Friday, November 19, 2010

The Goodest Samaritan? Part II

It's good to be back in my domicile with the turntable my friend Ralph gifted me, listening to vinyl and smoking maduro cigars.  The house is in order with a new coffee table and a new dining table, and I vacuumed and picked up.  Nice to feel centered.  I did the wash yesterday.  Oh, and I also hung new shower curtains today.

I've been tearing through my scratchy vinyl collection since I got the turntable and have been happily reminded of one of the most underrated singer-songwriters of all time, Gordon Lightfoot.  He rivals the Beatles for melody and his studio work in his golden years is spotless.  And he moves me.

Here are his four best albums, recorded late 60s through early 70s:  "If You Could Read My Mind," "Don Quixote," "Sundown," and "Cold on the Shoulder."  Hearing them again put me in mind of his genius.  Unfortunately, when I've seen him live, he never varied from the recordings much. I always like to see a little extra live, but I guess Gordon just never learned how to rock out.

My last post ended with a reference to jail so let me address that.

When Humphrey and I finally arrived in Hillsboro, Oregon, where he was supposed to connect with a waitress for his house key, as his key was taken when he was robbed (of course the bar was under new management and nobody knew anything about a waitress), I was first stopped by a policeman for having my license plate light bulb out. 

Logically, a policeman's headlights should sufficiently illuminate the rear end of a car, one should think, to read the plate, but for this bored officer with nothing to do it constituted an emergency.  He let me go with a verbal "fix-it" warning.  I thought it a bit strange, particularly as he stopped me at night.  He was wearing Devo-style glasses that looked a lot like swim goggles.  So maybe he was a Dragon and Dungeon nerd in uniform.  But what can I say?  There must be a law about the bulb so he was only doing his job--albeit a bit obsessively?

All the police cars in this oppressive suburb are painted pure black and sneak up on you at night from hidden alleys.  I was stopped a second time for running a yellow light.  I did speed up a bit to make the light, but I did not run a red light nor exceed the speed limit, and my whole van was in the intersection while the light was yellow, and I'd swear that on a stack of Bibles (if Jesus hadn't told me not to swear).

Nevertheless, that was the pretext for three cop cars to pull me over.  I parked next to a hospital, fortuitously.  For during or after my arrest, Humphrey had an emphysema attack and took his walker, his sleeping bag and his traveling bag and hoofed and huffed it over to the ER and that's the last I've seen or heard of him.  According to his promises, he owes me $2500, but I haven't looked him up online yet.  He strikes me as the sort of paranoid individual who wouldn't be listed in any case.

The arresting officer was good-looking, full head of dark hair with silver sideburns, normal weight and fit.  He was also courteous and polite, two rare things in a police officer, especially one with 15 years' experience.  I found out he was single and likes to work the graveyard shift.  In any case I would rate him as an all-around nice guy, as when he cuffed me I asked him to make it loose, and he did.  My experience with police in the past has been that when you make that request they screw them tighter in sadistic glee just to show you who's boss.  Officer Snyder didn't do that, God bless him.

He said he smelled wine on my breath and was correct.  After failing to get a key at the bar Humphrey had indicated, a bar that took us over half an hour to find (it wasn't until that point that I realized that Humphrey not only suffered peripheral neurological deficits but that his noodle and memory were affected as well, though he blamed everything on his poor vision, another consequence of his neurodegenerative illness), I took a break from Humphrey to clear my mind and had one glass of old vine Zinfandel at a wine bar on the main drag in Hillsboro.  It was a good glass of wine and comforted me as I began walking back to the van, trying to decide where we should park for the night to sleep without getting rousted. 

I told the officer that I had indeed had one glass of wine but was sober and happy to grace a breathalyzer with my exhalations.  Sadly in Oregon they rely upon the clinical expertise of the officer, not a machine.  By his lights Officer Snyder thought me intoxicated, especially since his flashlight could evince nystagmus in my eyes.  But who wouldn't have nystagmus after driving hundreds of miles, especially at night?  I told him I couldn't pass the heel-to-toe or one-leg- raising tests because of the nerve damage to my lower extremities from failed surgery, as well as the generalized neuropathy my neurologist discovered.  He told me to do my best.  My best wasn't good enough.  On came the cuffs.  Have I told you how much I hate handcuffs?  They burn like the Elves' cord Frodo used as a leash on Gollum.  Must be something about my allergy to the Beast.

After nearly two hours in the waiting area of the jail, Snyder finally tested my breath and I blew a 0.00 % alcohol level, which blew his mind.  So he called the "DRE" (Drug-Related Expert) to give me a further evaluation, but he was in some other county, so he next asked me for urine.  I prayed about this, and it seemed only another way for the State to screw me, especially if they found trace metabolites of clonazepam, which I sometimes take for sleep.  If they found such metabolites they might try to build a case against me as intoxicated on prescription drugs.  So I declined.  Snyder told me that my license could be suspended indefinitely if I refused.  "My CA license?" I asked.  He called someone and said, "No, it only applies to Oregon."  To which I replied, "No urine, then."  (What I really wanted to say is unprintable.)

Then it was off to the tombs, a too-cold shower, my teeth chattering, then into the ill-fitting jumpsuit and a concrete bed with a thin mat on it at 6 AM, 8 hours after my arrest. 

I think the greatest torture of the arrest process is the inefficiency of the system, the interminable waiting for law enforcement monkeys to hunt-and-peck their endless reports out while the prisoner remains cold, uncomfortable and inconceivably bored.

The next day our "pod" was hauled off to a "vestibule" where we awaited transportation to our arraignment.  Before transport they called out my name and two others.  The other bros said, "Hey, that means you get to go!"  And  indeed, though it took four more hours, that's what happened. 

At 6:15 PM on Tuesday, November 16 (my daughter Keturah's birthday, and I did remember to call her) I was released onto the streets of Hillsboro--a dangerous man with a 0.00 alcohol level and a dastardly license plate light bulb extinguished.  Why they let me back out on the streets I'll never know.  I did have the uncomfortable sense that they were just cats toying with their prey, however, as if they released me just to mess with me again.  But with all the fervency of intention I could summon, by 7:30 PM I girded my loins and prepared to drive all night to get back to my beloved California, and did exactly that.

(To be continued.)


Craig Erick

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