"The Trouble With Murder" By Vanessa A. Ryan

By Vanessa A. Ryan

The Trouble With Murder takes place in the garment district of downtown L.A. I wanted to write about that area of L.A. because I once worked there as a fit model for an apparel manufacturer. Although I had a visual arts degree from UCLA, no employer who advertised for college graduates found my skills as an abstract painter and sculptor impressive. The fit model job didn’t depend on my education, just my measurements. And it was the only place that would hire me. The company made moderately-priced clothes for women who still thought everyone still lived in the 1950s. And apparently, many people did because the company had prospered for generations. I didn’t like the clothes, but I needed the job until I figured out what to do with my life.

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Image Source D. X. Varos, Ltd.
When they weren’t fitting me for clothes, the company expected me to do clerical work, something I thought was beneath me and boring. I have to admit I was not a model employee, despite my job description. Every day I felt like quitting. I became that sour person who never smiled and who couldn’t concentrate on even simple tasks, such as filing, typing, and contacting suppliers. I hated the job and hated myself for being there. For one thing, I couldn’t stand the commute. I lived in Venice and I had to be there by eight a.m., five days a week. I didn’t get off until five. I had to fight the traffic for more than an hour each way. This was not the life I had envisioned for myself as an artist.

My discontent didn’t go unnoticed. We had an hour for lunch. Sometimes instead of eating in the break room, I would buy a sandwich at one of the food stands in the area. One day when I was on my way back to the office, four of the company’s top executives walked by me with looks that told me they felt the same about me as I did about the job.

I didn’t go out for lunch too often and not only because of the expense. People in the garment district drove like maniacs. You had to be careful when crossing the street. Nobody seemed to adhere to traffic laws. I almost got run over once and had to scramble to the sidewalk. That’s why I wrote about a traffic accident in The Trouble With Murder.

When I first started at the apparel company, I got a tour of the plant. The seamstresses were all women, and they never looked up when I entered. They knew they had to stay busy because they got paid by the piece and not by the hour. And that’s how the seamstresses in The Trouble With Murder get paid. I think they’ve passed or are trying to pass a law in California to pay seamstresses by the hour. I did notice that all the pattern makers were men. I had a feeling they paid them better.

Despite my feelings about the job, I knew I had to stick it out. It wasn’t just that I needed the money. I didn’t hate the people who worked there, and I couldn’t abandon them just as they were about to have a fashion show for their salespeople and customers. They expected me to model some of the clothes.

They had the fashion show. It was a success. When I appeared on stage the audience cheered and clapped, not for me but for the clothes. 

I didn’t get fired. I quit when I got a part-time job as a waitress and started taking classes for a teaching credential at Cal State L.A.

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Vanessa A. Ryan is an author and an actor in Southern California. She was born in California and graduated from UCLA with a degree in the visual arts. When not writing or acting, she enjoys painting and nature walks. Her paintings and sculptures have been exhibited and collected worldwide. At one point, she performed stand-up comedy and her writing often reflects her love of humor, even for serious subjects. Vanessa has acted in commercials, television shows, and films. You can learn more on her website vanessaaryan.com
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