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"Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy." -- Anne Frank

397--California: A Monster Thief
@ Site News     Sep 05 2007 - 16:43 PST
Karem, Hallie, Lisa and I with four officers and the Monster-Thief.

Karem, Hallie, Lisa and I with four officers and the Monster-Thief.

After the officers left, we felt like driving over the monster.

After the officers left, we felt like driving over the monster.

cherie writes: Karem, Lisa, Hallie and I returned from a 9-day Burning Man camping adventure. We thought we left the monsters behind in Nevada's Black Rock Desert, but who knew there would be one waiting for us when we got home.

Our drive home from Nevada began at 3:50 am, after watching an intricate wooden Temple burn on the desert playa. Packing by the light of the moon (and a few tired camping lanterns) we loaded up our sparkly clothes, silly hats, dusty bikes and stuffed them into our rented trailer. Delirious with the anticipation of our first shower in over a week, we headed home.

Sneaky: that’s what we thought we were being by waking up before dawn. But a 3.2 mile string of red tail-lights let us know that a few thousand other “Burners” shared the same idea as us: leave early and beat the traffic. It took us 94-minutes to drive the first three miles. Ironically were grateful for the one-mile-per-hour speed; last year it took many Burners over 6-hours to drive the same distance. When thirty-five thousand people try to get on a one-lane highway at the same time it creates one heck of a messy clot.

Riding home along the 395 (one of my favorite routes in America), we watched the gorgeous Sierras roll by listening to “new oldies”, which seems to be the latest term for 80s music.

After driving over 16-hours, we arrived at Karem’s house with that not-so-fresh-smell. Exhausted, we began to unload the trailer. The night was thick with heat. It was hotter in Orange County than in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

It was Labor Day 2007 and no one was home. The house was dark; the kind of dark that tells thieves that the home owners are on vacation. Karem’s husband was at his parent’s house celebrating the holiday with their 4-year old son.

Karem went inside her house to see if she could find a light that was not covered in thick layer of alkali dust. I followed Karem as she turned on her garage light and went through the back entrance.

When we walked into the laundry room, Karem screamed and dug her meticulously-filed nails into my arm and yelled in a voice reeking of terror: “Run, there’s a man in my house!”

Fear has a certain tone. That tone arouses a panic that notifies the surrounding folks with an alarming degree of certainty that: “this ain’t no joke.” Normally you only hear that tone when you’re on a carnival ride or watching a Horror Flick

I haven’t been running lately; but I think any decent sprinter would have appreciated the clip at which I arrived at the neighbor’s house saying: “Call the police—there’s a man robbing the house!”

The neighbor called the police while his teenage sons yelled: “Let’s get him! Our house has been robbed three times!”

Meanwhile Lisa, Hallie and I locked ourselves into the car with the engine running. Karem was on the phone with the police (at the neighbor’s house) telling them what she saw. “In the kitchen there was a tall man in the corner; he was frozen with fear.”

I was listening out of the cracked window of the car to hear what was going on. You could smell the adrenaline in the air; it laced the night like a hazy drug.

Angered at being burglarized three times, the teenage neighbors wanted to catch the thief. Teenage son Number One told teen Number Two to get him a weapon. Teen Two arrived with a long stick to which Teen One responded: “What am I going to do with this? Shoot pool with the robber?”

The brave teens entered the house while everyone else pleaded with them to wait for the police. There was no stopping these young men armed with long sticks—they were determined to catch the previous offender (or shoot pool with him?)

As the teens went inside, we heard sirens screaming down the street. Within a few minutes, four cars with eight police officers arrived.

Karem was shaking and could still barely talk when the teen came out and informed everyone that there was a monster in the corner. A monster in Villa Park?

When the police arrived they confirmed that a towering life size Halloween monster stood in the dark corner of the kitchen. (This scary larger-than-life decoration was innocently bought by Karem’s husband for the amusement of their young son two months before Halloween.) .

Three of the eight police said they might have shot the thing. We felt grateful for the quick response of the police; but incredibly silly to call them out because of a Halloween mannequin.

The shaking and crying morphed into laughter as an enormous wave of relief rolled over us. Before the officers left, we asked a few of them to pose with us and the monster. Later we put the monster under the car (just to get him back for scaring us so bad!)

Click on each picture to see it full size.

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