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I can feel your anxiety from here.

Christmas is just over two weeks away and you’ve still got shopping to do.  You opted for the “lots of little presents” route, instead of the “one big enchilada” route, and now you find yourself a few gifts short of a stocking.  Worse, you’ve got one or more rockers on your list, and they’re such ungrateful snobs that you’re afraid to get them anything having to do with music for fear of the inevitable snarky comment ending with the word “lame.”

What’s an elf to do?

Relax- I’ve got you covered.

Am I alone in believing I can pick off-duty police by sight alone?

It’s not as if this is a super-power that I’ve developed as a result of exposure to cosmic rays or nuclear radiation, or anything like that.

I’ve just noticed that there are a bunch of guys who are regular users of my local sauna, as I have become myself over the last few weeks, and as soon as I set eyes on them, my instincts said Those guys are totally police.

Also, it’s hot in here.

These guys have a certain build and a certain walk. Heavy across the shoulders, arms, and chest, close-cropped hair, and a solid, self-possessed way of holding themselves. They’re basically variations on a theme of this guy right here, the state’s Police Commissioner.

A bit younger and broader, maybe, but about the same. His name is Simon too. He occasionally goes to a cafe I also go to, and believe me, I don’t think I’d want to bump into him walking down a darkened alley. He’s a big dude.

It’s not that I think all police have a certain look, I just think that all people with this certain look are likely police. I could be wrong.

But I’m going to be very careful not to accidentally clip any of their cars in the parking lot.


I used to have a tree house. Not as a child, mind you, but as an adult. Let me explain. I had an apartment for a while in a complex owned and managed by an ancient woman that hardly knew who lived in her building, much less what those tenants were up to. There weren’t exactly a ton of restrictions on what you could or could not do in the complex, and even if there had been there was no one to enforce them.

I became good friends with several other residents there. I was living with my girlfriend Brittany at the time and was constantly looking for a reason not to be in the apartment with her. The less I was there, the less chance of setting off an emotional explosion, so I spent a good bit of time hopping around and getting to know a quite diverse group of neighbors.

Dan was your typical Southeast Texas redneck. About six foot four, he drank cheap beer by the case, drove a pickup truck, and ate weird things if you dared him. I personally watched him consume a raw shrimp and three wrinkled dollar bills one night simply because someone said, “I bet you won’t.” Dan lived across the street from Chuck, a gun collecting Texan with a bit more intelligence. Dan was the kind of guy that would beat his chest and tell you what he was going to do. Chuck would just do it.

And Chuck happened to live next door to Henry. Henry was a stout and stocky black guy. Always high, he was the kind of person you couldn’t help but like. He was Ice Cube in Friday.

Over one particular summer, a group of teens happened to choose our neighborhood as a target for a string of car burglaries. My car was hit twice, along with eleven other incidents over the course of a few weeks. Despite our attempts to keep watch individually, we were unable to catch anyone in the act. For that matter, the only information we really had been able to get at all was the occasional neighbor’s half remembered account of an older, brownish colored car with a bunch of suspicious looking teens.

The obvious solution, we decided, was to band together. Strength in numbers made sense to us, and we fell in love with the idea of standing in unison against a common enemy. Not only would this be productive, this could be fun.

We recruited whoever else we could from the neighborhood and met at Henry’s house. Six adults in all, dressed in black and carrying whatever makeshift weapons we could find. An old forgotten Louisville Slugger from under Chuck’s bed, Dan’s slingshot, a chipped and slightly bent samurai sword with a blue rope wrapped handle. We were completely unprepared, yet one hundred percent willing, to go to war with a gang of street savvy thugs.

Over the next hour we discussed our plans. Who would cover which shift each night? What would we do if we actually caught someone? I had read enough Spider-man comics to be elected leader, therefore I was the one forced to veto the most extreme game plans as they were presented.

“So if one of us can catch ‘em in action and chase ‘em towards the others, we could hog tie ‘em, gag ‘em, and leave ‘em laying in the field over night,” Dan suggested. “The fire ants and them bat sized skeeters oughta finish ‘em off.”

“No, Dan,” I said. “Let’s try to come up with something… maybe a bit more legal.” Talking to him was a bit like trying to explain to a retarded child why he couldn’t have a balloon. And it wasn’t just Dan; no one was really helping.

“So I guess pumping them full of arrows and hanging them from a tree like little ghetto-porcupine-piñatas is out of the question?” Chuck chimed in.

“You a damn fool, Chuck. You know that?” Henry laughed. “A damn fool.”

“Completely out of the question,” I replied.

When the meeting – if you could call it that – adjourned, the only decision we had come to was that we definitely needed a place to mount our defense. We needed a secure location. We needed a fortress. I volunteered the tree next to my apartment, suggesting that we might be able to put some sort of platform halfway up. Everyone agreed and construction started the next day.

What began as a 3×3 perch soon became much larger. Dan started bringing home truckloads of grocery store pallets and landscaping timbers. We added each one to the rest and before long had erected a two story, two-hundred-plus square foot citadel. Over the next few months I forgot all about the ring of thieves and concentrated my efforts on increasing the size of the tree house. Two old couches were acquired and hauled up into the branches. Electricity was run from my back porch via extension cords. Chuck had an old TV we could drag up there when it wasn’t raining.

I fabricated a roof above the first level, leaving the second floor open to the sky, a perfect place to lie at night and watch the stars scroll by. I was twelve years old again, and oblivious to the fact that I had absolutely zero construction skills. I used twenty screws where one would have sufficed. My lack of building knowledge aside, this thing was never coming down. We built on into the summer.

* * *

With our attentions focused on the newly erected wooden castle, the dark brown Oldsmobile that came creeping down the street late one night almost went unnoticed. I got a call from Henry, who just happened to be out late adjusting the tension on the makeshift zip line we had installed a few days before.

“These fools are behind the building, man. You in?”

“I’ll meet you outside. Give me two minutes.”

The building directly across the street was empty, and had been since Hurricane Rita ravaged the area a year before. I knew there was no reason for anyone to be back there at all. It could only mean trouble. Despite Chuck and Dan’s insistence that we attack, cooler heads prevailed. I made the case for calling the police and twenty minutes later a squad car came cruising down the road. It pulled behind the building and we circled around the other side to watch the action, certain that we were about to witness justice occurring live and in real time.

Two officers ran up to the car across the dark parking lot. Their flashlights bounced along the rusted body and then one of the doors creaked open. Smoke poured from the inside of the vehicle, the flashlight beams becoming solid yellow rods as they shot through the billowing clouds. My first thought was that something was actually on fire, and then the realization hit me that the occupants of that car were just really, really high. It looked like the Cheech and Chong van.

What minutes earlier had seemed to be an open and shut case was about to turn shockingly sideways. The five teenagers were taken from the car, searched, and then handed back their keys with instructions to leave and not return. As the beat up Cutlass rattled away, the police car followed them. Seconds later, both were gone.

“Are you motherfucking kidding me?” asked Henry.

And it wasn’t just Henry. We all stood there completely slack jawed. Clearly the cops weren’t in the mood to write up a report. Though we had no solid evidence, we were convinced that this was the same group of kids that had lifted our car stereos and CD collections. As we stared at each other in silent disbelief an even more shocking thing happened; the car came back.

It cruised down the street through the darkness like a battle worn shark, pulling in the drive headed back behind the building.

Henry didn’t waste a second. He picked up Chuck’s bat and started out across the street. “Man, fuck a bunch of these motherfuckers, yo.”

The entire group of us was now ready for war. As we turned the corner behind the building, we could see one of the kids clearly retrieving something from the grass next to the car; most likely something tossed when the police had shown up earlier. The teen sprinted back to the car when he saw us. “Go, go, go!” he yelled, and the car started to back up as he dove inside.

There was a wicked crack as Henry’s bat connected with the windshield. The driver couldn’t seem to get the car in gear, and Henry connected with two more shots, shattering the passenger window and caving in the hood. “Damn, man! This is my Mama’s car!” a voice from inside cried. “Then your Mama better have insurance!” Henry yelled back as he smashed a brake light. There were a few more glancing blows before the terrified kid managed to shift, and then finally the car sped off, leaving us standing amongst the wreckage.

“Umm, maybe we should finish this inside,” I said, figuring the police were certain to return soon now that a somewhat violent crime had been committed.

We didn’t even make it back across the street before the red and blue flashing lights rounded the corner. Chuck and Dan sprinted for home and Henry tossed the bat into the bushes. The car rolled to a stop in front of the two of us.

“I don’t suppose one of you fellas want to tell us what happened here, do you?” the officer asked as he stepped out of the car.

“Actually, we just walked out ourselves,” I replied quickly. “Sounded like some glass broke or something. Is everything okay?”

The officer looked at me dubiously, but I wasn’t breaking. Henry wasn’t so calm however. “That car came back, man. Why didn’t you arrest those fools the first time?”

“What Henry means is -” I started to say.

“What I mean is, if y’all ain’t gonna stop these motherfuckers from coming over here, then we will.”

The cop replied, “Sir, you can’t say the word the word ‘motherfucker’.”

So I said, “No, Henry. Apparently he is the only one that can say it.”

“Are you trying to get smart with me, son?”

And it really just slipped out of my mouth before I could stop it. “Smart? God no,” I said. “I’m not trying to confuse you.”

“That’s it. Turn around, son, and put your hands behind your back,” he said, pulling out his handcuffs. I was laughing as he clicked them shut around my wrists. Not only was I amused by the sudden turn of events, but I was also incredibly curious how talking to my neighbor was being considered a threat or a crime. “What exactly did I do?”

“You were inciting a potential riot,” was his reply. “Watch your head.” I ducked as I was placed in the backseat of the car. If that was a riot, I would have hated to see how he handled a group of Irish soccer fans. The officer sent Henry on his way and then got into the car. His partner turned to me as we pulled off.

“I suggest you keep it down back there,” he said. “We’d hate to have to tack any more charges on.”

And that was probably where things went south. I knew that technically I was going to get a Disorderly Conduct charge, and I figured that if I was going to get one, I might as well earn it. My tongue took on a life of its own, and I emptied both barrels.

“Oh really? Because legally I don’t think I have to be quite at all.  If you don’t like it, let me out.  Or why don’t you just turn up the radio, Captain America?  I bet your wife is really proud of you…  bringing down the scum of society!  How scary it must be!  Ooooh, does it feel good Kojak?  You solved the crime! Yippee ki yay, motherfucker!  Oh wait, I can’t say that, can I?

“You know, the last time you guys were out here, we pointed out a kid that had driven up in a stolen car and tried to break into my neighbor’s truck. Then he ran from you guys and when you caught him he had a fourteen-inch screwdriver in his pocket.  And what did you do?  You let him go.  I’ve seen the detectives on Court TV put a guy away for life based on a piece of lip DNA they pulled off of a half-eaten apple core they found in a dumpster two counties away from the crime scene, and you couldn’t piece that mystery together?  Yeah, you’re on fire, Commando Rabbit.

“Why doesn’t FOX TV ever follow you guys around for COPS, huh?  Maybe it’s because you fucking suck.  You ever think of that?  Maybe it’s because dragging a guy to jail for standing in his own neighborhood is just shitty TV.  What a hero.  You’re the worst policeman ever.  I hope your little radar gun really does give you ball cancer.  Are we there yet?  I’ve gotta pee.  Come on, man!  Speed!  We already know you’re a hypocrite, what’s it gonna hurt?”

I kept my face as close to the partition as possible, throwing each sentence directly at his ear as he drove. I was determined to earn every minute of my stay in a holding cell. When we arrived at the jail the two officers couldn’t get rid of me fast enough. The ride had put me in a heightened state of amusement. Already resigned to my fate, and the misdemeanor charge, I committed myself to making the most of the experience. No one was going to be safe.

They asked a million questions when they booked me in, all for what I could only assume was my “permanent record”. Once I realized that no one was there to determine the veracity of my answers however, I began to lie. Even the simplest question was an invitation to mislead.

The woman in charge sat in front of her keyboard. “Height?” she asked.

“Six eleven,” I answered with a straight face.

“No you’re not,” she said.

“If you already know then why are you asking me?”

She growled a bit and then continued, “Do you wear corrective lenses?”

“Nope.”

“What color are your eyes?”

“Do you mean with or without the contacts?”

“You just said -”

“I was kidding. Next?”

“Occupation?”

In all honesty, I wanted to answer her correctly. The thought of having “comedian” next to my name in a file somewhere kind of made me happy. The Bullshit Train had left the station however. I couldn’t stop. I contemplated my answer as she repeated the question. “Sir? Occupation?”

And with the most serious expression possible I replied.

“Dragon Slayer.”

I arched my eyebrow mysteriously as I said it, as if that would somehow add authenticity to my claim.

“What?” she asked.

“Dragons. Large reptilian creatures. Did you not have a childhood, lady?”

She cocked her head sideways, baffled. “And where do you do this?”

“Caves, meadows, wherever the need arises,” I shot back.

She still didn’t know how to process what I was giving her. She had a blank to fill in on a form and the words coming out of my face confused her. “And… people give you money for this?” she tried.

“Sometimes money, sometimes a virgin or a goat. Whatever the village can afford. I have a calling, lady, and I won’t stop until all of the dragons are dead.”

Exasperated, she stormed out on our interview. Eventually, especially once I knew my friends had arrived with my bail money, I cooperated. I managed to keep a maniacal little smile the entire time though, which did a phenomenal job of keeping the other people in the holding cell convinced that I was at least a little bit insane.

“What are you in for?”

“Killing lizards. You might want to back up a little bit.”

* * *

The tree fort lasted longer than I thought it would. One day a letter arrived at my door from the landlord. Apparently a makeshift platform of thirty-eight pallets suspended 15-20 feet in the air was an “insurance risk”, and news of the tiki torch someone had drunkenly dropped on one of the couches had made its way back to her as well. It must come down the letter said.

Getting it up had not been a problem. Getting it out of the tree was a different story entirely. I pulled on the beams, I hit things with a hammer, and I jumped up and down. Nothing phased it. “Damn, I’m good,” I thought to myself, then I tied a rope around one of the support struts and pulled some more. I even went so far as to ask myself “What Would Jesus Do?” Then I remembered that Jesus was a carpenter. He could probably dismantle the entire thing in an afternoon.

Eventually I gave up. It stood stoically in that empty lot for another two years after I moved out. Even after my relationship ended, I still snuck back to visit it, hoping against hope that my ex wouldn’t be home when I did. Ultimately, I heard that time took its toll on the untreated lumber. Pieces fell one by one over the following months until, exhausted at last, the final section surrendered itself to the elements.

 

 

Prologue: I’m getting worried about the Simon Smithson Effect (SSE). This afternoon I was fiddling with this piece, which is a companion to the earlier “I Don’t Brake for Mongoose,” both belonging to a larger work called “The Dump,” when in comes an email from the guy in Hilo who’s been using my trailer, telling me that this morning at sparrowfart, when he was least expecting it, he was stopped by a cop and told to register the trailer or face a $100 fine. Read on.

Earlier this year I was heading out of my house in Hilo, Hawai’i, with a trailer-load of Monstera and banana trunks. Going to The Dump. Feeling strong and powerful because I’d been cutting down bananas.

Cutting down bananas is a cheap way to feel like a person of enormous physical power. You take your machete, step up to a banana plant, even one fifteen or twenty feet tall, and give it a serious chop. Down it goes, and with a satisfying thump, because banana trunks are very, very heavy. Most of the heaviness is water, but who cares? A banana going down goes down with as much force as a much larger woody tree that you might have taken a long-ass time to fell with an ax.

Downside is that it’s hard to carry the trunks to the trailer and hard to lift them up to put them in. You have to chop them up into sections that you can lift, which does take away from the mightyman feeling you got just before, when you toppled the bastard with a single stroke of your Crocodile brand machete. Those of you who are not tropical people need to know that bananas are harvested by felling them. They grow back from the stump, and very quickly, too.

So there I was, headed for the dump with a load of Monstera and mightyman banana trunks, which were leaking their water all over the trailer, but not so much, lucky for me, that they filled it and gushed out onto the road the way you sometimes see trucks or trailers with a long track of leaked something behind them on the road. And you drive along wondering what some asshole is leaking, hoping it’s not something really bad, like gasoline or phenylpyruvic acid* so that when the asshole’s vehicle or some other jerk ignites it, the flames run back to you and under, and burn you up.

Of course the banana trunks wouldn’t burn, being mostly water and all.

And the Monstera wouldn’t burn because it’s a hard-ass plant. Grubbing out Monstera is the hardest agricultural task I’ve ever done, and I’ve done a lot, including clearing Southwestern Pacific rainforest for gardens. The big leaves are nothing, but the trunks – some call them stems, but I call them trunks – are very heavy. The root system is extensive and you have to slash each member clear of the ground, because there’s no digging the bastards out.


When I’m looking at Monstera I’m going to have to take out by hand, I whimper. So I think about alternatives, but the war surplus store in Hilo does not have any M2A1-7 flame throwers left over from the Pacific War. The guy with the Bobcat charges too much. The chainsaw gums up too quickly to be useful.

There’s one other possibility besides brutal machete work. There’s a part of Monstera that you can eat, which is why the complete Linnaean binomial of the ones that vex me so is Monstera deliciosa. I was thinking that I could eat some, and hope the others are paying attention.

I used to explain to my classes that human cannibalism was almost always ritual and was (a) meant to let you commune with the dead by allowing another body to become part of you, or (b) to demonstrate how little regard you had for that body, by treating it like food, very demeaning, and by passing it through your personal digester and turning it into shit, even more demeaning.

So I thought that if the Monstera have some sort of plant-consciousness (which might be the case, since Hawai’i is the most New Agey place I know, and maybe the Raelians have managed to learn from their intergalactic contacts how to make Monstera conscious) then the ones I hadn’t eaten would either die of fear or shame or maybe teleport themselves to another universe, which would do the job of getting rid of them just as well.

I favor the idea of being a Monstera-cannibal** mightyman as well as a banana-felling mightyman, but I would need to make sure the Monstera knew I was eating them to insult them, rather than to commune with them.

So back on the street I didn’t want to leave a banana juice trail like the kind I’m describing, because that might attract the attention of a Hilo cop, which in turn might direct his attention to my unlicensed and unregistered trailer, and I might have to pay a fine***.

In the old days, like the really old days when I was in high school, being stopped by a cop wouldn’t have mattered because my girlfriend C was the daughter of the famous Sergeant B****. So I would have found a way to mention that I was Sgt. B’s daughter’s boyfriend and all would have been well.

In 2004 I met with C in a Starbucks at Waimea, also known as Kamuela, to talk about the old days. I had not seen her since 1960. It was a pleasant meeting but the badass pink Chevy didn’t come up.

Sgt. B was famous for his car. Fifty years ago in Hilo, and even today, the cops use their own cars as patrol cars. Mainlanders are always going on and on about it, especially when they get ticketed for traffic violations because they have no idea, no idea at all, that the Nissan Maxima that eases up behind them while they’re driving their rental car 50 in a 35 is actually a cop car, until the lights behind the grille and the blue light on top, which the poor ignorant Mainlander thought was just a Volunteer Fire Department blue flasher, begins flashing. Gotcha.

Sgt. B’s patrol car was also the family car. It was a ‘57 Chevy Bel Air, but it wasn’t like your ordinary Bel Air. It was pink, for one thing. And it had a Corvette engine, for another, although Sgt. B had not ordered the floor-mounted four-speed. So there was Sgt. B’s car: two hundred eighty-three horsepower, three-speed column shift, four doors, pink. It seems wrong to put “badass,” “pink” and “column shifter” in the same sentence, but I will: it was a badass column-shifter pink Chevy.

Sgt. B was also famous because, whenever he felt like it, he would take the badass pink Bel Air over to the Kona side, where there was more than a mile of very straight two-lane highway. That stretch exists unchanged today, and in fact I was driving along it a couple of years ago when my Mainland visitor G started questioning me closely about C and I had to tell about what happened on that highway.

What would happen on Sundays over on the Kona side straight highway was that people would drag there. And when Sgt. B was in the mood, he drive over and he’d drag too. So picture the scene, as I got it from C (back in high school, not in Starbucks): kids in their rods or hot stocks, dragging on the highway, and the pink police cruiser arrives. And joins in, sometimes with C in the passenger seat. Sgt. B didn’t kick everybody’s ass, C said, but he kicked most of them. I was never invited to go along, so this is all second-hand.

C and I got to take the pink Bel Air out on a dates. We had to be careful not to key the police radio mike while making out, though. It was exposed, hanging on the dash and, well, you know. We had to be careful with feet, elbows, other body parts. We almost never turned on the flashing lights and siren and pulled our friends over.

By the time I was worried about getting ticketed for a leaking unregistered trailer, Sgt. B was long dead, C wasn’t answering my emails, there was a 100% legal Hilo Dragstrip, and there didn’t seem to be a Hilo myth about the badass column-shifter pink Chevy I could connect myself to, and get off by association with one of the immortal ancestors. So I didn’t want to be stopped.

* A metabolite of phenylalanine, harmless in small quantities, but dangerous in large. I like the sound of it, because it suggest fiery destruction. It’s not funny to people with PKU.

** Yes, I know that for it to really be cannibalism I’d have to be a Monstera deliciosa myself, but this is creative non fiction, so cut me some slack here.

*** As per the SSE.

**** Sgt. B is long dead, but C is still around.



 

I met my mother when I was born. Since then she has progressed from a dress-sewing, dinner-cooking, hair-in-a-high-bun housewife, to a nude-swimming, pot-smoking artist, to a grey-haired lady who thinks old age is an embarrassment to be treated like some hideous, debilitating disease. There are two ways in which my mother has never changed: 1. She reads a couple novels each week (she keeps one upstairs and one downstairs and reads the one on the floor she’s on). 2. She is brutally honest, refusing to bullshit even for the sake of social nice-nice at a cocktail party.

The following is an interview with my mother that took place over the phone on Sunday, August 7th, 2008. I was in Baltimore, Maryland, where I live. She was in Santa Barbara, California, where she lives.

Jessica: First of all, do you still think you look Bruce Springsteen? Can you explain this?

Mom: Well, didn’t I say Josh looked like Bruce Springsteen and not me? [Josh is my younger brother.]

Jessica: No, you first said you did.

Mom: No. I said Josh looks like Bruce Springsteen. Did I say that about me?

Me: Yes. You called me on the phone and you definitely said that you looked like Bruce.

Mom: Well I think it’s the eyes and the nose and not the mouth. And Josh definitely looks like Bruce Springsteen. Josh has a worried little brow. Bruce has that too. It’s funny josh was born worried.

Me: Yeah, he was.

Mom: Poor little guy. [Note: Josh is a grown person who lives in Istanbul. He has a fabulous life, long stays in Paris, holidays in India, etc.  Nothing poor about him.]

Me: Do you think I look like Vincent Van Gogh?

Vincent.  AKA moi!

Mom: No, I do not think you like him, but I can see what you’re looking at when you say that. I think you’re looking at his nose. Maybe you have his mouth, too. He has a little hearty mouth. Heart lips like you do.

Jessica: Why do you love Randy Newman so much?

Mom: Oh my god because he tells the truth and he’s so brave. He’s like you as a writer. He tells these terrible things that are true and that people think but don’t necessarily say or acknowledge about themselves. Like, kids are grown now, they have their own TVs, I’m always glad to see ‘em but I’m glad to see em go. [Mom speak-sings in Randy’s voice.] And you know, he, well, in the song “I love L.A.” he’s in the car with these kids and their friends, he’s 16 or 17 in a convertible, and he says [speak-singing again], Look at that bum he’s down on his knees. Like it’s a great sighting! An L.A. sighting. He’d drive around L.A. on the freeways looking at things. It’s cool. Oh, and he’s had such a sad life cause he has these crossed eyes and he’s terribly, terribly self-conscious about it. You know that’s why he wears sunglasses a lot. Sometimes they take pictures and they get it right but most of the time his eyes are all over the place. Poor guy. And his uncles were composers for movies, they did soundtracks, so he uses a lot movie sounds. And cartoon sounds, like when he says on “My Life is Good,” [The Newman speak-sing voice again] I’ve got a friend his name is Bruce Springsteen and he said to me RAND, I’m tired of being boss, why don’t you be boss for a while, and then you hear this sound: dee-dee-dee-dee. Like a song to represent an idea in a cartoon. He uses things like that. He’s just so inventive and unafraid to use strange things in his music, to mix it up. And he’s so honest. I just love him.

Randy.  Mom would marry him.

Me: Would you marry him?

Mom: Oh my god, yes.

Me: If you could go back in time and marry him, and then you wouldn’t have me and Becca [my sister] and Josh, would you still do it?

Mom: That’s an impossible question. No, I wouldn’t do it. Because you’re even more interesting than Bruce [Springsteen] and Randy [Newman], my two heroes.

Jessica: Exactly how bad is old age?

Mom: Oh my god. Well. It’s the shits. One thing’s nice, when I feel like I’m standing up straight and walking good I feel really good cause I can do it. [My mother had a heart attack about five years ago and lost half her heart and one lung.] It stinks.It’s awful. It just stinks ‘cause it’s so limiting. For me it is anyway. I don’t think it has to be and I don’t think it is for everyone. And it’s shocking. It’s just shocking how ugly you get when you get old. I look at my face and I’m shocked at how ugly I am compared to how pretty I was. And I just took that for granted. And now I’m ugly and I just can’t get over how ugly I am. And I look at people when they die, in the obits.  And it’s the same story, so shocking. Sometimes they print a young and an old picture. It’s so sad that that pretty person becomes this ugly person. And then you get used to being invisible, too.

Mom now.  I think she's a cute old lady.

Mom now. I think she’s a cute old lady.

Jessica: Why does it matter so much to be pretty?

Mom: Well that’s a flaw, but it always did. One of our family things. It matters a lot to be pretty, mattered a lot to me. And it was hard to take when I got older and then old. And hard to take when people see you as a generic old person, don’t see you as an individual. And then ugly on top of it. If I weren’t fat that would make a difference, too. I don’t want to see anyone because I’m so old and fat. I don’t want anyone to see me. I think I had a very superficial approach on one level to life and it had a lot to do with beauty, and that’s a shame because it’s a waste of time and it certainly doesn’t pay off in the end.

Jessica: What would you advise someone who’s getting older and not old yet? [I suppose this question applies to everyone under 70, no?)

Mom: I don’t have any advice it just happens.

Jessica: Well any advice about ideas of beauty?

Mom: I wouldn’t give anyone advice, but I’d say it’s a shame to focus on beauty, to weigh that so heavily in their life. And a shame to focus on your childrens’ beauty. And all my kids have this same thing, right? I mean, I just admire people who can see deeper than superficial beauty.

Jessica: What do you mean we have the same thing?

Mom: I think everyone in this family focuses on beauty. It’s important for each of you to be beautiful and handsome. And I just think now that it’s so much better not to have that weigh on someone’s life and decisions.

Jessica: You think we’re all vain?

Mom: No, I don’t think you’re vain. I don’t think I was vain. We know we’re beautiful and we use it. And count on it.

Jessica: I think I’m kind of ridiculous looking.

Mom: Oh my god, you’re beautiful what are you talking? You’re beautiful what are you talking about? That’s’ one of the silliest things you ever said. But that’s why you’re a good writer.

Jessica: I really do think I look ridiculous. [See Vincent Van Gogh.]

My hair is pulled back here, so you can sort of see how the shape of my eyes and nose and head are like Vincent's.  My daughter took this pic and I like it because it's totally unposed and "real."

My hair is pulled back here, so you can sort of see how the shape of my eyes and nose and head are like Vincent’s. My daughter took this pic and I like it because it’s totally unposed and “real.”

Mom: No you don’t look ridiculous.But I think it’s great you think so.

Jessica: I know you only have horrible things to say about my father these days, but you must realize that he is half of my genetic make up and it’s a little brutal to hear his flaws laid out for me day after day. Do you have anything good to say about him?

Mom: Ummmm . . . [laughs]. Yes, I do of course. He was always willing to do what I asked him do. If I asked him to take the dog out he’d take the dog out. If I asked him do this, he’d do this. He was good about that. There’s a lot of good about him. But there’s more bad.

[Note: my parents split up a year ago after over forty-seven years of marriage. My dad’s a pretty great guy but he did do something really shitty to my mom.]

Jessica: Were you scared during the fires? [In July more than 5,000 acres burned across the road and down the road from my mother. She was evacuated and the fire department goozed her house with fire retardant. She and the house survived.]

Mom: No, I wasn’t scared but I was worried.

Jessica: What was the one thing you wanted to get out of the house when you had to evacuate?

Across the road, after the fire.

1. Aerial shot of the fire. 2. Across the road from my mother’s house, after the fire.

Mom: The animals, first. I was going to let the chickens roast. But the cats and the dogs were my first concern. After that: papers, insurance papers, checks, papers having to do with babies, life. After that, my favorite paintings. And then, uh, just things that couldn’t be replaced. Some family photos that were framed and hanging. And I forgot to take clothes, so I had to go buy some when I was evacuated. I didn’t even put anything in a suitcase or a bag.

One of the chickens who was left to roast.  I think this one's named Levi.

One of the chickens who was left to roast. I think this one’s named Levi.

Jessica:Is there anyone you despise?

Mom: I don’t despise your father. I think he made a big mistake but I don’t despise him. Right now I despise Sarah Palin ‘cause I keep hearing her speech over and over and it’s just dripping with sarcasm like the way a high schooler would talk. [The V.P. acceptance speech.] Like when she talked about Obama, she was just so childish. She didn’t write that speech but she certainly read it like a child. It was full of nastiness. So I despise her.

Jessica: What’s the best book you’ve read this month?

Mom: Um, gosh that one by Ondaatje, what was the name of the book? I forget. I’m going to look it up. Hold on. Oh shit. Oh god. Hold on. [She’s messing around on the computer.] I can’t think of the Ondaatje one, so I’ll say Willie Vlautin’s books, Motel Life and Northline. They were both great. And I also liked Joyce Carol Oates something about love and brother. I liked that even though it got panned a lot.

Me: The one about Jon Benet Ramsey?

Mom: Yeah, it’s a satire. It’s a very strange book. It’s way over done and way overly self-conscious but really interesting. I liked it.

Jessica: Best movie you’ve seen recently?

Mom: Gosh I haven’t seen one in a long time. Oh my god what was that one with. . about the Mexicans running dope and the guy finds the money in the suitcase and . . . who’s that Mexican guy, he had his hair down, so good looking, he’s in the . . he’s in the new movie about . . .uh with uh . . . oh god, I can’t remember.

Jessica: No Company for Old Men?

Mom: No Country for Old Men.That  was great. That was amazing. There were a lot of good movies last year.

Jessica: I know you’re a connoisseur of the worst that television has to offer. Among this group, what show is your favorite and why?

Mom: [laughs] Well my favorite is, New York Goes to Hollywood. And New York is Tiffany Pollard. And oh god, it’s just a terrible, terrible show but I love it.

Jessica: What do you love about it?

Mom: Ummm, I love, oh, New York is such an idiot. And she has so little talent. And the only reason she’s out there is because she was on a reality show and she’s outrageous. And then there’s her mother, Sister Patterson, and she’s crazy. It’s a good show, I like it. It’s a terrible show. It’s one of my favorites. There’s another one called Intervention. That’s really good. And then there was Celebrity Intervention and that was great. All these celebrities on there, kind of schmoozing each other and faking it.

Jessica: What was the happiest time in your life?

Mom: Well I loved living in Paradise. [When my parents were around fifty-years old, they bought a cabin in the woods, in an area called Paradise. My mother lived there fulltime, my father came up on the weekends.] I really loved that. I was very happy. I was happy when I was first married. I haven’t been unhappy very much. I’ve been happy about everything. Living in France was very hard at first because I couldn’t work [paint], couldn’t find a place that felt right. But my memories of France are very, very vivid and I loved it. [My parents lived in France a few years ago.]

Jessica: What’s the most interesting thing about you?

Mom: About me? Right now I don’t think there’s very much interesting about me at all. But I know other people think I’m interesting but I don’t know what it is. Maybe it’s because I’m honest. When I resigned from the WRA [Santa Barbara Wildland Residents’ Association where my mother was on the board for around sixteen years.] a couple people spoke about how interesting I was, but I don’t know. I don’t think there’s much interesting about me. Except I have a good sense of humor and I’m honest. That’s it.

[My husband, David, walks in the room. We’re on speaker phone so he hears everything. He decides to join in.]

David: What’s interesting about you is that you’re a genius who watches retarded TV shows. It’s a paradox I’ve never understood. Nobody watches worse TV than you.

Mom: [laughing]Oh, Cops is one my favorites! I love Cops!

Mom's favorite show!

Mom’s favorite show!

Jessica: Who do you love more, me, Becca or Josh?

Mom: [laughs] I always love more the one who asks. Nobody asks but you. I don’t think you ever ask that really. You don’t ask that question, I’m the one that asks those questions. Like who do you love more your husband or me? That’s my question. And I’m just saying it to be a smartass, I don’t really want you to make choices like that. [My daughter Ella and her friend walk into the kitchen and my mother can hear them jabbering away.] Oh my god does that girl ever stop talking?

Jessica: Who do you think is smartest:  Me, Becca or Josh?

Mom: Oh, come on! [laughing] That’s terrible! I think all three of you are incredibly smart. I do. And also about equally smart. And each of you in different directions. But I’m smarter than all of you [laughs]. Why don’t you ask who’s smarter me or your dad? Then I’ll tell you!

Mom holding me at age two.

Mom holding me at age two.

 

Start with Part One in which Lydia and I attend a police briefing, respond to an unfortunate situation at Burger King, roll a code 3, and embark on one of the most thrilling nights of our lives.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The Wood = Inglewood

Bump ‘Em Up = Scare someone a little

Break Leather = Pull your gun from your holster

Roll a Code 3 = Turn on the sirens & respond to a call

Lay a Dime = Make a call

Lapdogs = LAPD

Policecarbluelightsweb

Friday, April 28, 2006

10:25PM We leave the station through the back so we don’t walk past Lee and his friends again. I don’t ask Sarge about the SIM card. There is this part of me that doesn’t want to know. Lydia texts that they’re with the K-9 unit. I’m jealous. We’re heading out to a collision. When we get there I see two cars in the road. They’re both totaled. Paramedics are lifting someone onto a stretcher and there’s glass all over the road. It’s strange to watch people’s lives change like this, to know that wherever they were headed for the evening, it isn’t a destination they’re likely to make.

We stand around in the street with some other cops for a while. I try to look cool but it’s hard. I feel like a dork in my zip-up hoodie and sneakers. They’re all talking about the LAPD. Apparently, we’re on the border of LapDog territory. It’s kind of reminiscent of high school sports team talk. Neither seems to be much better than the other but there’s obvious competition and rivalry. None of these guys seem to envy the LAPD. They’re proud to be officers from the Wood.

11:15PM Back in the cruiser I glance at my phone. Wow, time’s up in 45 minutes. I’m disappointed. It’s been hours since we arrested Lee Anthony and I was really hoping for at least one more Code 3 tonight. We’re heading back toward the station. I text Lydia: Can u believe we’re almost done? Just as I hit send on the message Sarge responds to a radio call. Replacing the handset, he flicks on the rooftop flashers. Oh shit, your girlfriend’s in a pursuit, he says with a grin.

We’re off. We’re flying down Centinela and I fucking love it. The siren’s going, Sarge is doing that thing with the spotlight again, and I’m holding on tight.

Before I know it we come up on Lydia’s cruiser. They’ve got their lights and sirens on and they’re tailing an old beat-up Toyota that’s only going about 30 miles an hour. Sarge radios in that we’ve joined the pursuit. A pursuit! We’re in a pursuit! We’ll be secondary car, Sarge says to the operator. Fuck yeah, I think, secondary car!

Pursuit

Lydia’s cruiser stays right behind the suspect and Sarge and I are a bit off to the right. I can see Lydia’s blond hair in the back seat. We’re driving South on Crenshaw. I can’t believe we’re going so slow. I ask Sarge what he thinks is going on with the driver. Probably drunk, he says.

Two more cruisers fall in behind us. Now there’s four of us going down Crenshaw. We’ve all got our lights and sirens going and civilians are pulling over left and right. Sarge is screaming into the radio, manning the wheel with one hand. I don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited in my whole life.

The suspect drives straight through two red lights before meeting up with traffic, two cars deep, stopped at an intersection. Sarge’s seatbelt is off and he’s got one hand on his holster. The suspect rolls to a stop and Sarge has got his door open. He’s half-way out, screaming at Lydia’s car. He’s saying something about a bean bag, he’s breaking leather!

And then the light changes. The cars in front of the suspect start driving and so does he. Sarge slams the door and we’re off again.

I ask him what the bean bag thing was all about. It’s a gun, he explains, that shoots bean bag pellets. I ask him why we can’t just drive in front of the suspect and cut him off. You never do that, he tells me. You never know what’s going on with the suspect.

Three more cruisers have joined the pursuit. There’s seven of us going down Crenshaw. One of the officers is leaning out his window taking a picture of all of us with his cell phone camera. This is definitely the most exciting thing I’ve ever done.

We come up on another intersection and the suspect stops again. Just as all the officers are half-way out of the cruisers the light changes and we’re off again. I see Lydia look back our way and I wave at her. Sarge laughs at me and I realize I’m acting like a ten-year-old boy.

I turn my attention back to the suspect. I can’t believe he’s not stopping. What the fuck is he doing? There are seven, no eight cruisers behind him now. And shit, there’s a helicopter too! Is it a police helicopter? Maybe it’s the news. Maybe Lydia and I will be on the news! Should I call someone and tell them to turn on the television? My thoughts are racing a million miles faster than we’re driving.

Helicopter

The next light is red but the suspect turns right this time, down a darkened neighborhood street. The parade of cruisers is right behind him. He turns left at the next intersection. Maybe he’s going to his house? No wait, he’s stopping. He’s trying to pull a U-turn! No way! Where’s he gonna go? The road behind us is filled with cruisers! Sarge pulls up right behind him. The suspect tries to reverse to complete the U but Sarge drives right up on him, ramming his trunk with our front bumper.

Holy shit! We just hit the suspect!

I see the driver look up. He looks surprised. Then everything happens really fast. All the officers, including Sarge are out of their cars. They’ve got their guns pulled and they’re running at the Toyota. Someone pulls open the door. Someone else tries to shoot him with a tazer but I see it bounce off the door. Just before they pull him out of the car and onto the ground I get a good look at his face. He’s African-American, early forties. He just looks totally surprised. I realize that I probably have a similar expression on my face.

Beanbag_him

It doesn’t take them long to secure the suspect, to handcuff and put him in the back of a squad car. We spend the next half hour, all of us, out in the street talking excitedly and recounting the pursuit. Man, you girls got to see some action tonight! We hear this over and over and we nod enthusiastically. Right now, in this moment, Lydia and I want to be cops. I’m ready. Give me a fucking cruiser.

By the time we get back to the station it’s almost 1AM. We’re all still pumped up and stand around outside for a minute. Sarge and Lydia’s officers are making jokes about who’s going to write up all the paper work for the pursuit. They’re grinning and we’re grinning and suddenly I realize that it’s over. I want to hug Sarge but I see Lydia shake hands with her officers and I chicken out. We shake on it and I meet his eye. I know I’m not the only one who had a good time tonight.

The second Lydia and I close the doors to my car we’re babbling. We trade stories the whole way to the late-night Mexican place on Rose where I order a Tecate and a margarita. If there was ever a night to double-fist. My high lasts through the weekend.

My friends ask me if I would ever be a cop. Totally. I had no idea. I went into this really expecting to find a lot of racist, arrogant, ignorant, burnt-out, egotistical officers. I didn’t meet one. Instead I met a lot of people who sincerey like what they do, who like each other, who seem to genuinely care about the community, and who, once given the taste of the force, of the thrill, never want to go back.

And I have to admit, it’s been hard to go back to being a civilian again. I walked by the police station this morning on my way into the office and saw a couple of officers standing around outside. I walked by kind of slow, hoping they’d recognize me and call me over, that maybe I’d get to lean up against a squad car in my pencil skirt and high-heels and shoot the shit for a while. They didn’t notice me though.

Just now I heard a siren outside my window and couldn’t help but hop up from my desk to look out the window as a cruiser sped by. Oh shit, they’re rollin’ a Code 3.

Read Part One in which Lydia and I attend a police briefing, respond to an unfortunate situation at Burger King, roll a code 3, and embark on one of the most thrilling nights of our lives.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The Wood = Inglewood

Bump ‘Em Up = Scare someone a little

Break Leather = Pull your gun from your holster

Roll a Code 3 = Turn on the sirens & respond to a call

Lay a Dime = Make a call

Lapdogs = LAPD

IA = Internal Affairs

Gun_holster_3

Friday, April 28, 2006
8:14PM:
Sarge veers the cruiser to left again, into a subdivision of little apartment buildings. I’m looking out the window at some spectators standing on the sidewalk when I realize we’re about to come head to head with a red Bronco. There’s a young black man behind the wheel and no one else in the car. He attempts to drive around us but Sarge keeps the cruiser pointed straight at him and pushes down on the gas. There’s a police car behind the suspect and another one off to our right. The driver of the Bronco seems to realize this at about the same time I do and he slams on his brakes inches away from our bumper.

Sarge shines the spotlight right into the windshield of the Bronco, opens his door, pulls out his gun, and screams, Put your hands where I can see ‘em! Sarge is crouched behind his open door, holding the gun between his two hands, aiming it right at this guy’s head. I look back at the suspect. He’s terrified. My heart is pounding and I can feel a lump form in my throat. He’s just a kid, I realize. Whoever else had been in the street is gone and this kid is all by himself, facing off with a bunch of cops. He’s pushing his hands dramatically at the windshield before him. His palms are luminescent in the spotlight.

Suddenly my door is flung open and a female cop is crouching next to me. She’s got a shotgun in her hands. Put your hands in the fucking air, she screams. The suspect waves his hands at the windshield again. She cocks the shotgun with a loud double crack. Holy shit, I think, sliding down in my seat. I’m directly across from this kid but because of the spotlight he can’t see me. I’ll let you know if I’m going to shoot, she says to me. Cover your ears because it’ll be really fucking loud.

Sarge screams instructions for the suspect to climb slowly out of the car with his hands in the air. I’m all the way down in my seat now, my head just barely above the dashboard. I’m really scared. I don’t think the kid is going to start shooting but if he does I’m going to be directly in the middle of a gun battle. I watch him reach down slowly with one hand to open the door to the Bronco. Sarge and the female cop are absolutely rigid, like hunting dogs when they point. The second the kid’s two feet are on the ground a young Latino cop is on him, pulling his hands behind his back.

Sarge runs over while the other officer handcuffs him. I let out a breath I didn’t know I was holding and crane my neck up from my slouched position.

While Sarge talks to the suspect the Latino officer comes over and sits in the car with me so that he can run the kid’s info. I see his name come up on the screen: Lee Anthony, age 22. (*Name has been changed.) I can’t really hear what Sarge is saying to Lee but I make out the sentence, You’re lucky I’m old-school.

Then Sarge brings Lee over to our cruiser and leans him up against the hood.

Lee is facing me, just feet away, but because of the spotlight in his eyes he can’t see me. He doesn’t look that scared anymore. His big puffy jacket has fallen off his shoulders and is bunched up around his wrists and he’s wearing a couple of long, gold chains with, what I’m assuming are fake, diamond-encrusted emblems. Suddenly the Latino officer flicks off the spotlight. Thing’s driving me crazy, he says.

Now Lee and I are looking directly at each other. Sup, he says, nodding at me. Hi, I say back, feeling self-conscious. The Latino officer takes one look at this exchange and immediately flicks the light back on, causing Lee to squint in pain. I’m somewhat relieved. Sarge sits down in the driver’s seat next to me. Doin’ okay? I nod at him and muster a smile. I ask him what’s going to happen to Lee. Eh, we’ll just bump him up a little. I ask Sarge what that means. He chuckles and explains that it’s gang slang for scare him a little.

8:52PM: Turns out that Lee doesn’t have a license, just an ID, so they’re going to take him into the station. As Sarge starts up our cruiser I watch two officers lead Lee away to their squad car. I feel sorry for him. It’s Friday night. He didn’t really seem to be doing anything wrong and now he’s got to spend the evening dealing with this. His car’s going to get impounded. He’s going to have to call a parent or his friends to come help him out. I don’t envy him. We’re in such opposite places, me and Lee.

Police_lights

9:20PM: After all the excitement with Lee Anthony everything else feels pretty subdued. Sarge seems to come down easily from it all but I’m still buzzing, waiting for the next time we need to roll a code 3—slang for putting on the siren and following up on a lead. I ask Sarge if it’s weird to drive a regular car when he’s not on duty. It is, he says. His wife yells at him a lot: This is not a pursuit. Sarge has always liked to drive fast. I remember that just before we got in the cruiser at the start of the evening he walked over to a maroon-colored Porsche. I ask him if that was his car. Yup, isn’t it a beaut? It was pretty cool, I admit.

Inglewood is starting to seem pretty small. There’s Louisiana Fried Chicken again. And now we’re passing my office for the fourth or fifth time tonight. I’m almost feeling bored but I just keep listening to Sarge talk about life on the force. He says when you’re on patrol you never use the term quiet. It’s bad luck. The second you say it all hell breaks loose. I’m tempted to say it. I wish we could go to more calls. I keep seeing them up on the screen but I know it’s Sarge’s job to kind of monitor the overall evening and not get caught up in little disturbances. He tells me some of the cop slang. My favorite is breaking leather, used when you pull your weapon from its holster.

Lydia sends me texts now and then. Later she’ll tell me about how her two officers walked her out of the station after the briefing without saying a word. She was feeling kind of nervous until they got in the cruiser and the female turned around, looked her in the eye and said, Okay. The most important thing you have to figure out first is…And it was here that Lydia was sure she was doomed to an evening of boring cop instruction but instead the officer continued, …where we’re gonna eat. Lydia just texted that they got barbeque. I have this fantasy of me and Sarge going to some kind of diner together. I’ll get to sit across from him in his uniform with the three stripes on the sleeve and that big gun strapped around his waist and the other customers will look at us and wonder what’s going on. We’ll eat something old school like steak and eggs and I’ll put a lot of Tabasco on everything and Sarge will grin at me and nod approvingly.

Up ahead there’s a Jetta with a couple in the front seat just sitting at a green light. We come up behind them and they slowly pull out into the intersection. Tourists, Sarge mutters. We follow them for about a hundred feet and they finally pull into a deserted parking lot on our right. Sarge pulls in behind them and gets out of the car. Within moments he’s standing beside the driver’s side window gesturing and obviously giving directions. I send Lydia a text: We just pulled over some lost tourists. What are u doing? She writes back: Starbucks.

I watch the tourists pull out of the parking lot and drive off in the direction from which we came. Sarge is on his cell phone again. When he gets back in the car he doesn’t say anything, just gets on the computer and sends out some kind of IM message to all the officers: Call my cell ASAP. Within seconds Danger Zone breaks the silence in the cruiser. I stare out the window at a flickering street light. Sarge is clearly upset about something and I don’t want to get in the way.

Okay, Sarge is saying into the phone, where’s the SIM card? Mike at the station called and Lee Anthony’s down there with a couple of friends and he’s claiming that the SIM card is missing from his cell phone…No, I don’t know…I don’t want to know…I just want that card to magically appear at the station so that this shit doesn’t go to IA.

He snaps his phone shut and lets out a deep sigh.

This is the kind of shit I was telling you about, he says to me. Sometimes this line of work goes to people’s heads. They do stupid things and we all have to pay for it. Lee Anthony’s claiming that someone stole the SIM card from his cell phone and if it doesn’t reappear then it’s going to go Internal Affairs and we’ll all have to deal with it. I’m surprised that something like this would get so much attention from above but Sarge explains that these days, with incidents like Amadou Diallo, cops are guilty until proven innocent. He sighs again and starts up the cruiser.

Amadou_diallo_time_cover

9:45PM: We head over to “the yard,” a squat building with an electronic gate outside. Inside there are gas pumps for the cruisers and a car wash. We went over there earlier because Sarge likes to start the night with a fresh wash. We back into a parking spot and Sarge cuts the engine. We just sit there in the dark for a minute and I get a little nervous. He’s been quiet and I’m not sure what we’re doing here.

Suddenly, out of the darkness another cruiser appears. It’s got its lights off too and parks nose to nose with us. Sarge leans an elbow out of his window as the driver comes over.

I don’t want to know anything about it but we’ve got about 20 minutes to make sure this SIM card gets back to the station, Sarge whispers gruffly. The officer outside nods and tells Sarge that he’s meeting another cruiser in just a minute and they’re going to sort it out.

We get out of the car and go inside. I need to use the restroom but Sarge doesn’t have a key to the ladies room. We’re gonna have to go over to the station. We get back in the cruiser. There’s a palpable sense of tension coming from Sarge but I can also tell that he’s enjoying playing the role of captain, that he kind of likes having to mind after these young officers. I imagine he’s a good dad.

When we walk into the station the first thing I see is Lee Anthony sitting there with two friends. Hey, he calls out to Sarge, Hey man, I just want my SIM card back. Come on man. I need to call my mom and my phone don’t work. Come on, man. Before I can hear Sarge’s reply I duck into the ladies room. I really need to pee. When I come back out Sarge is gone, presumably to the back, and so I take a seat a few chairs down from Lee.

Sup, he says, nodding at me again. Ain’t you that girl from earlier? I nod and give a weak smile. His friends are looking me up and down.

I just want my SIM card back, Lee is saying to me. Why didn’t they just take the whole phone? Why they gotta fuck with me like that? Come on, you were there. I know you saw somethin’. I stare straight ahead.

Alright, he says, you ain’t gotta talk about it.

A beat goes by and I let out a breath. Then he starts up again. You a cop? I shake my head and tell him I’m just riding along. You in training? I shake my head again, repeat that I’m just on a ride-along.

Fuck, I think, why did I just tell him that I’m on a ride-along? This is not going well. I crane my neck subtly to see if I can catch a glimpse of Sarge behind the front desk. No such luck.

Then: You got a boyfriend? I look up and Lee’s eyes are glittering at me. His friends chuckle and before I have time to respond Sarge opens the door to the office and calls me back. He apologizes for leaving me out there. It’s cool, I tell him shrugging casually. I don’t want Sarge to think I’m a wimp.

I follow Sarge’s imposing figure down the back hallway. I’ve only got two hours left of my ride-along. I never want this night to end.

What’s the training process like to become a cop, Sarge? He turns around and grins at me.

TO BE CONTINUED…read Part Three here.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

The Wood = Inglewood

Bump ‘Em Up = Scare someone a little

Break Leather = Pull your gun from your holster

Roll a Code 3 = Turn on the sirens & respond to a call

Lay a Dime = Make a call

Lapdogs = LAPD

IA = Internal Affairs