Last night I went to see Les Claypool at the Brooklyn Bowl. I’d never been to the venue before, but essentially it’s a combination night club and bowling alley, with sixteen lanes, a full-service bar, some T.V.’s showing the Mets and Yankee games, and a stage with a dance floor in front of it. For those that were bowling, there were monitors up above the lanes so they could see what was happening when the show started. I liked the setup, and I had a great time. Les Claypool is the bass player for Primus, when they’re touring together, and he’s had a very successful solo career as well. In addition to bass, he also plays several less easily identifiable things, and he’s backed up by two percussion guys and a cello player. His band comes out in tuxes, and animal masks that are really pretty grotesque; they remind me of the masks that the ghosts are wearing in The Shining, during the last third of the movie where Nicholson is going insane. Claypool starts out the show dressed in his traditional silk shirt, vest, and bowler hat, but during the show he’ll periodically leave the stage and come back out wearing a pig or a monkey mask. It’s a concert, but it’s also a bit of a burlesque show and a carnival attraction. All in all, it’s a pretty wild ride, and Les and all of his band are undoubtedly great musicians. This is the third time I’d seen him, I think, the previous two times being the High Sierras Festival in ’05 and Summer Camp in Illinois in ’08, and he’s never disappointed. He’s a freaky guy, and he always draws a freaky crowd.
I was coming home on the N train when it all went horribly wrong. I’d transferred to the N at 14th Street/Union Square, in Manhattan, and since it was past midnight the N was running local, which means several more stops and at least an additional half hour added to the trip. I had my I-Pod with me, though, so I was listening to some tunes to pass the time. I’d managed to snag one of the handicap accessible seats; they’re two seaters, four of them in each car total, and they’re the best seats to get, since oftentimes you can have the seat to yourself and not be crammed in with a bunch of other passengers. I had my feet up on the seat next to me and was sort of huddled against the wall, dozing, when, at 36th Street, about fifteen minutes from home, I was rudely awakened. I was yanked off the train by a police officer, who demanded my driver’s license, checked to see if I had any warrants out for me, then proceeded to write me a fifty dollar ticket. The charge? “Taking up two seats on the train.” Because I had my feet up on the seat, I was issued a citation.
Now, granted, the officer was perfectly in his legal right. You’re not supposed to have your feet up on the seat. But couldn’t he have let me off with a warning? There were actually a total of four cops there on the platform, and they were doing sweeps of each train as it went by. They were looking for other people who had their feet up on the seats, just like me, and man, the bounty was good. There were people on each and every train with their feet up on the seats…because you know what? That’s just what people do late at night. It’s not like the train was crowded. There were plenty of seats available, if someone had gotten on and wanted to sit down. I was committing a victimless crime, and I’m sure these officers were aware of that. What they were doing, in my opinion, amounted to a flagrant misuse of manpower…especially in light of the fact that more serious subway crimes, like murder, for instance, are up significantly since last year. Just as a suggestion, why could these officers not have been assigned to the areas of the subway where violent crime is up, not busting people because their feet are up on the seat? It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
Worst yet was the fact of how much the officer was clearly enjoying my anger that this was happening. He was fairly grinning the whole time, knowing that he’d caught me red-handed and that he could hit me with the fine or let me go as he so chose. I was entirely at his mercy. And there’s no two ways about it, having that power over others is why the majority of people become cops. They want the rush; they want to be able to swagger around in uniform and count themselves as being above the average citizen. Much as I wanted to mouth off at the guy, I also didn’t want to spend a night in jail. So I was the bigger man; I kept my trap shut, took the ticket, and waited for the next train to come. I sent the check off today. I could have disputed the charge, but what was the point? I’d rather not take the time. It’s easier to pay the fifty dollars and move on, but man, what a lousy end to what had otherwise been a really nice evening. It’s not like I’m using money for toilet paper at this point in my life; this came at a really inopportune time. The only consolation I take is that the M.T.A. is trying to close a huge budgetary gap, and they’re slashing jobs, train lines, and student discount cards left and right. I know I did my part now. I contributed fifty of my hard-earned dollars to the problem. But make no mistake, I hate cops. I’ve never had a good encounter with the police. I see right through them. The only ones they’re ever out to serve and protect are themselves, and last night was just another example of that. Police, know this. You’re going to be on my shit-list, always and forever, every motherless rat-fuck one of you, and I wouldn’t piss on you if you were on fire…or if you paid me fifty dollars to do it.