“THANK GOD I HAD THAT THIRD BURRITO,” HE EXPLAINS
When a black van roared up to Vincent Gardini’s vintage woody wagon in Los Angeles’ Diamond District, forcing him onto the sidewalk, Gardini was shocked. “I was shocked,” he recalls. When two masked passengers leaped out of the van, training their semi-automatic weapons on Gardini, pulling him out of his wagon and shoving him towards their van, they were unaware of two things; one: Vincent wasn’t a diamond courier and two: he had just eaten an astounding amount of Mexican food.
“I can laugh about it, now,” says Vincent, laughing about it now, “but at the time? I was paralyzed with fear. These four foreigners in ski masks tossed me into their van. The only thing I could think of was: ‘I have to save my briefcase!’” And, so, he clutched his briefcase as he was lobbed into the van.
Once he was inside, the van screeching off on Sixth Street, the assailants began screaming about diamonds. “They had weird Frenchy and German accents,” recalls Vincent. “It was clear they wanted my briefcase. They kept on swatting at me. Not punching me. Just sort of a slap-fight deal. I began to laugh. That really pissed them off.
“They started shoving me around. Now, I’m a rather corpulent kind of fellow and the van just didn’t have space for me to respond, so I just started rolling and bouncing around. One of the guys started jabbering about ‘ze diamonds in ze case’ and they went for my briefcase. I tumbled onto my back, ass over teacups, and just let a fart rip. The two guys in the back with me sailed forward into the driver and the guy riding shot-gun in front, screaming about their lungs being on fire.”
“AT A CERTAIN POINT, I DIDN’T KNOW IF I WAS FARTING OR SHARTING!”
“But that was just the start, I have a horrible stomach acid problem as an everyday thing, but I’d just had a three burrito dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant in the area, Mi Sombrero Maloliente, so the more they pushed and prodded me the worse my flatulence got. They just didn’t get the cause and effect relationship going on between them jumping on me and my bursts of gas. At a certain point, I didn’t know if I was farting or sharting but I sounded like a jazz trumpet solo.”
LAPD Office Lance Granite takes over. “So, my partner and I are just doing a routine patrol because, unfortunately, The Diamond District is a real target for jewel thieves. We look up and see this black van nearly pin-wheeling down the street. Its radio was blasting Miles Davis. The fellow in the passenger’s seat is wearing a ski mask. His head is caught in the window. He’s screeching. The driver is tearing at his own eyes.
“In the back of the van, it’s sliding door ajar, are two more ski-masked guys gasping for air. A fat guy is holding onto a briefcase for sheer life, bent over, butt in the air. His pants are nearly on fire; he’s farting so hard. We thought it would be prudent to pull them over. We did.
“The four men in ski-masks tumbled out of the van screaming gibberish, coughing, hurling and jumping around like monkeys on a skittle. They focused on the two of us, tossed down their weapons and dove onto the ground, kissing our feet. We got their prints. It turns out they were a well-known European team of jewelry thieves, led by a fellow named Claude DuMerde. Interpol has been tracking them for a decade.”
“WE RETURNED TO THE MAN WITH THE SMOKING ASS”
“Once we had them cuffed, we returned to the man with the smoking ass.”
Vincent chuckles at the case of mistaken identity, after his pants have been treated with fire-retardant foam.
“The funny thing is: I’ve been working in this area for years. My jeweler grandpa grandfathered me into a storefront. So, I decided to open a novelty toy store. We’ve become the ‘go to’ store when you’re in need of a rubber chicken, a joy-buzzer or a whoopee cushion. I’ve never been mistaken for anyone who sells anything valuable before.”
What was so precious in his briefcase? Why did he fight to protect it? He smiles and opens the case. “Left-overs,” he beams, looking down at the containers neatly arranged in his briefcase. “This is another night’s meal, right here. The trick is how you pack all of it so none of it leaks.”
Recalling his ordeal he softly closes his briefcase. “Thank God I had that third burrito,” he says with a burp. “I could’ve been killed!”