Last Thursday, my wife had the day off, so we decided to run a few errands in Westwood that afternoon. As soon as we stepped out of her car, we noticed the helicopters overhead.
For the uninitiated, there is a code to interpreting helicopters in L.A. One, flying low and circling, is probably a police helicopter responding to a crime report or looking for a suspect. Two or more, flying high and stationary, means news copters covering a story; the more helicopters, the bigger the story.
And one low circling helicopter combined with two or more stationary helicopters mean you probably shouldn’t go outside for awhile.
Clearly, though, something important was happening — confirmed by the presence of over a dozen news vans and satellite trucks parked near the new UCLA hospital. It was only later that we discovered that Michael Jackson had died less than a block from where we were parked, at almost the same moment we arrived.
By the time we got home, a full blown media frenzy had broken, unleashing a tsunami of all things Jackson.
It’s not that the coverage was undeserved. He had been, and clearly still was, a beloved figure, at one time the most important performer of his era. And he died on the cusp of a comeback that could returned him to prominence for his music, rather than the flurry of tabloid reports of recent years.
Yet that tidal wave of coverage swept aside all other news in its path. Including the death of a cyclist early Sunday morning, as well as his critically injured son who was taken to the same hospital where Jackson died.
I heard about the death early in the day on Sunday, but wasn’t able to learn much more than the minimal details included in that report. Finally, today I was able to learn a little more, thanks to the Ventura County Star.
An L.A. County probation officer named Rod Armas, a resident of Kern County, was the cyclist killed; his 14-year old son suffered numerous broken bones but is expected to survive. In addition to his son, he leaves behind a wife and two daughters; my heart and prayers go out to them.
They were struck while on the final leg of a double century sponsored by the Los Angeles Wheelmen. And the human waste of space allegedly responsible is being held on $100,000 bail.
I’m sure we’ll learn more soon as word spreads and the local blogosphere fills in the gaps, and those who knew him begin to address their loss.
But it’s shameful that the local media couldn’t interrupt their breathless coverage of the most minute and mundane details of Michael Jackson’s life and death to make a few phone calls to fill in the blanks in the AP report. Or mention Armas’ tragic death at all.
Then again, it was just another dead cyclist.
And another drunk hit-and-run driver.
Alex metaphorically beats his chest after dropping another rider. Will pays his dues for rolling through a stop sign, and gets a mention in New York Magazine for his touching story of meeting Farah Fawcett. GT in LA falls out of love with his bike. Streetsblog wants to know where LADOT should do more workshops on the bike plan. Ensie offers photographic proof of new much needed bike lockers on the Orange Line. A writer with the Downtown News explores L.A.’s reviving downtown by bike, and should have a new stretch of the L.A. River Bike Path to enjoy soon. And finally, the Atlantic day dreams about bike-only roads, while Russ Roca covers the unofficial and official unveilings of the new Long Beach sharrows, though not everyone shares the love; maybe they could tell LADOT what kind of paint they used.