By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
On one of those gloomy, wet winter days when Seattle sends its weather south, I arrive at the Hollywood branch of the Los Angeles Superior Court at 8:30 a.m., with my partner in crime — we’ll call him Dave, because that’s his name. The idea is to be among the first in line when the clerk’s office opens so you can be among the first to be sent somewhere else to wait. Around me are the usual suspects: parole and probation violators, petty thieves, hustlers, wife beaters, street people, gypsy cabbies, a few thugs of various affiliations, and one pretty boy who seems to have taken a wrong turn off the set of High School Musical 4. There is a lot of coughing. Some of it sounds tubercular. Bad enough, but to make matters worse, Dave and I are here on a bum rap.
It all goes back to the day he and I decided to spend one of our underemployed weekday afternoons the same way we’ve spent too many in this make-or-break stage of our lives: hitting baseballs in the batting cage at the edge of Pote Field in Griffith Park. Not only is this a meditative and surprisingly sweaty undertaking, but it’s also a good way to improve our anemic batting averages in the adult league we play in.
Sometimes, we bring our dogs and tie them up on a parking barricade near the cages while we take our hacks. The routine calls for unloading bats, gloves, helmets, a batting tee and a bucket of balls from the trunk while our dogs pace around the car. This time, after assembling our gear for all of a minute, a park ranger pulls into the lot. Knowing my luck, I quickly grab my dog, Willa, and fasten her leash. Dave’s dog is already on a leash and has been since he picked me up. The park ranger comes over to investigate. Dave’s dog decides he can’t wait to greet his new friend and rushes to the end of his leash. The park ranger dramatically jumps back.
“Get that dog under control,” the ranger yelps.
Dave looks stumped, seeing as how the dog is on a leash and the leash is in his hand. “He’s just being friendly,” Dave says.
“I’d like you to put that dog in the car,” the ranger insists.
“Really?” Dave asks.
“He’s an aggressive dog; put him in the car.” Our ranger, with his caterpillar mustache and last–Boy Scout demeanor, comes across like an unfortunate caricature. He asks for our IDs.
“Are you kidding?” Dave says.
The ranger calls for backup. I hear the words “uncooperative” and “hostile” between bursts of walkie-talkie static so I point out the baseball gear scattered on the ground next to the car, the still-open trunk. “We were just trying to get our stuff together,” I suggest.
“I saw you grab your dog and put it on a leash when you saw me,” the ranger says.
“Isn’t there any allowance for getting out of the car?” I ask.
Two more park-ranger SUVs and two police cars pull up. I’m worried. Dave’s been in jail before, and not just to dry out. He can handle it. I’m too pretty.
The cops and other rangers huddle with our guy, and then survey the scene. They seem slightly embarrassed. Dave talks baseball with the cops, who might want to join our league. The ranger interrupts to tell us he’s citing us for having our dogs offleash.
“But his dog was on a leash,” I say, feeling responsible for the whole debacle.
“That’s not what I saw,” says the ranger. “You’ll have your day in court.
Which brings us to the Hollywood courthouse. Due to some quirk in municipal codes, leash-law violations require that adjudication take place only in a court of law — you can’t pay your way out of the ticket. When Dave and I finally make it to the clerk’s window, we’re assigned to separate courtrooms. This doesn’t bode well for me. Things go wrong with bureaucracies and me. Like, Brazil wrong.
I’m the fourth guy to sign in with the bailiff. Like drones, we file into the wooden benches facing the high seat. Minutes pass like hours. Nothing happens. A half-hour later, the judge’s seat is still empty. I get a text from Dave.
Judge Spurgeon E. Smith will be presiding.
You’re shitting me?
No, that’s his name.
An hour or so passes before the honorable Judge Leslie A. Swain makes an appearance. I text Dave.
My judge is hot!
You should throw yourself at her mercy.
Judge Swain runs through the docket. Is there no end to the plague of medallionless Armenian cab drivers? And, yes, most are wearing tracksuits. Laughing and joking with each other, they have a joie de vivre about this process that I can’t summon. After about 20 minutes, the judge leaves the room. Dave texts.
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