This was originally publised on the blog, but it’s such a damn good piece of writing (if I can be excused for patting myself on the back) that I just had to recycle it and put it up here…

Back in 1989, about four months after Reagan had finally
turned over the reins to Bush the Elder, I had been aViva_reaganssigned to do a stakeout
in Bel Aire. As far as neighborhoods to
have to stake out, well, there are pluses and minuses. While you aren’t going to have to deal with
some crackhead smashing the
window and carjacking you
, the Bel Aire Patrol can be a real pain in the
ass, coming by every couple of hours and rousting you as you suck bad coffee and
try to work the line for the 49ers v. Rams game.

I was parked in front of a mansion that looked very
familiar. As I stared at it, I gradually
realized that it was the Clampett
Mansion from the Beverly Hillbillies
– the one that Granny, Jed and the
clan piled out of, waving at the end of each week’s episode. It was right next door to the mansion that
Reagan’s wealthy friends had gifted to Ronnie and Nancy (sort of a thanks for
the nice tax cuts and fat defense contracts of the 80s). At the time, the address was this: 666 St. Cloud.

That’s right. Ronnie
lived, at least for a time, at a house whose street address was The
Number of the Beast
. May I be struck
down with lightning from the Great Fabricating
 God in the Sky if I am lying. You may insert your own Reagan = Satan joke here; I think that that
fruit is just too low-hanging.

Eventually, one of Nancy’s psychic friends
hipped her to the fact that perhaps living in a house whose street number is
synonymous with The Very Warm Place Below was perhaps not the greatest thing
(and how long has it been since you thought about the revelations that Ron
& Nancy checked with astrologers before they made an important
foreign/domestic policy decision, eh? Too long, right?), and they changed the
street number to 668.

Anyway, the stakeout stretched on and on. I knew the Reagans were in town by the
presence of thick-necked, flattopped
guys in Armani suits
with little earpieces in standing next to a panel van
with some cheap-ass sign like “Acme Gas Co.” on the side, pretending to screw
around with a fire hydrant. Bored out of
my skull and unable to reach my bookie on the cell from that location up in the
hills, I wandered down to talk to the Secret Service boys.

“You guys do
realize that you aren’t fooling anybody, right?” I asked. “I mean, this whole
thing with the van and the sign and you pretending to work – why are you even
bothering? Just set up some sandbags and build a bunker.”

“Who the hell are you and what do you want,” snarled one of
the SS agents, narrowing his eyes and jerking his head as a signal to his
partner. They both were crouching into Deadly
Pounce mode and his partner was circling around to my left side, preparing to
gang-tackle me to the pavement and wrench my extremities out of their

“Whoa whoa whoa,” I said, backpedaling and holding up my
hands, palms out to hopefully signify peaceful intent. “I’m with the press, I’m here working on a
story up the street.” I pulled out my
camera and was fumbling to find some kind of press ID. Their eyes narrowed even more, if that was
possible, and they kept advancing.

At that point, I was about 5 seconds from some very intense
physical sensory input, when Ronnie wandered down his driveway. Oblivious to
the incipient violence, he clapped the SS guys on the shoulder and grinned that
famous “Gee,
ain’t America just the greatest place to live”
grin. The SS guys pulled back to flank Ronnie,
perhaps not wanting to upset his delicate disposition by stomping my narrow ass
flat in the street in front of him. Or
perhaps they knew he was coming down (he was dressed in a jogging suit and
sneakers) and that’s why they were so tense in the first place. Still, his presence dissipated the ugly
storm clouds, and as he asked the boys how they were doing and about their
families, etc. etc., I realized that I was in the presence of real charisma.

 Despite myself, I found myself warming to the old

Now, I had been about as far from the 80s Reagan Youth that you could get – I was
a mohawked punk rocker for much of the 80s, fulminating in editorials against
the smug right-wing destruction of social pRonald_toastrograms in favor of huge military
buildups, rolling back civil rights and giving tax breaks to the wealthy. I hated Reagan. I cheered when he got shot. I hoped that he
would either drop dead or get impeached for his crimes during Iran-Contra.

 So when he turned that big open smile on me and extended his
hand, asking “So what can I do for you, young fella?” I found myself in a real

[to be continued…]