After writing these columns for the past eleven years my brain is almost programmed to search for a new subject just a few days after I’ve submitted the last one. (No rest for the wicked?) Seemingly subconsciously, by Sunday afternoon I begin to hear an inner dialogue, which could be very problematic if I started talking back. Usually they are terrible ideas I reject out of hand but come Tuesday (deadline looming) I start to shape and refine hoping that with a little tweaking I can pull it off. (I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this week I did.)

This Tuesday I received an email from Lee, a loyal reader who lives in Ocean Park, asking what was I going to write about this week. I emailed back, “I’ve got zilch and tweaking zilch never works.” Lee responded, “Something will come to you out of the blue.” Lee was right. (I hope.)

That evening, relatively out the blue, I received a phone call from local handyman Russell Braunstein. He also lives in Ocean Park and has been a friend for the past twenty years.

Russ may be familiar to you as I’ve written about him in the past and just last month, our intrepid reporter, Kate Cagle, wrote a feature about Russ entitled, “Deputies Catch Alleged Bedroom Burglar.” The article included a photo of the alleged burglar in bed trying to catch some shut eye. (Apparently burglaries can be exhausting.)

For such an early to bed, early to rise guy, Russ has had an unusual amount of mini-disasters cross his path. The “bedroom burglar” incident occurred very late at night, when Russ heard a strange noise outside. Warily, he went to investigate but saw nothing. He had forgotten to set the alarm on his truck so he did that and returned home.

But when Russ went into his apartment, there in his bed was the soon to be dubbed “bedroom burglar.” Russ proceeded to escort the man outside, not realizing his temporary house guest had Russ’ wallet containing $200 and credit cards. The alleged burglar was caught two days later arguing with a merchant in the South Bay who fortunately was suspicious about Russ’ credit cards.

This Tuesday, Russ explained about his latest misadventure for which he recently appeared in court. But first let me list three years worth of such incidents that has happened to mild mannered Russ at Hollister and Nelson Way where he’s lived for the last ten years.

Three years ago, Russell’s truck tires were slashed, along with dozens of his neighbors who parked on Hollister. ( Months later, Russ’ parked truck was side-swiped by a hit-and-run driver whom Russ tracked down to the beach. (How Russ knew to go to the beach is beyond me but sure enough the guy was there and, with the damage to his car, couldn’t deny it.)

More recently, Russ’ truck was broken into in the middle of the night. His passenger’s window was smashed in and valuable power tools were stolen. To his credit, Russ rolls with these episodes whereas I’d be bananas. (Not sure why bananas get such a bad rap.)

But the latest of these frightening misadventures took place three weeks ago. Coming home after work, Russ parked his truck and was walking to his apartment. He passed what he perceived to be an oddly dressed homeless man. As the two passed, speaking of out of the blue, the man struck Russ knocking his sun glasses off.

Russ is generally amiable and not the type to elicit such anger. (After you know him for 20 years, maybe.) Russ responded by telling the man to “leave the neighborhood” but that didn’t go over so well. The man, who seemed to have a Jamaican accent, drew out a knife and proceeded to slash Russ’ truck tire before disappearing. Russ immediately called the police and discovered, all things considered, he had been lucky.

Apparently, prior to crossing Russ’ path, the man had smashed a chair over an employee at Pete’s Coffee and broke the man’s arm. At court more than a week ago, Russ compared notes with the employee who’s now wearing a cast. The suspect is currently undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

As for Russ, he’s been making so many court appearances these days he jokes he’s considering giving up his thriving handyman business and going to law school. (Thankfully, Russ may be eligible for restitution from a state crime victims fund in both cases.)

Because I have many friends on Hollister, over the years I’ve written five times about vandalism, burglaries and the insane congestion on that narrow street from exiting beach traffic. (

All to no avail. Maybe six will be the charm?

Hopefully my next column that comes “out of the blue” will be considerably less alarming and considerably funnier.


To see the tire slashing suspect in action click on this link Jack can be reached at