Here is a tale told to me on a Friday night, one that may sound like so much ramadoola (an old hepcat word I miss) or worse. I cannot prove a word of it, but I know the tale-teller and have for some time. And while I have heard some wild stories from him, I believe them, too. You have to know the 48-year-old self-described adrenalin junkie. What he describes took place on a Friday night as well: December 20, 1996.
Six-foot, two-inch Christian Cullen of North Park was buying a beer at a liquor store on University Avenue 13 years ago when he briefly met an attractive young woman named Kameesha. He took her to his home. “Either I was really lucky or something was very wrong,” he said with certain hindsight. “I attempted to seduce her and failed. We went to sleep on my bed, side by side. When I awoke, several things were missing, including my car keys and van.”
Kameesha had vaguely mentioned her neighborhood, so Cullen took off on his bike in search of her. It did not take long to locate his van, reversed into some felled trees and surrounded by cops. “I knew at that moment she had stolen my van. The cops would do nothing because she had told them I had given her the keys. I had to make restitution to the guy whose yard she had destroyed with my vehicle. I drove home and resolved not to do anything like that again. I should probably mention that I was a casual weed dealer at the time. She thought I was more big time, at least that’s what she communicated to these two other guys who, three days before Christmas [a Friday three months later], walked into my house with a loaded .45 pistol drawn. These were two African-American gentlemen.
“As soon as I saw the gun, I turned my body and my head away from them. My hands went up to the back of my head. I did not want to see their faces to identify them. I said, ‘Take whatever you want. There’s nothing here worth dying for.’ ”
At this point it should be made clear that Cullen’s description of these men as “African-American gentlemen” is not a racist comment. As a friend of his, I have witnessed, in several circumstances, his disdain (to put it mildly) for all bigots.
“They had me face-down on the floor with the gun at the back of my head, just to the right side of my neck, just below where my cranium meets my muscle there. I can feel it to this day. Then they hog-tied me with what they found in my apartment, which was my Christmas-tree lights, purple Christmas-tree lights. They took them down from the wall where I had them strung, wrapped them around my ankles and my wrists, and then tied the two together with the same lights and had me tied face-down with the gun at my head. As they were trashing my home, they demanded to know where the eight pounds of weed were. There was no eight pounds of weed. There was a quarter-ounce.”
Cullen also had $150 in his pocket and a phone card. “While I was on the floor, I heard the action on the automatic weapon being worked, the ratcheting being drawn seven or eight times. I heard one guy ask the other, ‘What are you doing?’ The guy said, ‘I’m trying to get the bullet out.’ I thought to myself, I’m being robbed by Barney Fife. These two morons could have blown my brains out with that one bullet. That, and, I’m going to get killed.
“At that point, my next-door neighbor came over at random, and one of the robbers answered the door, not doing a good job of disguising that something was wrong here. The neighbor went home and returned with a shotgun. Now, the day before, my neighbor and I had gone skeet shooting and used all of our ammunition, so my neighbor returned with basically a useless metal stick. He left again, and one of the guys said, ‘He’s goin’ to call the cops.’ So they split with my cash, the quarter-ounce, and my phone card.
“Once they were all gone, I gave it all I had and burst free from the Christmas lights. I saw the backs of their heads, as they were running out of my yard and up the alley.”
The phone card would prove the next important element in Cullen’s story, which leads to Bakersfield and a savage football game the next day in North Park.
(To be continued…)