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Authors: James Ellroy

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BOOK: Destination
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Morales spins off. Morales lands two-handed. Barrera spins off. Barrera moves in. Barrera repins Morales.

He lands. He misses.

Morales launches. Barrera launches. They trade fucking wild.

The bell. A beep in a cacophony.

The noise cranked. The noise releveled.

I yelled. My wife yelled. Words went undiscerned.

A sign bopped me. A guy apologized. The Morales fan yelled. I read his lips. He said, “Barrera!”

Round 4:

Barrera stalks. Morales jabs. Morales spins and falls.

He gets up. The ref wipes his gloves.

Breather.

In round 4, Barrera focused almost exclusively on Morales's thin frame, investing in punches to the ribs that would weaken him later in the fight.
(Photo by Ben Watts)

Barrera circles. Morales circles. They're rubber-band-tight.

Barrera works the body. Morales moves back.

He flurries. He moves. He flurries. His work rate's up.

They regroup. They're in sync. They're synced to stand and deliver.

War. Collaborative. Mexican.

They fight off the ropes. They spin loose. They reverse positions.

It's wild.

It's war in sync.

Barrera flurries. Barrera rings the bell.

The crowd stood. The nose releveled. I got the gestalt.

Bipartisanship. National pride. Love inclusive.

It had it even. Morales: punch stats. Barrera: aggression.

I held a piss. My heart fluttered. The noise hurt my head.

Round 5:

They move. They meet. They trade jabs.

Barrera hooks to the body. Barrera plows Morales. Morales hits the ropes.

Morales flurries off. Morales pops Barrera. Morales dominates.

Morales lands rights. Morales staggers Barrera. Morales lands uppercuts.

Barrera wobbles.

I vibe turning point. I vibe wrong.

Morales fades. Morales wings arm shots.

They both weave. They both wing. They both miss.

Barrera comes on. Barrera backs up Morales. Morales taps the ropes.

Barrera fades. Morales wings arm shots. Morales extricates.

They square off. They weave. They circle and stalk.

Sync. Pre-attack mode.

Barrera sucks it up. Barrera pounds Morales. Morales taps the ropes.

Barrera flurries. He's got juice. Morales fires weak.

The bell. A peep. One heartbeat heard.

I watched the prompters. I got close-ups.

I saw welts. I saw bruises. I saw deadpan will.

Round 6:

Slow-mo now. Save it. Sync the breather.

Jabs. Center ring. Barrera's lead right.

It's weak. Morales taps the ropes. He's weak. He pushes off.

He jabs. He lands. His jab looks weak. His arms look heavy.

Barrera hooks to the body. Barrera hooks twice.

Morales hooks to the body. Morales hooks twice.

They separate. They pause. They
breathe.

Barrera lands. A right. A left. Body rockets.

Morales measures. Morales jabs. Morales uppercuts.

Morales stuns Barrera. Morales pushes him back.

The bell. Loud now. Loud against held breath.

Six down. Six to go. My card: three rounds each.

The noise notched down. The noise went hoarse. The noise deleveled.

Round 7:

They meet. They square up tight.

They brush heads. They trade body shots.

They work. They rest. They breathe. They claw at momentum.

Barrera's stronger. Barrera lands a right.

Morales jerks back. Morales moves back. Morales hits the ropes.

Barrera's on him. His head's down. He's landing combinations.

Morales rests. Morales reaches. Morales rallies back.

He comes off the ropes. He lands a right. He rocks Barrera.

Barrera takes it.

Barrera reaches.

Barrera rallies back.

Barrera rocks Morales.

The crowd yells. The crowd stomps. The crowd outrings the bell.

It was Barrera's fight. Barrera made Morales fight it. Morales wanted to fight it. Barrera made him. Barrera stamped the ticket. Barrera defined their mutual will.

Round 8:

Barrera moves in. Morales moves back.

They jab. They exchange. Barrera lands a one/two. Barrera rocks Morales.

Morales moves back. Morales hits the ropes. Barrera works the body.

Four shots. Evil. Evil shots back.

Morales shoves off. Morales lands lead rights. Morales lands uppercuts.

Barrera eats shots. Barrera goes low. Barrera lands to the liver.

They stand.

They deliver.

They launch arm shots.

They land and miss.

The noise schizzed on me. The roar went normal. Time schizzed. Three-minute rounds took six seconds.

I checked the prompter. I caught the damage.

Barrera bruised light. Morales bruised dark.

Dark rings. Sharp cheekbones. A ghost effect.

Dark eyes. Both men. Will smashed insensate.

Round 9:

Center ring. Exchanges. Barrera's advantage.

Morales hits the ropes. Morales flurries. Morales rallies back.

Barrera rallies back. Morales hits the ropes. Morales rallies back.

He finds some snap. He dredged it. Barrera takes it.

Sync:

They're both fried. They circle. They buy some breath.

Barrera charges. Barrera knocks Morales back.

They both flurry. They both miss. They both land.

They rest. They regroup. They earn breath.

They're slack. They're arm-shot. They're on deficit.

Barrera comes back. Barrera lands. Barrera hurts Morales. Barrera pounds him to the ropes.

The bell rang.

Fans screamed.

Fans screamed “Morales!” Fans screamed “Barrera!”

The syllables blended. The names clashed. The names unified.

Round 10:

Center ring. Wide punches. Misses.

Exhaustion. Bilateral. Cumulative.

They come close. They lean close. They brush heads. They punch way wide.

They breathe. They dredge.

Morales gets air. Morales lands three rights. Morales hurts Barrera.

Barrera sways. Barrera wobbles. Morales loads up.

He's fried. His tank's dry. He stands still. He moves back.

They rest. They breathe. They dredge.

Barrera gets air. Barrera gets legs. Barrera drives Morales back.

Morales stands. Morales swings. Barrera swings back.

They're insensate. They're on Queer Street. They're the standing dead.

The bell. A peep in screams.

I checked the prompter. I caught close-ups.

Barrera bled. One sliced bruise. Morales wore black hollows.

Round 11:

They trade jabs. They trade rights. They plant and hold.

Barrera lands body shots. He's got more pop. Morales lands arm punches.

They lack pop. They hurt anyway. They push back Barrera.

He backpedals. He takes more. He sucks it up.

He shoves Morales. Morales lays back. Morales finds the ropes.

Barrera plows in. They tangle. The ref extricates.

Barrera lands a right. Barrera lands body shots. Morales slides left. Barrera shoves him back. Barrera taps the body.

The bell. Loud again. 360 sound.

I checked my card.

Even at 6. Barrera takes 7 to 9. Morales takes 10. Barrera takes 11.

Barrera—4 points up.

A sign sailed. I saw Morales upside down.

Round 12:

They touch gloves. The crowd stands. It's respect.

They swarm. They flurry. They catch big breaths.

Morales bounces. Morales moves in. Morales hooks downstairs. Morales backs up Barrera.

Barrera plants and stands. Barrera backs up Morales. Barrera backs him into the ropes.

Barrera's fists left Morales's face bruised, but he ended the bout with a large wound under his own left eye.
(Photo by Ben Watts)

Morales flurries off. Morales moves back. Morales looks shaky.

Barrera jumps. Barrera lands hooks. They're close. They tangle. Morales goes down.

It's a slip. It's not a knockdown.

Morales took no punch. Morales slid and fell.

The ref rules a knockdown. The round goes 10–8. Miscue and break to Barrera.

Morales gets up. Barrera goes in. Wild punches arc to the bell.

It's over.

I sat down. My legs caved. My bladder said, “Run.”

The Morales fan slapped my back. I dredged some high-school Spanish. Barrera's fight. 10–8 to clinch. Insurance past a 10–9.

The Morales fan smiled. Fuck it. Coin comes and goes.

The crowd breathed in. The crowd breathed out. The crowd stood still.

The bell rang. The announcer coaxed applause. The crowd delivered.

The announcer scanned his cards. The announcer delivered.

Judge Duane Ford: 114–113—Barrera.

Judge Carol Castellano: 114–113—Morales.

Judge Dalby Shirley: 115–112—Morales.

The crowd booed. Signs sailed. I saw “Barrera” upside down.

The Morales fan shrugged. The neutral tried to pay him. The Morales fan blew off the money.

Heist.

Dry hump.

Fucking.

Misappropriation.

Consensus thinking.

The WBC.

“World of Bandits and Charlatans.”

The fans reviled the verdict. The fans glowed through it. The fans yelled, “Barrera!”

The crowd walked out. I joined my friends. A chant built. The one word: “Barrera!”

I felt punch-drunk. I felt de-Protestantized.

My dad should have seen it. My dad had perspective. My dad had race and geography.

We walked out. We hit the HBO party. We ate some Mexican food.

The walls leaked sound. Chants crashed the party. The one word: “Barrera!”

We all felt punch-drunk. We ate and split. We roamed the casino.

Jackpot gongs went off. Whoops and red lights.

I peeled my ears. I heard echoes.

“Barrera!”

I saw the Tonton Macoute. They held coin cups. They wore reflecting sweat suits.

They brought their girls. Their girls brought babies.

A baby cried. A girl fed him Coca-Cola.

Where I Get My Weird Shit

It's a puzzle cube. Memories and conceits snap off inner
gears. Images replace colored blocks and click to cohesion.
Bar rows connect. Plumb lines appear. You take what you
need and what you were and sift it through what you've
become. You impose order. You lay on some moonshine. If
you're skillful and honest and pure, it all works.

I'm from L.A. My folks hatched me in a cool locale. I checked in at the hospital Bobby Kennedy checked out of. My mother hated Catholics and dug ruthless men. Bobby K. would have rocked her
ambivalente.

My birthright mandates a disclaimer:

I viewed L.A. as a native. I never saw it as a strange land chronicled by outside writers. I grew up there. I sifted data and transfigured it kid-style. It was diverse shit. The connecting threads were corruption and obsession. Kiddie noir was my metier. I lived in the film noir epicenter during the film noir era. I developed my own strain of weird shit. It was pure L.A. It was bravura L.A. for one reason: I denied the existence of non-L.A. shit.

Because I'm from there. Because I thought L.A. was everywhere. Because I was that xenophobic and self-absorbed. Because I
knew
my weird shit was the best weird shit alive. Because you don't smear your hometown with outside writers' perceptions. Because L.A.'s weird shit
is
the best weird shit on earth and I grew up where it flourished prosaic.

My dad worked for Rita Hayworth circa 1950. He told me he poured her the pork. My mom wet-nursed juicehead film stars. My dad was lazy. My mom was workaholic. My dad taught me to read at age four.

I gained access to scandal rags and the Bible. Profligacy and the stern rule of God hound me still. I got man's schizoid nature young. We lived in West Hollywood. My dad called it the “Swish Alps.” We lived beside a Lutheran church. Proximity made me a Lutheran. Martin Luther torched the world in 1530. Martin Luther reviled the Catholic Church. He blasted its corruption. He disdained its celibate laws. He was horny and craved some fine trim.

Papists took their orders from Rome. My mom said so. I puzzled the logistics. I developed a theory: The Pope spoke through their TV sets.

The Bible featured sex and wall-to-wall carnage. Ditto the scandal rags. Martyrdom and trysts with Rubi Rubirosa. Sex and published smears. My narrative gift incubated. My imagination afire.

My folks split the sheets in '55. My mom got main custody. I shuttled between them. I studied their separate lives. I logged their separate cultural donations.

My mom drank bourbon highballs. I watched her shape-shift behind booze. She dated men who vibed the film noir psychopath. I caught her in flagrante twice. My dad lurked near the pad and spied on his ex. My mom fed me healthy meals and epic novels. My dad fed me Cheez Whiz and the fights. He taught me to root. I rooted for Mexican fighters over Negroes. I rooted for white fighters first and last.

Race: A '50s primer. Sex: the big deal above all. The '50s joke ne plus ultra: I want to find the guy who invented sex and ask him what he's working on now.

Both parents made me read. Both parents hauled me to flicks. My dad riffed on nympho movie stars. My mom spieled on actors she nursed. She took me to a Martin and Lewis show. A scene portrayed a dog driving a car. It cracked me up for days running. My mom found the reaction extreme. She was enlightened. She took me to a kid shrink.

The shrink was female. She gave me play blocks and probed my eight-year-old mind. She quizzed me per dogs and divorce. I said I liked to read. I said I liked the fights. I said I
loooooved
to tell myself stories and think.

My therapy lasted three sessions. I caught my mom hobnobbed with the shrink. The gist: I was imaginative and fucked up.

The two-parent shuttle continued. I bopped back and forth and picked up dirt. Rita Hayworth—nympho. Rock Hudson— fruit. Floyd Patterson—cheese champ. Mickey Rooney—satyr. ZaSu Pitts—a sweetheart and a pleasure to nurse.

June '58 hits the calendar. My Walpurgisnacht goes down. My mother is murdered. The scenario is SEX. The crime goes unsolved.

I went with my dad full-time. He exulted in my mother's death and tried not to gloat in my presence. My bereavement was complex. I hated and lusted for my mother. Bam—she's dead. Bam— my imagination finds CRIME.

The fixation sidestepped my mother's death and locked in on surrogate victims. The Black Dahlia became my murdered woman of choice. Her death-details were savage. They blitzed my mother's death-details in malign imagery. The Dahlia was my mother rendered hyperbolic and distanced enough to be fantasy-savored. She was my invitation to mourn once-removed and my beckoning to all-time obsession.

I studied Dahlia news clips. I rode my bike to the Dahlia's dump site. I brain-spun savior stories. I rescued the Dahlia as the killer's blade arced.

James Ellroy in 1958 at age ten. Just after cops told him his mother was murdered, a newspaper photographer took this photo.
(Photo courtesy of
James Ellroy)

I never posed her story as a novel. I brain-spun the tales for kicks. I did not equate my mother with the Dahlia then. I did not know that her death betrothed me to crime.

I read kids' crime books. I jumped to Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer. The stories were vindictively anti-Commie. I dug Mike Hammer's fervor and rage. I was a childhood Red basher. I raged to punish some unseen other. I was stalking my mother's killer then. I didn't know it. I didn't know that I was dredging shit for my own future pages.

My dad let me read for thrills and ignore my homework. My dad let me hoard scandal rags and skin magazines. We watched crime TV shows. My dad knew a costar on
77 Sunset Strip.
He said the guy's wife “flashed her snatch” at him. My dad spoke in non sequiturs. He assumed my sex knowledge. He praised male homos. He said they expanded the pool of fuckable women. He saw groovy quail on the stroll. He always responded thus: “Somebody's screwing her, and it sure isn't us.”

He let me learn life void of good-parent intrusion. I did poorly in school and educated myself. I read
From Here to Eternity
in 1960. Crime merged with social history. I gorged on a life-in-the-raw text. Institutional sadism/the adult laws of sex/young men reared as cannon fodder. Schofield Barracks/Hawaii/1941—a spritz on my All-L.A. World and the spark point of my grandiose kid ambition.

Dig it:

You
can do this.
You
can write big stories.
You
can become a great writer.

Dig the subtext:

Fuck school. Fuck hard work. Fuck that bromide that you're french-fried fucked without a high-school diploma. Read, watch crime flicks, bop around L.A. Fantasize and pick your nose and tell yourself stories.

Dig the subtext decoded:

Be lazy. Be slothful. Disdain adult wisdom. Be inflamed with your fatuous new self-knowledge.

My life skills were substandard then. They declined from '60 on.

I lived to read and fantasize. I shoplifted books, food, and car models. I cruised L.A. on my tacoed-out bike. Dig the gooseneck handlebars and chrome fenders. Check the rhinestone-studded mud flaps. Orb the plastic saddlebags,
aaa-ooo-gah
horn, and toy tommy gun. Grok the speedometer—it tops out at 150 miles per hour.

I bike-stalked girls. I was a conspicuous stalker. I stalked rich Hancock Park girls and Jewish girls west in Kosher Kanyon. They spotted me by daylight. My taco wagon magnetized and drew yuks. I stalked better by nightfall. I parked and reconnoitered on foot. I peeked windows and glimpsed undies and skin.

I stalked through summer '61. I detoured to protest gigs and chucked eggs at ban-the-bomb fools. The Berlin Wall ascended. Uncle Sam and the Commos played chicken. A newsman ran a nightly warometer graph. The odds on nuke war soared to 90%. I knew it was curtains. America was fucked. Mike Hammer couldn't save us from this one. The crisis filled me with nihilistic glee.
I
was fucked. I would never become a great writer. I
could
brave fallout and steal books with impunity.

The crisis tapped out. The warometer lied. I grooved a theme—small lives set against big events. Summer '61 snapshots bipped off a screen in my head.

Bomb-shelter kits on sale in a Christmas-tree lot. The Larchmont Safeway picked clean. Our dipso neighbor stocking up on scotch and cigarettes. Those ban-the-bomb pinkos egged up.

It was history. It was dramatic infrastructure. Memory and conceits connected. I was seeing things. I was sensing things. I was living free and dreaming big. I was indexing big future pages.

Nobody called me bright. Nobody tagged me with bipolar disorder. I was a charmless mini-misanthrope with poor hygiene. I was an egomaniac with cystic acne. I was an acquired taste that no one ever acquired.

I squeaked through junior high and hit high school. Adult life loomed wicked large. Fairfax HS was almost all Jewish. I stood out only as a gentile and bad-skin exemplar. I craved attention. I lacked attention-getting skills. I was a poor student, worse athlete, worse social mover still. Stock losers and teenage lepers shunned me. My loserdom did not conform to adolescent rebellion laws. Stock martyrdom bored me. I disdained the canonized alienation of disaffected kids worldwide. I wanted to promote myself as strictly unique and attract commensurate notice. I was a rebel with self-aggrandizement as cause.

I pondered the dilemma. I hit on a solution. I joined the American Nazi Party. I debuted my führer act in the West L.A. shtetl.

It backfired—and worked.

It got me
some
attention. It got me recognized as a buffoon. I did not subvert the status quo at Fairfax High School. I did not derail the Jewish hegemony. I passed out hate tracts and “Boat Tickets to Africa.” I anointed myself as the seed bearer of a new master race. I announced my intent to establish a Fourth Reich in Kosher Kanyon. I defamed jigaboos and dug the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. I ragged Martin Luther Coon and hawked copies of “The Nigger's 23rd Psalm.” I got sneered at, I got laughed at, I got pushed, I got shoved. I developed a sense of politics as vaudeville and got my ass kicked a few times. I learned how to spin narrative and elicit response. I knew that I didn't hate Negroes or Jews—as long as they comprised a rapt audience. I harbored a warped sense of the early-mid '60s. I nursed a writer's feel for timing. I honed my ability to stand tall and eat punches. I learned to front my crazy shit and revel in it as unique.

My Nazi act succeeded and tanked. It moved me, bored me, and vexed me in sync with my audience response. I lived to fantasize and assimilate storylines. Good books and TV fare subsumed my performance art. I flew with shit that clicked real in my gourd.

It's fall '63. My dad's health is fading. Poor nutrition and Lucky Strikes are playing catch-up. Bam
—The Fugitive
debuts on TV.

It's pure concept. There's a small-town doctor. His marriage is fucked up. His wife's an alcoholic shrew. A one-armed bum B&Es the doc's pad and snuffs her. The doc gets tagged with the snuff.

He's tried, convicted, and sentenced to fry. Prissy Lieutenant Gerard takes him to death row. Bam—the train derails. Bam— he's on the run forever. He's chasing the one-armed bum. The cop's chasing him.

The show grabbed me. The show obsessed me. The show messed up my sleep. Dr. Kimble ran. I ran along at warp speed.

There's Kimble. He's a slick cat. He's haunted and twitchy and doomed. He's isolated like me—but imbued with better looks and hygiene. The cop's hounding him. The cop's got some secret agenda. My dad thinks he's a fruit. He's a chicken-chasing Charlie at the Hollywood Gold Cup.

Kimble hits numerous towns. They all look like studio lots or L.A. He's a lightning rod. He attracts sexual discontent and ennui. The grooviest woman in town always finds him.

Real
women. Women ripped by loneliness and hunger. Lois Nettleton, Patricia Crowley, Diana Van Der Vlis. Barbara Rush, Sandy Dennis, Madlyn Rhue, Shirley Knight. Suzanne Pleshette, Elizabeth Allen, the great June Harding—the most accomplished TV actresses of the era.

Ooooooh, Daddy-o!!!! They were tripping up my trouser trout triumphant!!!

Kimble was a heat-seeking missile. The women sizzled with longing. Nobody got laid. Exigent circumstances precluded it. Kimble's sprint was one long dry hump. It was my futile drive for selfhood refracted. The women were my mother transmogrified.

The Fugitive
slammed my imagination. Mass-market noir— Tuesday nights at 10:00. Counterpoint to my nutty life and weird public life ascendant.

My dad had a stroke on 11/1/63. I came home from school. I found him weeping and babbling. He was streaked with his own feces and urine.

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