited among them a long, hot while until a large, ark-like automobile arrived and ingested all of the awaiting passengers for a low fare; exactly what I hoped to find! Once inside, however, I found even more than I had hoped for. As the train car was not partitioned into the seating compartments to which I am accustomed, but rather was one large seating area. Here I had stumbled upon the very sort of throng of people I had wished to observe all along, complete with nefarious and criminal activity. At a glance, it seemed to me that there were on this bus, as the vessels are called, people of all walks of life.

I noted several young men who I perceived had recently lost several stone, judging by the size and extreme slack of their denim trousers.

There was a man touched by senility talking in what struck me to be a very much even and two-sided conversation. Also, he spoke quite loudly, and the underlying loss of hearing was clearly borne out by the conspicuous electronic ear horn he wore.

As for crime, it appeared that Los Angeles is the victim of child theft or slavery, as there were at least two women transporting children of quite fair complexion, whereas their own skin was quite brown, along with prams and playthings.

Such a teeming Petri dish of humanity did I find the bus to be that I altogether abandoned my intended destination that I might sharpen my deductive processes observing these passengers at my leisure. And so I did all day until the conductor informed me that, despite my assertion of the fact that our daylong course had clearly been circular in nature, that we had reached the end of the line. Undetected, I slyly pocketed a map of routes for the network of buses that I might spend the evening preparing for the next day’s travels.

07 February 2009

For Me, It Will be Goode to the Last Drop

Soon after my arrival, but well before I began taking cases—of which I must soon detail for you—I resumed my custom of taking early walks all over this great metropolis, Los Angeles.

In order to familiarize myself with the details, environs, and affectations unique to the city’s many locales, I trekked to parts of the county both many and disparate.

My first focus was the beaches of this place, of which there are many, as each would have sand of differing surface areas and mineral compositions. That this knowledge should prove useful, I had no doubt, in identifying areas visited by persons of my investigative interest. I visited from as far to the Northwest as Leo Carrillo and its teeming tide-pools to the Long Beach Marina, home of the extraordinary British leisure vessel, The Queen Mary.

While in nearly every location I’ve found many of the same establishments inside which one can dine and drink, there is one in particular that appears to me to infest this city; a coffee pub called “Starbucks.”

I feel about this place, good Watson, much as you’ll recall I felt about the renowned mathematician and leader of the greatest criminal organisation which has ever existed, Professor Moriarty. That is to say, it was the greatest in degree of evil perpetrated as well as in covertness despite operating in plain sight...

Until now.

Yes, the number, design and palpable attitude of the Starbucks establishments are the product of some greedy power above and beyond the enterprising businessman and businesswoman franchisee. There is a force for evil protecting its bilking agent locations and cunningly camouflaging their diabolical purpose with the delicious poisons of fashion and addiction. And, truly, there it is. For, as you know, I am a man of some vice, being able to live with neither boredom nor a quiet and calm mind. No, I am frequently in need of some assistive stimulant. And with the apparent millions of Starbucks outfits operating, I am far from alone.

As you and I would occasionally take our morning coffee together as made and served by our landlady Mrs. Hudson, so do I at Starbucks each morning.

And mid-morning.

And late afternoon.

And it was upon one of these late day visits, dear doctor, that I was stricken by a malady that I fear not even you could cure. No, not even in this day and age I find myself in has for it any relief or counteragent been found.

I speak, of course, of love.

Love, Watson!

Yes, that feeling for which only Irene Adler had ever brought fire to my kindling, has struck again and not even I am able to stop or apprehend it. But as I recall you to be far more intimately acquainted with the intricate feelings of affection than I shall be in this lifetime; I shall spare you the details. Onward, then, to the scene which birthed this fire in my heart!

I entered the large coffee house and took in its frenetic but warm decor. Like many a solitary patron, I eyed the menu board of brown with its cream letters and decorative swirls hanging above the heads of the coffee waiters—barista is the correct term, I learned—as though its contents would impact my decision. As I considered the surroundings in the customarily nonchalant manner of the place, my eyes made their way to the four baristas operating the cafe.

The first gentleman was squat and unshaven and who I’d have wagered had only recently begun his employment there. He was what I’ve heard referred to as a “hipster,” which, judging by the commonly worn, and tattered state of their clothing, is a term describing the loitering and condescending class of homeless, jobless rogues which overrun this city and no small number of Starbucks.

The second was a very small, slender woman who I perceived from her short, stark, jet black hair, thick-rimmed spectacles and dozen ear piercings, to be a young woman of the Cult of Lesbos.

I shall stop at the third, for she so quickly captured my eye and heart that I could look no further. Here stood a woman of common height and build, but for whom the word “average” had absolutely no meaning. Here stood a woman with extraordinarily beautiful and, to me, exotic features. I travelled to the head of the queue with eyes only for this woman without realizing it, for by staring in awe at this beauty to the exclusion of all other objects I had become temporarily unaware of my own steps forward. Once at the front, I broke my stare with a grin at my own (some would say) rarely seen humanity, and realised to my delight and horror that she, the beautiful third barista, was gesturing to me that I should step forward.

“Well, hello. You look, like, so cool and stuff. Ha, ha. What can I get you?” She said, making sounds revealing her masticating the gum of a rubber plant. Clearly, her father must be a man of some influence in the lower Americas.

“Hello to you, gentle woman,” I said and tipped my hat to the lady.

“Cool. Would you like some tea, maybe?”

“How clever of you it is to deduce this truth.” Was this, perhaps, a match made in heaven? This young woman took in my origins in an instant knew my craving at this time of day would be for tea. Admiration welled inside me. “Yes, please, I wish your largest cup of black tea with soy milk in two cups,” I ordered. You should know that it is the custom in this chain of coffee brewery to order that which one wishes with at least two customisations for which you have no desire whatsoever.

“Alright! Ha. Would you like to eat something with that?” asked she while gently laying a strand of temporarily misplaced honey hair behind a delicate ear.

“You’ve found my weakness, lady mine,” I said, craftily laying claim to this young angel. “I should like whatever you recommend.”

“Oh, right. Well?” She paused long as she carefully considered each pastry option and matched it to what she knew of me. “I’m, um. I’m thinking the crumble cake, right, because it’s all soft, hard and sugary all at once.”

I admit that my cheeks became uncharacteristically flushed at the barely hid, carnal meaning of her words. She seemed to me both proper lady and geisha at once.

I paid for my sustenance and in parting, said “I should like to call on you again, Ms.?”

“What?” said she, acting unconvincingly as though unaware of our mutual and comingling desire. "Oh! Hillary. Hillary Goode. See ya!” and shone upon me a radiant and coquettish smile which I still carry upon my person.

24 January 2009

From Aught to Sixty

Upon one of my very first days in this large and unfamiliar city, I arose early, according to my fashion, and resolved to venture out of my well-searched rooms to explore and begin collecting the data needed to practise my trade.

I stepped out of my home into the surprisingly bright and terribly warm sun. No, this was in no way London.

Beneath my windows, heretofore my primary vantage point to the world, shrubs hedged the wall from meeting the grass lawn that stretched bravely toward a central area of what I could now perceive to be a grouping of several smaller buildings into a neighborhood of sorts. It appeared I'd been placed in a rather posh and intricately designed locale with various stairwells crossing here and there up to a fifth floor of rooms.

As I walked along the cement path, I noted only the recent presence of--judging by the single visible shoeprint size, depth, and stride--what must be a small yet heavy gardener.

I exited by the front gate expecting to find a hansom or four-wheeler for hire, but found none.

No, I saw none of the expected signs of life

No newsboys.

No constable on patrol.

No one.

What I saw were wheeled ovoids and boxes all along the road. How very odd, I thought.

I gazed far to my right and saw one of these same boxes in motion toward me. A-ha! These are carriages! I must admit that I chuckled quietly to myself with some pleasure at having realized it so very quickly.

I step into the road and attempt to signal the coachman to a stop, but the cab passed by and emits the most unnerving and bothered sound at me.

As does the next.

And the next, as well. What a rude township I have found myself inhabiting.

Finally, a carriage stops and allows me to enter.

“Where to, Mac?” asked the driver.

“Good day, sir. Despite any features you perceive, I am, however, neither Scot nor Irish.”

“Whatever, Pal.” He replies, “Where you headed?”

“To your city’s greatest library at once! Spare not the horses, for time is of the essence!

“Library, it is. Hang on.”

He allowed me to disembark at the building branded in bold and simple letters, LOS ANGELES PUBLIC LIBRARY. The building is comprised of a long rectangle and central tower, all decorated with the styling of the Egyptians. There are set-in columns of an obelisk fashion and sphinxes, snakes and suns represented on the pyramid atop the tower. And, lo! Torches to signify the light of learning is afire!

I learned there, among other things, that carriages of the sort I rode that morning (commonly referred to as “cars,” after the Latin carrus or Gallic karros) were entering common use not so long after our time in London.

I saw that day, as on the one I’ve already described, that I had a great many things to learn and places to visit before I could do justice to my profession of consulting detective, solving the crimes and problems others cannot.

And I shall need to make small use of cars in this—like my prior—great city. And for a reason described by my return coachman as “testosterone,” I hope to travel in cars of as many varied shapes, sizes, and speeds as possible.

This shall all be a bit of sport!

15 January 2009

The 15-Proof Solution

’Twas an uncharacteristically cool and foggy December morning in Los Angeles and I, taking an early constitutional on the beach, was reminded of the gravelly back roads and cold, heavy fog of London town.

I walked rather briskly along the beachhead where the sand is moist and thick but is of least impedance to one’s step until I came upon a clot of loiterers raising no small amount of rabble at one of many light blue shacks stationed on the waterfront. These “Life Guard Stations,” as I’ve since learned that they are called, are so named after the noble men and women who seat themselves therein to protect the ocean’s bathers. This band of ne’er-do-wells were clearly of not nearly so dignified a calling.

The largest and perhaps quietest of the fray stepped forward to stop my passage and began making mockery of my gentleman’s garb, drawing forth cacophonous howling from his boisterous lot.

You will learn about me, reader, that, perhaps to my detriment, I am a man without fear of physical altercation and am well versed in the noble language of boxing. As such I stood proud my ground before this dark-skinned giant of a man, whom some of his gang—the correct term, I was told later—referred to as Heh-ne- rawl Verr-gah, a name of rich meaning, I’m sure.

“What do you think you are doing on our beach, ese?” he asked in a dark drawl of a savage Latin tongue.

I glanced at him casually through my heavy-lidded eyes and suppressed my smirk of amusement.

“I perceive about you, Heh-neh-rawl, that you are a man of great and recently received wealth who has within the month returned from a long mining expedition in China.” Said I, awaiting the usual shocked silence that ordinarily follows my elementary observations.

I was instead greeted by a wave of laughter whose strength rivaled that of the lapping ocean to my left.

Alarmed, I steadied my stance and raised my cane for violence.

This elicited even more raucous uproar from this cache of irregulars.

Thankfully, at my display of preparedness, Heh-neh-rawl’s stance loosed and he, too, began to laugh.

“Ese, we were going to fuck you up for being on our turf. But, FUCK it, less party!!”

I learned from that tense confrontation and day of leisurely relaxation that followed, two things.

The first lesson is in regard to my deductions. They are, I am afraid, in some areas out of date. Thick canvas pants are worn by many more than miners. All-black clothing is not purely the vogue of the rice field Chinaman. Prisoners in this age or on this continent are made to work in the sun robed in excessively collared clothes, giving them the pale necks I spied beneath the many gold chains around their “General’s,” as ‘twas translated for me, neck.

The second lesson is that there is a hearty grog of early Britain to which I was ashamedly unaware. Olde English 800, it is called, and it put even me and my cast iron stomach upon my drunken backside.