I am a Sick Man!!!

The fall of 1988, I’m about twelve years old. It’s a cold fall night in Palos Verdes. The house that I grew up in sits at the top of Portuguese Bend Canyon and overlooks the ocean and Catalina Island. It’s a beautiful place that has the feeling of isolation and privacy permeates in every woodchip on the ground. The night was like many others, cool and with a varying breeze.

The nights in Palos Verdes are very dark and it’s one of the last places left in Los Angeles where you can actually see stars at night. Nothing major ever seems to happen here. Our community is a family-centered city without a single business. Public lighting is forbidden. There are no sidewalks, only wood chips and decomposed granite trails for horseback riding.

On this particular night, I was watching TV in the family room and my mom was down the hall in her room doing the same. It was one of those times where my Dad was spending a lot of time in LA. I think we were both just decompressing and waiting for him to get home.

One of the windows of the family room looks out over the front gardens and driveway. Since the pad of the house is below street level, there is a winding driveway down to the house and garage, the street is carefully obstructed with a hedge.

On this particular night, I hear (before I can even see) my Dad’s Mercedes racing to the house. You can hear the breaks and tires strain to make the curve into the driveway. He flies towards the front door before halting to a jerked stop. Despite his enormous size, my dad was always a quick mover for the first two minutes of any activity. As he is springing out of the car, a police car with the lights on screeches into the driveway.

“STOP WHERE YOU ARE” The car bellows from the roof-top megaphone into the bucolic night. The police officer is not even out of his car and my father is almost at the front door. Power walking and clenching.

He turns to the police car, takes his wallet from his side pocket, and hurls it at the officer that has now drawn his gun and is taking shelter behind the driver door.

“I AM A SICK MAN!!!!!!!!!” he screams as he shimmies rapidly into the house.

“Ma,” I yell towards her bedroom, “Dad just ran in the house and there’s a cop with his gun in the driveway!……..oh wait…….Ma, I don’t know what is happening but there are another three police cars with their lights flashing and all the cops have pistols and shotguns drawn!! Ma!!!”

“What are you talking about?” She strolls into the family room. I point out the window to the eerie flashing or red and blue lights in the dark night sky! “I have no idea, let me go so what this is all about!” Exasperated and concerned she sprints to handle this new melodrama.

In the meantime, my dad was locked in the powder room with nothing but the exhaust to keep him company.

My mom slowly opens the front door, walking into a wall of light emanating from the police searchlights. An angry and stern voice looms into the night, “Maam, a disgruntled man just ran into this house! Are you alright?!”

“Yes I am fine, I live here and that was my husband. What exactly is happening?” she responds.
“Maam, your husband needs to come out here immediately! We were trying to detain him for running a stop sign. He refused to stop, pulled into this driveway, and ran into the house after throwing something at this officer.”

“Well I can try and go get him for you, but he is in the bathroom. He ran straight there when he came in. He is there now. Let me get you my ID and can I go in to see what he is doing?”

“Maam, you should not re-enter the house unless it is completely safe. Do you need an officer to come with you?!”

“No everything is ok, my son is inside the house too. You can see him in that far window. Please, let me speak to my husband to understand what is happening.”

“Alright ma’am, you may proceed inside but keep the front door open and when you exit, do so with your hands in the air. Tell your husband to do the same! Do you understand?”

“Yes, ok I going inside.” The powder room is the first room located next to the foyer and my mom makes her way to the closed door of the powder room. I hear her talking to him through the door, but I cannot make out what they are saying. All I can tell is that the tone of voice is incredulous and irritated.

So just picture it, my dad coming out of the guest bathroom still sweating. Cursing and yelling about his diarrhea and outside an armada of cops with guns blazing await. Never one to back down, my dad pushes the front door completely open and steps into the red and blue lit night. His chin and his arrogance in oozing off his face. And then, before the situation could get worse, my mom darts out smiling and smoothing everything over.

“We are so sorry officer,” she stares at my father with a look that could stop a charging rhino, “you see my husband had a very serious stomach problem. Yes he did not stop at the stop sign but he needed to get home b/c of this emergency. You understand, no?”

“Ma’am, this man fled the scene and encited us to pursue and call for backup! This is a very serious situation and offense,” the coped clipped.

“Ay of course, it looks terrible what has happened, but please officer, place yourself in my husband’s shoes…..wouldn’t you run a stop sign rather than mess yourself, in your pants, in your car!? No. The house is only two houses down. He was just trying to avoid a messier problem.” The cops loosen their grip and the mood lightens. “Listen, he ran straight to the toilet! This was an emergencyYou know what I am saying…….Officer?”.

Through more charm and agreeing to pay extra fines, my mom was able to smooth things over with the cops. My dad stood motionless: embarrassed and reprimanded. When I understood what had happened, I could not stop laughing. Obviously not out loud, but there was some serious schadenfreude happening.

This story was grist for the mill for more than a decade and one of my favorites. In discussing the story with my mom, she reminded me of the end that I had forgotten……

So the next day my family went to Benihana. We all loved the food and my dad used to love making fun of the chefs that were Mexican but pretended to be Japanese! Well, to everyone’s surprise, guess who was seated directly across from our shared table.

Arresting officer of the diarrhea runaway Mexican extravaganza! That’s right folks, original Police Officer from the previous night. As we were leaving my mom starts projecting, hoping her forgiving officer will overhear, “Alejandro, you’re feeling much better right?! Have you taken all of your medications? Your stomach is much better now right?”.

My dad didn’t figure it out. My mom explained in the parking what had just taken place. He chuckled, we all got in the nearly soiled Mercedes and made our way home.

My Music Cue for Today: I’m So Sick by Flyleaf

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