the night before my angiogram, i knew what i wanted to do. it was based on my plan of relative misery for the next few days. i intended to be stranded on my couch or in bed, like gilligan on the island. but sadly, mary ann would be nowhere nearby. so i needed an alternate companion. one that might play on a contraption made by the professor, hooked up to my 46-inch Sony Bravia. i wanted to rent a movie.
it would be my amicable ally as i dealt with whatever soreness and drug-induced infirmity the angiogram left me with. it would need to be something i could immerse myself in, and i knew exactly what would hit the spot.
i’d recently been thinking about robert de niro, having dinner with al pacino. with supporting appearances by val kilmer and ashley judd. i wanted to watch Heat.
on my way to take a co-worker home after quitting time, i stopped by the video store. their computer showed Heat to be in stock, but i couldn’t find it on the shelf. not wanting to make my passenger wait, i headed out to his neck of the woods: the arts community of Echo Park. painters, poets, ponderers, pot smokers, and petty criminals. all wrapped up in a patchwork of secondhand clothing, used books, indie coffee, and vintage vinyl. add a dirty lake and public urination, and you’ve got a true hipster paradise. after dropping off my associate, i returned home and prepared myself for the next day’s events. at 11:45, i realized how much i needed the movie. like john bobbitt said at the trial, the world just didn’t seem right without it. so i decided i should go back to the store and look a little more. maybe it had been misplaced into the wrong section.
i arrived at Odyssey Video at 11:56. they closed at midnight. there was a red zone right outside the doors, so considering the time crunch, i parked my car, front and center. ten feet from those glass portals into cinematic paradise.
i ran into the store and told the huge guy at the counter i was back to hunt down my movie; and just before i began my search, a lady bustled through the front door. but not an ordinary lady. not just some girl. far from a blend-into-the-crowd chick. because of her clothes. she was wearing a police uniform.
“whose car is this out front?”
“well, you need to come move it, right now. you’re illegally parked.”
out on the sidewalk, she again ordered me to move it immediately. i hurriedly got into the car, knowing i was in a race against time. i would have to pull down the block a ways, then sprint back into the building before they closed. i knew the store policy was to kick everyone out at midnight, so i was gonna be cutting it close. real close. maybe just enough time to scan Action-Adventure and Drama; maybe it was supposed to be in one, but had ended up in the other. there was also a “What’s Good” and an Academy Award section. maybe i’d find it there, while the last few customers were checking out. maybe it had been erroneously shelved in the new releases, but i wasn’t counting on an opportunity to find out. at this point, i’d be lucky to make it back into the store at all.
i quickly got into the car, bolstered in my speed by the lady cop’s instructions to get a move on. as i plunked down into the driver’s seat, i noticed another officer about 15 feet in front of my car, standing in the street. he was walking toward me angrily. as he closed the distance, his grimace grew more intense.
“Hold it right there, hold it right there! don’t close that door! open your door! open your door!!!!”
i did as he instructed, and what happened for the next four minutes or so was an ode to idiocy, as only a cop can sing it. maglite in the eyes, road-to-damascus style; flashlight in the back seat; a number of stupid questions, none of which were any of his business… my favorite:
(suspiciously) “why do you have so much stuff in your car????!!!!”
(deadpan) “because I keep a lot of stuff in my car.”
finally, the blue-suited maverick commanded me out of my vehicle.
“get against the car!” he yelled. “hands behind your back!”
he cuffed me, as i sighed…this seems about right…yep. i hadn’t been a smart aleck. i hadn’t been rude. i had answered every question, and done just as i was told. from the very moment the policeman with boobs had told me to relocate my car pronto.
WHY WAS I BEING HARRASSED AND CUFFED????!!!!
i remained against my Grand Marquis for a bit, while he berated me for being a…well…wait, what was i in trouble for again??
at a point where i can only guess he ran out of words for a moment, mr. big pants walked me over onto the sidewalk, and put me face-first against the cement exterior of my beloved choice for dollar rentals.
“why were you moving your car, huh?!!!! why were you moving your car?!”
“why were you in such a HURRY, huh?!!!!”
“because she told me—“
“why were you trying to get away?!!!!”
“i wasn’t trying to get—“
note: the woman, the one who’d told me to move my car, the one who was standing 4 feet from me while he gave me the 5th degree, never spoke up. never said she’d ordered me to move it at all. now, back to my man the maniac:
“you’re on DRUGS! i can TELL! oh, you’re DEFINITELY on drugs!!!!”
“no, i’m not.”
“oh yes you ARE!!!!”
“no, i’m not on drugs.”
his rant continued, chest out. shoulders back. chin up. what pride authority unfoundedly instills. duly noted. my educational night with co-ed law enforcement…empowered thighs, breasts, and…wings????
welcome to the barnyard of justice. my back to the street, my eyes were just inches from brick and mortar. crowing to the side of me, the blue-suited, badged rooster was really showing off in front of the hen. his face (or beak?) was right against mine. struttin’ his stuff, his nose was almost touching my cheek. like an Eskimo kiss of sweet police brutality. bock, bock, bock, bock, bocka!!!!
if i had a better sense of smell, i could’ve told him what he’d had for dinner. doughnuts? too easy.
what do dumb people eat?
“i know you’re on drugs!!!!”
“i’m not on drugs.”
“then why were you trying to escape, huh!!!!”
“i wasn’t trying to—“
“why are you acting like this?!!!! why are you so nervous?!!!! why are you so NERVOUS????!!!!!!!!”
okay, first of all, i wasn’t nervous. i was in a hurry; i was unhappy; but i wasn’t nervous. still, i love the fact that he can get in my face, barking at me with a baton and a gun on his belt, with the ability to arrest me and put me in jail, whether just or not, screaming that i am breaking the law and he “knows it,” and yet this same man can wonder why i might seem nervous.
“i’m not nervous. i wasn’t nervous. i was trying to move my car and get back into the store before they closed. I was just trying to rent a movie”
the movie. it was the reason I was here. but that reason was no longer a consideration. the door of the video store opened. the clerk was locking up. facing the building, i made eye contact with him. there I was, cuffed, being interrogated.
“i’m locking up now,” he said. goodbye, Heat. hello, a different kind.
and then, PHASE TWO; marked by a change in tense:
the cop draws a little closer. his body language tells me we’re gonna do the tango. i’m still stuck to the wall, but he’s wedging his way in…his nostrils flare as his utility-belted hips lurch forward. sly move. but I’m no pushover. I’m came tonight with the wall, mister; don’t just think you can cut in, in the middle of “our song!”
this guy is in HEAVEN. every meathead that ever pushed him against a locker is getting their what-for about now. every teacher who said he’d never amount to anything. the P.E. coach that mocked his chicken legs. the girlfriend who told him she’d found someone “better.” every insecure bone in his body, anorexic from an absence of nurtured confidence, is feeding on me. i’m the sacrificial lamb to account for the sins of his tormentors.
BOCK, BOCK, BOCK, BOCK, BOCK!!!!!!! BROCCCCKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
his accusations against me charge his ego and bug out his eyes. his nightstick–his metaphorical MIGHT stick, over charges that might stick–is extra firm. and his jackbooted toes tingle, knowing that tonight, he is the windshield and i am the bug.
he swells with power, like a cock doing the dance god made him for. each hard-spoken allegation thrills him, stiffening him erect as king of the chickens. add “hit” to that last word. he’s hitting bottom. i’m an unarmed civilian. better to prey on the weak. with backup. and backing up, at this moment, does not interest him. he moves forward.
he exhales. and bares down on me. he looks around. then moves even closer. his belligerent baritone becomes a conspiratorial hiss.
“you ssssssee that guy over there?”
cued by the gesture of his head, I look over to find yet another cop, about 15 feet away. standing beside a third squad car.
“that guy over there issss my bosssssss.
“now, do you want to embarrassssss me in front of my bossssss? huh? do you want to do that to me? are you telling me that you’re gonna make me sssssearch your clothessss, go through your car, through your backssseat, through your trunk…are you telling me that you’re gonna make me pull everything out of your car to find your drugs, instead of just confessing right now and going on to jail without a problem?”
his breath toasts my face, radiating like a bullying older brother’s fart. his voice grows more solid and angry.
“are you going to EMBARRASS me?? are you telling me, you’re going to DO THAT to me????”
“i’m not on drugs.”
“i know you’re on drugs!” BROCKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
“i’m not on drugs.”
“okay, well we’ll just SEE about that!!!!”
he turns me around. finally.
he pulls a pen from his pocket.
inexplicably straining as if he’s trying to make a left turn but the power steering’s out, he raises the pen in front of my face.
“okay. i’ll PROVE that you’re on drugs. follow this pen with your eyes.”
starting in the center, he moves the ball-pointed tool of imperialist science to my right…i follow…then it’s back to the middle…then far left…it continues on, beyond the reach of my periphery. so i turn my head to keep it in my sight.
BOCK BOCK BOCK “DON’T TURN YOUR HEAD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
he moves the pen back to the right. to his dismay, my eyes move in unison with it.
his face becomes sullen. i see for a moment a child, whose balloon has just escaped his grasp. the red ribbon is beyond reach, and now he is dwarfed by the height of a colored orb racing toward the clouds, never to return again.
for a moment, i feel sorry for this complete idiot.
okay, now time to get your groove back!–
he drops his arms, and clucks around for a while. nobody sees it but me. about a five foot radius. on the sidewalk. struts and clucks. he picks up a worm with his mouth. gobbles it down. and pecks at the ground. his feathers are ruffled.
what erupts next is a wing-flapping, pigeon-necked fit. punctuated by a loud “errr errrr errrr errrr ERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!” into the night.
and then, he turns me around and uncuffs me.
“don’t ever park your car there again, or we’ll TOW it!!!!” BROCKKKKKKKKKKKKKKKK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
and so suddenly exits the foul–or fowl–police presence from my life. my movie-less life.
if only i had his address… how could i thank him? and where could i get a bucket of chicken, this time of night?
i drove home and sat on the couch. i’d never “stewed” before. but this night, as i sat there and time ticked away, i gradually became the soup that eats like a meal. what was WRONG with this guy? and if he’s so OBSERVANT as to “tell” i was on drugs, then he should’ve been far perceptive enough, as he was cuffing my wrists, to notice that i was wearing a MEDICAL ID bracelet. one that says “seizure risk.” or who knows what it might have said. stress causes seizures in epileptics. so far as he knew, his pressing of me could’ve caused a fatal episode. he literally could have killed me, for all he knew.
all i wanted was the movie i’d been thinking about for weeks. but a 5 minute trip to that end turned into a 20 minute waste of tax payer money, a 25 minute waste of my time, degraded video store relations, and a desire to turn the Policeman’s Ball into a scene from Carrie. all i wanted was a scene from Heat. where robert deniro has dinner with al pacino. a cop. and a robber. tonight, my cop was both of those.
and so it goes…
…but compared to the issue that lay in my head like an egg, Brewster the Rooster was chicken feed. it was time to let it go. it was time for bed. tomorrow would bring a new chapter. chapter 31.