November 20th, 2011:

A Dyno-mite Holiday Season – Life in LA

A strong fist pounded on my apartment door the week before Christmas a few years ago. Was I getting a UPS package I didn’t know about? I quickly checked my attire; it was only 10:15 a.m. and I worked at home in very casual dress, especially in the morning. In sweats, no makeup or bra.

When I opened the door I was astonished to see an LAPD cop and noticed several others across the courtyard, also pounding on doors. “You’ve got to evacuate your apartment immediately. There’s a bomb alert from the apartment building two doors away.  While we check it out, exit the building and walk down toward Riverside,” he commanded. “You can’t get your car in the garage,” he added as he walked toward my next-door neighbor’s door.

Time for the bra and thanking myself that I had already put on my eyebrows—I went nowhere without my Maybelline. Not knowing how cold it was, even though the sun was out, I grabbed an extra sweatshirt and headed out to join the small crowd a building away. It was obvious where we had to go—they’d already strung yellow caution tape across the street, both north and south to encompass about three buildings on each side of the street.

Normally a heavily trafficked street that connected with the nearby 101 freeway, Coldwater Canyon Avenue was as quiet as it might have been at three in the morning. The only noise came from the cops gathered around a police car; they looked like they were enjoying their job, a little excitement and possibly some rescue effort thrown in.

I found a short wall encompassing a small flowerbed in front of a nearby building, sat down and caught up on what might be happening as I watched the street fill up with a couple of fire trucks, an emergency vehicle manned by paramedics, and several small trucks with BOMB SQUAD painted on the side. A black truck, also labeled BOMB SQUAD, soon joined the other trucks in the danger area. Rather like a cement mixer, it had a round container (this one didn’t move) within a steel frame on the back.

As I scanned the crowd, I overheard many cell phone conversations—people changing plans, finding a ride somewhere, or notifying relatives and friends of the excitement. Two young men, pulling luggage, were making arrangements for a cab so they could make their holiday flight at one of the local airports. My cell needed a charge so I could only manage a short message to my daughter. I was still skeptical there was anything wrong.

Overhead, a helicopter scouted the area. Someone with good vision said it was the Channel 9 news. In the middle of the street a middle-aged man lugged a TV camera up to the yellow tape and started filming. Soon he was interviewing a policeman, but none of us was close enough to hear. Knowing that local news stations accepted photos from camera phones, an enterprising young man found an abandoned shopping cart, upended it and stood on it to get a photo.

“It’s that icky yellow apartment building near Magnolia,” said a skinny fellow with dark greasy hair standing close to me. He pulled back on the leash holding his tiny dog and continued, “Some old guy reported that his former roommate had left a stick of dynamite in his freezer.”

“That building has a lot of Section 8 residents,” offered the gamine-like gray-haired woman from my building’s first floor, puffing on her cigarette. When I looked blank, she added, “Those are people the county helps with rent money. The place doesn’t even have a proper gate; anybody can go in or out.”

Despite the chilly brick where I was sitting, it was exciting to observe the police and bomb  squad procedures. I was already taking notes in my head to write it all down at some point, never imagining back then that I’d be writing a blog!

(To be continued next week)

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