24 October 2006


by Phil Johnson

Yeah, I know: It's Dan's turn to bump Frank. He had dibs on it and everything. He'll just have to bump me instead. Look at it this way: now he doesn't even have to wait till noon.

o on Sunday nights after church, Darlene and I like to stop by the Starbucks at Sepulveda and Nordhoff. It's not the finest neighborhood in the Valley, but that's the only Starbucks between church and home that's open so late at night.

It's also in the heart of the district Pecadillo patrols, and he's working nights. I mentioned to him last week that we were there, and he solemnly instructed me never to go there at night again. "People get shot in that neighborhood and cars get carjacked all the time," he said.

"Right," I scoffed. "I used to do street evangelism in Chicago in the 1970s in some of the toughest neighborhoods on the North Side. I can handle myself. Besides, I'm just going through the drive-through. I don't even get out of the car."

"Don't do it," he said with finality. "I'm serious."

Sunday night, I knew I would be staying up late. Our board meeting was Monday morning, and I still had some last-minute preparation to do. I wanted a Venti® drip with extra cream.

So after the evening service, when I turned left out of the church parking lot (toward Sepulveda, instead of toward the Hollywood Freeway), Darlene asked, "Where are you going?"


"But Pecadillo said not to go there any more," she said, aghast that I would be so foolhardy.

"Who's the dad in the family?" I asked.

I got my coffee and headed north on Sepulveda, toward the 405 freeway. Within two blocks, a black-and-white LAPD cruiser suddenly came from behind, pulled alongside me, slowed suddenly to match my speed, and honked angrily.

I don't care who you are, that's unsettling. I instantly was overwhelmed with guilt and fear, trying to think what law I might have broken. Then the cop rolled his window down, and it was Pecadillo, frowning and pointing at me angrily. I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to pull over or not. His lights weren't flashing, so I kept going, trying to look nonchalant.

To my profound relief, he turned at the next corner and drove away.

I called him Monday, hoping to laugh it off. He wasn't smiling yet.

"Dude," he said. "I told you not to go there. I'm serious. If I see you there at night again, I'm hitting the lights and pulling you over. If you have so much as a burned out tail light, I'll write you up. Stay away from that neighborhood at night."

I feel like a little kid again.

And not in a good way.

Phil's signature


DJP said...

1. Kids. More specifically:

2. Kids... with guns.

3. So I get to bump both of you, after you pre-bumped me? Cool.

4. There is a poetic justice in that, since you most recently bumped me.

Solameanie said...

What's the Bible adage.."the wounds of a friend are faithful?" :)

Get an espresso machine and order your coffee through the mail or Internet. I recommend Gevalia. Especially the Jamaica Blue Mountain. It's $30 for a half pound, but it's great coffee.

And you don't have to take a bullet to have it.

MHK said...

We call that a "significant emotional event". With 21 years of Law Enforcement under my belt, I'm convinced that if "John Q. Public" really knew what was going on at the police officer level (Pec's, street cop), there wouldn't be anymore discussion on "getting tough on crime" or the wholesale rejection of the 9th Circus (ooops Circuit) Justices.
He is concerned for your safety and it is a curious mix of God's sovereignty and sound decision making that I have never been able to answer completely.
So love him and LISTEN to him! (emphasis, not shouting).


DJP said...

Y'know, it just occurred to me:

For all the crying and moaning over us "bullies" here at TeamPyro, who is the only Pyro who got no complaints?

The one with a gun.

There's a lesson there. Somewhere.

Chris Freeland said...


Maybe you haven't seen the picture of him beating the fire out of the dummy with a billy-club during Academy. I'd listen to him.

I remember a witnessing a couple of spankings I know he'd love to give back.

candy said...

Starbucks...rough neighborhood. Seems like sort of an oxymoron doesn't it?

Sharon said...

Pec knows whereof he speaks. Take his advice and find another hangout. There are options in the SCV--try the $tarbuck$ on Sierra across from Stater Bros. next to Panda Express. It's drive-through, too.

The Pyro who doesn't gets no complaints is the Pyro who never (well, hardly ever) posts.

DJP said...

Sharon -- The Pyro who doesn't gets no complaints is the Pyro who never (well, hardly ever) posts.

Hm. There may be a lesson in that, too.

Daniel said...

As the father of four, I must say, I wonder how that would feel?

I mean I use my authority as a parent to instruct my children in the way he or she is to go, and I expect that if I do a good jobhe or she will go in the right direction (Godward). But to have the tables turned so that I find my previously established authority suddenly "trumped" would be a little disconcerting - not necessarily bad but certainly disquieting to the relational roles that time has established.

I am used to "Father knows best" and would find "Junior knows better" more than a little awkward with respect to the status quo.

I remember the day I beat my father in an arm wrestle. He had a look on his face like something changed in his heart...

Phil Johnson said...

Daniel: "I remember the day I beat my father in an arm wrestle. He had a look on his face like something changed in his heart..."


Even So... said...

I can't stop laughing and thinking of that long lost add on to a put down, to wit...

ooooohhhh, face!

All you under 35 folks will just have ask someone, if they still have their memory...

Carla Rolfe said...

That Pecadillo is one smart kid, and sounds like one fine officer.

My own mom had to deal with this sort of thing after my brother joined the force. She was happy to oblige as she knew he was a smart kid, and knew what he was talking about.


Carla Rolfe said...

lol - I remember "ohhh FACE" quite well. Too well, in fact. What a dumb thing that was to say.

Almost as bad as "psych!"

Sharon said...

"oooohhhh face!"

Hmmm, I'm afraid this 50-something Baby Boomer is totally flummoxed on these idioms.

(But she relishes any chance to use the word, "flummoxed.")

Hayden said...


Thanks for the chuckle! Hilarious! It is funny that you guys are in the throws of being called bullies, yet Pec is the one "bullying" you.

Keep up the great work, it is really appreciated!


Steve said...

Look at it this way, Phil: You raised Pec right. That should feel good.

A great post...thanks for sharing!

FX Turk said...

I can't believe Dan beat me to the gun remark.

As for the rest, the thing which made me a little red in teh face was Pec calling Phil "dude".

"Dude"? He's "Dad", not "dude", dude. Where's the respect?


Of course, the other thing is trying to block out the mental picture of Phil trying to finese his way our of a car-jacking because he "knows how to handle himself". All I can see is Darlene weeping ...

Phil Johnson said...

He calls me "dude" only when he's annoyed with me. The rest of the time, it's "Hoss."

eculeus said...

I think the funniest thing is that Darlene calls your son "Pecadillo." Does she really do that? Does she call Phil "Pyro?" :)

Kim said...

Try having your 12 year old repeatedly correct your math skills.

~Mark said...

Must'a been (heck, must be) tough to deal with. Rotten role reversals.

Especially with the knowledge that you're so hooked on Starbucks coffee that you'll go to a dangerous neighborhood at night to get it.

;) 8-)

DJP said...

Frank -- I can't believe Dan beat me to the gun remark

I'm not very bright, so I try to learn from the best.

Paul E said...

Too funny! As a 52 year old father of six, with four of them being adults, I understand. Quite comical to hear your story playout. Thanks for sharing it.

Solameanie said...

Mercy me.

At least Pec didn't fire a taser through the window!

Any day now, I am expecting someone who already is looking for a bone to pick with TeamPyro to come in here shrieking..."Can't we all get along?"

I just thought of another analogy for Phil. Remember Obi-Wan and Darth Vader in Star Wars. Darth taunted Obi saying, "I am the master now." What was Obi's reply?

"If you cut me down, I'll only become more powerful. More powerful than you could possibly imagine."

Food for thought. Or java.

C. T. Lillies said...

I don't know...all mine are so little that it's hard to think about that right now. I remember the first time my Dad treated me like a grown up. I gave him some advice for a change and...he listened. It was strange to me to be in that position.

Sometimes I think its harder for the parents to deal with the "growing up" than for the kids.


Martin Downes said...

What an illustration of the bondage of the will.

Al said...

I shudder to think that you might have been ripped off...

And to think it was possible for it to happen before you got to the Starbucks makes it even worse.

Rob Steele said...

Cruising dicey neighborhoods to score Colombian primo...

The first step is to admit you have a problem.

FX Turk said...

eculeus --

I have never witnessed Darlene call Phil anything but "His Majesty, Emperor of our Home". Which is why "Dude" and "Hoss" seem so ... sooo ... I dunno -- impudent?

"hoss"? When did "Dad" (or, as in my home, "Father, sir", with the prerequisite bow or curtsey -- and that's from my wife) devolve into "Hoss"?

"Hoss"? I'm gonna have to re-read Titus 1:6 again and worth that into my systematic theology.

LeeC said...

It's the little Deepak Chopra quotes that draw you in huh?

I know that neigborhood dude, sounds like good advice to me. I wouldn't go there after dark even if I was packing a frozen beef chub!

Well, at least not with my wife or kids with me...

marc said...

You'd have something to bemoan if next time you were in the neighborhood Pec shot you and then planted a gun on you and said you drew down on him, and... man I'm watching too much 24.

Gryphonette said...

Sharon, this 50-some Boomer recalls "Psych!" but like you, "Ohhh FACE!" has me stumped. No bells are ringing.

Can someone please 'splain it?

Thanks ever so!

Great story, Phil. Your son's a treasure for sure.

Anne in Fort Worth

Phil Johnson said...

Rob Steele: "Cruising dicey neighborhoods to score Colombian primo..."

When you put it that way, I feel so ashamed...

Hey. I was looking for some sympathy. It's like I've walked into an intervention or something.

Pecadillo said...

Frank, "Hoss" is not insulting or disrespectful. After all, Hoss was everybody's favorite Bonanza character. It's not like I call my dad "Little Joe", now that would be demeaning.

As for all the other 'pectators, I don't want to see any of you there either, at least not without a frozen beef chub.

Jason Robertson said...

The rest of the story is at Fide-O.

Even So... said...

For the uninitiated...

oooohhhh, face is (was circa 1978-84) said when someone gets the best of someone else, shows them up, wins the cutdown, etc., and a third party, to add emphasis, says said phrase...think of it as "in your face" or something like that...

An example is in order...

(true story) My best friend was running for city council. At the debate with the other contender, the other man said something to this effect, "how can you trust a lawyer to help run this city, we need someone with an engineering background like me, what does he know about city planning, I have an engineering degree from so and so, what's he got?"

To which my friend replied, "if you had done your homework, you would have realized that I too have an engineering degree from the same institution as my undergrad, and I actually finished summa cum laude, how about you?"

All together now,

ooooohhhhhh, face!

donsands said...

I liked Little Joe, Hoss, and then Adam.

I wonder what that says about me?

Away From The Brink said...

Even So has already provided an excellent example of the meaning of "Face," but here is an additional anecdote to further amplify.

When I was a senior in high school (1979-1980), we attended an assembly where both the principal and the superintendent of schools addressed us. The setting was the school theater, with a lectern poised on a squeaky wooden platform.

The principal spoke, and then gave way to the superintendent, whom then began his remarks. The superintendent stopped suddenly, and addressing the principal, asked him something like, "Harold, how did you stand up here without the floor squeaking"?

The principal replied, "I wasn't nervous."

Us seniors in unison exclaimed, "ha ha ha, FAAACE"!

And Phil, was this what Pecadillo was afraid of?

DJP said...

marc -- ...man I'm watching too much 24


marc said...

My wife got me the first season on dv... I watched it in like 4 nights! It was so preposterous, but I just had to keep watching. I guess I just like Jack Bauer and can't wait to see how the traitorous characters get their comeupance (sp?).

Solameanie said...

I have a suggestion for Pec that might well make it safe for Phil to go into this legendary neighborhood for his cuppa. My suggestion takes a cue from the state of Mississippi in the 1940s.

They had a portable electric chair, transporting it from town to town in a truck. Switch panel, sponges, electrodes and all. Perhaps if he and a few of the boys tool around in a glass paddy wagon with a volunteer strapped in to the chair, that might send a message that the thugs in question need to head north to San Fran or out east to Bed-Stuy where they'll be safe.

Where to get one? Alabama's "Yellow Mama," Louisiana's "Gruesome Gertie" and New York's "Old Sparky" have all been retired for the most part. Illinois even has three chairs they'd probably farm out for a little campaign contribution to a Chicago politician.

I could see the next TeamPyro T-Shirt now in my mind's eye.

Well, I had best abridge for the night. I probably have the Rob Bell crew in conniptions over this rather Pythonesque suggestion.

Gryphonette said...

Thanks, y'all, for the interpretation of "Ohhhh, FACE!" ;^)

Got it now. Isn't that strange, though? I've never heard it before. Ever.

Huh! Amazing how stuff slips over, around, under and generally past me.

Theteak said...

Risking one's life for Starbucks, that's twisted.