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Thread: One summer in La Jolla, California

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    Default One summer in La Jolla, California

    When I was a teenager, I worked at a 7-11 convenience store by the beach. My best friend at the time and I were into surfing, and we lived quite a ways inland, so this was our way to earn a few bucks and remain close to the water. For the most part, it was a dull job, but it passed the time.

    One night a young kid – he couldn’t have been more than ten – came into the store and bought a slurpee. He gave us a hundred dollar bill to pay for the drink, and put a candy bar on the counter too. It wasn’t just any hundred dollar bill either. Crisp, smelling like fresh ink, it just looked wonderful. We didn’t think a whole lot of it – after all, this was La Jolla and we were in a neighborhood of million dollar homes, even in those days, and affluence just seemed to surround us.

    The next night he was back, with an even crisper, even cleaner looking, if that was possible, hundred dollar bill. And again the next night, each time, buying just a few dollars if that of candy and drinks. One of the nights we short changed him twenty dollars; the next, forty. He didn’t seem to notice. Finally, on the fourth night, we asked him where he was getting all the money.

    “My grandmother’s.” he said. “I stay with my grandmother sometimes.”

    We imagined the old lady doling out hundreds to him, and spending the change the child brought home on afternoons at the Beach and Tennis Club, or at La Valencia, the pink art deco landmark hotel by the cove in La Jolla. But it didn’t make sense. The Beach and Tennis Club, even we knew, didn’t take cash. Members, the select few who stood in line for years to get past the waiting list, simply signed for whatever they were served. We had ascertained that rather quickly, the few times we had snuck in and tried to blend in with the La Jolla kids our age, whom we found lounging by the beach and pools without, it seemed to us, a care in the world. And anyway, if the source of the money was the old granny, why hadn’t she noticed that someone had shortchanged her so rapaciously?

    We pressed the boy for details, which he readily offered.

    “My grandmother has a shoebox under her bed, filled with these.”

    He didn’t have to explain further. By “these,” he obviously meant the crisp, damn near shiny, hundred dollar bills. By now dollar signs, all of them hundreds, were flashing in both of our eyes. We asked the kid what he did during the day, and he told us, “School.”

    “But I don’t have school tomorrow." he said triumphantly. "It’s Saturday.”

    Both of our brains went into high gear. Really, low gear. Even at that age we had both already become so accustomed to scams and scamming that it didn’t take long or much for us to connect the dots from the inception of a devious idea to a definite plan.

    “Listen,” we told the kid, “if you want to come by tomorrow with another one of those, we’ll have a special flavor of slurpee ready for you. It’s a special we do on, uh, Saturdays.”

    The kid blinked. Then his look turned demanding. “What flavor?”

    My friend and I just looked at each other. “Just come back tomorrow,” I told him. “We’ll set you up.”

    As soon as the boy left the store, my friend and I burst into rapid fire thought designs – none of them anything other than crooked.

    “Ryan, you thinking what I am thinking?” I said to my friend.

    “Uv course.”

    Really, few words were needed. We would play it by ear. I was actually for following the kid around the corner right then and there – he obviously lived near by – but we didn’t want to startle anyone, and it was already dusk. Somehow, pulling crimes at night just seemed too scary to our relatively newly budding criminalities. So we agreed to wait.

    By the time we left our shift and the morning crew arrived though, I realized something. Important. I didn’t work the next two days – I was heading to L.A. for a Mod get together. I knew then that I wouldn’t be following any ten year old kid into his grandmother’s pad searching for hundred dollar bills. Rather, I’d be on my Vespa scooter heading to a gathering of similarly thin lapelled and thin tied Mods riding their own Vespas and Lambrettas for a sort of eyeball conference on the Who’s Who of The Who and other music and things that Mods like to do and talk about. Quadrophenia had not so long ago been released, and I, along with a good many others, were into the Mod scene. The local newspaper had in fact just written up an article naming names and my name had been mentioned as one of the “prominent Mods” of San Diego.

    In any case, I wouldn’t be there at the 7-11 or anywhere near La Jolla that weekend. I just told Ryan to take it easy and check everything out, and not do anything until I got back into town.

    Sunday night, tired out after trying to drive my scooter all the way up and down the Interstate 5 to Los Angeles, mostly in the shoulder lane and mostly trying to avoid police who might have questioned why my scooter was unregistered and not driving down the usual lane of traffic, I went over to Ryan’s house. Ryan did not live far from me. Both of us lived about ten miles inland from the beach. I found him sprawled out on his bed counting out stacks of hundred dollar bills with a silly grin on his face.

    “R.O.!” I cried out, using the nickname most everyone used for him. “Tell me what happened! Tell me everything.”

    And Ryan then proceeded to tell me about the grandmother’s condo, right by the beach and practically around the corner from the 7-11, where he had followed the boy, and then kept his distance until he was sure no one was home. About how the front door was always unlocked, or at least was unlocked when he went in, and how he had quickly located the bedroom, the shoebox, and all the money.

    “Damn R.O.!” I was beside myself. “There must be four grand in there!”

    “And that’s not all,” Ryan said to me. “The place is full of stuff. I mean all kinds of stuff. Like silver, art pictures, all kinds of things. Just crazy.”

    That was it. We decided, or rather I decided, right then and there that we were going to go in and take everything that wasn’t nailed down. I even had a car in mind, rather, a van because I envisioned a huge haul, all ready to facilitate the deed.

    Two days later, in broad daylight when we were again sure that no one was home, we went over to the place, in through the again unlocked door, and proceeded to carry everything that wasn’t nailed down and looked valuable out and into the friend’s van we had borrowed. We had hit the jackpot.

    Of course, being teenagers, we had no idea, really, what to do with all these things. I took custody of all the silver, and stacked it in the closet of my bedroom. There must have been a hundred pounds of solid silver. Ryan took most of the rest of the stuff, including some jewelry and a gun he had found, what appeared to be a new but somehow very beaten up and old looking pistol.

    Now my mom has had to endure her share of heartaches with me. God knows I have put her through quite a lot with all my antics over the years. But she has always, as with all mothers, wanted the best for me, even if it meant locking me out of her house for fear I might throw some wild party or vandalize the place while she and my stepfather were away. And yet through it all, we have remained linked somehow, psychically. My mother, to put it simply, is intuitive to the point of always knowing when I am up to no good, which is often. She also always seems to know, even if we have not spoken in months, if I am in trouble. Many has the time been when she has warned me to not go out on a certain night or not go to a certain city or place, and I have ended up in serious trouble as a result of not heeding her dire prophecy.

    And so it was a few weeks after this incident, that my mother simply just got the feeling that something was wrong, and her intuition drove her – directly to my closet, where the not so neatly stacked piles of silverware came crashing down when she pulled open the closet door and made an inquisitive poke into its contents.

    I was called onto the floor immediately upon getting home that night. “David!” she said, using my full name, such as she did when I was in trouble. “What have you been up to.”

    No Davey. No Dave. Just plain, formal David. And David was going to be in serious trouble.

    I had always trusted my mother with most everything about me. That was one thing about the relationship between myself and my mom – if nothing, it was based on truth. At least, my imparting the truth when caught red handed with no other explanation short of what really happened. This was one of those occasions when nothing short of the truth would do. I told her everything.

    She wasted no time in contacting Ryan’s parents. Ryan’s father, Steven, came up with a less than noble plan for disposing of the matter.
    “Let’s just take everything and throw it into the ocean.” was his idea of a solution.

    My mom was ashamed. She pretty much never had any contact with Ryan’s dad after that. Of course, my parents’ solution was not so simple and involved quite a bit more accountability. We would have to return everything.

    I proposed a half way point. “Frank,” (I have never been able to call my stepfather anything other than his first name), “what if I just drive everything back to the place, leave it on the front lawn, and leave a note on the door telling them we are sorry.”

    My stepfather wasn’t going for that. We never did see eye to eye on much of anything.

    “Son,” he started to say, “you took those things like a coward but that’s not the way you are going to return them. You are going to get a hold of that lady and return everything looking her right in the eye.”

    Which turned out to not be possible. Ryan had heard that the grandmother had died just a week or two after our burglary. So, short of some spiritual séance which even my psychic mother would probably not be able to conjure up, we were not having an eyeball with anyone from whom we had stolen anything. At least not with this grandmother.

    But, of course, my stepfather came up with an alternate solution, and after a series of false starts, we settled on a plan to have me put a note on the front door of the condo, asking someone to call us about what had been taken from the apartment. And the next day, during my break from work, sure enough there I was putting up the letter I had written.

    As I was doing this, some details about the condo started coming back to me. I started to remember the photographs on the walls as we had walked up and down the place plundering, pictures of the old lady with two younger men standing by her, arms around her, wearing leather biker jackets. I could still clearly recall the 19 inch guns on each of the men's arms. This was all coming back to me clearly as I stood on the porch, taping my note to the front door.
    It didn’t take long for someone to call. My stepfather handed me the phone two days later while I was sitting in my room looking at some surfing magazine.

    “Are you the man I need to talk to?” was what he said as soon as I had meekly managed a hello.

    “Yes Sir.”

    We arranged a time for me to bring everything back to him, the next afternoon. I borrowed my friend’s van again, and loaded everything from my closet into it. There had been so many things we had had to lay out bed sheets on the floor of the condo while burglarizing it, just to be able to wrap up and carry everything out.

    I went over to Ryan’s place to pick up what he had stored. Ryan gave me everything he had, but wanted to hold on to one item – a skull ring with a sort of red stone in it. Ryan agreed to come back with me to meet our victim.

    The next afternoon, Ryan was nowhere to be found. No one, or at least no one I knew, had cell phones in those days, so there was no chance of finding him. I drove back to La Jolla alone.

    When I got to the condo, I knocked on the front door. The man I had spoken to on the phone, one of the ones in the photographs next to the old lady, answered the door. He looked even bigger and more intimidating in person. He just stood there squarely in front of me, his arms crossed.

    “All right,” he said. “Bring everything up here.”

    It took several trips. I contemplated asking him to help me, but thought better of it. Finally, when everything was spread out on the kitchen table, and on the floor by it, he started looking through what had up until that morning been sequestered away in my closet, and Ryan’s room. As he turned his back to poke through the items, I could see two words written on the back of his leather jacket. Hell’s Angels. I knew exactly what that meant.

    “Listen,” he said finally. “All I care about are three things, and I don’t see any of them here.

    “I want the gun,” he continued saying. “I want a skull ring with a ruby in it. And I want a Japanese coin with a square hole punched through the middle. Those aren’t here. Where are they?”

    Of course, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Ryan had sold the gun to someone he knew. And he hadn’t wanted to give me the ring. I could get that back easily. But the Japanese coin….

    I had been surfing one afternoon following this burglary caper. The coin had intrigued me, as it had an odd, square shaped hole right in the middle of it. I had put it in my ashtray so as not to lose it, but eventually, its presence in my car had given me an uneasy feeling, and I’d thrown it away in the sand.

    I swallowed and stood up straight. I wanted this Hell’s Angel to know I was on the level.

    “Okay,” I started saying, “I can get the gun.” Of course, I wasn’t sure I could get anything, but I was certainly going to try. “And the ring. But the coin – I can’t get that back.”

    Silence. The man said nothing for a long time, and just looked at me closely.

    “You’re pretty young to be doing this sort of thing aren’t you?”

    I said nothing.

    Finally he said, “All right. I can live with that. Here’s my number – you call me when you have those things.”

    And with that, I left the room, walked out the door, down the stairs, and into the brilliant La Jolla sunshine. I found Ryan right away. He was home by the time I got back myself, and I got the ring from him.

    We drove together to see the person who had bought the gun. The guy wasn’t happy, but we had the money to pay him back. That was one thing we had not returned to the bikers, and which we hoped anyway, they knew nothing about – the cash under the grandmother’s bed. So, when I say that I had been truthful with my mom, I meant, truthful as to what she had caught me with! Anyway, Ryan had spent most of that cash already, and I hadn’t seen much of it. And trying to get anything back from Ryan once he had custody of it, as I was seeing right now, was a more than taxing chore.

    Eventually the guy came up off the gun, and handed it to us. We told him that it had been used in some crime, and needed to be disposed of, which may not have been far from the truth. We gave him back his money.

    I didn’t bother to ask R.O if he would come with me to return these last items. Ryan never was much of one to face matters head on, and anyway, he didn’t have a stepfather forcing him to square off with someone whose dead mother you had just robbed. Ryan’s father would have been perfectly happy knowing that everything had been swept into the Pacific Ocean, along with the Japanese coin.

    Before I returned the gun to the biker, I examined it more closely. It was a lot newer than I had imagined. I didn’t know a great deal about guns, but enough to realize this was no World War II relic. It was contemporary. But what had made the gun look old – or rather weathered – was that it seemed to have been really worked on, as if it had been stripped. Years later, I read some articles about such things and talked to some real gangsters about the whole affair.

    “Oh yeah, Homie,” some Mexican mafia types had explained to me. “That gun – it was probably washed in acid. No doubt they were trying to get rid of the serial number on it.”

    In any case, whatever it all meant, within another day I had made the call and returned the two items to the biker. He had shaken my hand and offered his help, “if I ever needed anything.” I wasn’t quite sure what to make of all that, and simply said, “Thank you.” I never saw or heard from him again.
    Last edited by PDub; 07-25-2009 at 10:30 PM.

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