“The Plymouth Speech” came about one night in Chinatown over gin and tonics while I sat with two of my best friends, Mac and Johnny B., lamenting a failed weekend with a high school sweetheart I’ll call Linda.
“Sweetheart” might be a bit of an exaggeration, but there were obvious feelings each of us had for the other. There were awkward, adolescent endeavors over time, but a meaningful relationship never developed—much to the dismay of many of our mutual friends, who had predicted we would someday marry.
The Peace Corps
After high school, Linda joined the Peace Corps and went to South America. She sent cards and letters showing her work with the underprivileged. Eventually, she returned to the states and moved to San Diego where she attended school. She was—and probably still is—an idealistic peacenik.
Meanwhile, I Became a Cop
We stayed in touch, and when I graduated from the sheriff’s academy, she came up to L.A. for the weekend. She went to the ceremony and accompanied me to the class graduation party at the scenic hilltop Castaway restaurant in Burbank with its stunning view of the San Fernando Valley. We stayed overnight at a nearby hotel rather than subject ourselves to a long drive after the party. It was just my luck that a drunk stumbled across our path as I turned into the hotel parking lot.
I stopped abruptly to allow the intoxicated man to stagger by. He glared as if I had done something wrong, or maybe offended him with my presence.
After parking, Linda and I started for our room. But, with my everlasting lucky streak alive and well, we stepped into the elevator to find the inebriated idiot leaned against the back corner. He couldn’t keep his mouth shut, so we exchanged a few words during the ride up. I didn’t expect the situation to escalate, and it didn’t. When we exited the elevator and he remained behind, all was well.
Or so I thought.
It turned out that my date was upset that I had engaged the man at all. That should have been my first clue that we had left adolescence on two separate trains speeding off in opposite directions.
Not long after, I went to visit this young lady in San Diego. The first day was nice; we mostly just hung out at her apartment. On the second day, she suggested we go to McDonald’s for lunch, and we did. When we finished and loaded back into my truck, I removed a gun from my waistband and placed it beneath my leg for the drive back to her apartment. She apparently didn’t know I had carried one, and she was unimpressed, to say the least.
The Art of Manliness
“Why do you have a gun?” she demanded.
“Because I’m a cop.”
“Not in San Diego.”
“In California.” (The bear goes everywhere.)
We argued all the way back to her apartment. I tried explaining that I was a cop, trained to stop bad men, and legally armed to do so. Compelled by my oath to take action when needed. I tried to get her to understand that one never knew when something bad could happen, and I wasn’t willing to take any chances. I wasn’t going to be a victim.
She dismissed everything I said. “That’s ridiculous. This is San Diego.”
We arrived at her apartment in the heat of battle. I went in and gathered my things. We had planned to go out that night for a nice dinner, but I was done. I told her something along these lines:
The Plymouth Speech
“When you and your little preppy college friends are out for a cocktail and some dirtbag drags you into an alley with a knife to your throat and bad intentions, it will be someone with a badge and gun who runs into the dark of night to save you. It’s people like me who risk their lives to protect people like you who deny evil exists.”
This occurred in the early eighties when there were no cell phones. I stopped and, with a gun concealed beneath my shirt, used a payphone in front of a liquor store to call my friends. My message was simple: I’ll be home in a couple of hours, meet me in Chinatown for cocktails.
I desperately needed a drink and some male bonding.
Debriefing in Chinatown
We met at Yee Mee Loo’s, a place I would occasionally enjoy as a change of pace from the Short Stop. Over a cocktail or two, I told the boys my story. When finished, Mac took a long drag from his Marlboro 100 and declared the speech I had delivered to be “The Plymouth Speech.” It turns out, he had delivered a variation of a similar speech not long before, with the added imagery of the sheepdog stepping out of a Plymouth and running into a dark alley to save the damsel in distress.
I’m sure the story has been repeated by others over the years in varying contexts.
What Might Have Been
Shortly after, the San Ysidro McDonald’s Massacre occurred not far from where she and I had gone to lunch that day. Twenty-one people were killed, nineteen wounded. Had a good guy (or gal) with a gun been there to stop the shooter, many lives could have been saved. I always wondered if that thought ever crossed her mind, and doubt that it has.
Her words still ring in my head like bells, thirty-five years later: “That’s ridiculous. This is San Diego.”
Some Things Happen for Good Reason
But all is well that ends well. Though it took a while, I eventually landed a real keeper. Twenty-seven years later (at the time of this writing), and the trophy wife is still putting up with me. Also, she gladly packs my piece in her purse whenever necessary.
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Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you will share it with your family and friends!
A GOOD BUNCH OF MEN
DOOR TO A DARK ROOM
THE COLOR DEAD
Death after dishonor
(Coming September 2019)