It was the second week in June and a beautiful Saturday morning when Eva and I headed for La Jolla to get breakfast and have some much needed recharge time. We live in San Diego and La Jolla is to San Diego as Beverly Hills might be to L.A. It takes us no more than twenty minutes to drive from our home to the coast. La Jolla is the most beautiful place in Southern California, truly a “jewel” on the Pacific. There are many things that bring people to visit La Jolla but the central draw is the beach and the cove. The restaurants, shops, and museums are frosting on the cake. The boardwalk runs high above the surf, from the cove at the North, to the children’s pool at the South end of La Jolla.

We love to go to breakfast at either Harry’s on Gerrard, or Brockton Villa, which is right on Coast Blvd and sits high on a bluff facing West, over the cove, toward the magnificent blue Pacific Ocean. This day we went to Brockton Villa.  We had an exceptional breakfast and were lucky to sit on the balcony which is like being in the front row of a play or sporting event. Prime seating, inspiring, even spiritual. Brockton Villa has been here for almost 100 years. You can read the fascinating history on their web page. We like it because their food is a nine on our scale, and they remember us and always try to seat us on the balcony porch!

After breakfast we crossed over to the cove and watched seals and people. The seals having taken the upper hand in the past year at the cove, but the swimmers and bathers still were enjoying the small beach and the gentle surf. We walked the cove boardwalk South until we came back on Coast Blvd and then hiked up the hill to Prospect Street where all the shops, museums, and restaurants sit.

We spent a couple hours browsing in shops and museums. Eva bought a couple of things and we both drooled over some art we could not afford but really wanted to buy. By this time the afternoon was upon us, the temperature was warming up, and we felt like a break.  We decided to stop at the Hagan Das and get our favorite La Jolla treat, coffee and ice cream.

We waited, or I should say I waited, in a long line while Eva shopped in the store next door. When I got near to my turn she walked in, purchase in hand, ready for her ice cream and coffee. I ordered a single scoop, strawberry ice cream on a sugar cone and she got her usual double scoop, cookies and cream on a regular cone. We got our black coffees and went outside where there are three metal tables with hard chairs attached. We got lucky as a couple was just leaving their table as we walked out the door.

Eva and I are people watchers. We sat there licking our cones, sipping our coffees, and watching the people go by. La Jolla is an international place. The million dollar homes, the ocean vistas, the quaint shops and museums, and the awesome restaurants mean on any given day you will see people from pretty much all over the world.

While sitting there soaking in the sun, totally relaxed, and enjoying my ice cream, Eva’s phone sang….note I said “sang”. Phones used to ring but now they talk, sing, gurgle, bong, and more, when there is an incoming call. A traditional ringing alert is rare to hear.  She answered the call and began a conversation with someone, maybe family or a friend, I never bothered to ask. There was a good amount of street noise and people noise as we were right on the sidewalk in front of the store and a mere ten feet from the street. People, dogs, kids, as well as cars, trucks, bikes and cycles all moving past us in both directions. She had to talk loud in order to be heard by the caller. I tuned her out as I was in my own place of joy, not a Zen state, but in a very reflective mood, enjoying warmth from the ice cream, coffee, sun, and people.

As I sat there licking my cone there was a man sitting on my left at the next table. He looked Asian or Hawaiian, maybe Polynesian, and was wearing a straw fedora, a Hawaiian shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes. He was somewhere between 35 and 45 years old, tough to place his age. I gathered all this in with a quick glance at him after he snarled at Eva to stop being so loud. He said he could not hear the person he was talking to on his cell and to quiet down. My wife looked around me and signaled to him an “OK” with her hand. I was immediately annoyed by his tone but kept licking my ice cream figuring these two, on separate cell calls, with me in between them, should be able to work it out.

I took a few more licks of the cone and then the man snarls a curse word for Eva to pipe it down. As I momentarily processed this, I hesitated maybe ten seconds, before turning toward him and saying in a calm voice, ” if you do not know how to talk to a lady with respect then shut your big mouth or I will help you shut it”. Kind of direct as I look back on it now, but still appropriate for his coarse behavior toward Eva. At that point he got enraged, stood up, and said he was the owner of the store and told us to leave his premises.

Eva was still sitting and talking, and, looking up at me with one eye was waiving her hand toward us mouthing she was sorry. She then told me to sit down and not be rude. At this point Eva turned away and was re-engaged in her call but the man was standing in front of me and moved into my private space. He was inches away, with a balled fist, yelling we had better get up and leave right now or he would have us arrested. The rim of his fedora hit me in the chin and I reacted by flicking the hat up and off his head. It was caught by the wind and blew over the pedestrians and out into the street. I remember thinking what a good flick that was… the thought was fast replaced with concern as he retrieved his hat and pushed by people, charging right toward us. He was pointing his cell phone at us as if taking pictures or video. He kept saying “you assaulted me” and “I am calling the police”….”you are going to jail”.

Eva ended her call and expressed upset toward me. She asked why I was being so rude and told me she hated it when I acted like that. As the man kept getting animated and more visibly angry he was calling out to passing people, pointing at me and yelling, “he assaulted me”.  Eva grabbed my arm and pulled saying “lets get out of here”!

As we moved around, and past, people heading down the street the man in the fedora began following us. As we looked back he was in a short trot and by the time we reached the Valencia Hotel he confronted us again accusing me of assaulting him, asking for witnesses to help him detain me until the police arrived. He seemed to be talking to a police dispatcher on his cell phone giving directions to where we were.

Humans react to danger with one of two responses, they face it or they run…. fight or flight. I was tempted to knock the guy on his arse but Eva had already expressed displeasure with me for responding to him harshly, so I grabbed her arm and pulled her across Prospect to the other side of the street….we chose flight.  We quickly headed South, toward Drury Lane, where we turned left and darted through the alley behind the stores. As we entered the alley I looked back and saw the crazy guy running in front of cars, cutting the corner of the two streets, and heading right for us. I rushed Eva down the alley, we were actually in a fast trot with both of us turning our heads back looking for our crazed pursuer. We exited the alley a block further down onto Silverado where there are more shops and eating places and lots of people walking. We blended in as best we could but at the next corner I looked back just as the guy ran out of the alley and looked right at me. I yelled at Eva that he was gaining on us.

We ran across another street, turned the corner and I said we needed to split up. I told her to meet me back a the car in fifteen minutes. “You head into that gallery and I will go into the restaurant after I am sure he sees me”. “I should be able to draw him off”. Eva disappeared around another corner and I waited, baiting the guy, before running into the restaurant. The place was high end, white table cloths, waiters in vests, lots of customers. I headed for the back where the restrooms were but instead of going into the men’s room I walked right into the kitchen just like I owned the place. Chefs and cooks were working at tables preparing food and I strolled through with a purpose, toward the back door which I pushed through and found myself right back in the alley. I ran back toward the original entrance to the alley and then hid in a corner behind a delivery truck.

I crouched low and soon the pursuer goes running by at full speed. I then headed back the other way and caught a break as a large group of people were lined up in front of another restaurant. I had cover which allowed me to double South, away from Prospect, and back toward our car.  I finally made it back to the car thirty minutes later. I had no sign of Eva so I went into Mike’s Subs which had a big window and watched and waited.

Five minutes later Eva walks in. Her hair was let down, she had a different shirt on, and she was wearing big dark sun glasses. She looked liked a movie star, beautiful as ever. She told me she went into the museum and exited the back and then went into a shop where she bought a top, bagged her coat, let her hair down and donned the dark glasses. She said she walked right past the guy and he did not even notice her.

We spent the drive home laughing and trying to figure out what that experience was all about. Who was that guy, and why we ran and he followed, and did he really own the restaurant?  And of course Eva wanted to know why I had started the whole thing.

If you go to La Jolla and visit the Hagan Das be sure to have your running shoes on and if you happen to see a funny looking guy in a flowered fedora…. talk quietly on your cell phones.

Michael Hawke