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Hey, anybody remember Y2K. Yeah, that’s right … you know, the world
was supposed to end, and all that kinda stuff. Funny thing is, for me,
the world really did end last New Year’s.

The story goes something like this. …

Seven at night, New Year’s Eve. I’m visiting my mom in the acute
unit of the Sherman Oaks hospital. My sister and another friend are in
the room with me.

About 10 after 7, three cops, two men and a woman enter the room. “Is
there a Stuart Goldman here?” one of them asks.

My antennae don’t really go up yet. I have a lot of cop friends, and
somehow I figured this visit might be “friendly.” Stupid me.

I identify myself, whereupon the sergeant — the guy with the short
moustache — asks me if I own a.38 Special.

I say, “yes,” and ask why.

“Well, sir (very polite at the moment), the security guard found this
gun in the parking lot, phoned us, and we’re just here to investigate,
is all.”

Still Joe Friendly.

Immediately I know what’s happened. My gun, which was stashed in the
side compartment of my car, had fallen out in the parking lot when I
opened my door to go into the hospital.

I still don’t feel any fear (stupid me). Hey, it’s New Year’s Eve.
Three quarters of the population in L.A. is carrying, and besides it’s only
a misdemeanor. No biggie, right?

Ten minutes later, I’m jawing with the female cop (somehow, I don’t
like her) and her partner while the sergeant with the short moustache
talks to somebody on the phone. I’m being assured that it’s no big
deal) they’ll just confiscate the weapon, and I can come down Tuesday
and pay a fine, bla, bla, bla.)

Then for some reason, I start to feel spooked. The guy on the phone
has been talking too long, and I don’t like the look on his face.

When he’s done, the sergeant comes over. Hmmmm. Guess I was
wrong. He’s making nice-nice with me, talking about the fact that using
hollow points in this particular weapon isn’t a good idea (just two
buddies making gun talk).

Then the female cop tells me to put my hands behind my back.

Clack! Her partner slaps the cuffs around my wrists. Tight.

The next second, I’m in “the position.” Humiliation washes over me as
I’m frisked. Thank God my mom can’t see me.

The cops tell me I’m not officially under arrest, I’m simply being
“detained.” This is an outright lie. Once you are “cuffed,” you are
arrested.

Only one little thing. I’m going to be detained in the Van Nuys jail.

Having been around cops and their ilk, you’d think I’d know enough to
keep my stupid mouth shut, but nooooooo.

The cop who’s doing all the talking asks me why I have the gun. I
make up some bogus story about how I’d gotten into an altercation with a
motorist on the previous day, and it spooked me. Besides, I tell them,
it’s New Year’s Eve and there were a lot of crazies out there and yada,
yada, yada.

The cops take me downstairs. But before they do that, I do something
really stupid. I ask them if I can take my bag — which contains
a few other items — things like mace, handcuffs, etc.

Not cool.

Down in the parking lot the cops ask me if they can search my car.
Still trying to play nice guy I say sure. Thank God, there’s nothing in
my car. Then I see the female cop taking a stick from my trunk. It’s a
stick I use to prop open my hood because I don’t have that little
do-hickey that you’re supposed to use. Right now, as far as these guys
are concerned, the stick is a “baton.” And carrying a baton in a car is
a felony.

I’m screwed.

I spend the next three hours handcuffed to a bench in the Van Nuys
jail. I’m sitting between two junkies — one cat has BO so bad, it’s all
I can do to keep from puking. Now I don’t know how li’l ol’ agoraphobic
me manages this, but when I’m in a really horrible situation like this,
something weird happens. I become completely calm — like on a Zen
monastery level. In fact, I am outside of my body, watching the whole
deal, thinking what a great scene it would make in a screenplay.

I’m also praying like a madman — but I’m absolutely sure I’m going
to spend the weekend in lockup (when you’re popped on a Friday night,
the cops love to keep you in jail for the weekend).

I guess the Big Guy upstairs heard my prayers, because a few minutes
later, the nice cop comes out, and tells me they’re letting me go.

I can’t believe it!

The cop tells me they’re keeping all my stuff — my wallet, my credit
cards, et al. — because they’re going to continue to conduct an
investigation. Of course the gun is history. Fine, swell. Just let me
outta here.

I get a little plastic bag — and whatever I can carry is put into
that, which means my money and car keys.

And suddenly I’m outside. I’m free!

I try to hail a taxi, but it’s New Year’s Eve and every single
company I call rings busy.

So I decide to walk the two miles back to the hospital where my car
is.

I think the weirdest part of that whole night was walking back up Van
Nuys Blvd. carrying that little plastic bag. During that walk, I
realized a few things. One, that this would be the last New Year’s Eve
I’d ever see my mom — in fact, I didn’t get to see her again that
night. I got back to the hospital and the doors were locked. (I pounded
on them for half an hour but nobody answered.)

Moreover, I also realized that this was my last New Year’s in L.A. I
had absolutely no idea where I’d wind up, but I knew that the place I’d
called home for over 40 years was history.

So what’s the moral to the story? Hell, your guess is as good as
mine.

For the record, by the way, I’ve got nothing against the cops that
arrested me. They were just doing their job. I was, in fact, breaking
the law. The same doesn’t go for the pimp of a city attorney who
decided to press charges, asking the judge to send me away for four
months
! (I wound up doing community service.)

But my decision to leave the City of the Angeles wasn’t based on the
fact that I’d been abused by the system. It was simply that I knew it
was time to go.

I’ve been in France now for four months. Sometimes I miss L.A. like
crazy. Not just the parts of it I love, but the ugly parts — like Van
Nuys. I miss the tawdriness, the seediness, the stink, the Godlessness,
the pure, nightmarish quality of the place.

I’m here in a place where there is virtually no crime. Nobody would
even think of carrying a gun here, and when I try to explain to
my fiancee why I carried, she cannot understand.

L.A. is alive and buzzing in my mind. In fact, now that I’m gone,
perhaps I can write that “great L.A. novel” that I’d been futzing with
for years. Maybe now I can write about it with all the love and hate I
have for the place.

By the way, I made it home that night in time to watch the ball drop
at midnight. My garage was stocked full of Y2K supplies that I’d never
use. Twenty-one days later my mom left this earth forever. Three months
later I left the City of the Angeles to live in France.

And that’s the end of that story.

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