Stack Parking has its Benefits …
It was a glorious Southern California evening. Cool breeze, but not too cool, and a cloud or two to add to the beauty of the day. The sun was just setting over the Hollywood Hills as the conductor walked on to the stage and 10,000 people stood and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” accompanied by one of the finest orchestras anywhere, the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
My wife, Shirley, and I love the Hollywood Bowl. It’s not just the music; it’s the entire event. You bring a picnic, a little wine (or single malt scotch, as the case may be), and make an evening of it. We used to sit up in the inexpensive seats, about 20 miles from the stage. But since our private investigating agency has been pretty successful over the years, we decided to spring for a box.
Now that’s not as easy as it sounds, since boxes at the Bowl are like rent-controlled apartments in Manhattan. People leave them to their children in their wills. However, we got lucky, and here we are, accompanied by my son and partner, Paul Junior, and his fiancé, Grace. Paulo had met Grace when he saved her life after she had been shot while standing in front of my desk … but that’s a story for another time.
The boxes at the Bowl have little fold-down tables, and you can bring your own place settings, food and drink, or you can purchase all that from the Bowl and then an upscale caterer from Hollywood provides everything. Tonight, we were celebrating Paul and Grace’s engagement, so I spared no expense. The food and drink cost almost as much as the $120 (each) seats. But seeing the twinkle in my son’s eyes every time he looked at his future wife made it all worth it.
It was the traditional Tchaikovsky concert with the Russian master’s Piano Concerto No. 1, “Capriccio Italian,” and ending with the “1812 Overture,” complete with symphonic band (from USC) and fireworks. Space prevents me from describing the evening, but just close your eyes and visualize a perfect evening for you. See that smile on your face? One just like that was on mine.
When it was over and after the orchestra played the requisite encore, “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” with the double basses covering the piccolo part, we joined thousands of our closest friends and walked slowly down the concrete ramps to our car.
The Hollywood Bowl is perfect. It was completely replaced a few years ago, and the sound system is state of the art; 40-foot TV screens allow you to watch the fingers on the keyboard; and the fireworks, well, they are outstanding.
There is one thing that isn’t perfect: the parking.
No matter what you pay, the Hollywood Bowl has stack parking. You can pay a bit more and park a bit closer, but you are still at the mercy of the cars parked around you. You don’t go until they go.
It’s an unwritten law that the folks who park in the front, blocking others, are required to hurry and open up space so the cars behind them can leave. One or two strategically placed cars whose owners decided to have one last glass of wine back at their seats, can hold up hundreds behind them. Let me tell you there has been more than one choice phrase uttered as these thoughtless individuals slink back to their cars and drive off trying to hide their identity.
We were parked in a unique place. While most of the vehicles had vehicles in front of them, we had a curb. It was a traffic island but shouldn’t have caused a problem since there was only one car blocking us. Once that one moved, we were home free. I figured it was the best we could possibly do.
We had come early to enjoy the evening, and the car behind us hadn’t arrived until after we went to our box. When we came out, I knew we might have a problem. The blocking car was jammed right up on our bumper. There was no wiggle room. We had no alternative but to wait for the driver to return.
And wait we did. This group must have been knocking back the Chardonnay, because 30 minutes had gone by and they hadn’t arrived. Then 45. Most of the cars were gone. It was getting a bit lonely in the lot. The parking staff had put away all the sawhorses and signs and were leaving. But we weren’t.
Paulo was in a good mood, and his joking and laughing kept me from blowing a gasket. If I had had my Outback, I would have driven over the curb and we would be moving, but the Lexus was a bit low to the ground to risk it. We were stuck.
Finally, I decided we needed to take some action. I tried the doors on the offending car. Locked. I thought maybe we could jimmy the door, release the brake, roll the car away, and then relock it. Unfortunately, I had left my “slim jim” in my other jacket, and the parking staff, which usually have one at hand for such emergencies, were not to be found.
I stepped back and began to carefully look over our situation.
The car was a late-model Toyota. It seemed in good condition. The license plate frame told me it was local and bought at a dealership on LA’s Eastside. Then I noticed something funny.
The car seemed to tilt a bit toward the rear, like it had a heavy weight in the trunk. Maybe this guy stored his golf clubs, bowling ball and other sports paraphernalia back there. I walked around for a closer look.
I immediately knew that we were going to be there for quite a while longer.
There was a thick, red liquid dripping from the underside of the trunk. I pulled out my phone and called a number I knew by heart. It rang on the desk of Bill Vose – that’s Capt. Bill Vose of the LAPD, and my closest friend. I knew Bill always forwarded this number to his cell.
His first words were prophetic: “Hi, Paul, where’s the body?”
To be continued...