Unclassified Info: A cold in the midst of battle

Columnist’s Journal.

Tuesday, Feb.15, 7 a.m.: I wake up with a head full of goo and the telltale body aches that instantly let me know that a cold has invited itself into my body for a few days. I roll over with a nasal grunt, pull the covers over my head and extend my arm towards the nightstand searching for the phone in order to call in sick.

7:03: I am officially on sick leave. I shut my eyes and begin to contemplate how best to get back to sleep in order to facilitate the quick evacuation of Mr. Coldbug.

7:04: My eyes pop open as I realize that today is the day Ray Patel will be facing Rick Caruso in their battle to proclaim the tidbit of land currently occupied by Patel’s Golden Key Hotel. There will be no rest for me. I drag myself out of bed, shower, shave and begin a futile search for Sudafed.

7:45: No Sudafed. I decide my first stop will be to whatever purveyor of Sudafed I happen to run across before heading toward City Hall to personally witness and document the Redevelopment Battle Royale.

7:50: My car battery is dead. Perfect. Now I need Sudafed and a new battery before I do anything. I grab the keys to my girlfriend’s car and off I go. I develop a strategic plan to acquire coffee, Sudafed and the battery in the most efficient way possible. I must go to Eagle Rock to accomplish this since Pep Boys has long since vanished from Brand Boulevard.

8:20: I get coffee. I have failed at my first attempt to get Sudafed. The Walgreens was open, but evidently thanks to crystal meth addicts, you now need two forms of identification, permission from a past president and a note from home to purchase Sudafed. I curse all crystal meth addicts as I wipe the drip from my nostrils.

8:45: I have acquired a battery. I rush back home to install it. Fortunately, I did this in high school and the old skills comeback easily. In five minutes I am done.

9:00: I arrive at City Hall. The parking lot is full, so I park in Staples lot. Being the good citizen that I am, I go in and purchase pens and a notebook to justify my parking spot and hopefully avoid getting towed. I scamper across the street towards City Hall. I notice vans from most of the local news stations have already parked.

9:14: I arrive in chambers only to see it is standing room only. I make my way in and am immediately escorted out by a police officer who tells me there is no room. “If you want to watch the hearing, go next door to the police station. It’s being broadcast in the public meeting room,” she says.

9:17: I am sitting in the meeting room with about a dozen other people. I am relieved to see that the show has not started. The room is filled with anticipation — the kind that accompanies a major sporting event. Except that the background music is the Carpenters. I can only hope that the main event lives up to the hype.

9:45: People begin to hem and haw about the late start. I wonder if I should risk leaving to see if Ralph’s has Sudafed. Others in the room begin to ask what the delay is all about. I’m too busy trying to find an open nasal passage to care.

10:00: Now I care. I am supposed to be in bed getting healthy and I find myself sitting in a drafty room. The dozen that were here when I arrived is now down to six. I develop a conspiracy theory that the Redevelopment Agency is delaying in order reduce the number of witnesses should the need arise to evict Patel.

10:15: If I have to listen to one more minute of jazzy background music it will take every officer in the station to keep me from going postal.

10:30: Even the police have given up. They’ve left us four remaining people to fend for ourselves. Either that or they saw the crazed look in my eyes when the jazz version of “Back in the U.S.S.R.” started playing and figured it was a good time to get go.

10:34: I start looking for useless facts about the meeting room. There are 32 seats and 16 desks. I contemplate counting the electrical outlets.

10:37: I begin to ask myself the obvious questions. Are Patel and Caruso finding some kind of backroom agreement? Was Patel’s strategy all along to take this to the courtroom steps in order to get the highest offer he could out of Caruso? Will Caruso find the number that will make Patel walk away from his hotel and give up the business that he once claimed was so important to him?

The part of me that went to bat in support of Patel hopes that is not the case. I want to believe this is about principal and not just money. But there’s another part of me — one that could not blame Patel for accepting an offer that would secure his happiness without having to work.

As far as Caruso goes, I won’t shed any tears if he should have to pony up a little more money to secure Patel’s property. After all, he’s got plenty and the city was willing to bend over backwards to give him even more, so no harm, no foul in my opinion.

10:45: Thankfully, the piped in music, which now reminds me of a Guantanamo Bay torture method, stops. We are about to get underway. The meeting agenda is read with a fair amount of confusion about when public commentary would take place. And then the microphone begins to cut out. The three of us in the room sit stunned as our insufferable wait is rewarded with every fifth word audible.

We see Rick Caruso approach the podium and say, “We…meet…some…until then.” He smiles politely and Patel follows. “I…thank...and…look…resolving…week.”

We then hear someone say the meeting is continued to Feb. 22.

11:00: I am headed to another pharmacy in search of my Sudafed. I vow to find the elusive red pills and at least have something in my life resolved before noon. Which is more than can be said for Patel and Caruso.

GARY HUERTA is a Glendale resident and author. He is currently working on his second novel and the second half of his life. Gary may be reached at gh@garyhuerta.com.

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