never viewed my life as special. I went to school, got a degree, and now teach Japanese in college. Most people I meet view me as just another academic whose head is buried in his books. I think my students probably have a better bead on me. They sense, I think, that I am different from most other professors, and they enjoy talking to me and getting to know me more than other professors or even other adults my age. But they don’t know the half of it. I was pretty reckless in my adolescence and young adulthood. I occasionally marvel at the fact that I am still alive. Anyway, where was I. Oh yeah, someone had stolen Bazooka’s car…
* * * * *
“What the fuck? Hey! Hey, you asshole! Where the fuck you think…” Bazooka stopped yelling in mid-sentence, undoubtedly realizing the futility of trying to get a car thief to stop from driving away.
Our eyes followed his car down the road and we were stunned into silence, except for Vos who was still resting his head on his steering wheel.
“Did you see that?” Bazooka turned around to look at us as he pointed down the freeway. “That fuckin’ asshole stole my car!”
I asked Jo to lean forward so I could get out of the back seat of the car. I needed to stretch my legs, as well as divorce myself from Vos’s situation. Di followed me.
“Are you alright?” El asked me.
“I was so worried about his eyes; I thought his glasses broke and…” Di’s voice faded, as I moved away from the girls and stepped toward Bazooka. He was gesticulating animatedly as he was saying something to Dragon. His voice, drowned by the roar of cars and Mack trucks traveling 65 miles per hour, became more audible as I approached them.
“Fuck, that’s everything I own. My car, my tools,” Bazooka fumed. Dragon and I could do little to calm him, so we let him rant, but I noticed that Dragon kind of shifted his body, placing himself between Bazooka and Vos’s car. He seemed to realize that when confronted with a frustrating, irreconcilable situation, people often need to blame someone, anyone for it. He must have figured that Bazooka, unable to confront the thief, would shift his rage to Vos. And he was right.
“And that shithead, if he hadn’t been so fuckin’ stoned, this wouldn’t have happened in the first place.”
Woot. woot. We heard the short blasts of a California Highway Patrol siren. Two officers got out and we walked toward them, slowly.
“What’s happening, folks?” one said.
Dragon took the lead and explained the situation, well, except for the part about Vos. Instead of being high, we told him that he was just sleepy. One of the CHP(1) officers who had walked over to the other vehicle immediately grasped the situation. Apparently, the Black dude did not have flares or lights on because he did not want to be noticed. He was trying to rip out the stereo from the car he had probably stolen. By crashing into him, Vos had prevented him from doing so–although Vos smashed up the one stolen vehicle and allowed him to steal another one. But the irony had escaped his drug addled mind. “Man, I stopped a guy from stealing a tape deck” he would later claim.
There was no use staying on the freeway, and it was dangerous, the CHP officers reminded us. They offered to get us to a phone and contact whoever we needed to get everyone home. Vos’s car was banged up but amazingly still drivable–a Volkswagen Beetle’s engine is in the back, so as long as the front wheel wells allowed the tires to turn, we were good to go. Jo shoved Vos into the back seat and Di got into the front as I drove the banged up bug. Bazooka, Dragon, El and DK got into the patrol car, and they drove off slowly so that I could followed them safely. We got off at the next off ramp, La Brea, and the CHP pulled into a gas station that was luckily immediately to the right of the exit. The station was closed and all the lights were off, I noticed, as we rolled to a stop next to the gas pumps.
Dragon immediately jumped out and went to the pay phone to call a friend. Bazooka was relating all the appropriate information about his car to one of the CHP officers while his partner was on the radio reporting our incident. We left Jo and Vos in the back seat, as Di joined El and DK, and I went to see Bazooka, as did Dragon.
“My friend will be here in about fifteen minutes.”
“Okay, that’s what I wanted to hear. We gotta roll, too. You guys take care,” the officer said. Then nodding his head toward Vos, “And make sure that he doesn’t drive anymore when he’s sleepy.” I guess he knew what was what, but figured we had had enough trouble for one night. Some law enforcement people could be cool, I thought for the first time in my life.
We watched the CHP drive away. Vos was still in his car and Dragon was trying to calm Bazooka down, who was starting to get angry at Vos all over again. Fortunately, Dragon’s friend came and Dragon, Bazooka and El left to pick up Dragon’s car.
Di, DK and I sat on the step around the closed gas station office, and we talked small talk, nothing I can remember or even make up. Jo would occasionally come out of the car when she got bored of baby sitting Vos, but always returned like the dutiful girlfriend.
“What a fucked up night,” I said to no one in particular.
Thirty minutes had gone by and I was getting kind of nervous. La Brea after midnight on a weekend was not the most inviting place. The closed gas station provided us with a cloak of darkness, but it was creepy. Two JA guys, one who was still stoned and totally out of it, and one who was too small to protect three JA girls in a notoriously violent neighborhood. This was not a reassuring thought.
Suddenly, a pair of headlights turned into the gas station, sending these uneasy thoughts into a rapid crescendo. But as the car turned next to the gas pumps, I couldn’t believe what I saw: A yellow 340 Duster. Is that Bazooka’s car? I thought incredulously, as Di, DK and I jumped up.
El stuck her head out of the window and yelled, “C’mon you guys, lets get out of here.”
Di opened the door as I got Vos and Jo out of the Volkswagon. Di got in the front squeezing El next to Dragon, and the rest of us got in the back.
“Where’s Bazooka?” I asked.
“He went home with my friend. He’s still pretty pissed so I didn’t think it would be a good idea to bring him back,” Dragon said excitedly. “Besides, we all wouldn’t fit in here, right?”
Everyone nodded in agreement. Bazooka was the manager because he was big. About 6 feet even and 240 pounds. He would have made mince meat out of Vos.
“You should have seen him. Dragon was so brave!” El squealed.
“So what happened?” we all asked.
And El proceeded to tell us: Dragon lived around Inglewood, so the quickest way to get back from where we were was to go south on La Brea. On the way back, as he was staring out of the window, he noticed in a parking lot of a local bar a yellow 340 Duster. He yelled at his friend to pull into the parking lot, after which he jumped out and checked out the car. It was Bazooka’s. In the parking lot, there were a few brothers hanging out, checking out what the Japs were doing in the middle of the night in Baldwin Hills. Dragon was pissed, and definitely not thinking straight, when he decided to barge into the bar with Bazooka and El right behind him. Dragon immediately recognized the slim Black dude standing at the bar. He walked right up to him, grabbed him by the collar and screamed, “Give me the fucking keys!”
I’m not sure why, and I guess I will never know, but no one in the bar–a dozen or so brothers–moved except for the car thief, who reached into his pocket and handed over the keys. Dragon grabbed El’s hand and walked swiftly out of the bar. Back in the lot, the brothers were talking to Dragon’s friend very intimately, but they casually dispersed when they saw Dragon and Bazooka walk out defiantly. They decided very quickly that Bazooka should go back home with his friend while Dragon would pick us up with the Duster.
“Wow!” was all I could muster.
While the girls giggled and chattered the rest of the way home, all I could do was stare out the window, in wonder and in awe of someone who did something I would never be able to do.
Okay, guys. Are the past two posts–Misadventures of Stash–Fact or Fiction?
(1) Remember “CHiPs” is a TV show; we never referred to the California Highway Patrol as CHiPs. It makes them sound like pussies. We stuck to the acronym, CHP.