I’ve been thinking a lot about cops lately. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about all the times you and I had run ins with them. My letter yesterday talked about one such incident, but there are so many over the years. Some are funny, and others are anything but.
I didn’t used to take those guys seriously at all. For years, it never really registered that they carry guns and handcuffs and nightsticks and pretty much had the authority (and often the inclination) to fuck up my day big time because of what I was doing. I saw them more as those bumbling, half-witted constables in old silent films. I, of course, was the hilariously haphazard yet consitently outsmarting star that would always get the better of them.
They were comic relief, Dionysus: Nothing more and nothing less. They weren’t ever a real threat until they were, if you know what I mean. But I’m trying to keep this endeavor as chronological and linear as I can, so I won’t delve into any of the horrific stuff quite yet.
I’m sure you remember the comic store I used to work at. We had some good times there, after all. A lot of interesting characters would come through that shop, and for some reason would feel inclined to just hang out the entire day. I rarely asked anybody to leave, no matter how badly I may have wanted them to. Teenaged timidity always carried the day.
The comic store was an ideal place for me to work because I got to work alone. And by “work” I mean read comics and listen to punk rock music. It was a fantastic gig, Dionysus.
There used to be this real punk dude who would come in and hang out. He had liberty spikes that were about a foot tall and wore bondage pants and a leather jacket with the standard issue studs and spikes and patches sewed on with dental floss. He was homeless and lived in a bush and drank every day and was only a year older than me, but god damn how I wanted that guy to think I was punk.
It was all very high school, the way in which I was concerned with how punk rock I was. You see, there were two kinds of things in my mind: punk and not punk. Everything I did at that time was, consciously or not, conceived to fit into that punk paradigm.
But I didn’t fucking care about impressing anybody. Fuck that. Except really I wanted to impress everybody, especially other punks. I sure was something (something punk as fuck, right?)
So this liberty spiked libertine would come around and I’d try to impress him by talking about Filth and Dead Boys and Econochrist and whatever else, although in hindsight I think he was usually too loaded to really care about, let alone understand, the laundry list of punk rock street cred I was laying at his Doc Martin-clad feet.
One day Liberty Lou (that was his name, on account of the hair) came into the shop and he’ was on a good one. He really looked like he had woken up on the wrong side of the bush, you dig? He had foliage in his spikes and a forty in his hand.
Now, this was in the middle of a weekday in the middle of a store in the middle of a shopping center in the middle of the suburbs. As punk as I may have wanted to be, the entire situation seemed a little too criminal. Crime can be pretty fucking punk, Dionysus, but only when it’s oneself doing it. Then, as now, I wasn’t down for going down for somebody else’s good time. If he had offered to share his Mickey’s, then my attitude may have been different. But he didn’t; he never did.
Sharing isn’t punk, Dionysus.
I was caught in a real tough spot. I didn’t want to come across as a square by asking him to leave. That would have been, like, minus hella punk points. But I also didn’t want to risk losing customers or my job or even getting another one of those silly tickets for beer that I didn’t even have the pleasure of drinking myself.
I’ve done some of my finest work under pressure, Dionysus. I thought quickly, and came up with an acceptable compromise, a proposal that would both allow me to save face and my job.
Out in front of the store, there was a table with chairs that customers at the little market next door would sit at. The market closed early most days, and it was already late in the afternoon so the proprietors were gone. I told Lou to take a load off and kick back at that table and enjoy his drink. He thought it was a grand idea and proceeded to do so.
It wasn’t as if this new drinking location was a clandestine one: it was still out in the open, in plain view of everybody walking by or driving through the parking lot. And it wasn’t as if Liberty Lou was at all concerned with hiding what he was doing: he was having a splendid time, drinking his forty very conspicuously.
To be honest, Dionysus, the thing that weighed heaviest on me at that moment was the fact that I did not have my own beer. My palms started to sweat, and I couldn’t get my mind off of getting something in me as soon as I could. I couldn’t even focus on the funny book I was reading; I was a covetous comic store clerk if there ever was one.
Enter the local constables, all twirling whimsical nightsticks and whistled tunes out of sideways cheeks and ill fitting uniforms over droll fat rolls.
Well, not exactly, but that’s what they looked like to me. I don’t know what they looked like to Lou, but they hauled him away in the back of a patrol car for being drunk in public. It wasn’t that big a deal for him; it had happened many times before. Although I can’t recall whether this incidence occurred before or after the time he kicked out the back window of a cop car from the inside while handcuffed. I always admired that one.
The cops didn’t bother to come into the store or ask me anything, which was fine by me. I was of the opinion that the less contact with cops the better.* As they were driving away, I walked out front of the store to wave farewell to Lou.
It was then that I noticed that the police had neglected to confiscate the beer, and had simply left it sitting by the table. They certainly didn’t seem to be trying very hard to change my conception of them as incompetent, Dionysus.
Unless, of course, they were setting a trap for me. Maybe they wanted two punks for the price of one, and they were just lying in wait for me to get greedy so they could catch me red handed.
So I waited. All of five minutes or so if I can remember correctly. Then I grabbed that half-full forty, hid it under my sweatshirt, locked up shop, and went straight home to celebrate my good fortune.
I didn’t even think about Liberty Lou, Dionysus, or what kinds of communicable diseases I could have gotten from that bottle.
The guy lived in a bush, for Christ’s sake.
</3 Sir Rateval Hurtlinge
P.S. As it turns out, I didn't get any diseases off that forty. I was mildly disappointed, as that would have almost certainly upped my punk points.