Steve Lopez is a California native who has been an L.A. Times columnist since 2001. He has won more than a dozen national journalism awards ...

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Steve Lopez

Steve Lopez

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 Is the L.A. teachers union tone deaf?

Is the L.A. teachers union tone deaf?

October 22, 2014

It was back-to-school night in August. A time for new beginnings and high hopes at Thomas Starr King Middle School on the Silver Lake/Los Feliz border.

  • Malibu's royalty squabbles over growth

    October 18, 2014

    Dueling millionaires and ex-mayors. Foaming mad celebrities. Cries of corruption. Stolen campaign signs. Mayhem in City Council chambers.

  • Deasy's leadership deficit led to his downfall

    October 16, 2014

    L.A. Unified Supt. John Deasy has left a blueprint for the next superintendent. It’s a pretty good map of what a school boss should and shouldn’t do.

  • A fortune for iPads, but not enough for math books

    October 14, 2014

    Something was missing last week from a seventh-grade math class at Palms Middle School in West Los Angeles.

  • Checking in with Nathaniel Ayers

    October 11, 2014

    Once a week or so, an escort leads me through locked doors to a dorm-like setting that is a temporary home to a few dozen men and women.

  • The Edge gets closer to approval of Malibu mansion complex

    October 7, 2014

    David Evans, also known as U2 guitarist the Edge, has been strumming the same chord for eight years. And yes, it's gotten pretty tiresome.

  • Why can't the grown-ups get it right on education?

    October 4, 2014

    In its most basic form, the idea is pretty simple. The bell rings, students file into class, and teachers share knowledge and tap into natural curiosity.

  • Death-with-dignity movement springs back to life in California

    September 30, 2014

    Seventeen years ago, Oregon became the first of five states to offer what became known as death with dignity. Now a renewed effort is underway to add California to the list.

  • Finally stirred to action in the Veterans Kitchen Chronicles

    September 27, 2014

    In this, the latest installment of the Veterans Kitchen Chronicles, I'm happy to report that there's been some progress, although it's way too soon to pull out the party hats.

  • L.A. should act quickly to close loopholes in mansionization ordinance

    September 23, 2014

    Amy Aquino has lived in one of the bungalows lining a lovely block of Curson Avenue in Hollywood for 23 years, Nancy Halbert has lived in her house across the street for 39 years. Last December, Aquino heard a clatter and looked out to see a bulldozer tearing down the sweet little Craftsman next door to Halbert.

  • Lawmakers frustrated by lack of progress on veterans home

    September 20, 2014

    When Assembly member Sharon Quirk-Silva read here last Sunday that it could take two more years to build a kitchen in the half-empty West Los Angeles Veterans Home, she called outgoing Assembly Speaker John Pérez at home.

  • Ginny Mancini gives back to the music that nurtured her

    September 16, 2014

    Ginny Mancini gets lots of solicitations delivered to her Westwood home, thanks to her many decades of philanthropy. But regrettably, she said, she can't answer every plea for help. She's 90 years old, after all, and everyone has to slow down at some point.

  • For ailing veterans, endless government delays

    September 13, 2014

    Wayne Scott, a World War II Navy veteran and Culver City schoolteacher, began falling apart after his wife died. First it was meningitis and then Parkinson's and dementia. His daughter, Kim Richards, kept hoping she would be notified that a bed was finally available for her father at CalVet's West Los Angeles Veterans Home, where Scott had been on a waiting list since early 2012.

  • Badly needed veterans home sits half empty; no kitchen is a problem

    September 9, 2014

    In June of 2010, then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger stood on the grounds of the West Los Angeles Veterans Affairs campus and dedicated the $253-million home for veterans.

  • Behind a senator's mental health advocacy, a private family battle

    September 6, 2014

    I first got to know state Sen. Darrell Steinberg almost 10 years ago, through his crusade to lend a hand to the mentally ill, many of whom suffer on skid rows and in jail cells because of decades of shameful public policy failures.

  • In vaccination debate, children of more responsible parents at risk

    September 4, 2014

    Did I pause, ever so briefly, when it was time for my daughter to be vaccinated as required under California law?

  • When government software goes wrong

    September 2, 2014

    If I ever decide to do a little moonlighting, I know exactly what line of work to pursue. I'm going to hook up with some tech people and sell multimillion-dollar software programs to public agencies.

  • Labor force excludes many Americans who desperately need jobs

    August 30, 2014

    An unemployed man once told me that looking for work was the hardest job he'd ever had.

  • Can Supt. Deasy survive LAUSD's iPad fiasco?

    August 26, 2014

    So, remember that $1-billion plan to get iPads for each and every Los Angeles Unified student the district has been working on and steadfastly defending for a couple of years now?

  • A veteran of fighting bureaucracy tries to tame L.A.'s red tape

    August 23, 2014

    Bob Stone, 79, a professional bureaucracy buster, has been working at Los Angeles City Hall since last August, and he's still waiting to see his first paycheck.

  • Idea of an L.A. Voteria is gaining currency

    August 19, 2014

    The proposal to enter L.A. voters into a cash prize lottery, for the sake of increasing turnout, is easy to attack on numerous fronts.

  • Minister is on a mission to save girls from prostitution

    August 16, 2014

    It was just after 3 p.m. in San Bernardino, 99 hellish degrees and counting, as two working girls walked along Baseline Street.They appeared to be somewhere between 16 and 19, about the same as the other females working the track in a city boxed in by freeways that deliver an endless convoy of johns.

  • Chief Beck gets five more years to prove himself

    August 12, 2014

    Did LAPD Chief Charlie Beck deserve the new five-year contract he got Tuesday morning?

  • Boosting our odds: App links CPR trainees to cardiac arrest victims

    August 9, 2014

    Later this month I'll be marking the two-year anniversary of my death.

  • A case study in L.A.'s crumbling infrastructure

    August 5, 2014

    If there were a poster child for the state of municipal services in Los Angeles, it would be a beleaguered Louise Bianco of Tarzana.

  • Protecting innocence to quash crime

    August 2, 2014

    A few weeks ago, I watched LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger salute the largest-ever graduating class of teenage cadets in a ceremony at USC's Galen Center, where he congratulated them for their commitment to public service.

  • 83-year-old good Samaritan scores a rare victory against City Hall

    July 29, 2014

    Stop whatever you're doing, turn off the television, wake the children and salute the flag.

  • Salvadoran immigrant and son settle for safety, if not compassion

    July 26, 2014

    Yaneth, who wears an electronic monitoring device on her ankle, sat in the living room of a Fontana house and told me her story.

  • Caught in the whirl of the City Hall mambo

    July 23, 2014

    James Buch, a retiree who loves to dance, has been doing the mambo with City Hall this summer. And his partner keeps stepping on his feet.

  • LAPD cadet program aims to give teens, communities a brighter future

    July 5, 2014

    Let's say you were to approach a teenager in greater Los Angeles and offer this deal:

  • Shame on you, Murrieta, for blocking immigrant detainee buses

    July 3, 2014

    Hey, Murrieta, shame on you.

  • When chickens come home to roost next door

    July 1, 2014

    Jason Smith rented an in-law cottage in Granada Hills this spring not knowing that his next-door neighbors included a duck and a dozen hens. He discovered this on his very first morning in his new home when he was awakened before 6 a.m. by a barnyard racket.

  • PINs, passwords and a feeling of high-tech disconnect

    June 28, 2014

    With a few exceptions over the last 2,000 years or so, humans have been in general agreement that they did not want to become their parents. But I'm on the brink of having it happen to me, whether I like it or not.

  • Dodgers aren't doing enough to end broadcast blackout

    June 25, 2014

    Last week, when Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw threw a no-hitter and I tweeted a photo of the celebration, a reader responded.

  • Veteran of Iraq, Afghanistan finds a mission at home

    June 21, 2014

    You know how it can be with e-mail. You waste so much time getting rid of the junk, you can miss the good stuff.

  • L.A. Unified watchdog back on the job

    June 17, 2014

    Maybe it was the relaxing summer vibe, the time to reflect or the widespread criticism of their small-minded ploy.

  • Garcetti's F-bomb born of political calculation?

    June 16, 2014

    Did the mayor just say that on live television?

  • When the L.A. Unified watchdog watches too closely

    June 14, 2014

    If Stuart Magruder knew how to play the game, he might still have his volunteer watchdog job today.

  • Do parents let school districts off the hook by paying for basics?

    June 10, 2014

    How do you make schools better, so they produce armies of working taxpayers who keep the republic afloat?

  • Caruso sees that raising the minimum wage can have a maximal effect

    June 7, 2014

    Things just weren't working out for Anthony Henry in 2010. Although he had no trouble finding work, he didn't make enough to rent an apartment, so he lived in his car.

  • After devastating illness, Jose Chojolan sees hope -- and graduation

    June 3, 2014

    The first time I saw Jose Chojolan, there was no smile, and you could see in his eyes that there was no hope, either. He had been a soccer-loving kid who wanted to go to college one day, but his life took a tragic, entirely unexpected turn.

  • A co-response unit might have made a difference in Isla Vista

    May 31, 2014

    Earlier this year, when a friend of mine made what was perceived as a physical threat to a neighbor, it wasn't just the police who responded.

  • Ignoring the insanity of gun violence

    May 27, 2014

    "When will this insanity stop?"

  • A haunted Vietnam vet finally looks back in order to move ahead

    May 24, 2014

    For nearly two decades, Rick Ramage lived in a Redondo Beach bicycle shop owned by his longtime buddy. Both were Vietnam veterans. But Ramage, a Marine with H Company, 2nd Battalion, 5th Regiment, didn't like talking about his tour of duty — particularly not the events of late 1967, when he was squad leader of a kill team in Quang Nam.

  • High-density housing doesn't have to lack a grand design

    May 20, 2014

    Not that many years ago, if you drove east toward downtown Los Angeles on Sunset Boulevard, you came to BBQ King at Figueroa Street. It looked more like an auto repair shop than a restaurant, and the food wasn't the best I've ever had. But the joint had character, and I liked it a lot better than what's there now.

  • Truck drivers at Port of L.A. would like to see a fair shake delivered

    May 17, 2014

    It was just after 2 p.m. and two truck drivers were hanging out at a burger joint in Carson, hoping their phones would ring. When a call comes in, they go to work. When the phones are silent, the stress and the bills pile up.

  • Sterlings serve up an opportunity to explore dementia

    May 13, 2014

    I 'm not entirely familiar with Shelly Sterling's background, but I don't believe she has any medical training. So when the co-owner of the Los Angeles Clippers said on national television that she thinks her husband, Donald, is suffering from "the onset of dementia" it was hard to put much stock in that.

  • Sterling's three-ring circus doesn't represent L.A.

    May 12, 2014

    I think the time has come for someone in Los Angeles to explain to the rest of the country that whatever you may think of us, we are not as kooky as the Sterling fiasco suggests.

  • Jackie Lacey says L.A. County should stop locking up so many people

    May 10, 2014

    You wouldn't expect the county's top prosecutor to step up to a microphone and say it's time to stop locking up so many people. But that's exactly what L.A. County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey did last week. She told the county Board of Supervisors that, in her opinion, 1,000 or more people with mental illness who are currently incarcerated should probably be somewhere other than in jail.

  • L.A. County supervisors' sudden haste on jail issue is baffling

    May 6, 2014

    I am going to try to tell you about the high drama and profiles in courage at Tuesday's L.A. County Board of Supervisors meeting, but I'm not even sure where to begin.

  • Response to the Sterling incident offers reasons for hope

    May 3, 2014

    I never met my grandparents on my father's side. They came to California from Spain in search of a better life and died before I was born, passing down the name I've carried around now for 60 years.

  • Donald Sterling ban by NBA gets a rousing approval at L.A. barbershop

    April 29, 2014

    "He just cut him down and cut him out."

  • No easy answer to the question of forcible medication

    April 22, 2014

    Howard Askins grew up in New York, the son of blue-collar transit authority employees who expected him to go far, and he did. His first stop was Brown University, and then he was off to Harvard, where he earned both medical and law degrees before moving on to psychiatric residency at UCLA.

  • California adoption laws hinder a woman's quest for the truth

    April 12, 2014

    Marsha Temple will soon fly to Philadelphia, trying to crack a case she's been working on for decades. She'd like to know who her biological father was.

  • On Dodgers' opening day, plenty of blame to go around

    April 4, 2014

    Urinating fans, a reopened gate, higher parking fees and a TV blackout are among the team's PR problems as the season begins.

  • Earthquakes on the brain

    April 1, 2014

    I'm generally not an alarmist about earthquakes. As a California native, I've experienced my share of small to moderate reminders that our fair state is fractured from head to toe and we're all standing on broken plates.

  • Ron Galperin, L.A.'s new city controller, wants to be right on the money

    March 29, 2014

    Two opposing forces squared off last week in the latest round of a long-running battle over a $40-million mystery.

  • Young advocate seeks pope's aid on immigration

    March 22, 2014

    A 10-year-old student from Noble Avenue Elementary School in North Hills visited the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels last week on a diplomatic mission.

  • Earthquake preparedness is finally embraced by L.A. movers and shakers

    March 18, 2014

    Do I have special powers? people have asked.

  • It's a big task for Lucy Jones: preparing us for the Big One

    March 15, 2014

    My thinking on earthquakes goes something like this:

  • Foot doctor hoofs it back to L.A.

    March 11, 2014

    Dr. David Rizzo's love affair with Los Angeles was rock solid for decades. The first sign of trouble came last year, when the house-call foot doctor finally grew tired of logging so many hours in his car and decided to break off the relationship.

  • Activist's fast is food for thought on immigration

    March 8, 2014

    The first day you fast, says Eliseo Medina, your stomach begs you to reconsider. The second day is worse.

  • Putting LAFD's hiring practices to the test

    March 5, 2014

    I'm guessing that if you call 911 to report a fire in Los Angeles, you probably wouldn't want me showing up with a hose and a helmet. But just in case I had an untapped aptitude for putting out blazes, I decided to try my hand at the sample test questions posted for would-be firefighters on a city website.

  • Women's workplace struggles could someday be her dissertation

    March 1, 2014

    Cathy Youngblood leaves home at 5 a.m., walks a mile in the dark and catches a Blue Line train at the Watts station. She transfers to the Red Line downtown, then boards a bus at Sunset and Vermont and gets to West Hollywood at 6:45, ready for her job as a hotel housekeeper.

  • Reinvention is ageless artist's passion

    February 25, 2014

    Morrie Markoff is not now and has never been a man of half measures.

  • Uptick in bicyclist deaths keeps Ghost Bike volunteers busy

    February 22, 2014

    Anthony Navarro worked with solemn purpose and a box of tools, stripping the old discarded bicycle of its gear shifts, brakes and chain. He cut his finger, wiped a drop of blood on his pants and kept going.

  • Restaurant's healthcare surcharge draws strong responses

    February 18, 2014

    I had breakfast at Republique on La Brea Avenue on Tuesday, and here's how the tab broke down:

  • Getting rid of grass is making homeowners' wallets greener

    February 15, 2014

    If somehow you missed the news that California is drier than a stale tortilla, the Amber Alert signs have come to the rescue with highway bulletins like this one:

  • Animal lover's pet cause is on wheels

    February 11, 2014

    Scarlet, Deakin, Fudge, Nugget and Shyla are in the prime of life and pretty good-looking to boot, but their puppy-making days ended for good Tuesday in the back of a big blue van in Sylmar.

  • Battered Florence Nightingale statue needs critical care

    February 8, 2014

    It's been a tough go for Florence, the stoic, graceful lady of Lincoln Park. Over the years, hooligans have broken her nose, spray-painted her face, shot at her, ripped off her hands and stolen her lamp.

  • Commuting by bike is an L.A. adventure

    February 4, 2014

    I pedaled to work Monday morning, which I had never done before because all things considered, I'd like to go on living a while longer.

  • In L.A., anything but a crack response to tree-buckled sidewalks

    February 1, 2014

    When I asked for a list of all the claims filed against the city of Los Angeles by people who have tripped and injured themselves on city sidewalks, I didn't realize I might throw my back out just lifting the document.

  • Inviting powerful DWP union boss for a drink

    January 28, 2014

    You can add the Los Angeles County district attorney's office to the long list of agencies and public officials going after one of the most powerful political players in the city.

  • Homeboy Industries, a success story, still faces a daily struggle

    January 25, 2014

    It was Father Gregory Boyle's first invitation to address the Los Angeles Police Commission, and he had something to get off his chest.

  • Law could be Kelly Thomas' legacy

    January 21, 2014

    It's hard for me to even think about the horrific way in which Kelly Thomas died. I know too many people like him — lost, sick, disoriented souls who, through no fault of their own, have been hit with a disease that puts them in peril.

  • Down the road, the car will take you out for a spin

    January 18, 2014

    As crazy as it sounds, you may one day get into your car and head to the coffee shop, to work, to the gym or the beach without ever putting your foot on the brake or the gas pedal.

  • The frozen East can't compete with a front-row seat at the show in L.A.

    January 14, 2014

    As fond as I am of taking the occasional vacation, I've decided they just aren't worth it.

  • Angelenos, how do you feel about fixing sidewalks?

    January 4, 2014

    I learned two things when Deborah Murphy of Silver Lake sent me an email in mid-December.

  • Making a New Year's pledge to stay safe

    December 31, 2013

    Good morning, and let's be honest — your New Year's resolutions are probably only good for a week, maybe two.

  • 2013: A great year for scandal, incompetence and corruption

    December 28, 2013

    In more ways than one, I'm sorry to see 2013 fade into the books. Thanks to a steady run of incompetence, corruption and bungling by various public officials, it was a banner year for local news in Greater Los Angeles.

  • Times reader pays it forward for woman without a car

    December 24, 2013

    If you think the best Christmas presents are completely unexpected, you-gotta-be-kidding-me surprises, here's a holiday story you might enjoy.

  • Learning the dance of life, in memory of Gabriella

    December 21, 2013

    Liza Bercovici suspected something was up when a student at Gabriella Charter School approached her last week and said, "Happy birthday tomorrow, Miss Liza." So it was not a surprise the next day when the school's 400-plus students sang "Happy Birthday" to her at morning assembly.

  • Narbonne High teacher stopped this run at a football prospect

    December 7, 2013

    Last week, a neat little nugget was tucked into the bottom of a story about USC's new head football coach, Steve Sarkisian.

  • Men's Central Jail is an antique that should be replaced

    December 3, 2013

    The visits were two weeks apart. First, I toured the Men's Central Jail in downtown Los Angeles. And then, on a family trip to San Francisco last week, I visited Alcatraz, which is now a national park.

  • A waitress who served more than just food

    November 30, 2013

    You could say she was a waitress, but that doesn't begin to cover it.

  • Couple's mission in Mexico combines faith and service

    November 27, 2013

    One evening in 1978, Hans and Nancy Benning attended a church social in the San Fernando Valley, but took a seat when the dancing began. That's when they met another non-dancing couple — Chuck and Charla Pereau — and the four of them got to talking about this and that.

  • With DWP, thankful for small things (very small)

    November 23, 2013

    This being a week in which we should consider what we're thankful for, I'd like to send a shout-out to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

  • DWP going under the microscope at last

    November 19, 2013

    Any time you're dealing with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, whether you're trying to understand your bill or figure out how the place is run, it can be a bit of an Alice in Wonderland experience.

  • A missing man is found, but questions remain

    November 16, 2013

    He was hungry, exhausted and confused. Mike Farrell, 73, couldn't grasp exactly how he had gotten into the predicament he was in or how to get out of it.

  • Obama supporter miffed at botched healthcare rollout

    November 12, 2013

    Margaret Davis of West L.A. voted for President Obama and appreciates the ideas behind the Affordable Care Act. She agrees that everyone should have access to healthcare and no one should be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

  • Veterans feel a debt toward an old warhorse of a judge

    November 9, 2013

    I was apprehensive about asking Harry Pregerson the specifics of his war injury, but apparently I didn't need to be.

  • Pennsylvania case a chilling one for death-with-dignity advocates

    November 5, 2013

    I keep waiting for the news that prosecutors in Pennsylvania have come to their senses and dropped criminal charges against Barbara Mancini.

  • El Super employees want fair wages, sick leave and respect

    November 2, 2013

    On Tuesday, Oct. 22, Flora Castaneda marched in Inglewood. She marched with hundreds of fellow El Super grocery store employees, supporters and clergy, at a labor rally in the parking lot of the El Super at West Century and Crenshaw boulevards.

  • City Council members' decision to accept even pricier gifts stinks

    October 29, 2013

    I'm not sure how many of you out there were planning on sending gifts to Los Angeles City Council representatives this holiday season, but if you missed the news, the council members are happy to accept even bigger presents than they have in the past.

  • Plan to transform bleak school playground hits a big snag

    October 26, 2013

    The playground at Berendo Middle School, just west of downtown Los Angeles, looks more like the surface of an aircraft carrier than a playground.

  • Trading places with a councilman

    October 22, 2013

    One day not long ago I was sitting in the audience at a Los Angeles City Council meeting when Tom LaBonge approached me.

  • Woefully unprepared in earthquake country

    October 19, 2013

    One little boy lay on his back with a leg gash so bad that bone and tissue protruded through his skin. Firefighters carried more injured students to a triage area, where one girl had blood streaming from a head wound and another had burns across her face.

  • Fraternity teaches young men to make 'no excuses'

    October 15, 2013

    Ricky Lewis was driving along Florence Avenue on April 29, 1992, when the neighborhood erupted.

  • Court needs alternatives in handling mentally ill

    October 5, 2013

    If you were to spend much time at the Airport Courthouse, a branch of the Los Angeles County Superior Court located just south of LAX, you would begin to notice lots of yellow and blue. As in yellow shirts and blue pants, the outfits worn by Los Angeles County jail inmates who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

  • Thriving 99-year-old is right at home in today's lively downtown L.A.

    September 21, 2013

    I got an email from Morrie Markoff suggesting we "hang around" together, seeing as how we'd both flatlined and lived to tell the story.

  • A Housing Works dynamo smooths out the bumpy road for homeless

    September 14, 2013

    It's a short ride from L.A.'s skid row to Hollywood, but throw in a detour and a few bumps and the journey can take six months, as it did for my friend Nathaniel Ayers.

  • Getting tough on underage prostitution

    September 3, 2013

    On a typical Friday or Saturday night on Long Beach Boulevard in Compton and nearby communities, men by the hundreds go cruising for prostitutes, and they have no trouble finding them.

  • On the first anniversary of dying, some thoughts on living

    August 28, 2013

    Exactly one year has passed since my unexpected death, and I've got to say, time really flies when you have a pulse.

  • Where mentally ill inmates actually get some help

    August 10, 2013

    There is little in Andy's appearance or manner that offers a clue as to what he's been through. The arrests, the jailhouse beatings, the commitments. He's soft-spoken and unassuming, so much so that the story of his life doesn't seem to go with the man who tells it.

  • Early intervention would keep more out of L.A. County Jail's snake pit

    July 20, 2013

    L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca has no medical background, but he is the de facto administrator of what he calls "the nation's largest mental hospital."

  • It's a crime to house the mentally ill this way

    July 17, 2013

    If you routinely hear voices, hallucinate, sink into suicidal depression or suffer inescapable torment, Los Angeles has a place for you.

  • Wendy Greuel takes on the crowd at Tolliver's

    May 7, 2013

    "Hi guys, long time no see," Wendy Greuel said, strolling into Tolliver's barbershop as if she were a regular.

  • Landscaping fiasco at LAPD headquarters not over yet

    April 6, 2013

    If the penal code had a section on landscaping crimes, the Los Angeles Police Department would need a full-time squad to go after everyone responsible for the ongoing fiasco on its own property.

  • Your ode to L.A.? Let's have it

    February 26, 2013

    Some people despise Los Angeles. Others have a love-hate relationship. And then there's Justin Chart, 53, who loves his native city with all his aching heart.

  • Cardinal Mahony's deal with the devil

    February 2, 2013

    Do we have a little spat going on now at the Archdiocese of Los Angeles?

  • Wanted: A mayor worthy of L.A.

    January 20, 2013

    Since my knee replacement surgery less than two weeks ago, I've been popping narcotic painkillers that come with long lists of potential side effects.

  • Office workers trained in CPR make life-or-death difference

    October 6, 2012

    On the morning of July 10, attorney Jerald Gale was reading an e-mail in his office on the 20th floor of a Koreatown high-rise. That's the last thing the 58-year-old husband, father and avid cyclist remembers before losing consciousness.

  • A wake-up call following knee replacement

    August 25, 2012

    As I begin this column, it is Wednesday afternoon, Aug. 22. I have been alive 20,873 days, if my math is correct, and I hope to add to the tally.

  • Mothers share their anguish at losses to Mexico's violence

    August 14, 2012

    Araceli Magdalena Rodriguez remembers precisely when her son first said he wanted to be a policeman. She went to the market one day in their community near Puebla, Mexico, when he was 4 years old and returned home empty-handed after a pickpocket stole her wallet.

  • Cross-country tour to point out the failure of the war on drugs

    August 12, 2012

    SAN DIEGO — If there is a more profound and costly failure than the war on drugs, it hasn't come to my attention.

  • A barbaric death, and a plea for a change in the law

    August 5, 2012

    "My husband has repeatedly asked me to give him a gun, he has asked me to shoot him, and he repeatedly begs to die."

  • For Palm Springs man, grief and anger over an end-of-life decision

    July 21, 2012

    On the evening of July 2, Bill Bentinck, 87, was led from his Palm Springs home in handcuffs, in mourning and in shock.

  • Southland firehouse chefs invited to cook-off

    June 30, 2012

    Care to test your knowledge of the L.A. food scene?

  • A former L.A. cop calls for legalizing drugs

    June 17, 2012

    Stephen Downing speaks fondly of his 20 years with the Los Angeles Police Department, saying he misses the camaraderie and the integrity of the people he worked with in a career that took him from street cop to deputy chief. Along the way, as commander of the Bureau of Investigations, he oversaw the Administrative Narcotics Division.

  • One drug connection that everyone ignores

    June 3, 2012

    Illegal drugs by the tons are smuggled into California each year by sea, by land and by air. Cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine and heroin are either produced in or pass through Mexico, where 50,000 people have been killed in the last six years in an escalating war among cartels. Some of the victims have been beheaded, mutilated or left hanging from bridges, not necessarily because of their involvement in the trade, but as a diabolical demonstration that the drug lords will stop at nothing to dominate the market.

  • At Tolliver's barbershop, pondering what 20 years have wrought

    April 14, 2012

    It's history they were talking about.

  • To Tony Lopez, with love

    February 22, 2012

    My dad never called a tow truck. That would have cost too much.

  • A father's last days

    February 18, 2012

    The hospice nurse said on Tuesday that my father could be gone within 24 hours. It was no surprise. He'd been bedridden for days, and on the list of 10 signs that death is near, he had six or seven.

  • Love, disease and a killing

    January 22, 2012

    A series of heavy doors slid open, one by one, at the Pima County Jail. And finally I was sitting with 53-year-old Sanford "Sandy" Garfinkel, who had just been sentenced to 16 years in prison for killing his terminally ill wife by holding a pillow over her face.

  • Open the discussion on dying

    December 28, 2011

    Last week, my dad was taken on a practice run from his Northern California nursing home back to his house. He'd had recent hip surgery, and the idea was that if he could master the challenge of getting in and out of the car and the wheelchair, he could leave the facility and begin hospice care in his own home.

  • Wishing for the right to make that final exit

    December 18, 2011

    Colleen Kegg hasn't worked out the details of her exit plan yet. But about one thing, Kegg is clear: When she can no longer feed herself or go to the bathroom without assistance, she will take steps to end her life. A rare and incurable neurological disease is gradually stealing the things the 60-year-old Santa Barbara-area resident lives for, and she wishes a California physician could legally prescribe life-ending medication, as doctors can in Oregon, Washington and Montana. Instead, she'll have to find another way.

  • Having to think about the unthinkable

    December 14, 2011

    "I could show you case after case," said Dr. Neil S. Wenger. "I could bet you million-to-1 odds these patients would not want to be in this situation."

  • A terrible choice to ponder

    December 11, 2011

    The day after hip surgery, my father asked me to bring him a frozen coffee and something sweet the next morning. I returned to the hospital with a Frappuccino and a doughnut, one or both of which nearly killed him.

  • Not ready to die, but prepared

    December 4, 2011

    The cancer that started 11 years ago has now ravaged the body of Freddie Ramos. It attacked a kidney first, then a lung, and the 57-year-old family man knows that death waits in the near distance.

  • Geriatric doctor doesn't shy from tough talk

    November 27, 2011

    Gene Dorio, an old-school doctor who makes house calls in Santa Clarita, drives a 1990 Volvo with 362,000 miles on the clock and duct tape holding things together. His patients have a lot of miles on them, too. Dorio is a geriatric physician.

  • When death is certain, but dignity is not

    November 12, 2011

    Last time I wrote about my dad, he'd taken a fall in his bedroom, couldn't get up, but didn't want yet another ride in an ambulance. So my mother got down on the floor with him, pulled up a blanket and they went to sleep.

  • A festival, a rebellion, an awakening

    October 12, 2011

    I pitched a tent Monday night in a neighborhood of the angry, the disaffected and the disillusioned.

  • Age of innocence and hope

    October 5, 2011

    I can't think of a better way to begin this column than to let a fellow pundit get things going. So I'll turn things over to Allene Arthur, who's been writing columns for the Palm Springs Desert Sun for 32 years:

  • At 102, therapist is too busy to stop working

    October 2, 2011

    Lately I've been wading into streams of mail from readers approaching death. Some are fighting it, some are afraid, some are ready to go.

  • Waiting calmly to die

    August 13, 2011

    The email from a reader in Westwood was short, to the point and disturbing.

  • Needy elderly will pay the price for cuts in Medi-Cal

    July 30, 2011

    When you have a loved one approaching the end, you feel like you're walking along the edge of a cliff in the dark, but at least you've got plenty of company.

  • Waiting in the dark with Dad

    July 17, 2011

    In the first decade of the 1900s, a Spanish couple boarded a ship in Malaga and sailed to Hawaii to work in the sugar cane fields. They later continued to California, opened a small grocery store an hour east of San Francisco and raised six children, the youngest of whom is my father.

  • Nathaniel Ayers plays the Foshay Learning Center

    June 15, 2011

    I picked him up at 10:30 Monday morning. He was waiting on the sidewalk outside his apartment with a cello, a violin, a guitar, a trumpet, a walking stick and a backpack full of music.

  • A grieving father's final gift to his son

    April 10, 2011

    Lawrence Tolliver II, a barber by trade, wasn't sure he could do it at first. But now he thinks he's ready. The tools are in his backpack, and he is preparing to travel to a funeral home on South Crenshaw Boulevard to cut the hair of his deceased son.

  • Times community college investigation unearths shameful waste

    March 6, 2011

    "It's just sad."

  • Robert Rizzo is serving time behind cars

    January 13, 2011

    A tipster dropped me a line the other day to say she'd spotted an infamous former public official in Huntington Beach, working as a parking lot guard at the International Surfing Museum.

  • Sitting down with A.J. Duffy

    September 19, 2010

    Ordinarily, when someone cancels his subscription and organizes a protest outside The Times, I don't go and knock on his door to talk him into subscribing again. But I have a soft spot for A.J. Duffy, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, and I know he'd be a smarter, better-informed leader with a Times subscription, particularly since we've started a much-needed conversation on how to better serve hundreds of thousands of students.

  • Una conversación con A.J. Duffy

    September 18, 2010

    Cuando alguien cancela su suscripción y organiza una manifestación de protesta frente al edificio del Times, por lo general no voy a tocar a su puerta para convencerlo de que se suscriba otra vez. Pero siento cierta simpatía por A.J. Duffy, presidente de United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), y sé que si se suscribiera al Times sería un líder más inteligente y mejor informado, sobretodo porque hemos entablado una conversación muy necesaria acerca de las formas idóneas de servir a cientos de miles de estudiantes.

  • How to fix a system that one teacher calls 'a joke'

    August 29, 2010

    Steve Franklin, a middle school teacher in L.A. Unified, had some issues with The Times series on teacher evaluations, so he fired off a letter to the editor. It read, in part:

  • Go tell it on the mountain: The Edge doesn't need five homes here

    December 23, 2009

    Just so you know, it's not easy for me to refer to U2 guitarist David Evans as "The Edge." Sure, there was a time when I referred to myself as S. Lo. But I quickly realized that once you've gone gray, it's hard to get away with anything other than what's on the birth certificate.

  • Riding the public gravy train

    December 9, 2009

    If you're looking for work in this rotten economy, I've got a tip:

  • High fashion in the medicinal high business

    November 18, 2009

    The physician was wearing high heels, a tight-fitting white lab coat and lots of gold jewelry, which is not quite what you expect to see when you visit a pot doctor. Nor do you expect to see a chandelier the size of a Christmas tree in a waiting room decorated like an Indian palace.

  • A bit player in L.A.'s medical marijuana theater

    November 4, 2009

    All right, so I'm a few days late with this update on my medical marijuana adventures. In answer to readers, no, I was not too stoned to write about it earlier.

  • Can he even get to first base?

    November 1, 2009

    Dear Jamie McCourt:

  • A visit to the medical marijuana doctor

    October 28, 2009

    Oooh, there's a pinch in my lower back.

  • Want this fan's World Series tickets? Give Manny what for

    October 7, 2009

    Anybody out there want my World Series tickets? For free?

  • Dark charges from Mahony's inner circle

    September 22, 2009

    If you've got rosary beads handy, please say a prayer for the leader of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. Last week was not a good one for Cardinal Roger Mahony, and there may be no letup in weeks to come if a certain monsignor continues to testify in a deposition being taken as part of a civil case against Mahony and the diocese.

  • For veterans, a gift from the sea

    August 23, 2009

    If you had seen Tatiana Reyes in the water at Zuma Beach last week, gliding smoothly toward the shore, you couldn't have guessed she was nearly killed in a crippling explosion while serving in Iraq. She looked like she could have been one of the surfing instructors.

  • 'Tommy Bahama State Beach' might be the only way to go

    August 5, 2009

    Maybe it's the summer heat. Or maybe, like a lot of people, I've given up all hope of any bold leadership in California when it comes to the budget.

  • Serenade in the key of glee

    July 12, 2009

    He was so eager to make the trip, he called several times to make sure it hadn't been canceled.

  • A modest proposal for fiscal misery: Make them hurt in Brentwood and beyond

    June 10, 2009

    We're in a bind here in California, mates, in case you hadn't noticed. The till is tapped, the budget deficit is bigger than the great outdoors, and lately even the sun has disappeared.

  • A better way of dealing with society's neediest

    April 19, 2009

    So what exactly am I doing on Capitol Hill? I'm at a congressional briefing, which wouldn't be entirely out of the ordinary, except that I'm not taking notes and not planning to beat up on anyone.

  • Former judge fired up on making pot legal

    March 29, 2009

    All right, tell me this doesn't sound a little strange:

  • Villaraigosa's win might not be a victory

    March 4, 2009

    Is it possible to win an election and still come off as a loser?

  • Loaves multiply in the hands of Bagel Brigade

    February 8, 2009

    It's morning, technically, but the San Fernando Valley sky is black as a stone. Art Siegel, with 80 years on the clock, is trolling the lonely predawn avenues in a white van, casting about for his daily catch of donated bread. ¶ "Bagel Brigade," says the sign on the van. ¶ I ask about the quantity of stale goods Siegel and his buddies gather every day and give to people in need, and his voice drops. ¶ "I don't use the word 'stale,' " Siegel says. "I use 'day-old.' " ¶ It won't happen again. ¶ "You see this guy coming out to us right now?" Siegel asks as we stand in the parking lot behind the Gelson's on Van Nuys Boulevard in Sherman Oaks. "He's going to give me a full basket of bread."

  • Give up the yacht AND the personal trainer?

    February 4, 2009

    WALL STREET CEO: Hi, honey, I'm at the office and I've got horrible news.

  • 97% in poll want Villaraigosa to debate, but he still refuses

    February 4, 2009

    The question I put to readers last week was clear and direct:

  • Mayoral race is worth a debate

    January 28, 2009

    If I could have had it my way, Rick Caruso would be running for mayor of Los Angeles. I don't know if he would have won, and I don't know if I would have voted for him. But I love a good fight, and Caruso is rich enough to have raised the small hairs on the back of Antonio Villaraigosa's neck.

  • Story of homeless mother and ill daughter brings in the mail

    December 23, 2008

    On Sunday, I reported the story of a 16-year-old girl with leukemia, living with her mother in a Ford Explorer in the parking lot of a McDonald's restaurant while undergoing chemotherapy. Since then, the story has taken a few twists.

  • They're living with cancer and little else

    December 21, 2008

    So you think you've got it bad this holiday season? Here's a story that will put things in perspective for you, no matter how grim your job prospects or how invisible your shrinking retirement fund.

  • LAUSD flounders as superintendent rakes it in

    December 7, 2008

    I had lunch with Los Angeles Unified School District Supt. David Brewer earlier this year at a restaurant near downtown Los Angeles and almost choked. Not on the food, but the prices.

  • Happiness, fear and hope at Oakridge mobile home park in Sylmar

    November 17, 2008

    It's 90 degrees in November, the full glory and perennial curse of Southern California on fierce display. Devil winds, hill-hopping infernos, smoked mansions, torched trailers, barren freeways, and brilliant sunsets lingering in low-hanging canopies of burnt dreams.

  • Into the wild of Wasilla, Alaska, where Sarah Palin once ruled

    September 23, 2008

    I almost ran into a moose on the way to Sarah Palin's hometown.

  • Covering Sarah Palin campaign from the Nome front

    September 21, 2008

    Yes, Nome.

  • At 99, psychoanalyst still has a lot on her schedule

    September 14, 2008

    She answers the knock at the door, smiles exquisitely, floats through the afternoon light of her Brentwood home with casual grace.

  • Glendale yard cops are at it again

    August 6, 2008

    Here we go again, back to my favorite place in all of Southern California -- the city where no good deed goes unpunished.

  • 'Black & White and Dead All Over' by John Darnton

    July 28, 2008

    ANY GREAT newsroom worth its salt is an ink-stained asylum, a toxic landfill, a college of cranks and a museum of misfits who never learn, despite years of broken promises to weary spouses, that they will not be home for dinner.

  • Why your 50 cents for The Times is the best bargain in the world

    July 16, 2008

    Way back in my cub days at the Oakland Tribune, the paper I read growing up, I learned to check the bulletin board every day to see who the owner was. We had four of them in six years, and a wise man would have known then to leave journalism for dry-cleaning, embalming, clam-digging, anything with a brighter future.

  • Dodger chef hits them all out of the park

    July 13, 2008

    The first half of the season has been a yawn, and some of the biggest sluggers in the lineup have holes in their bats. But one time-tested veteran swings for the fences and hits a home run every night at Dodger Stadium.

  • 'Thanks' just isn't enough

    May 25, 2008

    The names sit like scattered ashes, enough sacrifice to turn an entire page gray as a tombstone on Memorial Day weekend.

  • Admiral Aloof? Admiral AWOL

    May 7, 2008

    When it comes to the management of the Los Angeles Unified School District, there is such a rich buffet of material lately, I hardly know where to begin.

  • The design of L.A. Unified's new arts high school is convoluted and costly

    May 4, 2008

    "What is it?" Kelly Charles asked as he walked to his job as a custodian in downtown Los Angeles and gazed up at a rather odd construction project. "A roller coaster?"

  • . . . And most of them lived happily ever after

    April 27, 2008

    Five years later . . .

  • Mr. Ayers drives toward a mulligan

    April 20, 2008

    Of all our many adventures, the trip to the golf course in Griffith Park might be the most memorable.

  • Escaping the heat in a hotter clime

    March 30, 2008

    Charlie Bonner went to the closet and shoved his wife's clothes aside, a small fortune worth of chic rags she'd never worn twice. He opened the safe and reached for his passport, two bundles of cash and the address of the dancer from Jumbo's Clown Room on Hollywood Boulevard.

  • At 20, his experiences reach far beyond his years

    January 27, 2008

    He's how old?

  • A family's resilience withstands the flames

    October 28, 2007

    The beige French country-style home in the hills, with a distant view of the sea on blue-sky days, had been built to withstand California's best punches.

  • Katrina comparisons are a different class of wrong

    October 26, 2007

    You knew it had to happen.

  • Fires in Malibu ignite rage on the Web

    October 22, 2007

    In times of natural disaster, the best often surfaces in all of us. Donations, warm blankets, sandwiches. Whatever is needed, we're at the ready.

  • '60s still alive on a corner in Echo Park

    October 17, 2007

    A spirited Art Goldberg was up in his shabby Echo Park office Monday afternoon, above the Vietnamese bakery with the moon cakes he loves, counting votes for the antiwar resolution he's been touting since August.

  • Charity begins at home plate

    September 9, 2007

    OK, so how did I end up standing at home plate in Dodger Stadium with a pitching wedge in my hand and a golf ball at my feet?

  • We laugh, cry, hiss at 'Perils of Antonio'

    July 6, 2007

    Who needs telenovelas when you have Los Angeles City Hall?

  • At L.A. City Hall, the summer of love

    July 4, 2007

    At Cal State L.A. on Tuesday, Jaime Regalado was fielding a steady stream of e-mails, almost all of them from women who've had it with the Don Juan who calls himself our mayor.

  • Everyone loses with MTA's rate decision

    May 25, 2007

    The bright young Westchester High School students I was talking to at Thursday's Metropolitan Transportation Authority meeting were being cheated.

  • Advice to Governor: Just Start Governing

    January 8, 2006

    First he was the Terminator.

  • The Best Present for Nathaniel: a Future

    December 18, 2005

    Christmas came a couple of weeks early to the skid row apartment of a soulful gent who goes by the name of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers.

  • Man of the Streets, in Three Suites

    December 4, 2005

    First Suite: The Apartment

  • Peppering Raccoons With Mothballs

    November 16, 2005

    When I confessed a few weeks ago that I had a bit of a raccoon problem in my garden and was buying coyote urine to repel them, I had no idea I had joined the ranks of some of the most exasperated and unstable people in all of Southern California.

  • Stakes Are So High, It's Hard to Wait

    October 30, 2005

    I could tell something was bothering Casey Horan and Shannon Murray, and it wasn't hard to guess what. They're in the business of patience, and I've got very little of it.

  • Now Comes the Heavy Lifting

    October 23, 2005

    "I am going to take on the challenge."

  • Urban Renaissance Meets the Middle Ages

    October 20, 2005

    They're yours for the taking: Luxury lofts in downtown Los Angeles, with rooftop pools, swanky cabanas, and views of Porta Potti brothels on skid row.

  • Street Conversations With the Broken-Down Brigade

    October 19, 2005

    He's in a wheelchair, ducking behind a trash can. I step forward to see if he's OK and inadvertently scare him.

  • Offering Compassion, Not a Cure

    October 18, 2005

    There is no such thing as skid row disease. But if there were, Lonnie Whitaker, 49, would have it bad. He hobbles into the office of Dr. Dennis Bleakley, lowers himself onto a chair and goes through the long list of what ails him.

  • A Corner Where L.A. Hits Rock Bottom

    October 17, 2005

    A few hours after a homeless guy named Virgil died of an overdose in the portable toilet, the blue plastic outhouse at 6th and San Julian streets was back in business. Not as a toilet, but as a house of prostitution.

  • Demons Are Winning on Skid Row

    October 16, 2005

    The call comes in at 11:18 in the morning. Possible overdose on skid row, just half a block from one of the busiest firehouses in the United States.

  • From Skid Row to Disney Hall

    October 9, 2005

    Nathaniel was in a panic over what to wear.

  • From Skid Row to Disney Hall

    October 9, 2005

    Nathaniel was in a panic over what to wear.

  • A Ray of Hope for Future Nathaniels

    September 25, 2005

    The timing was perfect. I had just asked a Yale professor why there are no mentally ill people living on the streets of Norway, where he helped design some of the most progressive mental health treatment in the world. Then a colleague mentioned she was working on a story about Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies dumping a mentally ill man on skid row in downtown Los Angeles, where thousands of chronically ill people sleep on filthy, rat-infested streets.

  • Vicious Circle of Hope, Despair

    August 7, 2005

    I got the message while I was out of town. The owner of Little Pedro's said Nathaniel had flipped out while playing cello at the downtown Los Angeles club, launching into a belligerent tirade in front of his audience.

  • A New Stage for Homeless Musician

    June 26, 2005

    Alexis Rivera, owner of Little Pedro's Blue Bongo in downtown Los Angeles, was riding his bike to work one night when he saw Nathaniel Anthony Ayers playing violin near the mouth of the 2nd Street tunnel. Rivera stopped and listened for more than an hour before approaching Nathaniel with a proposition.

  • A Twilight Concerto for Rats and Cello

    May 29, 2005

    I know only part of his story. I know him playing the cello on a dairy crate in the morning sun, suspended somewhere between boy genius and lost traveler.

  • A Cello Backdrop for Voices Inside

    May 8, 2005

    When I saw Nathaniel Anthony Ayers back in his usual location, I had to ask: How could he stand playing a crummy violin when he had a brand new cello waiting for him several blocks away?

  • Violinist Has the World on 2 Strings

    April 17, 2005

    Nathaniel was shy in our first encounter a few months ago, if not a little wary. He took a step back when I approached to say I liked the way his violin music turned the clatter around downtown L.A.'s Pershing Square into an urban symphony.