Over at Telegraph blogs today I pay tribute in my inimitable, tasteful way to the late Rodney King - the man responsible for giving me my first big break in journalism when, while on holiday in California in April 1992, I accidentally ended up covering the LA riots.
I'm sure for many of those caught up in the riots it was a nightmare. But covering them as a journalist was a blast because I was young and dumb with delusions of immortality. Even scarier than my encounter with the "Four-Tray Crips" - see above - was when I found myself driving with a colleague through South Central in a red open-topped Ford Mustang. The car was fine for its original rental purpose: cruising San Diego while covering the Americas Cup. But definitely somewhat provocative when driven in the midst of the riots by two very conspicuous white guys.
We were lost, looking for a pastor's house, and we took a turn down a side road to be greeted by a very tall black man standing in the middle of the road, staring at us, with something long and metallic dangling from his hand. As we drove closer - very, very slowly - we saw what it was: a .44 Magnum with a silencer on it. I didn't look him in the eyes. I pretended not to have noticed anything at all. As we drove past, buttocks clenched so tight they wouldn't untighten again for several hours thereafter, I felt the guy studying us curiously, trying to decide what to do. We cruised on (slowly, so as not to provoke) and I wondered how it would feel to be shot in the back of the head or in the back through my car seat by the world's most powerful handgun. Did I feel lucky, punk?
Anyway, I hope I'm not spoiling the story by telling you that he didn't shoot and I lived to see another day. This is the thing about scary life or death experiences which could go either way. If they go wrong, you die. If they go right, they end up as just another amusing anecdote.