Friday, September 2, 2011

The Accidental Vigilante

Listening to your Inner
Charles Bronson

August 5, 2001

By Brian Bentley

Muggers look for potential victims who are not paying attention

With nothing in particular to do on a Saturday night, I decided to go solo to see the excellent Pernice Brothers play Spaceland. It had been a weird day, ominous vibes all around, and as I exited the 101 Freeway at the Silver Lake Blvd. offramp, a full moon was just coming into its own. When the show ended, I walked along the empty street, lost in thought, my ears ringing and my heart a little empty.

I approached my car, parked on Silver Lake Blvd. I was in that special state of mind one reaches after witnessing a great show and I wondered aloud what the subject matter for my next writing column would be. A beat-up, maroon Ford Grenada was cruising up and down the street looking for a parking spot. I walked around to the front of my car and pulled out my keys. At that exact moment, the cruising car lurched right next to me and slammed on its brakes. I was in a fairly tight parallel parking position, but now, with another car exactly parallel to my car, about five feet away. I was boxed in. The two black guys in the car, two of the meanest looking men I have ever seen, weren't looking for a parking spot. They were hunting humans.

The one in the passenger seat with cold eyes reached into his waistband and began to pull out either the butt end of a 9 mm, or a flashlight shaped like a gun that was wedged between his drawers. The other guy said something like, "Let's go," and opened his driver's door. Had I been a cop, I would have shot to kill at that exact moment; there was no doubt in my mind that something very bad was about to happen. Visions of Joe Cole and Henry Rollins flashed across my brain. The moment the driver opened his door, I took off running, free and clear of the containment zone, just beyond the grasp of my would-be assailants. If this was to be a carjacking and not just a simple robbery, they had been about a second too SOON (I hadn't opened my door yet) and I had been a few degrees more perceptive than the average guy walking along that avenue with a 2 a.m. buzz.

Now the driver was loping along, chasing me, about 25 yards behind. Terrified, enraged, I tried to jump-start my adrenaline by screaming at him as I ran. "You fucking asshole, you're too slow, give it up man or I'll just throw my car keys over the fence here, you get nowhere, you blew it." He slowed down, pissed off to the gills. A crowd of kids were coming. He trotted back to his car and then these two lovely guys, thugs who might have robbed, beaten, shot me and stolen my car, trolled off in the other direction.

I drove home dazed, thinking about how random life can be – a second here, a second there, a step away from life or death. And my point, I guess, is that some of the bad stuff is avoidable. Most criminals are not particularly bright. Sometimes doing nothing at all is the worst thing you can do. It pays to know where you are and think in terms of results and not fear. As much as my fantasy would have been to pull out an AK-47 and literally dissect this pair on the spot, I obviously made the right move. As Ben, my friend in junior high, used to say, "He who runs away lives to fight another day."

This has been a true story, brought to you by the good folks who think that on any given night they can get away with murder. Only tonight, there were no victims, just two frustrated bad guys. Whatever they had in mind wasn't happening this time and in this place. And it wasn't happening to me.

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