BITS and PIECES # 24

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March 7, 2013 by palamow

BITS and PIECES # 24

Hello again from Luquillo,

I’m back scribbling on my laptop after Pam and I spent a gratifying and relaxing week with our daughter Lisa, our son-in-law Yvon and our two grandchildren Nicole and Jacob. Providentially, our island weather cooperated and we were able to send them back home with suntanned skins (or sunburned, in Jake’s case) to be admired (and envied) by their less blessed, winter-bound, New Hampshire colleagues…

So, to kick-start my blog once again, here is another brief tale — an innocuous memory from my misspent youth — I hope you find it to be somewhat entertaining…

HEIL HERMOSA!

Just after I had finished a four year tour in the US Air Force, and was beginning a different kind of life as a college student on the GI bill, my old high school friend (and fellow veteran) Richard ‘Nick’ Nichols, moved from our humble abode in Mar Vista (BITS and PIECES # 22) and established ourselves in a more appealing bachelor residence — a dilapidated bungalow about three blocks from the beach in the California oceanfront community of Hermosa Beach. The house and the surroundings were perfect — within walking distance were enticements like the Lighthouse Café (home-base of the remarkable ‘Lighthouse All Stars’ jazz ensemble) and some vital necessities for bachelor on a budget, such as Callahan’s diner — ‘All the spaghetti you can eat for 50 cents, every Wednesday and Saturday’…

Life swiftly settled down to a regimen of work (I had secured a night shift job as an electronic technician at Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica), school (I was studying for a bachelor of science degree in Electrical Engineering at UCLA), topped off by weekend seaside escapades at Callahan’s, the Lighthouse and various other venues, or just taking some ‘rays’ while checking-out the pretty girls at the beach. We would usually head for the beach on Saturday morning, return home in the afternoon, to shower and change into shirts and slacks and head for Callahan’s to gorge on affordable spaghetti, and then stroll a few blocks down the beach to the Lighthouse to listen to jazz greats like Bob Cooper, Bud Shank, Max Roach and Frank Rosselino, with occasional ‘guest shots’ by such luminaries as trumpeters Chet Baker, Shorty Rogers and Miles Davis — ‘way cool’, as my grandchildren would probably characterize it in today’s jargon…

On Sundays, we would attend church services in nearby Newport Beach and then spend the rest of the day back on the beach…

On one memorable Saturday afternoon, as we were ambling leisurely toward the beach road contemplating a meal at Callahan’s, we noticed a disturbance on the beach — a large noisy and unruly crowd was milling about, and fights had broken-out — the police had arrived and were moving the crowd off the beach and sending them on their way.  We continued to walk along the fringes of the fray, trying to avoid becoming involved — suddenly, a policeman appeared next to us, shouting “everybody move along”.  My friend Nick, helpfully echoing the policeman’s words repeated “yeah, everyone move along!”, whereupon the policeman turned to him growling “OK, wise guy (he actually substituted the slang euphemism for one’s posterior for ‘guy) — you’re coming along to the station”, quickly shoving him into an adjacent police cruiser. When I turned to see what had happened, I was astonished to see Nick in handcuffs in the back of the police cruiser — walking-up to the police officer, I asked, innocently “why are you arresting my friend?”, to which he replied “Do you want to come along too ?” Assuming he was offering a chance to explain and thus extricate Nick from what I saw as a misunderstanding, I replied “Of course, I’m sure we can straighten this out quickly”. Before I could further explain my motives, I was swiftly cuffed and shoved into the back of the cruiser with Nick.  Minutes later we found ourselves locked in a dingy cell in the Hermosa Beach jail — along with several other fellow ‘miscreants’. The next morning, after spending the night in jail, we were taken from our cell, fingerprinted and photographed, and allowed to make one phone call — Nick called a good friend who ran a Santa Monica photography shop — he arrived an hour or so later to bail us out — as we were about to depart, a beefy, bald-headed desk sergeant ominously informed us ” Do not attempt to leave the area – you will be arraigned and charged at court appearance in a few weeks”…

Arraigned? Charged?  We had done nothing wrong — this was all a misunderstanding, we decided — once cooler minds prevailed, the police would certainly reconsider and we would be exonerated without further inconvenience and embarrassment — wouldn’t we?

Not a chance — we were informed by mail of the date of our court appearance — thinking things over, we realized that we might need some legal assistance. I called my father for advice explained what had happened and he said he would make some calls…

A few days later he called to tell us that he had heard rumors that this was not the first time that the Hermosa police had been ‘overzealous’ and ‘heavy-handed’ when upholding the law — but, that an attorney friend had advised him to tell us to show-up for our court appearance “with fresh haircuts, dressed neatly in suits and ties, with tiny replicas of our military good conduct ribbons prominently displayed in the buttonholes of our lapels”…

A day later, he called again, with the news that the Judge who would be hearing the complaint was the husband of a family friend, actress Rosemary De Camp — which might, or might not, work in our favor…

In the meantime, unbeknownst to me, my father had written a scathing description of ‘the injustice of our arrest, and incarceration by the Hermosa Beach police” entitled ‘HEIL HERMOSA’ in the monthly column he wrote for the local trade journal ‘Rob Wagner’s Script’ — which, for better or worse, hit the streets a few days before we were scheduled to appear before the judge…

Long story shortened (somewhat), after the arresting officer told his version of the details, the judge asked us for our side of the story — we gave it in truthful, forthright but ever so slightly ‘tongue in cheek’ detail — and, after brief, but thoughtful consideration, the judge dismissed the case against us — after admonishing the arresting officer for his lack of professionalism (the officer was subsequently disciplined by his chief)…

Needless to say, we were ‘marked men’ in Hermosa Beach from that day forward — reluctantly, we soon found it ‘convenient’ to move our ‘digs’ — finding another, suitable bachelor location a few miles up the road in Manhattan Beach…

Some evenings after dark, we managed to ‘sneak’ back to Callahan’s — we couldn’t afford to be deprived of those 50 cent spaghetti meals — and we occasionally even risked dropping by the Lighthouse to hear the ‘All Stars’ perform…

During each of these stealthy, after-dark excursions — we always looked nervously over our shoulders — and sat with our backs to the wall — like the ‘ex-cons’ that we were…

© 2013 – Alan Mowbray Jr.

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