It’s a foggy night. Del Playa Drive is all techno music and tube tops, the first big smash of Fall. Leaning against a car, I take in the parade of spray-painted denim ass and meatheads. Young flesh rolls down the street in hoots and stumbles. Underneath the bass thumps, five thousand people talk at once and no one waits their turn.
Three Isla Vista Foot Patrol officers loom up out of fog, shining a flashlight on a young girl, asking her to sit down. They are “setting the tone” – as Lt. Arnoldi used to call it. Fall Quarter is infamous for the IVFP’s “Fall Education Program.” Twelve long weeks of local area cops putting elbow into the spine of the debauchers, demanding respect.
It is a phrase borrowed from fighting: to set the tone is to throw the first punch, good and hard. Your opponent goes down with an exploding bloody nose and hits the concrete, ass first. If he stays down, the tone is effectively set. The cop corollary is 80 officers working one weekend, and paddy wagons for the masses of netted drunks. Foot patrol officers prowl the liquor stores – no warnings, no tickets, just handcuffs. Don’t act up – setting the tone, remember! Or do you like a baton to the kidneys?
The young girl sits dejectedly on the curb, possibly 17, but probably not. The cops decide to keep her fake I.D., and I laugh a little.
I recall the pre-parties at six, then hitting the streets at ten totally drunk and trying to stay that way. Find the crowd, find the keg. Check her checking you checking her. Now I laugh. The clich