Like many people in San Diego these days, I’ve been thinking of injustice and waste. Of nightmares which stretch far beyond worst-case-scenarios.
Amber and Chelsea. Needless losses, awful beyond words. The circumstances of their murders terrify me as a parent and challenge my well-honed ACLU sensibility. If reforming the present sex offender registration system takes a witch hunt or two thousand, well, sign me up. I am that upset and disgusted. I’m not the only one.
I learned about Chelsea King at a Rancho Bernardo Starbucks the day after she went missing. She’d gone running near Lake Hodges. Again and again in news reports: “searching Lake Hodges.”
There are San Diegans for whom Lake Hodges does not mean picturesque, a place to kayak, walk around, bring lunch. These people knew a guy named Steve Foth. A sweet and funny musical fellow. Ten years ago his life ended at Lake Hodges.
I could describe the technicolor violence of his carjacking and murder, but I don’t want to. It is frankly too horrible. You can google his death just as easily as the creepily ironic lyrics to “Hitchhiker Joe,” the Rugburns hit he co-wrote with Steve Poltz.
Steve Foth was a good friend of M., the nifty smartypants I married 19 years ago today. When we lived in New York, Steve would visit, along with Dennis, his omnipresent companion in music, life and good-natured, even sunshine-y, debauchery. When we visited San Diego, we would see Steve in situ. The very early 90s. The Pink Panther, Kobey’s Swap Meet, Japanese restaurants with fluorescent lighting, the taco stand on University at 2AM — Steve Foth played expansive tour guide, his beautiful girlfriend Grace in tow.
Dennis and Steve came to New York for my wedding to M. I think they had the best time of anyone there, and that wedding was not devoid of merrymaking guests. Dennis and Steve were made for over-the-top big-time Beluga-Kobe tournedos-Viennese table New York Jewish weddings. The last time I saw Steve, he reminded me how much he loved that wedding. And dancing the Hora, too, he said. He loved that. M. and I had already split.
The first section of my first novel ends at a wedding similar to Steve’s own, at a friend’s vineyard in Temecula. I remember peacocks and a lovely, twangy “My Life” during the ceremony. Once night fell, people jumped into the pool. It was a chlorinated drunken frenzy. I was overdressed in a black silk cocktail dress.
Back then, I always overdressed. I wasn’t happy. I was younger, dumber, and full of fear. I appreciate most things a hell of a lot more now.
I was feeding my tiny kids in their high chairs, watching the local news, when a photo of guitar-playing Steve filled the screen. I heard his name, dropped the spoon.