The Bomb Squad Sets Off the Dynamite–No Big Deal!

It was close to Christmas and those of us from my evacuated apartment building and others nearby who hadn’t gone to work were waiting to see what was going to happen with the dynamite.

A plump young blond with her hair in a flip sat next to me on the flower garden wall, gently lowering her nervous white cat in his carrier. She grumbled about having to leave her car; she’d told the cop at her door, in the apartment building north of mine, that she’d been ready to leave for work but he’d insisted she had to evacuate and leave her car. “There are a lot of cops here because they’re worried about finding a crystal meth lab—those things blow up easily,” she explained and added,  “There have been several incidents with these crystal meth labs on Whitsett.”

Many apartment dwellers had gone to work, but in entertainment-oriented LA, people work all kinds of odd hours. My ex-Marine neighbor had been asleep; even though he was long retired, he was used to going to sleep at 4 a.m. and getting up after lunch. He was still groggy but managed a few gruff-voiced opinions. Although we’d been ordered out over a half-hour before, a few stragglers lifted the yellow tape and strolled over to join the small crowd.

I noticed a painfully thin young man, all in black, with dark glasses, dark closely cropped hair and tiny silver earrings dotted around both ears. Recognized by the blond with the cat, he sat next to her. In a heavy accent he gave us a cynical look and softly said, “They wouldn’t go to such trouble in Israel.”

It was fairly warm, but I was grateful I’d brought the extra sweatshirt; the brick wall hadn’t yet been warmed by the sun. Since we were blocked from the action and so many trucks obscured our view, most of us sat or stood and offered various opinions about what the Bomb Squad was up to. Lacking information, we chitchatted about what we were missing. An attractive but no longer young, long-haired brunette in sports shoes and leaning on a cane complained to a man and woman that she’d been set to entertain sick children at an LA children’s hospital and had to cancel.

A tall young cop with a friendly face and dark curly hair held the arm of an elderly woman with a placid, accepting face as he escorted her past the caution tape. “Does anyone here speak Armenian?” he asked as he directed her to a seat on the wall. In heavy brown stockings and slippers, her hair pulled back into a scarf, the woman reached for my shoulder as she gingerly sat down next to me. Moments later, a middle-aged woman walked over and began explaining in Armenian what was happening.

One of my neighbors, a handsome immigrant from Romania who owned his own limousine service, stopped and sat down next to me. I had always been curious about his business and who his clients were. He’d just returned from a week in Las Vegas taking care of members of the Saudi Arabian royal family, who required a whole fleet of cars to drive them around. His most consistent family, he said, was Kirk Douglas and his wife. When Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones were in town they also used his service.

“Who has been your most difficult client?” I couldn’t resist asking.

“Jennifer Lopez. She’s a bitch and I’d never work for her again,” he said firmly.

We’d been outside for over an hour when suddenly we heard a male voice shout. It sounded like, “Here it comes!” but I wasn’t sure. There was a loud blast as most of us stood up and headed for the caution tape to see what had happened. From up the street we could see black smoke rising. “So, that was the dynamite!” someone exclaimed. “At least we were out here for a reason,” another voice chimed in.

An overweight cop with a buzz cut and a freckled face stood at the tape and told us, “You’ll be able to go home in about a half hour. First we’ve got to make sure there are no more problems.”

I forgot to watch the news that night to find out more about the dynamite, but the following morning I heard something about dynamite on TV news. According to the report, about twelve hours after our incident, there was another one in nearby Van Nuys. The police had found a cache of old dynamite in an industrial building. The only way they could eliminate it was to call in the fire department to set it on fire and make sure it didn’t involve the connecting buildings. Their action closed down the 405 freeway for several hours in the middle of the night. I knew it was connected because the dynamite in the freezer was mentioned.

The adventure was the talk of my apartment building for a few days, but as Christmas neared and shopping plans became more frantic, it was soon forgotten. It would hardly match the feelings and discussions of September 11, a few years before.

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