Last week I went home to my precious motherland of Los Angeles to visit family, friends and pops in prison. I was looking forward to palm trees, beautiful weather, driving and my staple Chin Chin Chinese chicken salad. I arrived Wednesday evening and on Thursday spent a day of relaxation at my new-found gem Korean spa. I partook in an hour-long body scrub, a milk massage and dipped into the hot, medium and cold jacuzzis – refreshing. The next day I continued my spa week by getting a facial. My facial went longer than expected and I had a meeting at 3pm. I looked at the clock and decided I could either squeeze in a quickie mani-pedi or get my favorite Chinese chicken salad and Chin Chin’s on Sunset. 20 years ago, I used to work at Playboy on Sunset Boulevard. It was my first job after college. I used to eat that damn Chinese chicken salad about three times a week and I still craved it after all these years.
I opted for leisurely salad lunch over quickie mani-pedi. I drove to Chin Chin’s, grabbed my salad, saw Dave Navarro leaving Chin Chin’s in his black hot rod – SO HOT – and drove home. By home I mean my friend Susan’s, my old boss from Playboy, house in Hancock Park. She had a large lovely home surrounded by trees and birds — the perfect safe sanctuary for this New Yorker. I always loved staying at Susan’s — I had my own bedroom, bathroom, birds chirping outside my window and a nice green backyard where we sat, drank wine and enjoyed the weather and peaceful surroundings.
As I delved into my large salad, I let out a deep sigh. I was thankful for a moment of solitude, taking time out to enjoy my crispy, refreshing meal. As I took a breather, I heard this noise in the background and realized that it had been going on for sometime. I couldn’t decide if it was a lawnmower or a helicopter. After a few more tangy bites, I looked out Susan’s pantry window facing the street. I looked up in the sky and saw a helicopter flying above her house. “Hmmm,” I thought to myself. It was probably a weather or traffic helicopter making the rounds. But after a few minutes, the helicopter was still flying above so I went to the window again. This time I saw her street full of LAPD and sheriff vehicles, flares blocking off traffic and about 25 cops with double barrel shot guns and bullet-proof vests running around. “Oh shit!” I thought to myself and ran outside the house. I flagged down a sheriff.
“Hey what’s going on?” I asked.
“Ma’am, there are four black men burglaring houses and now they’re jumping fences and hiding people’s backyards. Go inside your house, and lock the door,” he said
“But this isn’t even my house!” I shrieked.
“Just go back inside, lock the doors, and call 911 if you see anything,” he yelled back as he walked away.
I went back inside the house, and locked the front door. All of a sudden, I realized how big and unprotected Susan’s house was. She rarely locked her doors, never turned on the alarm and had no window coverings. I froze in place as this huge cloud of fear came over me. I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my veins and my mouth became extremely dry. It was the same feeling I had during my dad’s arrest — helplessness and utter terror. It was as if someone were already in the house and I didn’t know it. A couple of moments went by as I stood in place in the middle of her house, hearing the excitement building outside. I didn’t know what to do. I turned my head to the left and looked out the back window. Just then I saw a large black man with a turquoise and black plaid long sleeve shirt on jump over her fence, run into her detached garage in the backyard and slam the door.
I looked at my iphone in my left hand and didn’t think calling 911 was the most prudent thing to do considering most of the force was right outside the house. I ran to the front door, threw it wide open and jumped out into the front lawn.
“Hey!” I screamed at the top of my lungs but no one heard me because of the helicopter and siren noises.
“Heeeyyyyyy! He’s in the backyard” I said waving my arms up and down. Still no one saw me.
“Heeeeyyyyyyyy!!!!” I screamed at the top of my lungs running into the street as I finally caught the sheriff’s eye.
“He’s in the backyard! I just saw him go into the garage and shut the door!”
“Are you sure you saw him?” The sheriff asked.
“Yes, I’m sure, and he’s wearing a turquoise and black plaid long sleeve shirt!”
Instantly, four LAPD and three sheriffs with their double-barrel guns stormed the front door, ran through the house and into the backyard. Three more LAPD and sheriffs surrounded the garage from the side street. One of the LAPD kicked open the flimsy white door and yelled “Police!” I expected them to drag the guy out immediately but a few minutes went by and nothing. Pretty soon two or three police were in the garage looking for him, using their flashlights. I wondered how many law enforcements it took to find a burglar in two-car garage in broad daylight.
The sheriff looked back at me and said, “Are you sure you saw him go into the garage?” How dare he second guess me. An instant later we heard the LAPD’s yell “Drop your weapon! Come out with your hands up!” as the four LAPD officers escorted the burglar outside my friend’s garage in handcuffs.
“So I’m just going to write down that you saw the burglar go into your friend’s garage and at that moment, you came outside to tell us you found him. Then we came inside the house and apprehended him,” the sheriff said.
“Okay, that sounds right,” I replied.
“And don’t worry, that’s all I’ll say.”
“I have nothing to hide.”
“Again, thanks for your cooperation and I’m really sorry about the disruption.”
“That’s okay, I’m used to it. You guys have actually raided my parents’ house twice before. My dad is the ex-CHP strip club owner who’s now in prison for murder.”
“Oh yeah, Mike Woods, the Jet Strip case!” At this point, he shakes my hand and gives me his business card. I had suddenly entered the inner circle of trust.
“It’s a real shame how things turned out for your dad. How is he?”
“Well, he’s depressed, he lost his last appeal. I’m visiting him tomorrow in prison.”
“Oh yeah, which one’s he at?”
“Yeah, I’ve visited people there before.”
And after our lovely bonding chat, the LAPD and sheriffs scaled the surroundings one last time, waved good bye thanking me again for my cooperation, and took off. The street was suddenly empty.
Later on that day, my friend Susan received an email from the neighborhood security company. It turns out the four black men were Crips gang members and had been leading a sting operation where they burglarized houses during the day, going door to door. The sheriffs had caught them red-handed in the San Gabriel Valley where they had been on hot pursuit via car for about an hour until the suspects abandoned their car at the EZ Lube on Melrose and scattered around the neighborhood. The report said that two had been captured on the spot at EZ Lube and the two others were caught in the bushes. Being from Inglewood, originally, I felt a tad guilty for turning in my people.
“Hmmm, that’s not right,” I said to Susan, “He was in your garage!!” We both laughed because had I decided to do my quickie mani-pedi and come home later instead, neither of us would have known what had taken place on her street.