Diary of a Mad County

Jan. 4 to Jan. 10. And tired.

Wednesday Jan. 4
Ten minutes after the University of Texas' last-second victory over USC in a thrilling Rose Bowl national championship game, and my son is still lying on the floor crying. Sobbing, he is. Forlorn cries that twist into weak, old-woman moans, followed by such deep gulps of air that I find myself checking him to see if he's choked on his own sorrow. My son is 12 and, as is probably apparent, crazy for the Trojans. What isn't as apparent is how he became a USC fan. "Dad? Who's UCLA's biggest rival?" "Oh, USC by far." "Okay, I'm a USC fan." My wife graduated from UCLA, and my son wanted something to needle her about because if there was one thing that boy loved to do it was needle and talk trash; a lot of trash—the more heartfelt, the more painful, the better. Did I mention he was seven at the time? Now, a half-hour after the game has ended, I tell my son that while it's okay to weep for your team—that it's actually wonderful to feel so passionately about something you can weep for it—the wailing will have to stop. It does, but when I go into his bedroom to kiss him goodnight, he is still crying. Hey, I say, it's okay, as bad as this seems, you'll get over it. He won't, of course. I still haven't forgiven James Worthy for that stupid crosscourt pass he made in game two of the 1984 NBA finals against the Celtics that was stolen and cost the Lakers the game and, eventually, the series. What the hell, James?! Anyway, my son tells me that it isn't so much the losing that has him in its grip, but fear of all that trash he talked coming back at him. Turns out he had been talking a blue streak of smack at school as well as during the game, calling one of his friends—whose parents are from Texas—and taunting him as USC rallied in the second half. He called him so much, in fact, that his friend had taken to answering the phone with a salutary "Shut up!" So, as Texas quarterback Vince Young crossed the goal line with 19 seconds left with the winning touchdown, my son suddenly realized the awesome forces of the universe, karma and that kid with the double Mohawk he'd been calling a loser were now balanced against him. All the trash, all the smack would be mercilessly revisited upon him in one swift, brutal cosmic shift—a psychic beat down of celestial proportions awaited him, and he knew this. And this is not only good, but also why kids should not be home-schooled. There is no greater teacher than the playground. No truer justice. No . . . seriously, Worthy, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?

Thursday Jan. 5
Charles Manrow
, the so-called "senior citizen bandit," is arraigned today in Santa Ana for a series of bank holdups, including heists in San Juan Capistrano, Laguna Niguel and Seal Beach. During robberies, Manrow, who is 70, is alleged to have waved a gun at bank tellers. Though he'd threatened to kill them, the tellers did allow that Manrow was the nicest elderly customer they'd ever had. . . . In related news, the USS Ronald Reagan, named for the dead former president/carbon-dating model, sails out of San Diego Bay for its first deployment. Though the $4.5 billion carrier is powered by two nuclear reactors capable of operating more than 20 years without refueling, allowing the vessel to hit top speeds exceeding 30 knots, it is not considered a long-range fighting ship since it must make port about every hour for a bathroom break.

Friday Jan. 6
Got an e-mail today from Richard R. Ruggieri, the attorney for Brandon Maxfield, the kid who was paralyzed by a defective gun manufactured by Costa Mesa's Bryco Arms. A jury awarded Brandon $24 million from Bryco more than 10 years ago, and he still hasn't received all his money, apparently because Bryco's former owner, Bruce Jennings, has been trying to outfit his own army, you know, like Oprah. Ruggieri sent me an auction notice regarding Jennings, who has to sell some things off to pay off his creditors and Maxfield. Jennings now lives in Florida, and going on the block Jan. 19 at the Daytona Beach Hilton will be four airplanes (one experimental); seven automobiles, including a Ferrari Testarossa and Bentley and Porsche turbos; two boats; and three motorcycles, as well as such miscellanea as a golf cart, a P-51 prop hub and a Pacific floor-cleaning machine. A shred of compassion or a soul was not among the listed items. But my question is this: What are you trying to hide, Mr. Jennings? Airplanes? Cars? Boats? Hubs? Fine, but what's the deal with the floor cleaner? I mean, is that the Pacific Fury 1500 DCP High Speed Burnisher featuring a 1.5 HP DC motor, flexible pad driver, pull-button actuator and ergonomic trigger grip for reduced wrist strain? Or, perhaps, the Fury 2000 DCP with adjustable steel handle, base bumper and yellow safety cord? The notice doesn't say. So just what kind of sick, twisted game are you playing?

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