Friday, September 30, 2005

Riding Between Cars Is Prohibited

Friday. I need a break from the 2005, from being 48, from being consumed with the Oil Mafia and their systematic dismantling of America...

1979. That was the year that I was graduated from college. Armed with my BA in Psychology and the confidence that I would soon be able to escape the mundane existence of a day-gig, I happily accepted a corporate job in downtown Manhattan near Wall Street, donned my suit, (there was no “Business Casual” back in those days. You had to wear a suit and a tie,)and pretended that I was an adult.


I had to take the subway from Wall Street up to 42nd St. at 5:00 PM on weekdays. To say the trains were packed would be like saying it’s chilly in Antarctica in the middle of winter. I have literally dozens of stories from those days, but one of my favorites involved a lifelong friend, about 6 Puerto Ricans and one of New York’s finest.

It was fortunate that one of my boyhood friends worked about a block away from me on Wall St. We would meet up and take the train together to work our way back to Long Island. We would often ride outside, in between the subway cars. It was private, away from the crowds. It was also dangerous and illegal. We didn’t give the downside a second thought. We’d often step off the platform across the tracks right into the space between the cars without even getting inside the car first. Sometimes, there’d be one or two other people riding out there with us. It was fun and we felt like we were beating the system.

In 1979, we had this illusion that pot was legal in NY, and there was a good reason for it. If you weren’t dealing, and you had a small amount on you, you had little to worry about. It was common to be toking on a number and have cop walk by and maybe he would say, “Put that out!” or maybe he would ignore you, but worst case he’d break your balls for a minute and then take whatever you had for later. That was the atmosphere in those days, when we still had John Lennon, and we didn’t yet have Ronald Reagan. Man, that was a bad trade we made in 1980, but that’s another story.

This one day, the trains were particularly unbearable. It was hot. The trains were running slow and behind. We found ourselves between the cars, with 5 or 6 Puerto Rican twenty-something guys heading back up to the Bronx, and stuck in a tunnel in pitch black. One of the guys lit up a cigarette, so we all did and we started to talk.

“Ees hot mang!”
“I hate theees, ees so crowded.”
“I just want to get home and take a shower.”
“Anyone got any weed?”

In fact, I had a couple a joints in my box of Parliaments. I took one out and lit up.

“Oh, mang, you alright. I saw that suit an' thought you were so straight mang!”

It seemed like we were stuck there for a half hour. We smoked up both joints, and we were laughing, joking and trading stories like old friends. When the weed had been consumed, we all lit up cigarettes. What we didn’t know was that we were just outside the next station. So there we were, one toke over the line sweet Mary, standing downtown outside a railway station, smoking cigarettes and laughing like we were hanging out at some bar at 9:00 on a Friday night.

Except we weren't.

Abrutptly, the train started moving, and we were suddenly bathed in the bright lights of the station, a bit stunned and too stoned to drop the butts on the tracks.

The train stops, and here is a transit cop in uniform. Right in our faces. On the platform, looking up at us standing between the cars. He is all red-faced and sweaty, and yelling at us to get off of the train. My boyhood friend blows his smoke from his last drag of his cigarette, drops it to the tracks and looking at the cop but speaking to me in a tone of annoyance and mild disdain, unconsciously, as if the cop was in a movie and certainly out of earshot, and he says,

“Fuckin’ COP!”

As you can imagine, I was stunned, the Puerto Ricans were stunned, and the cop was livid. We were in violation of two laws that he was charged with enforcing, and my friend said the two words that we were all thinking but the two words that you should never say should you find yourself in such a situation.

One of the Puerto Ricans made a move to disembark from the train directly onto the platform, which also was illegal, and the cop said, “NO! NO! NO! GO THROUGH THE CAR.”

When we got back into the car, it was so full that had we wanted to get out of the train it would have been questionable. We were scared, and had been taught to respect the law, so we did make an effort to get off the train, and indeed we did, but people were crowding into the train at the door that the policeman expected us to exit from, so we found our way to the next door, and pushed our way on to the platform. We were surrounded by a gaggle of sweaty commuters who were unable to get on this train and had to wait for the next one. We couldn’t see the cop, so we went upstairs and out to the street, had another cigarette and counted ourselves lucky.

I still chuckle to myself when I think of it all, now so long ago.

“Fuckin’ COP!”


Blogger Neil Shakespeare said...

Great story, dude. Like your line about the "bad trade" of 1980. You're right. That was an especially bad one.

1:45 PM  
Blogger XTCfan said...

Yep, the bad-trade line caught my attention, too. Great story, Al.

It reminds of when I went w/friends to see Zappa at the Capitol Theater in Passaic, NJ, in 1977. I think. I say "I think" because the acid was good that night. Anyway, I do remember that during a break in the show we went out to the lobby to smoke some pot, because no smoking was allowed in the theater.

I had some Acapulco Gold. Yes, back when there was such a thing, and this shit was killer. It was golden yellow, and very potent. My friends waited with anticipation as I opened up my plastic film canister (remember those?) to fill my pipe, when suddenly things got a bit too quiet. I started to look up from what I was doing, and realized a cop -- a fucking COP -- was standing right in front of me.

I think I did a reasonable impression of Jackie Gleason at this point -- hummuna hummuna hummuna -- then the cop said, "Hand it over."

After inspecting it, he announced, "I'm going to have to take that, young man."


"Because it's illegal."

"Oh yeah?" retorted all 130 pounds of tripping me. "Well, fuck you." This was, I remember very clearly, punctuated by a hand gesture from me to him.

I turned around and stomped back into the theater and took my seat. My friends later told me that the cop simply closed up the canister, put it in his pocket, and walked away, while my friends all gaped in amazement.

As you said, Al, I knew it was too little for him to bother prosecuting me for, but too fine for him to give back, so, despite the psychedelics, I pretty much knew I could act with impunity. At least I was the talk of my high school the next couple of days...

5:28 PM  
Blogger Kevin Wolf said...

If I could afford to live in NYC again I'd be there in a heartbeat. Thanks for reminding me why it's such a great place. (Even now.)

5:38 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

that rocks. Only in 1979. That was the Good year, no question about it.

Fuck the Man. Fuckin' black 'n' whites. One day they'll get theirs.

9:40 PM  
Blogger Nobody said...

Bad Trade is the understatement of the century. I'm pretty sure that I'd give up all the bands in the Top 50 (whoever they are) to have Lennon back.

Apparantly I'm legally allowed to grow grass for my own 'personal use' here for 'medicinal purposes' but can't stand the Comedown enough to be bothered. I'm sure that's enough to make you all want to kick my teeth in.

I was actually studying criminal psychology a few years ago with intent to enter the police force with noble intentions of 'helping the helpless'. What the hell was I thinking? Silly boy - that's not what police do!

4:23 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

>Apparantly I'm legally allowed to grow grass for my own 'personal use' here for 'medicinal purposes' but can't stand the Comedown enough to be bothered. I'm sure that's enough to make you all want to kick my teeth in.<

I lost my taste for it a few years ago. As I got older, I enjoyed it less and less, and there was always a threat of a drug test if I changed jobs. In fact, at The Viscountess' company they do random drug tests - on the spot! The risks are high, and the high was not that enjoyable anymore.

I still miss it sometimes, but not that often.

6:13 AM  
Blogger teh l4m3 said...

If only Hinckley had known what he was doing...Sigh...Well, that really wouldn't have changed much. But still.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Bobby Lightfoot said...

For me a random drug test is when I find a pill in th' couch and take it.

I actually (incredible as it may seem) had to get a secret clearance at one point and had to get tested. They asked when to schedule the test and I said, "oh, probably about two weeks from Saturday would be good".

8:50 PM  
Blogger cali said...

The Viscount LeCarte was a doobie brother?! Who knew?

You know how to tell a story.

9:14 AM  
Blogger The Viscount LaCarte said...

>You know how to tell a story.<


If I can blow my own horn here, you should see me in person. I come from a family of storytellers. I like to imitate the characters in the story. My impersonations do not get high marks for imitating the voice exactly (though I come close at times) but I capture the essence of the character. Their manner of speaking, word choice, patterns, etc. It can be a problem, because I also gesture, and I've been known to knock things over or actually strike someone in the middle of some stupid story.

11:00 AM  
Anonymous Hamish said...

Tell the story about Leslie West of Mountain, Uncle Al.

I love that story.

11:40 PM  
Anonymous Hamish said...

This was the next verification word:


11:42 PM  

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