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Sunset Diaries

Episode Two: Meet Me At El Caribe
Posted by Michael Swartz on Jun 1, 2002 - 12:13:00 PM

Welcome back to episode two of "Sunset Diaries," the saga of one man's search for redemption.

"Sunset Diaries" is the fictional story of Joe Ralph, a 35-year-old white male living in the San Fernando Valley. Joe accidentally caused a traffic accident that killed two people and he served 2 1/2 years at Folsom State Prison. In an effort to "balance his karmic books", Joe has vowed to try and help people for the remainder of his life.

"Sunset Diaries" unfolds via emails and the journal that Joe writes about his life and his bike rides through LA that he calls "Sunset Diaries."

To learn more about the various characters in "Sunset Diaries" and to find out what happened last time please read "So Far So Good," episode one.

New characters in this episode are Josie, the ex-girlfriend of CP, the congressman, Mel, Joe's sometime Korean girlfriend and Lyle the father of the 16-year-old missing girl that Joe and Ice helped find and bring back home.

Episode two takes place on 9.19.01.

From: Lyle Barton
To: Joe Ralph
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 11:30 AM 1:45 AM
Subject: Thank You My Friends

Joe, Molly and I just put our little girl Shelly to bed after a long and emotional night. It's the first time Shelly's slept in her own bed in nearly two years and it feels awful good. We all cried so much none of us had the
energy to start fighting again and dredge up why Shelly left us in the first place. We all vowed to make the most of our second chance and to be sure and never let things get that far out of hand again. Its such a blessing to have
our beautiful little girl back with us you have no idea. We're so greatful to you and Ice, it was a miracle from God.

You and Ice knew from the get-go that we were not people of means but you worked hard anyway. Well mother and I managed to get together $1000 and I mailed you out a check yesterday (we also sent some money to the Red Cross for 9/11). Please don't send the check back and accept it as a token of our gratitude. We'll feel better knowing that this money will go to help fund your time for the next upset parents who contact you.

You and Ice will always be in our thoughts and our prayers. God Bless you both and God Bless America in her time of need. Love from Lyle and Molly.

From: Joe Ralph
To: Ice Man
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 5:39 AM
Subject: On To The Next...

Dear Ice,

As you read in the email from Lyle and Molly that I forwarded you, we did a good thing. By the way, I'm sending you $500 for your expenses, not that you deserve it you lazy piece of shit, but my conscience got the better of me.

I know I've got big balls for asking again so soon, but something just came up. Please read the forwarded email from Debbie G -- I'm really worried about her mom. They live close to you so would you mind checking in with them and make sure they're ok? I know, I know, I can already hear you saying this is an impossible case, but who knows? At least we can make sure they get on with their lives after something bad happens -- we know about that, no?

Please let me know your thoughts right away, as I want to contact Debbie soon. Also, did you hear from your brother-in-law in NY? I'll keep a good thought...

Your faithful bitch,


From: ICE
To: Skinny
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 9:45 AM
Subject: Big Balls?

Skinny you'd have to get major plastic surgery to get big balls so don't worry. And youre right about the impossibility of the Debbie G. thing, are you kidding me? We've gotten lucky a few times before but this one is just
nuts, I'm sure the dude with the 80grand is gone with the wind and how the hell are we supposed to find him and the money? You on the pipe bro? Yeah I'll talk to Debbies mom and make sure she doesn't off herself, but lets be real man, this ones aint gonna happen.

Heard nothing yet from Lenny and my sister and her kids are a mess. How about we go kick some Osama ass instead of fucking around with these other things? Thanks for sending the cheese for expenses and the nice letter from Lyle and Molly, makes a big man feel even bigger. Later Ice Man

From: Joe Ralph
To: Debbie Guttierez
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 10:01 AM
Subject: Hang In There

Dear Debbie,

I was so sorry to read about what happened to you and your mom. I wish I could snap my fingers and send you the money back, but like the cops told you, cases like these are very tough to solve.

I will try and help though. I have a friend who happens to live near you, someone like me who was once in prison and is now one of the good guys. His name is Luther, but people call him Ice and we've had pretty good luck helping folks. Ice will contact you and your mom to get some information to
help in our investigation. I'll also contact a few other people that might be able to help.

Debbie you and your mom should hope for the best, but prepare for the worst and accept the notion that your money might be gone for good. Most importantly you need to be there for your mom -- Ice knows some people she can talk to that will help her so please try and do what he says. Your mom really needs you now, particularly in these crazy times when everyone feels so sad and hopeless.

Debbie, you sound like a great kid and a wonderful daughter. Be there for your mom and take care of yourself too. Even if we can't get the money back, I promise things will all work out. Hang in there and Ice will contact you

Best regards,

Joe Ralph

From: Josie Earnhardt
To: Joe Ralph
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 11:50 AM
Subject: Avoiding Me?

Dear Joey - Hey, what's up? Are you in town? Are you avoiding me? I left you 3 messages yesterday and never heard from you and I got a little worried. I'm stressing about the Jerk and what he may be up to and I'd really like to talk, I smell that he's up to something. Listening to the news all day about the next attack and all the dead isn't helping my mood either. Not hearing from you only makes it worse. Please call me!!

If you must know I'm going to take the ten grand from the magazine and spill the beans on the "good" congressman. I know this puts you in a weird spot with the Jerk, but he and I never had any ground rules. He treats me like a
hooker, so I'm gonna act like one. What harm can it do me and of course I could use the cash for school and stuff. I don't want to be the next Monica or Chandra but I don't know what else to do? That's why I need to talk.

Joey please call, I really am worried and the Jerk is really going nuts over this, more than I've ever seen. Love, Josie

From: Melody Park
To: Joe Ralph
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 11:58 AM
Subject: Hi Honey :)

Joe honey how are you doing? thanks for all the calls about Domino and sorry i haven't time to call you back. honey don't worry so much about me and her, she is big problem for me but its my problem honey and i can take care of
it. Please not worry about me and her you have to many worries as it is. I can't see you now Joe, im to busy. Will call you when I can ok honey? Miss you Mel ):

From: Joe Ralph
To: CP
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 1:45 PM
Subject: A Line In The Sand


I got your not-very-subtle email, but this is one thing I can't help you with. Josie has become a friend and she's not under my control -- I can't force her to do anything she doesn't want to do and I'm sure you weren't implying that I use "all means necessary."

I just spoke with her and she's determined to go forward with the magazine article. Even though I felt bad doing it, I asked her if she'd be willing to stay quiet if you paid her more than the magazine did and she said absolutely no, it's really not about the money for her. For old times sake I asked her if she'd be willing to talk to you -- at first she said no, then she said maybe.

So you have a slight opening to call her and try and work things out on your own. I suggest you try and be nice to her and promise to help her with her school bills etc., not as a bribe but as a recognition that she once meant something to you and that you still care about her. But if you threaten Josie or try and hurt her, our ugly history or no, I promise I'll come after you with everything I've got. If that sounds like a threat, so be it. This thing has already gotten out of hand and I don't have much to lose. Do you?

I've paid my debt to society Steve and now I'm trying now to pay a bigger debt to humanity. So, do what you have to do and I'll do the same. But keep in mind there's nothing you can do to me that hasn't already been done. And
now with the world upside down and war around the corner this is no time for these petty problems.


From: Unknown
To: Joe Ralph
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 2:09 PM
Subject: Hell Is For Sinners Like You

I bet you think your hot stuff parading around like your some kind of saint. I read about you in the paper and it made me sick to my stomache to read all the "good" you do and how your life is been turned around and all the other
horse shit lies. You know in your heart your a wicked sinner responsibly for killing innocent folks and you know notyhing you can EVER EVER EVER EVER do to wipe away the stains of your wickedness. Warning: You better watch your
step and keep a sharp eye out for those in the shadows or even right beside you. You deserve to die and rot in hell with the rest of the sinners and killers. Your no better than those god damned taliban bastards. ROT IN HELL YOU LIEING SCUMBAG!!!

From: Scott Morita
To: Joe Ralph
Sent: Wednesday, September 19, 2001 4:29 PM
Subject: Meet Me In LA?

Joe--yeah my plans got really screwed by 9/11. I was in the air when everything happened and we were forced to land in Denver where I had to stay a few days before going back home. Things are mostly back to normal. Things are really nuts.

Joe, now that I know you're the web site guy who helps people I'd like to talk to you in person about a little situation that I'm in. My new plans have me in Vegas arriving on Sept 28th and leaving Oct 2nd. Since I have the
use of a private jet, LA's less than an hour away and a moments notice. Are you busy Tuesday the 2nd around 12:30? I could fly to the Van Nuys airport and we could meet for lunch at El Caribe, a local dive right across the street from the airport.

So what do you say? C'mon it will be a gas to relive old times and maybe you can help me and I can help you back with a nice fat fee! So if you're up for it, meet me at El Caribe on 10/2 and we'll catch up on things, let me know
if you can make it. See you soon! Scooter

Sunset Diaries for 9.19.01:

I rode 43 miles tonight, a beautiful clear fall evening. The pretty crescent moon was low in the south west sky and a silent witness to my crazy ride (and my crazy life).

On Mulholland grinding east near Dona Pegita a pissed off dog, some kind of Spaniel, growled menacingly at me from the top of a hill by a large home as I rode by. I don't know what possessed me, but thinking he must be locked in
behind a gate, for a goof I barked at him. In an instant he came charging towards me out of the darkness and into the street, barking ferociously and hell bent on tearing me up.

My adrenaline kicked in and I switched my pedaling from slow to fast. I rode frantically and began screaming at him, "get outta here, get outta here!" But his four legs against my measly two were too much of an advantage for
the canine. He was closing fast and there wasn't much I could do. Then he was beside me and biting at the air, inches away from my furiously pumping legs.

I swerved into the lane going west, fortunately Mulholland was clear in both directions, and tried to avoid him like a tailback on broken field run. Finally I put my head down and let it all out, pedaling for my life. Suddenly he just stopped and let me go. Maybe I rode outside the territory
he was protecting. I didn't stop for a mile or so, just to be sure I had lost him.

A young white dude sitting in the driver's seat of a dead old beater of a Mercedes was stopped along Mulholland, emergency lights flashing. I asked him if he was ok. No response. I asked him again and with an annoyed look he
said "yeah." I rode on.

Near the Universal Over Look I heard what sounded like every dog in the neighborhood barking. Funny, there was no siren or anything I could hear that would cause the mass barking. Was an earthquake coming? Then I saw two brown coyotes walking along Mulholland, stealthily searching for their next meal and driving all the doggies wild, seemingly oblivious to the attention.

I finally made it to Cahuenga and headed home. Two extremely cute women were selling US Flags across from Miceli's. Is patriotism the last refuge of entrepreneurs? Some guy in a giant Lincoln Navigator with four US Flags
impatiently waited for me to clear an intersection so he could turn left. He was on his cell, driving his tank and still able to give me the evil eye for taking so long and wasting his precious time. I just smiled and rode on.

LA is a city of searchers and dreamers. I too am a dreamer although what I'm searching for ain't exactly clear. Everyone is still reeling over 9/11 and my search seems less important. 8,000 are dead, war is imminent and we're
all waiting for the next attack. Everything seems different and things that used to be important have drifted away. Even the Washington intern story has vanished from the news in favor of all Terror, all the time. How long will this last?

Today was a roller coaster ride of highs and lows -- from the joy of a family reuniting to the continuing ranting of my favorite maniac. I miss seeing my sweet Mel and don't know what's going on with her and her sister. I have to let it go and not worry.

I made a few bucks today and have the hope of making some real money with good old Scooter coming to town next week. And I told Gibson that I wouldn't be his bitch and messenger boy and help him with his Josie peccadillo. She's
such a young and innocent kid despite looking like a playmate. I don't know what to do to help her but I sure as hell won't help Steve. I acted tough, but he really could stir things up and make my life more difficult. Maybe
they can work it out.

I don't know why, but the song "Lonely Girl" played in my head during my ride. I took pictures of a beautiful Latino family, mom, dad and two cute kids on the bus bench on Cahuenga near Lankershim. They smiled for me and seemed confused why I wanted to take their picture. I took a pic of a perfectly manicured bright green front lawn, lit by the low golden rays of a late fall afternoon sun on Laurel Terrace. I'm using disposable cameras that I carry in my shorts.

I saw three truly ghastly looking homeless folks on the bus bench by Lankershim and Cahuenga. They were lighting up cigs off one match, I guess it's stupid to be superstitious about luck when you're so down and out. What can we do about these poor people? I just rode on.

The recent events reinforce to me how precious life is and how precarious all our lives are. It makes my determination to continue doing what I can, in a small and likely insignificant way, to help people. I've stopped being
so judgmental about everyone, from the homeless person scraping along Ventura to the lady in the giant SUV on the cell. Oh, just now I hear the loneliest sound, a train whistle from deep in the SF Valley that made its
way all the way up to Mulholland. I better go now, it's getting late and even more dangerous to be on a bike. On my way back I hear what sounds like a giant lawn mower and then I see an old green convertible, a Stanley Steamer I think with Jay Leno in the driver's seat, steering with what looks like a big joy stick. A funny sight and sound to carry me home...

That's it for episode two. Stay connected for the next installment of "Sunset Diaries" next month as more tales from the road unfold on Until next time, see you....

© 2002 S/B Prods. All Rights Reserved. "Sunset Diaries" may not be reprinted without permission.


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