Sunday, August 03, 2008

Rats! The talk of our town

In our town at the end of Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, the talk is of the cover story of the LA Weekly that arrived in newspaper boxes and storefronts on Thursday. "Rathouse of The Palisades" tells of two elderly identical twin sisters who live in a small house near the downtown area who've been feeding rats for decades:

"...sweet old neighbor ladies, identical twins, had spent years fanatically feeding the Palisades’ rat population. Although the full dimensions of the environmental and health damage done by the peculiar pair are unknown, experts contacted by L.A. Weekly estimate that the ladies’ actions may have added tens of thousands, even 500,000, new rats to L.A.’s Westside.

"...The agency charged with stopping them — the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health — visited repeatedly, saw rats through the windows of the sisters’ home and did virtually nothing to end the threat to the public, the neighbors or the sisters themselves. Nor did the office of City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo act without weeks of foot-dragging and buck-passing..."

It's a good story, a gripping, creepy tale made all the more compulsively readable for us because it's local, and commendable in that even though the story is published in an alt weekly, it doesn't mock the Palisades. Writer Max Taves nails the community pretty well and adds some deft comic touches:

"Louis Rico, owner of Rat Busters... has spent a quarter-century killing undesirable domestic animals throughout Los Angeles. Eight years ago, he decided to specialize where the real money is: killing rats and mice in mostly expensive spots like the Palisades, Brentwood, Beverly Hills and Sherman Oaks, which all share characteristics rodents love. They are close to the hills, offer thick vegetation and easy access to water, and come with house pets whose food rodents pilfer...

"The rat exterminator soon cracked the code,a discovery that would make most Angelenos’ skin crawl. The exploding rat population was being purposely fed. Rico, peeking through the overgrown hedge, spotted rats eating and drinking from pie tins full of dog food and milk. To his shock, sisters Margaret and Marjorie stood there, observing approvingly.

“'They were standing there watching them,' Rico tells L.A. Weekly. 'I was like, "Whoa!" That’s something a person doesn’t forget. I have never seen it before, and I have never seen it since. That’s something you never forget.'"

This afternoon the house at 1018 Fiske Street was freshly painted with the brush cleared and little sign of the Ratatouille nightmare that was said to have taken place inside for years. Two neighbors from around the corner were out front, taking pictures. One of the women said that "instead of watching TV, we'd watch the rats going up and down the telephone pole.

"We thought they were attracted to the avocado trees," said her friend, walking a pit bull terrier she called "The Rat Killer."

According to the LA Weekly story, our local paper, the weekly Palisadian-Post, had been aware of the situation but as far as we know, never wrote about it.

We hear they have a story scheduled for later this week. That must hurt, sitting on a local exclusive like that, and then having it taken by an alternative outfit in far-off Culver City.

So who's going to show up first to rip off the story? 20/20? Dateline? Our bet is on Inside Edition, in which case no one will notice.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Burt, this is a great story!--Lewis