The Rundown

By Allen David

Posted May 9, 2013 in News


Yet another May Day without seeing so much as a single May Pole.


The third round of the Inland Empire’s Diesel-Fuel Burglary Tournament resumes, this time at the daunting Roger Penske Truck Rental facility in Jurupa Valley, and the poor performance of a highly regarded mixed doubles team from Compton seems to show that home field is an advantage to the local team in this form of competition, too. Yeah, that’s how it seems—but what it actually illustrates is the disadvantage of being stupid. For example, 19-year-old Angel Flores and his 16-year-old Comptonian companion drove onto the Penske lot in a conspicuous box truck—bearing an American flag log, carrying the large, black rubber hoses and electric pumps—that matched the description of a vehicle reported to have been used in several similar cases in the Jurupa Valley area. No big surprise then, that sheriffs’ deputies rolled up while the crew was in the midst of siphoning diesel-fuel from some Penske rentals. Apparently, those deputies rolled right past the lookouts—Guadalupe Mejia and a 17-year-old Compton girl. In fact, Mejia and the girl were still looking out long after Flores and the 16-year-old had been hauled away. Stupid.


Reeeeeally stupid.


“It’s the first Saturday in May!” the next-door-neighbor kid with the inappropriately loud and indeterminately accented voice doesn’t exactly shout at me as he comes out of the house and walks toward his mother’s car with both arms hanging limply at his side. I don’t know how to respond to that declaration, and besides, I am distracted because I can see he is looking at his reflection in the passenger side window as he stands there waiting—first amusing himself by making faces, then trying to read the reversed words on his T-shirt. Finally, I sorta shrug and call back, “May the fourth!” And suddenly, the face that is always slack, the eyes that always seem to be elsewhere and those arms, which I’ve never seen anywhere but dangling down—suddenly, everything about the kid is fully engaged. He’s smiling warmly at me, looking me right in my eyes—raising his arms and positioning his fingers to wave hello and shoot me a secret sign. He draws a breath and replies, “May the fourth be with you, too!” And that’s when I notice that those are the words inscribed on the T-shirt he was trying to read in reverse. That’s when I notice that it’s a Star Wars T-shirt—and that “May the Fourth be With You” invokes a lispy double meaning of the movie series’ most-famous line. By now, the kid’s mother has returned, and they are getting into her car. The woman makes eye contact with me for a split second, and I begin to ask a question, but she looks away, and I stop talking and as and I begin to wonder what to do next,  an inappropriately loud voice doesn’t quite shout at me, “It’s Free Comic Book Day.


I like saying “Cinco de Mayo.”


The recreational use of nitrous oxide—“nozz” is what they’re calling what used to be known as “laughing gas”—is on the rise, and Ed Hartley’s story in the San Bernardino Sun works pretty good as a primer on the substance and its abuse. But it also illustrates and reinforces the most cringeworthy clichés of crimefighting and crime reporting—the law enforcement personnel who can’t help but reveal the thrill they get out of working this underworlc, the reporter who can’t keep from tossing around the colorful slang and terminology of the drug world. Suddenly, they’re all Joe Friday, the fictional Los Angeles Police Department sergeant from the Dragnet show, whose terse rants against criminals at the most-crucial part of the shows have become classics. In this story, it’s Joseph O. Johns, head of environmental prosecutions for the U.S. attorney’s office in LA, whose quotes read like lines from Dragnet’s script. Here’s Johns: A 19-year-old can purchase and huff all the nitrous they want, and the person that sells it to them cannot be prosecuted by the state of California,” said Joseph O. Johns, who heads environmental prosecutions for the US attorney’s office in LA. “That is a gigantic regulatory gap.”
Here is Johns again: It’s gone from a group of teenagers or college kids sitting around and huffing a half-dozen whip-it canisters to hundreds of kids getting together for a house party centered around a couple of 80-pound cylinders of nitrous.”  And one more time, Johns: It’s not some middle-aged dude taking his Corvette to the racetrack.”


For comparison with Johns, we quote the master, Joe “Jack Webb” Friday in one of his greatest rants: “Marijuana is the flame, heroin is the fuse, LSD is the bomb. So don’t you try to equate liquor to marijuana Mister, not with me. You may be able to sell that jazz to another pothead, but not to somebody who holds some sick kid’s head while he vomits and wretches on a curbstone at 4:00 in the morning. And when his legs get enough starch into them so he can stand up and empty his pockets, you can bet he’ll have a stick or two of marijuana. And you can double your money he’ll turn up a sugar cube or a cap or two. So don’t you con me with your mind expansion slop. I deal with kids every day. I try to clean up the mess that people like you make out of ‘em. I’m the expert here, you’re not.”


Be the first to comment!

You must be logged in to post a comment.