Thursday, November 25, 2010

Kill or be killed


After I graduated from college (University of Oklahoma) in 1988 I got the opportunity to move to San Diego for a job (I am a Professional Registered Civil Engineer). Being from Oklahoma my entire life who wouldn't jump at the chance to live in a city you only see in movies. One of the first things I did was try to surf. Surfing is really difficult and I'm not a strong or happy swimmer so I was pretty poor at it. I did, however, get to be part of the surfing scene.

I lived in an apartment only two blocks from the beach and many of my neighbors were true surfers living the surf life. Out at daybreak catching waves then flipping burgers or waiting tables till the evening surf session. Just making enough money to get their board wax, weed and sunblock. Things like utility bills and rent were always second consideration. I got to live the lifestyle as a tourist...meaning I wasn't into drugs, I didn't live and die for surfing and I was a professional with an important job that made me enough money to afford much more than my surfing compadres. But the local dudes took me in an made me one of their own mostly because I reminded them of the main character from a famous surf movie. Everybody had cool names like Blaze or ChiChi or Bongo or Rudder or Freckles. I was labeled Busey. The surfer dudes thought I reminded them of the great surf movie Big Wednesday and a main character was played by Gary Busey. I was honored that the surf dudes thought enough of me to give me a name and Busey was pretty dang cool. It also fit that I was pretty much a foot taller than most of the surfers. They tended to be pretty small and quick. Busey is a big man and my Cherokee blood gives me a thick stature. It didn't take long for my hair to bleach almost white and I had it cut in a typical surfer fashion. I had a wetsuit, a couple of different surfboards in my quiver (lol) and my apartment was full of sand and coconut scented surf board wax.

I had numerous surfer neighbors but one was a red-headed freckle-faced ginger boy (as my lovely red-headed daughter would have called him). He took me surfing for the first time and we were pretty fair friends. His nickname was Freckle and I will refer to him as F from now on. We spent enough time together to have our fair share of $1 drinks at the local art-deco bar (which I took my wife to many years later), surf trips in his rusty old VW van (oh so cliche) and even a few trips south of the border where the laws and rules for drinking and age of consent were much more lenient than in the US. At that time 16 in Mexico was the same as 21 in the US. Sooooo, there were lots of drunk teen girls available and willing to have a date for one night.

At the time I was also interested in sailing and I was going to go to the downtown library in SD and get some books on the subject. F was taking some classes at a local college and needed to do some research and so he came along for the trip. It was winter time and it was dark by 6pm and it was dark when we left. Our route would take us past the navy base and the airport and around the bay and into downtown. As we were driving past the airport on a 2-lane one way city street a car whizzed past us on the left really fast. The roads were a little wet and the car swerved in front of me just narrowly missing my truck and causing me to take some pretty serious evasive maneuvers to avoid light poles and parking meters and other cars before I came to a stop in the right hand lane of the street. The fast car, a mercedes roadster of some type, has spun around backward and was facing my truck probably 40 yards away. I had come to a stop and there were a few cars behind me that were regaining their composure and moving away. The passenger door of the roadster opened up and a woman wearing a stunning short dress and 5" heels got out. Then she faced me and I got out of my truck. She started running toward me as fast as the wet pavement and her heels would allow. It didn't make any sense. I just stood there and watched. She made it about half way to me and the driver door opened up and a gentleman wearing a suit jumped out and spun around and stared momentarily at the woman and then at me. Then the man in the suit started running full speed toward the woman....

This is where I will take a short departure from the story. There are generally two kinds of people in the world when faced with danger. Those that run away and those that fight. Neither is better than the other. They both take care of immediate business. You don't know which you are till an event causes your brain to shut down and your basic instincts to take over. My entire life I have always been a fighter. I don't start fights like a bully or walk around beating my chest. But when faced with danger my instincts put me into immediate action. Your legs move and your adrenaline pumps and you aren't really in charge of what's going on. I've had enough trials where this instinct has taken over to understand my natural tendency and I've come to grips with the notion that it may get me killed some day. There are times when running away is a better plan but you don't really get to make that decision when the chips are down. Now back to the story....

I seen the man running at me and it was very apparent that he was a threat to the woman, or to me, or to both of us. My adrenaline spiked, my legs moved, my arms pumped and I found myself moving full speed toward the man. I played a lot of football in my day and it was just like he was a tailback trying to score from 40 yards out and I was a linebacker making sure he found the ground before the endzone. My head was down and I was a moving freight train. The man's eyes widened when he seen me coming and he immediately put on the brakes and I chased him back to his car where he got in and drove away before I could get there. I stood there all panting with the adrenaline coursing thru my veins. The woman walked over to me and half hugged me and half collapsed into my arms. I looked at her and it was apparent that her face had been on the losing end of an argument with the man. That just made me really really mad. I told F to move the truck to a parking lot and I walked the woman across the street to a local chinese food landmark where we called the police. The woman (W) cried and cried and talked to me while we waited near the entrance of the restaurant. She had been on the way to the airport, being driven there by her "boyfriend". Then on the way she said she had changed her mind about leaving and her man had gotten angry at her and had started to hit her. They were struggling when they had passed my truck and the car had spun out in front of me. She had been scared and was running to me for help when the car had stopped. The police came and took statements and my information and the woman and we all went our separate ways. In the end I was glad to have helped a woman not get a beating even though I knew none of the circumstances. It just felt right.

About a week later I got a phone call from the San Diego police department. They asked me a few more questions and told me what had happened. It turns out that the woman really had been on her way to the airport but she was being forced there by her man and when she balked the man went into a rage. The policeman told me that the man that I had faced was on their 10 most wanted list and that he was the single most powerful and dangerous drug lord in the San Diego area and norther Mexico. He was shipping his woman away to another location away from her home with intent to set up a new base in another city. The policeman told me he had no idea why the dealer hadn't put a bullet between my eyes when I charged at him. He had done it many times before. There was no reason for him not to this time. He was most certainly armed and always shot first and cleaned up later and he was on his way out of the city soon.

But, the man didn't shoot me. He ran away. And nobody knows why. There were probably a lot of ways to get made dead that night with a raging drug lord's woman in my "possession". If I had grabbed her and ran we might have both got bullets in the back. If I had been 5 minutes faster I never would have been part of it. Who knows. Now it's just a story, an adventure in my life. A memory of an event, neither good or bad, just archived away waiting for an interested, patient listener.

1 comment:

  1. Next time i come to visit, you have to sit down with me and tell me a story like this. the ones you have posted so far i have found to be very interesting.