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July 23, 2008


Blue corduroy pants, white collared shirt, and a red windbreaker.  These are the clothes of the Starship Catholic School.

My parents sent my sister Jen and I to Catholic school when I entered the third grade (She started the fifth).  Jen was real smart.  PhD smart.  If she read this she would correct me and say that she was "really" smart.  I wouldn't "argue" with her over it.

In addition to brains, Jen could fight.  She protected me on the playground from the fifth grade boys who targeted me for the beatings.  Fortunately, they would usually start trouble under my sister's watchful eye.  She was fast to defend me, often settling these conflicts with her patented Judo flip move.  I never enjoyed it but those fifth grade punks loved it.  From what I can remember, most any kind of female contact was welcome at that age but somewhat confusing.  Come to think of it, it is at any age.

Jen couldn't always be there to protect me however. 

My Mom kissed me goodbye one morning and I began pedaling the one mile to class.  I had only turned one corner when I saw them.  They saw me too.  I slowed my bike to let them get out ahead of me but instead of skating on, they crossed the street and headed for me.  Skaters.  In 1979, when three public school junior high kids are skating up to you, forget it.  They called up the lugis from the backs of their throats and let them fly.  Glip, glip, glip.  Three direct hits.  And off they went.  It was the earliest, most primitive form of a drive-by shooting.  Only I was no gangsta.  I didn't roll with the St. Cornelius warriors.

Shaken, I pedaled home.  Mom opened the door wondering what was wrong with me.  When she saw my jacket, I saw her face and I started crying.  I can't remember the rest of that day.

But I remember the next day.


The next day I woke up at the normal time and my Dad was in the kitchen having breakfast.  That was weird for a Tuesday.  He usually was out the door by the time I was rolling out of bed and on his way to Los Angeles.  It was a forty-five minute commute from our house in Long Beach. 

"My Dad is a police man."  I once told my class during What Does Your Daddy Do Day.  "That means you have to wait 30 minutes before you talk to him when he gets home from work.  Mom says so and she sets the timer."

Dad told me he was taking the day off so that we could do some real police work on our street.  I was up for it and nodded my approval.  I thought being a cop was probably the best job in the whole world.  Anyway, I was 10. 

We headed outside and my Dad told me we were going to have a stakeout.  Stakeouts are fun.  You get to wait for bad guys to come, then you catch them.  Sounds like fishing, I thought.  We made our way to the corner house where my Dad's friend Bart lived.  Bart had a son the same age as my little brother.  Next year, they would be old enough to attend my school.

I guess Bart wanted to learn about police work too because he also took the day off to do the stakeout.  We all waited on Bart's front porch for bad guys to come.  We didn't have to wait long.  A few minutes passed and they appeared.  The Three Phlemigos.  They had greasy, long hair, tattered t-shirts, and faded, ripped jeans.  Skating up the street, they looked like the kind of guys I would have admired had they not made those deposits on my windbreaker the day before.  

Two houses away now.

 "Are those the guys?" My Dad asked.  His voice sounded different than usual, like it does when he calls from the bathroom for something to read on mornings after he has Chinese food.

"That's them."  My voice probably sounded different too.  I don't like Chinese food though.

Bart and Dad walked out to the middle of the street and told the trio to stop.  One of them did.  Pussy.  The other two tried to skate past.  Bart cut off one but the third skater, the greasiest and ugliest of the bunch, shot through the crowd and accelerated on his way. 

I've known my Dad my whole life and this is the first and only time I have seen him at full sprint.  He caught the kid in one and a half house lengths.  He caught him by the collar and brought him to the pavement.  His skateboard squirted forward and rested a couple hundred feet away in the street.  In football, this is called a horse-collar tackle.  The N.F.L. made it illegal in the 90's because of its dangerous nature.  Wimps.

Dad and Bart corralled the three losers and did some quick interrogating.

Mom called me home but I stayed put.  After all, the stakeout wasn't finished.

The skaters gave their names and addresses while my Dad wrote down the facts.  Just the facts,  He suggested they find another way to school from now on or else... (the rest of the sentence was said quietly so I never heard it) but they all heard it and they all nodded agreement.  They started on their way and Dad said.  "No, you find a new way to school starting today."  Boneheads.  They backtracked past Bart's place where I was standing.  When they glanced over to me, I was grinning.

When I saw that flying tackle, only one word came to mind - Awesome.  My Mom saw the tackle too and one word came to her mind - Lawsuit.  We were both right.  But it all got settled up for the most part.  I can't remember the name of the kid my Dad tackled.  Okay, that's not true.  I know exactly what it is.  Not that I would ever look him up again.

But if I did ever bump into him again, I might feel compelled to ask him to compensate me for the laundering of the windbreaker.  With interest.

Anyway, this is my entry blog for the best fucking Dad on the planet contest.