The Hunt for the Black Jetta

Two reporters, one car and a single afternoon in HB

You hear some really stupid things in our office. The stupidest, by far, was when former music writer CJ Bahnsen insisted that TV's Captain Kangaroo was in fact Alice Cooper's father, but there have been a lot of other really stupid things asserted, such as the intern who insisted that Pancho Villa was a fictional character. I myself once put forth, and held fast to, the proposition that my wife had coined the term "foxy."

Given that, when Weekly staffer Jeremy Scherer claimed there was a white Jetta driving around Huntington Beach with American flags painted on its sides and BIN LADEN SUCKS COCK painted on its bumper, the observation didn't really figure to stand out, especially after this exchange:

"You've seen it?"

"No. My roommates told me about it."

"Where did they see it?"

"Actually, it was only one of my roommates."

"Where did he see it?"

"Well, he told the other roommate about it."

"Okay, where did . . ."

". . . and then she told me."

"Right, so where did he see it?"

"Actually, he didn't see it. He heard about it from a friend."

"Which friend?"

"Well, not exactly a friend—our neighbor."

"Where did he see it?"

"I don't know."

This is pretty much how conversations go with Jeremy, and usually I've tuned out by the second retraction. But something about the story, about the car, intrigued me. I don't know what. Perhaps it was that the car's bumper came right out and said what all those flags flying on radio antennas only intimate. Perhaps it was because I wanted to ask the car's owner if he took a lot of guff for having the word "cock" on his car or if this was the one time when such a sentiment was allowed to pass. And maybe it was just that I wanted to see it. Staff writer Anthony Pignataro shared my curiosity, and he asked Jeremy if we could speak to his roommate.

Looking back, it's amazing how much of the story Jeremy got wrong. Nearly everything, except for the bit about the cock, which he nailed. I guess Anthony and I knew there was every chance that Jeremy was wrong, but something about finding the car and the person behind its wheel drove us to Huntington Beach to search for the white Jetta with BIN LADEN SUCKS COCK on its bumper.

Jeremy had given us directions to his duplex, and we arrived to find that the neighbor/eyewitness, Dan, was not at home, but Jeremy's roommate Jason was. He said that Dan had just left in his RAV 4. He said that Dan had actually told another roommate, Julie, about the car. Julie then emerged from a doorway to say Dan had told both of them. Jason said that Dan had, in fact, told only Julie—that he had simply been standing nearby. Julie said that, in fact, Dan had directed his comments to both of them—that he was in fact almost yelling at them, he was so excited. Jason shrugged his shoulders and said that Dan had taken the RAV 4, and Julie said he might have taken his Honda, but Jason said, no, he had taken the RAV. Julie said Dan could have taken the Honda, but Jason, now holding a barking dog under his arm, said he had seen Dan take the RAV.

They did agree that Dan had said he'd seen the car at an Albertsons supermarket less than a mile from the house. We said we'd head over and see if the car was there. If it wasn't, we'd come back—and hopefully hook up with Dan.

I found Tom in front of the Albertsons—seated beside a shopping cart full of T-shirts with "One Nation Under God" printed on them—under the watchful eye of a store security guard. Tom wasn't wearing one of the shirts; he wasn't wearing any shirt, in fact, just a deep tan and a few cross tattoos on his back and chest. I described the car and asked him if he'd seen it.

"No," he said with a rather pained look. "I've seen a lot of stuff, but it's all been pretty positive. I saw a tow truck with flags painted on both sides. People are pretty worked up. I guess they show it in different ways."

Tom and his new wife, Stormy, were living in Las Vegas when the attack took place. They had then been married only a few days. They'd been friends for years, and then, one night, Stormy—a tanned and lovely woman with eyes the size of nickels—dreamed God wanted her to marry Tom. So they did at a drive-through chapel in Vegas.

"It was really nice," Stormy said. "'Purple Haze' was playing on the radio, so that's our song now."

They had decided to take a year off together because, Tom said, that's what's commanded of newly married couples in Deuteronomy. They planned to go to Latin America but didn't have the money. Then the attack took place. People in Las Vegas got so worked up, Tom said, that when the stores ran out of flags, people started stealing them off graves.

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