Behind the scenes of Easy Does It

14 Nov

In case you are wondering, here is what prompted the writing of Easy Does It, which was published today on Shotgun Honey.

First, go to Shotgun Honey and read the story about Frank, the dedicated yet sinister AA member.

Okay, good.

Now, throughout the 1970s and 1980s my older brother Chris hung out at a place called “The Triangle Club,” on Anaheim Street, in Long Beach, CA. It was an “Alano Club,” which back then at least meant that it was a meeting place independent of AA where AA members could not only hold meetings, but also hang out together drinking coffee, chatting, and playing pool between meetings. Long Beach and the Orange County area at that time had at least a dozen of such clubs. Chris practically lived at the Triangle Club, and volunteered many hours helping to run the place. Chris LOVED AA and its members.

As in the story, the Triangle club was a low-bottom place, shunned and even mocked by more narrow-minded middle and upper-middle class AA members, who often preferred clubs and meetings in their own nicer neighborhoods with higher-income people. Chris, however, in spite of our suburban Orange County roots, had inexplicably embraced the poorer sections and people of Long Beach early in his adulthood (beginning during his period of drinking and drugging) — so the Triangle Club was where he was most comfortable.

Chris was eight years older than I and in those years I loved to spend time with him. And, to do that meant two things: going to the Triangle Club and listening to Chris talk about the Triangle Club. He always had a lot of gossip and intrigue to share about the place: affairs, marriages, divorces, fist fights, members constantly accusing each other of financial improprieties and of lying about their sobriety — drama after drama. There were cliques and in groups and out groups. Members shared apartments and houses (though many lived in their cars from time to time) and someone was always pissed off at someone else. There was a lot of paranoia.

One thing that fascinated and kind of scared me was the fact that so many of Chris’ Triangle Club friends and associates had been in prison or jail, or, due to continued criminal activity while still a club member, disappeared from time to time to go back behind bars.

In about 1977 I was staying with my parents in their house in Irvine. Chris dropped by with a new Triangle Club friend (whose name I cannot remember but who I will call Frank here)  on their way to the Canyon Club, an Alano Club in Laguna Beach. This was an unusal road trip, but the famous AA speaker Clancy I was speaking at the Canyon Club that night and both Chris and his friend were excited to finally hear the guy give one of his entertaining and inspirational AA “pitches.”

Frank was just out of prison. He was very young, his prison-issue glasses were scotched-taped together, his leg was in a large cast, and he used crutches. He was a very nice, sincere, humble soft-spoken guy and I liked him very much.

Over the next year or more Frank and Chris got closer and closer and I began to spend a lot of time with the young man as well, especially when I visited Chris at the Triangle Club. When I moved out of my parents’ Irvine home I moved in with my brother into a one bedroom courtyard hovel on Spaulding Way — a little alley-like street just off of Cherry Avenue between 10th and Anaheim Street in Long Beach. (I went back there in about 1996 and Spaulding Way no longer existed, replaced by I think some big box store.)

Chris got the bedroom and I got the couch. The rent was $80 per month utilities included and it’s odd to recall that I sometimes had trouble coming up with my half! Frank lived in another hovel on the same street, just in front of ours.

My memories of Spaulding Way are pretty clear. I can recall the  packs of vicious feral cats that roamed the place all day, keeping me awake at night with their high-pitched cries while fighting or courting. I also recall the dozen or more teenagers and young adults who hung out on the various porches plotting and carrying out crimes of all kinds. These dudes were scary to me and I did my best to avoid them. Most of the homes there were often visited by the police, and more than once I had to convince an investigating LBPD detective that I was just a regular low life and not one of the criminal low life.

At some point Frank began to hang out with some of these young criminals, spending a lot of time with one particularly awful young man. Frank still attended AA meetings and he still hung out with his friends at the Triangle Club, but he slowly changed, becoming more and more aggressive, often flying into intense fits of rage for no apparent reason. The gossip at the Triangle Club was that he was using again, and that he was doing crimes with his new associate from Spaulding Way.

There was an older woman at the Triangle Club with whom  Chris and Frank were very close. I’m not  sure if she was as well off as the fictional Margie, but she had more money than most of the other members as well as a  nice car and a lot of gold and diamond jewelry. This lady eventually went missing and after about a week her burnt-up car was found just off of a country road outside of the city of Newhall — 50 miles from Long Beach and the Triangle Club and Spaulding Way.

The vehicle had been set on fire with her corpse inside. All her jewerly and many other valuables had been stolen both from her house and her person. Her bank accounts had been emptied.

Something creepy was done to her hands — I can’t remember if the tips were burnt by the killers in an attempt to eliminate finger prints or if the fingers were actually cut off. Whatever it was I remember feeling horrified when I was told this detail.

Within a month Frank was arrested for the murder and he wound up going back to prison. He may still be there, if he is still alive.

We found out from police that Frank had killed the woman one night in his little house, presumably while Chris and I were asleep next door. Creepy.

Recently I’d been remembering these events and thought they would make a good story. interestingly, however, the resulting work of fiction bares only a passing resemblance what actually happened in reality.

3 Responses to “Behind the scenes of Easy Does It”

  1. erikarneson November 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

    Great post, Mike. I love reading about the background of stories like this. Thanks for writing it, and the story.

  2. Mike Monson November 15, 2012 at 4:52 pm #

    thanks Erik, I’m starting to realize that I’m probably still pretty pissed at the real-life Frank.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Various encounters with law enforcement over the years: good and bad « Mike Monson - February 5, 2013

    […] story is mentioned in passing in this previous blog. Check it out. Okay, so I was 24 and living in a hovel on an alleyway of similar hovels mostly […]

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