Thursday, March 25, 2010

LCC Part 2: Crime Scenes, Groupies, and Accidental Fashion

Can I just leave it at the title? Because it's pretty good, if I do say so myself, and I don't know if any post can live up to it.

Sigh. I guess I'll try.

Crime Scenes: not in person, thankfully. You know how you read about murder scenes in books or even watch them on CSI or Law and Order? It's nothing like having a crime scene investigator walk you matter-of-factly through a quadruple homicide he worked. Doesn't matter that it was a slideshow. It was real, in a way TV can never be because I was horribly aware that the people weren't getting up when the scene was finished. But I didn't feel like a voyeur. Maybe because the presenter was so clearly a professional and because, ironically, he didn't spend time bemoaning the crime itself or belaboring the obvious point that it was horrible. His very professionalism brought home to me the reality of what these people do and why: To catch a killer and give the prosecution the evidence it needs for conviction, investigators can't afford to make a mistake. They must be detached. They must do their job precisely. They must minimize any chance of a mistake that would allow a killer to remain free.

I will say, however, that there were several slides I could not bring myself to look at--those of the 7-year-old girl who was the primary target of these killings. Adults are one thing . . . children are something else. It comforted me slightly to know that the killer was caught and convicted and is in prison for his crimes. But even that didn't make it possible for me to look at the body of a little girl.

Other Forensic Science Day tidbits: the Firearms specialist wore pink heels and could be a model. Who knew? She had the best line of the day, as well: "There are many ways to render safe a firearm. Standing around and looking at it isn't one of them."

The Trace Evidence specialist spent four days in court during the Phil Spector murder trial. She said she knew all along he was wearing wigs (as proven when he was convicted at his second trial and had to give up the wigs for prison.)

The Questioned Documents specialist made us try to forge our neighbor's signatures. Mine was a very sad attempt. He had lots of cool slides of forgeries and a great story about having to piece together a note that a gang leader chewed up in his mouth so the police wouldn't get it. Their work on that note helped tie the gang leader to a murder.

The DNA specialist proved that I am simply not smart enough for some careers. Enough said.

My overall impression afterward was awe at what these scientists do every day and awareness that their funding and resources aren't nearly enough to give results as fast as police want them. What they manage is both impressive and critical to our justice system.

Groupies: Mystery conventions aren't your normal arena for finding groupies. The average age is, well, older than mine (which is saying something). The average attendee is a reader and/or writer (neither of which springs to mind when you think wild fans and stalking). The average panel has titles such as: "Two Ladies from London" or "Marketing in Your Pajamas" (I might have made that last one up--I did attend a panel on that subject, but I'm too lazy to find my program and check the actual title.) But I'm here to tell you, groupies can be found in many guises.

I am one of them, apparently.

At the opening night reception hosted by Mystery Writers of America (which featured a bloody guillotine slicing a watermelon--who says mystery writers don't know how to have fun?) my friend and I were trying to blend in and figure out where to go for dinner later when my eyes got very, very wide (I could feel them) and I squeaked under my breath, "Is that Laurie King?"

Laurie R. King herself, creator of Mary Russell Holmes, a heroine I would dearly love to be. Storyteller extraordinaire. Standing ten feet away from me.

Actual text I sent to my husband: "Saw Laurie R. King. Feeling like a book groupie."

I will say in my defense that I did not stalk her (sitting quietly at a table which gave us a good vantage point of her does not constitute stalking). I did not gush at her. (I did make her laugh when I asked her to sign a book for me--and she doesn't look like she's worried about my mental health in the photo my friend took of us.) I had absolutely no desire to fling any articles of clothing her way. But I was as starstruck as the teenage music fans I live with. I mean, right there in front of me was a woman who could tell me what's going to happen in the book being released next month! (I didn't ask. I knew she wouldn't tell and I don't really want to know, anyway. That would just ruin the delicious experience of reading it.)

Groupies come in all shapes, sizes, and ages apparently. My husband's just glad it was Laurie King I made laugh and not Ewan McGregor.

Accidental Fashion: The Omni Hotel was gorgeous, but in the heart of the financial district. Which made for fun lunchtimes during the week, but meant the weekend was dead quiet. Not to fear, however--because the LA Fashion District was less than a mile away. And Katie and I are both good walkers.

It was a wonderfully fun experience, although not quite in the way I'd anticipated. The Fashion District is primarily for wholesalers and designer workspace, but there were several blocks of stores selling remnants and oddities and such. Like two whole streets featuring nothing but "Italian Wool Suits" that are, near as I could tell, remnants from a 1950's gangster movie. As persuasive as some of the hawkers were, I simply could not envision my husband ever needing a bright orange three piece suit. With matching two tone shoes. And a hat. Also matching.

The less said about the lingerie shop the better, and a word to any retailers who might be reading this: The odds that I will try on a dress and possibly purchase it go up exponentially the less you follow me around the store snatching things off the rack and thrusting them at me.

The accidental part of all this fashion is that the item I actually bought and loved did not come from the Fashion District. It came from a quiet little storefront near a secondhand bookstore we discovered our second night in LA. We went in because the window displays looked vintage, and where in suburban Utah would I find another such store?

It wasn't vintage--it was custom work by a woman named Stella Dottir. It was her "handcrafted, tailor made Vintage and Gothic creations" that had caught my eye. She was the most interesting person I met in LA. A bit too fond of cats (I sneezed all night after her store) but with the sort of clothing that made want to play dress up and wish there was some occasion in my life that called for dresses with names like Black Dahlia or Isadora Duncan. What I really fell in love with was a coat in black velvet that fit me like a glove.

It was, alas, seven hundred dollars. So I settled for a hat. I have a weakness for hats, especially since I cut my hair last year. I like the 1920s and early 1930s hats, close-fitting and most of the time completely impractical. But since it cost less than 10% of the coveted coat, I settled on the hat known as Greta Garbo--a gold silk cloche style with a twist of fabric and feathers on one side. I wore it that night to the MWA reception (where I did not stalk Laurie King) and got compliments on it. Which makes up for the fact that my husband laughed when he saw what I'd bought.

I told him he was just lucky I didn't buy the coat.

Check out Stella's website here for an idea of how I would dress if my life were a daydream. And just to impress you--I can now say I own a hat from a designer who has made two for Michelle Obama.

Now there's a woman who gets to wear cool hats.

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