This past Sunday morning, unsuspecting families on Hart and Hollister avenues in Ocean Park awoke having had an uninvited visitor in the middle of the night. Much to their chagrin, many had one of their tires slashed. Forget chagrin, outrage is more like it.
The event was reported in the media as “vandalism.” (Unless it was your tire among the 82 that got sliced in which case it might be better descried as a capital offense.) In any event, it appears that tire slashing has become a disturbing trend.
In February, a 23-year-old Solvang man was arrested after he slashed 35 tires, most belonging to U.S. Postal Service vehicles. (New meaning to “going postal?”) On April 23 in Fullerton, 30 vehicles had tires slashed. In Internet jargon, WTF is going on?
I have three friends on Hollister who had a tire destroyed. But when my buddy Russ, a local handyman, was interviewed by NBC and it aired on TV, he was rather pleased. His reaction reminded me of Andy Warhol’s famous prediction, “In the future everyone will have 15 minutes of fame.” Russ had exactly 18 seconds.
All day Sunday, tow trucks were going up and down Hart and Hollister either changing a tire or hauling off a wounded vehicle. Business at local tire repair shops was booming. And for days on the street donut spares were the norm.
Reportedly, a resident’s security camera, in grainy black and white footage, captured an unidentified man, aged between 18 and 24, puncturing tires. Police suspect he may be a transient who engaged in an argument at ZJ Boarding House, a surf store, and then targeted one of their vehicles before going on his rampage. Say this for him, at 82 tires slashed, he was a determined nut job. (I mean alleged nut job.)
With Memorial Day on Monday, the unofficial start of summer, folks on Hollister are already bracing. As reported in this space years ago, Hollister, a narrow one-way street with parking on both sides, is the corridor of choice for cars leaving the beach from as far north as Bicknell. At my request, then Police Chief Tim Jackman kindly inspected the situation and concluded it “made no sense.” So, let me try to explain what still seems inexplicable.
In the summer, the beach parking lots, including the one at Bicknell, are often jammed. Many, if not most, of these beachgoers come here via the 10 Freeway. And as they leave, if allowed to use Bicknell, a wide four-lane street, they are quite close distance-wise to the freeway. But, in 1982 or ‘83 things changed. Signage was put in that directed traffic to turn right coming out of the Bicknell lot, heading away from the freeway.
On any given day you can see confused tourists making U-turns in the intersection adjacent to Ocean House senior home. (Oh, nothing could go wrong there, huh?)
Whereas Bicknell has four lanes and very few structures, Hollister is one lane and has lots of houses and apartments. Also, the distance to Neilson from Bicknell is probably one-third that it is at Hollister. And lastly, Bicknell is a through-street while Hollister dead ends at Main. (Other than all that, it makes perfect sense.)
Keep in mind, the signal at Hollister and Neilson is so frustratingly short that only one car generally gets through as the light changes. Cars are backed up on Hollister spewing fumes that force residents, even in the heat of summer, to shut their windows. Isn’t that terrific?
But in research for this column, I received an e-mail from an off-the-record source with the history and logic of the right turn at Bicknell that frankly I just don’t buy. It ended by suggesting I should think twice before jumping on the “Bicknell bandwagon.” Frankly, it read like something from Raymond Chandler’s detective novel “Farewell My Lovely,” where shady Santa Monica was referred to as Bay City. I say what’s wrong with re-examining the issue?
But back to the tire slasher. On Wednesday, I walked Oscar, the golden retriever I often write about, down by the beach. At the bathroom near station No. 26, I saw lifeguards interrogating a transient, who appeared to be between ages 18-24, and who looked like a surfer Lee Harvey Oswald. (All he needed were “Fair Play for Boogie Boards” flyers.)
I suggested to the lifeguards that if he had something sharp enough to slash tires, he might be their man. That night I even phoned the police with the tip. Stay tuned.
Meanwhile, Russ still grumbles about the $200 for a new tire but, given his 18 seconds of fame, I think he’s secretly hoping for a reality show. One thing’s for sure, in this hip-hop, Instagram, tweeting, texting, reality TV world where no-talents can become celebrity royalty overnight, Andy Warhol would have been pleased. Unless of course, one of his tires got slashed.
Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or firstname.lastname@example.org.