Monday, April 13, 2009
In no way am I condoning or advocating drinking and driving. In the fashion of the great Czech writer, Franz Kafka, I wish only to portray what happens to the individual under Draconian, police-state conditions.
In jail for the first time... 51 years old, imagine. Look at this place. Must be the holding pen where they keep the pigeons ‘til bail’s posted. If you don't have the hard cash, you go in with the hard‑core prison population no matter how trivial the charge—like debtor's prison in the nineteenth century. Unless, of course, your friends or relatives go see a bail bondsman and let him in on the action at an exorbitant interest rate. The system feeds on itself—more or more bloodsuckers jumping in at every turn. Otherwise, no money, you stay in the can.
What a down. Can barely believe it. Nothing to do, that's the problem...
Sit on the bunk bed, maybe... That’s the only decision you have to make, or not. That's it... Sit on the bed... Yes, makes sense... What a great idea!
What the fuck else am I gonna do? Not much sense staring at the other cells across the cement floor with all the stubby lines and circles painted on. The fronts of the cells look like tight chain-link fencing soaked in drab gray paint rather than old-fashioned iron bars. Can barely see anybody anyway, so what’s the point of even looking out? There’s a young black guy on the other side trying to tell a cop something; I don’t know whether he’s a gang member or a deaf mute trying to use sign language. Jesus, there’s a big clock above the U-shaped arrangement of cells, but I can’t see the time from this angle. These bastards won’t even give you the time!
Cellmate's asleep... wrapped in a grimy blanket with moth holes like a fast food burrito that mice got to. Just lying there. Looks half dead. Big fuck. Wonder what he's in for. Better not wake him. Gotta be smart in here. Street smart. It'd be pretty stupid to wake this guy to ask him what he's in here for, that's for sure.
Man, just four hours ago you were in your favorite clothing-optional resort frolicking in the pool, cavorting with playful damsels, enjoying the royal palms, yellow lilacs and lavender lilies… Debbie looked so elegant with nothing on. What could be more personable, agreeable to mind and body, than a gracile nymphet teaching aerobics? She’s educating you on the importance of good health and feeling fit, and at the same time saturating your field of vision with curvy loveliness.
How about the guy from Key West with that loquacious parrot? You’d swear the feathery creature could speak conversational English. It had larger vocabulary than some of the kids you grew up with. Nearly won the chip for a free drink in au natural water volleyball with Bonnie and Mandy and the rest of the crowd. Hadn't had so much fun since teen-age days in the Poconos. Remember?
Now you’re here, sitting on this bunk wondering what this big lug’s in for. Talk about change of reality. The only people that fell from heaven to hell this fast are O.J. and the Shah of Iran... Maybe Fatty Arbuckle in the ‘20s on that trumped up rape charge. Authorities proved his innocence decades later after they destroyed his career. Wonder what happened to him.
Remember that song, “What a difference a day makes—24 little hours”? What a difference a minute makes. One minute you're riding down the highway in a sparkling clean, jet black Cougar with Mafia‑tinted windows, listening to Puccini, happy as can be, suntanned, massaged and robust, healthy and feeling great, contemplating how to be a soldier in the War to Save the Environment. The next minute you're a low life in jail.
So much for divine providence. Murphy's Law and Chaos Theory are the only designers of destiny. That’s for sure. Unless God's a prankster out to revenge every trivial peccadillo since Adam and Eve ate that stupid apple... For drinking a six‑pack of Michalob you’re in for the hassle of your life: months of expensive counseling, waiting in line at the DMV, license revoked, hours in court, hard-ass parole officers, listening to ex-offenders harangue you for being as stupid as they are.
Looks like he's waking up... He's not too big, about six feet. Hope he's not in here for any violent crimes, rape or something. Maybe he's a murderer... Nah, they wouldn't put me in with a hard‑core criminal. You’re just a drunk driver... never committed a crime, never had an accident, never been in jail. Look, Officer, I didn’t want to kill any babies; I just wanted to get home from the party. You expect me to walk home from Tampa ‘cause I drank some beer? Says 'Safe Driver' right on my license. They wouldn't...
There, look at that... Looks like a yellow traffic ticket sticking out of the big fuck’s pants pocket... Must've been drinking and driving too. They segregate all the drunks ‘cause they know you're not hard‑core criminals. Federal judges and high‑ranking clergymen probably get behind the wheel with more than two drinks every once in a while, fa Christ's sake. Upstate NY troupers found Police Commissioner W--- dead drunk asleep at the wheel on the side of the Thruway. He grunted, “You can’t bust me; I’m the police commissioner.”
There, he's waking up, rolling over and moaning after a night of nasty dreams... Talk to him. He looks all right. Had an acne problem as a teenager, that's for sure... and those teeth, looks like he brushes his teeth when he feel likes it, rather than at a set time during the day. Probably works as a truck driver, or a fast order cook… It's Florida, man, who the hell you expect to meet in jail? A physics professor from Cal Tech. Talk to him... It's okay. He won't bite. Can always yell for help if he gets violent or crazy. But the guards are probably in the office drinking coffee, eating doughnuts and reading the sports pages. They might not hear me... Better be careful.
"Hi man. Name's Rich Bozlicki. Looks like you and me are in here for the same thing."
Holy shit... He's a lot bigger than six feet... and he's got a scar on his neck! How the hell can you get a two‑inch scar by your Adam’s apple without getting killed? Oh, yea, that’s right, medical procedures. But this is jail. He’s around 6’4”, deep-set black eyes and one of those death tattoos on his massive upper right arm, with RIP inscribed in a scroll wrapped around a sinister Gothic cross. He probably thinks I'm a dipshit. Maybe he's one of Mike Tyson's sparring partners, harmless except in the ring. Hope his name's not Bubba.
"Oh... really," he answers, placing his left hand akimbo, a mannerism I didn't expect from a rugged‑looking guy his size.
"Yeh, I was driving home from my favorite resort with a six pack of beer under my belt. Even had an open bottle of Mic in the driver's console. Was mad at all the cops and politicians that get busted for DUI and just flash their badges and drive off like nothing happened. Was listening to classical music, philosophizing about Gaia... the Mother Earth I mean, happy as can be. But I didn't realize how tired I was. Didn't get any sleep the night before...was working all night; couldn't fight off the fatigue. Somebody with a cell phone nailed me as soon as I strayed over the striped line from the middle lane. No accident, no reckless driving, just strayed over the center lane for a second and now I'm in jail. How about you, whad-ya in for?"
"Oh, they caught me blowing a guy under the lifeguard stand at Cochina Beach."
"Oh! I see..." How the fuck do you act nonchalant? What the hell do you say now? Don't say a word, stupid. Just back up and sit on the bunk. That's it. Take that filthy pillow and bury your head in it.
There's the guard walking by... That's him, the strabismic fuck, Biles, the correction officer that brought you in here.
"Officer... Officer, can you help me a second? I need to call my wife on that payphone over there... to see how long it'll take her to get the $500 to bail me out. She doesn’t get out of work until the banks close, and the ATMs only dispense $200 max."
"Sure,” he answered with a friendly avuncular air. “Just let me go over to the other side to see what those guys want, then I'll come over here and get you, okay?"
You feel like kissing his hand and telling him how wonderful he is. You wanna tell ‘im. “Officer, can I kiss the tips of your shiny black shoes? Let me polish your badge for ya… I gotta get outta here before I go crazy. I’m an aesthete: I love Beethoven and the Louvre Museum, and the Yosemite National Park. Did you know Francisco Goya was the first artist to protest war?”
There he goes... over to the other side. He'll be right back to get me. Nydia will tell you she's got the bail money and she's on the way. You’ll be out of here in two hours. Free at last! Free at last! How can you last that long? Two whole hours!
Oh, no. He wouldn't... he just said... mothafucka... That cross‑eyed bastard is heading right for the guard's room to drink coffee, eat doughnuts and read the sports pages. They’re probably watching professional wrestling on a black and white TV. It's only been two minutes and he's forgotten me already. Who said, "Hell is where there is no reason?"1
Don't say a word. You can't get depressed unless you let yourself get depressed. Just step over to the bunk and curl up in a nice tight fetal position and wait for your family to rescue you. That's all you can do. Let your consciousness leave your body and float above like a kite. Remember when you were driving a cab in NYC in college days? Whenever some obnoxious rowdy passengers got in, you’d just project your mind outside and let them yell and scream their heads off.
That’s it… Your mind is floating at the ceiling. That’s your body down there. You’re just a hulk of flesh, a glob of protoplasm curled up on a wiry bunk bed. Look at that; there are some teeth marks on the bed spring.
“Go ‘head, ya fucks, do anything you want to me. That’s not me, I’m up here. Go ‘head, rape me. Beat the crap out of me. Club me with those stupid night sticks. Stick pins in me; pull my hair out. Feed me those repulsive bologna sandwiches with that unpalatable American cheese. I don’t give a damn because I’m up here. That’s just my bleary mass of a body—an inert half sack of rice with all the air out.”
You wish. Who ya kiddin’? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could do that? Just project our consciousness in the manner of Mishimashi Yogi. Nice try. You’ll try any crazy ruse when you’re desperate. There’re no atheists in a foxhole. If that cellmate of yours just looks at you tough, you’d piss in your pants.
That's right… Wrap this wormy gray blanket over your head and look out through the moth holes at the wall. That's all you can do... Lie still, so you look like a ghost or dead man. Just stare at that rectangular concrete slab covered with the drab tan paint. Just breathe slowly and deeply. Let yourself linger at the brink of consciousness. Breathe slowly... deeply; your eyelids are getting heavy... Just stare at the wall... That's all there is to do.
You’re in jail, but it’s not all that bad. Remember when you almost got busted in your hippie days? Could've done some real time then... Remember? That cop caught you red‑eyed and red‑handed with a half ounce of African grass, right in your overcoat inner pocket. What an irony that with all the stuff I did in the '60s, that I'm in jail now 40 years later for doing a lousy six pack of beer.
It seems like yesterday... it must have been May, 1969—the days of the Electric Circus, Dillon, Woodstock and Timothy Leary. We were across the street from the Plaza Hotel by the Central Park wall at the corner of 59th Street and Fifth—right by the horse carriages. A wonderful farm smell pervaded the air as the doorman opened limo doors for chichi guests returning from a night on the town. Kelly Stiles and I were smoking a joint, waiting for John Donley to get off from driving his Hanson Cab around the park. It was prom time and Daisy had to trot around the 15‑minute bike path a lot of times to earn her oats.
What a beautiful time it was—spring, NYC in the deep night, 26 years old. Kelly was one of the most beautiful girls I'd ever seen. Looked like Ingrid Bergman trying not to cry in that great scene in For Whom the Bell Tolls, as Gary Cooper tells her that he'll never see her again, that she had to be brave, that she had to do the living for both of them. Makes you want to cry just thinking about it. Kelly had short brunette hair, though—only difference. She had that same angelic, child's face and graceful athletic body. She loved me deeply. The passion of youth is life's sweetest memory.
"Oh, Mr. Bozlicki, I can't believe we're here smoking this weed together; it seems like yesterday that I was in your biology class. Remember that silly uniform the nuns made us wear? I didn't even feel like a female. We were just obedient little clones." Her voice was feminine and sweet; she passed me the half‑smoked joint. "I can't get out of the habit of calling you Mr. Bozlicki; don't forget I had you for algebra and trig too... you were my teacher for three years."
"And now you're a fashion model on 7th Avenue, strutting up and down the catwalk and pouting wistfully, flaunting your yearning hazel eyes with 'eat your hearts out, boys!' And every guy and lesbian in the audience gets turned on. Now you're making more money than all of us."
"Human pin cushions; that's what I am. I've got to change clothes about 10 to 12 times a day. It's tough work. They don't pay us for nothing."
"You learned what I taught you," I responded, without letting any air out of my chest. "Hey, look at the squirrel staring at us in that oak over there. Think he smells the smoke? D'ya think squirrels get high? Make sure you blow the smoke over the wall so the squirrel gets a whiff and not somebody walking down the avenue."
"Oh, who cares? It's one o'clock in the morning in New York City. Anybody offended by a little grass is home in bed by now."
She unbuttoned my scruffy suede overcoat and snuggled her torso close to mine to capture some body heat from the chilly NYC breezes. I can still feel her firm cupcake-size breasts pressed upon my chest, as she wrapped her right arm tight around my waist and pulled the left half of my warm coat around her shoulders. Her steady andante heartbeat reminded me of Beethoven’s Moonlight. "I owe you so much!" she continued in the most sensual voice I've ever known. "You’ve changed my life. I was seriously thinking of becoming a nun, imagine. My Uncle Dominic almost had my parents convinced I should enter the Carmelite order. If I were in Mr. Plenari's Bio class instead of yours, I'd probably be wearing a habit right now."
I can still picture the catch‑me‑if‑you‑can, smiley, confident look on the squirrel's face; the grass helped me concentrate with the eye of a telephoto lens. Holding an acorn smugly in its forelimbs like a child propped up by the elbows in front of a TV set, the squirrel dug its hind claws securely into the trunk of the oak tree. I pointed to the old tree about ten yards away.
"That's a red oak, Kelly, genus Querus. The white oak doesn't have such pointy leaves. It's easy to tell the difference: the white oak has round, lobular leaves. The other American species is called 'live oak,' like the ones in Gone With the Wind. They're found only in the South—much more sprawling. Some are even shaped like a human brain, with the trunk of the tree simulating the human vertebral column. If people only realized how close we are to that tree at the biochemical level, the earth wouldn’t be in such peril now. We’d leave the Amazon Rain Forest alone. Remember? Did I ever teach you that in bio class? Humans should have a deep love for oaks, because there's a good chance that we evolved from Dryopithicus, the 'oak‑tree ape.' That's what Louis Leaky's proconsul was, the parent of all the great apes. We feel comfortable and happy just being near oak trees. Gibbons, their closest living progeny, were actually heard singing love songs to their mates. This may be why music sounds so soothing to us. But a lot of paleontologists believe Ramapithicus was the parent hominoid—"2
Dropping the roach by our feet, Kelly began gently kissing my neck and I could feel the heat of passion rushing through our arteries.
I tried to continue undistracted, "Plenari taught bio class from the point of view of Creationism. How about the wasp that paralyzes its grasshopper prey, then lays its eggs in the abdomen of the helpless creature? We don’t know the level of consciousness of the grasshopper, but does that sound like the work of a Beneficent Designer? What a joke. Any bio teacher who doesn't teach evolution is a phony. To teach biology is to explain the story of evolution, period. We grew out of the planet just like that squirrel over there. The atoms that make up our bodies were once parts of exploding stars. We’re so lucky to be what we are. If the dinosaurs didn't extinct exactly when they did, mammalia never would have radiated into the vacated environment. If people could only realize how wonderful it is to be human, how lucky we are, we'd all be living for this life.—like John Lennon says. People wouldn't treat each other so badly, wouldn't waste so much time; we'd live to have fun and appreciate the fact that we're ephemerons, like mayflies. Remember what I taught you about mayflies, when we studied entomology—"
"Screw the mayflies," she interrupted again, pressing her youthful breasts closer into me, looking into my eyes with burning passion. "What did you teach us about sex? That's what I forgot. Tell me again."
"That we’re custodians of our genes. That genes control much of our behavior. And genes function only to replicate the information they carry. There could be ten billion people by the end of the century and our genes would still be urging us to procreate more. Genes don't care about the individual and they don't care about the species."3
"And what about the place of sex in our lives?"
"That sex is the greatest trade‑off in the history of the planet. If sexual reproduction didn't evolve, and asexual reproduction continued, we wouldn't have to die. Nature sacrificed the individual so the species can vary from one generation to the next, so life can adapt to the changing environment. Being we have to pay just a high price for sex, our very existence, we should enjoy every second of it. Next to our career and family, sex should be the most important part of our lives. Orgasm is the only moment in our lives when the ego dissolves into the collective subconscious and we feel God‑like euphoria, what the Buddhists call satori."
Kelly passionately grabbed a fistful of my shoulder-length hair and turned my face toward her hazel eyes. "Oh, Rich, take me home this minute and fuck me while I still have this glorious high. I love you deeply; you've done so much for me. You've taught me so many wonderful things, you've made me a philomath. Once we reject organized religion, love of learning and hope for humanity is all we have left.” She averted her eyes toward the red oak. “You know, the girls at work think I'm weird because I'm reading Oedipis Rex during lunch. Here Sophocles was an Athenian general during the Peloponnesian War and still had time to become one of the world's greatest playwrights. You know how tough you had to be in the Greek army—and he was a general. Now, they think I'm strange because I make the time to read his plays. I think they're strange for knowing so much about TV sitcoms and movie stars, and so little about Sophocles.”
I can still feel her moist breath on my cheeks, as I focused on her Ingrid Bergman lips. “Remember the verse from The Merchant of Venice you were into last year? Tonight is such a night.”
(I picked up on the tread and tried to speak as softly and sweetly as I could out of respect for the beauty and melodic flow of the verse,)
The moon shines bright: In such a night as this,
When the sweet wind did gently kiss the trees
And they did make no noise, in such a night
Troilus methinks mounted the Trojan walls,
And sigh’d his soul toward the Grecian tents,
Where Cressida lay that night.
(For the moment she was my sweet Jessica, as chilly Manhattan breezes nipped at our ears. She followed,)
In such a night
Did Thisbe fearfully o’erstrip the dew,
And saw the lion’s shadow ere himself,
And ran dismay’d away.
(The words flowed so easily; I remembered the lines without trying, )
In such a night
Stood Dido with a willow in her hand
Upon the wild sea-banks, and wav’d her love
To come again to Carthage.
(I knew I couldn’t out-night my exuberant Kelly, )
In such a night
Did Kelly seduce the naive Rich Bozlicki to Astoria
Where she sucked his dick, till he came with sighs of sweet ecstasy.
Right then... the timing couldn't have been better. I'd forgotten about the joint Kelly dropped on the ground minutes before. A flashlight glared in our eyes, and we squinted trying to see what the hell was going on. The fall from the sublime to the contemptible only takes a second.
There was one of New York City's Finest with the callous grin of a Cheshire cat ravishing a mouse in its claws. A close‑shaven, crew‑cut head was sticking out of an impeccably clean police uniform, scanning Kelly's lissome body and peering into her eyes, looking for redness so he could be sure we were the ones who dropped the roach. His collar appeared a little tight, so his face flushed pinker than his hands. "Well, well, what have we here? You two haven't been smoking dope, have you?"
"Oh no, Officer," I came back as strongly as I possibly could with a half ounce of ganja in my inner coat pocket. This is one of the few instances in my life when I felt justified in deliberately lying, yet angry that I had to sacrifice my personal integrity. To tell the truth would've been unforgivably stupid. To say: "Oh, yeh, Officer, of course we were smoking this great grass. Care for a toke?" would be a reply an inveterate masochist wouldn't make. Answering the question truthfully would mean the bureaucratic hassle of a lifetime. The point is: the laws of New York State are not only making criminals of its citizens—there’s more the two million souls wasting away in jail as I speak—but even contemptible liars. If they locked up every person in the state that ever smoked a joint illegally, there’d be more people in jail than out in the streets. In the state of Georgia it's illegal to have oral sex, even with one's spouse. A couple with a natural and healthy sexual desire becomes criminal and deviant by fulfilling a natural, victimless, harmless and pleasurable need. The laws make hypocrites of its citizens as well.
This was a tiny bit of marijuana by my standards—grass that I use for my own private religious purposes, because I feel physically closer to nature. It helps me realize the squirrel and I are in the same class of vertebrates, mammalia. In the most basic religious sense, I believe that humanity is an outgrowth of nature—at the atomic level. I am what I am because the universe is what it is. Humans evolved to fit a niche of nature, and I appreciate and enjoy this fact. And this prick, this defender of morality, who probably likes to go to hockey games and smack his kids around so that other kids won't smack them around, by law has the right to assume that I’m a criminal and that I'm going to sell the stuff. I'd just as soon sell my Richard Tucker- autographed libretto of Aida that I waited hours by the Met stage door to acquire. Catholics worship a man who was executed as a criminal, kneel down to kiss rotting bones and sacred rings, and drink symbolic blood—not just transmogrified wine, but through the miracle of transubstantiation, real half‑human blood!—and I'm considered weird, because I like to get high and swim sans bathing suit in the great Panthalassic Ocean where all life began.
Just that moment, as I squinted painfully in the intrusive beam of light, John, who had brought Daisy back to the stable on West 87th Street and had finally gotten off from work, came jauntily strolling down Fifth to the scene of the crime. He spotted Kelly and me trying to keep our composure, with the police officer leaning over us and nervously rapping his nightstick in the palm of his free hand. John stood there, a full 6’6,” wearing a Civil War overcoat that General Pierre Beauregard would've felt comfortable in when he started the Civil War, tawny hair parted in the middle down to his shoulders, lumber boots, and John Lennon, round‑brim, rose‑colored sunglasses at night. Knowing he was clean, he lumbered up to the cop and smiled beguilingly: "C’mon, Officer, do we look like the type that would be smoking grass on Fifth Avenue in the middle of the night?"
The cop jerked his head back, as if he'd just received the painful communication that he just lost his favorite gun. He looked down at the simmering roach a yard away from my shoes. "All right, you two, get lost... right now," he demanded, nodding to John and me to take off toward the 59th Street Subway Station, as if he knew we lived in Astoria. With the grass in my pocket I could do nothing but obey, but John protested, "You don't have authority to make us leave our friend."
"Shut up, or I'll run the three of you down to Chambers Street right now. You'll wind up in the House of Detention before the night's over. I just want to talk to the young lady a minute."
"Come on, John," I urged with a cowardly tremor in my voice. I knew we could walk off, then watch to see that nothing happened to Kelly. We could always call the police, if the prick tried anything. At least we'd be away with the incriminating evidence.
When we got to the entrance of the subway, we turned around to observe the cop approaching Kelly. The Crusaders of Baldwin of Flanders, who massacred in the name of God thousands of defenseless civilians of Jerusalem during the First Crusade, couldn't have looked more lustful than this cop, as he approached my sweet darling.
"What's a nice attractive girl like you doing out this late with a worthless bum like him?" He nervously kept tapping his nightstick against his thigh, like a kid who had to take a desperate piss. He seemed to be putting on a coquettish demeanor, as if to say: 'Come on baby, why don't you get yourself a real man?' Can't you see he's nothing but a no‑good hippie? You oughtta be out with somebody more respectable, more manly."
"I'm over 18. You have no right to be giving me advice. That bum happens to be my former science teacher in high school. He's taught me everything from the trigonometric identities to the evolutionary radiation of early ape-men during the early Pleistocene. He's taught me knowledge your grandchildren will never learn. So, please get out of my way and don't try to stop me. My father's a lawyer; you better have a more substantial charge other than that lousy roach on the ground that anybody might have thrown."
Kelly determinedly slipped through the free space between the park wall and the cop, ran over to us, and we embraced like we had just scored the tie-breaking goal at the World Cup. John whistled for a cab and the cop stood on the corner, scratching his head with a bewildered look…
The dull brown rectangular slab of concrete was still there. All I could do is stare helplessly and reminisce with the dreams of an old man. I am a fly trapped helplessly in a spider web of red tape; I thought I was a butterfly! Twice these upholders of the law and morality have broken into my life's most sublime, wondrous moments with their glaring lights and sirens. At last, they finally got me where I belong for my heretical beliefs. Maybe grass does congeal the billion and a half neurons of my fabulous brain, like eggs on a frying pan.
1. This is a line from Francis F. Coppola's movie, Apocalypse Now, describing the conditions in Viet Nam at the end of the war.
2. Hominoid: The term refers to the great apes plus the hominids, our early ape-man ancestors including the Australopithecines and the early humans such as Homo habilis and H. erectus. Proconsul was a hominoid.
3. This event happened 17 years before Richard Dawkins’ illustrious and important book, The Selfish Gene, was published in 1976.