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Day 204: AWOL (Absent Without Law)

I apologize for my absence. I was enjoying board (not much food) in three repellant joints, highlighted by reluctant conversation with psychotic bullies, official and otherwise. I was raided and locked up and physically abused. A U.S. passport is no impediment to America’s cytokine storm troopers.

I’m already tempted to sign off. Count Blogula is bone-weary and whatever’s in my lungs doesn’t seem to be flu. (I sure hope it’s not drug-resistant tuberculosis.) I’m trying to get used to this borrowed pc laptop. My fingers are sore from the application of coercive force by two cops, a civilian, a machine, and a comrade prisoner. I’m literally beat.

But postponing my account isn’t an option. It has ceased to be predictable that I’ll be able to put it online, ya know? Gotta strike while the iron is handy.

MY (FIRST) HOME AWAY FROM HOME: A BIG, RUSTY BARGE So let’s say I face a bunch of charges, some of which would be quite serious in ordinary circumstances. I reckon any charges are grave these days. I’m in deep dung.

The cops burst in six days ago while I was expecting Nina, who had contacted me after coming across one of the YouTube videos about the LES DIY, which featured me praising the group at Ric’s Place. I was wondering if she would knock hesitantly or aggressively when the door blew out and my apartment filled with uniformed men in crappy masks, pointing guns and bellowing like high school football players as I emerged from my bedroom.

I did what all New Yorkers are trained to do when mugged: raised my hands and vowed to cooperate.

Anna was off doing forced labor. We can picture her shock on returning to my trashed apartment. Having herself just been raided and detained, she recognized the signs of state pillage—the absence of documents, communications equipment, and storage media. Thieves might overlook old files and a thumb drive or two, but today’s public servants leave no thought unexamined.

She was briefly confused by the fact that most everything else I owned was missing, too. That’s where I suspect the neighbors came in, at least as far as my food supplies went.

I think I must’ve gotten more sleep than Anna did while I was gone. She tried relentlessly to locate me, but of course she had to keep reporting to work under pain of arrest. That left lunchtime for telephoning a system that took her inquiries for an excuse to ask what she thought I might have been arrested for. Well, I don’t think he told anyone about that murder, so it must have been the bank robbery Thursday….”

During the evenings—when she wasn’t stirring up support and interest among local punks, yuppies, artists, musicians, and politicians—Anna was searching for Sneeky. He vanished in the ruckus, along with all of his food. She also recruited friends from the LES DIY to replace my door. They’re getting mighty proficient at this. With fresh customers in abundance, they should incorporate as Doors R Bust. 

Guns & Money: Send Lawyers

In tossing my possessions like baboons, the cops claim to have found some illicit items. These allegedly include a taser and some marijuana. That adds up to real trouble. The cash from local mask sales could further complicate the picture, though it’s fair to wonder if my money will turn up—as evidence or otherwise.

Like all good Americans, I had prescriptions for the Ambien and for the Relenza that outlasted Stefan. (Oops, giving it to a sick person could be criminal, too.) As in so many busts, all meds have disappeared.

The raiding party also said they found a handgun in one of my boots. It closely resembles the one I captured from the guys who attacked Anna and me in the Ramble. Steadfast readers will join me in recalling that I tossed the semiautomatic into the lake. I regret any confusion over this.

Since the alleged weapon wasn’t loaded and was in my home, possession would be a relatively light offense under state law. The city, however, has stricter statutes and maintains a registry that requires gun offenders to report frequently for years, like pedophiles.

Suddenly I was being called a well-armed miscreant in possession of a commercial quantity of pot. My blood turned cold, kept me cool for days.

I pleaded to take a mask or two with me. “Sure,” came the sardonic reply. “We always let our guests pack.”

They must have come back later with a truck to collect my masks, gloves, and goggles.

Hence, I no longer purvey protective gear. Refunds to anyone whose order hasn’t been filled, unless they seize my bank accounts, too. This page is the only part of the website that will remain active, so long as blogging is permitted. I still turn up on Google.

Slow Ride to Hell

I was driven around in a caged bus for hours while the cops picked up more prisoners. These ranged from everyday criminal types to an elderly schoolteacher who was arrested for refusing to leave her local precinct without her daughter, who hasn’t been seen since that demonstration in Times Square. The woman, who must be at least 60, said she watched the desk sergeant while he looked into it by telephone. She swears his eyes flashed recognition when he called headquarters and queried them. The schoolteacher got herself arrested in hopes of finding her girl. I wish her luck in that urban Gulag.

For old times’ sake, our mobile crate even contained a busted graffiti writer. Too bad they didn’t use it to pick up corpses instead.

As on the subways below, the color of the people joining our population got darker as we rolled north in a haze of sickening exhaust fumes. Several battered souls climbed aboard in Harlem, where they’d been beaten and busted at one more demonstration that will never be reported.

Eventually we reached a gigantic prison barge, where it took all night to process us. In the morning they handed out stale bologna sandwiches on white bread. I couldn’t taste anything but refried bus air. I ate because hunger makes you stupid. (Whereas food poisoning keeps you on your toes.)

I spent dawn on the barge, waiting to be arraigned. A lot of people had been there much longer. It used to be illegal to hold Americans without charging them.

No one had masks. Many were ill. Impoverished prisoners had been doing without their normal meds for months; middle-class ones were withdrawing from whatever pills they’d stockpiled for Round 2. A lot of people had stomach problems, skyrocketing pulse rates, anxieties, and of course, flu.

I saw one man die and several others fail. There were pools of blood where people had coughed up vital juice—red stains all around.

The PA constantly urged inmates to volunteer to clean the place up and tend the sick in exchange for better food and semi-private cells. A prisoner awaiting burglary charges said he had helped out for a few days in hopes of getting quicker access to a judge, or at least asthma medicine (which is what he said he’d been caught trying to steal), until he realized his jailers would never part with someone so useful.

Ten days later, the man was still there, gawking at seagulls as they picked at a nearby dump. He considers bird flu a fraud unleashed by the rich to kill off workers they don’t need anymore. “They look fine out there, yo,” he said of the flying scavengers.

A Fight to Forget

I couldn’t help but start explaining about H5N1 till an extraordinary prisoner turned on me. He was a tall man with dreadlocks and whiskers that angled to a precise Fu Manchu from fierce sideburns directly under his cheekbones. I had previously noticed twin scars underneath the whiskers, which he’d apparently shaped to camouflage his flesh. The original wounds looked to have been cut to match, as if in some coming-of-age ritual, but the guy wasn’t proud of these scars. He was hiding them.

Maybe I stared too much. I told you I wasn’t feeling well.

He called me a snitch and punched me till I contributed blood to the cell’s evolving design. I tried to fight hard enough to dissuade anyone from wanting to emulate him later, but I never had a chance. It ended when he held me up by the neck with one hand, winked, and dropped me.

I just stayed put, slept with my head against the wall. I didn’t move till they took me to the Manhattan Detention Complex, the underground fortress known as the Tombs, where my bruises made me look mean enough not to be bothered. I managed to miss meals at both ends of the trip.

The Tombs was full of prisoners who said their terms were up, even without time off for good behavior. Early in Round One a guy had been sent to the big joint at Riker’s Island for three months. Five months later he was back downtown, awaiting release, swearing passionately that the only thing he’d done to extend his stay was survive a flu attack in a block full of dying men. “My death sentence, ya know, is turned into a life sentence.” (He gave me his girlfriend’s number to call and offer empty reassurance on his behalf, but the paper was taken from me a day later.

Just as I began wondering if I’d spend my life there, too, I was off to be interrogated by a good cop/bad cop combo. Except they both sucked. Each was wearing the protective gear I used to sell, presumably from my inventory. They evidently wanted me to notice, so I chose to let it pass.

I demanded an attorney. I don’t know any criminal lawyers, but I have money in the bank and I have credit and I wanted one. “They’re all sick,” said the ‘bad’ cop, who looked friendlier for some reason.

The ‘good’ one was fatter and looked bored. He literally shrugged at my request. “They don’t like to come in these days. You need a doctor more,” he added, nodding at my colorful complexion.

They don’t come here either,” grinned the nasty one, blue eyes twinkling.

When I clammed up, they explained that my charges could be deployed in combinations to ratchet the penalties up—drugs and guns, for instance. I could get from 35 to 80 years.

I knew this was BS. I’ve never been arrested and I didn’t use a weapon to commit a crime. They hadn’t claimed the gun was loaded. Even the alleged pot possession amounts to less than a quarter-pound, which New York City judges have historically regarded as a personal stash.

So the rotten one suggested they had a witness who had purchased pot from me.

I instantly demanded to be arraigned. If they were going to throw phony charges at me, they might as well book me for murder. Bring it on—lawyer or not.

So the nice cop mentioned that the gun had been used in at least one shooting. This was a new threat with ugly possibilities. Why were they so bent on screwing me?

Rope-a-Dope, My Way

I told them what had happened in the Ramble and asked them what they wanted, besides the masks they’d stolen. That was when the nasty one punched me right where the inmate had struck. He kept at it till the plastic gloves he’d appropriated were bloody.

Did I mention that I was cuffed to a pole? My lips are still mashed, my nose swollen. I still have twin black eyes.

It took the wonderful cop a long time to get me to talk again. He got me some lukewarm soapy water, a cleaning pad, and a bottle of drinking water. He also dialed up a warm meal and admitted he could see as to how I might not be the tall Dominican guy who’d shot up a bar in Washington Heights four years ago. I appreciated the un-recognition.

They wanted to know about Mark’s friends, the men he’d introduced me to in the nightclub during the hiatus. My Relenza disks had checked out, unlike the ones these guys allegedly sell on the Web, using accounts the cops claim were created on my iMac.

This was an alarming concept. Mark had tended Sneeky as I drove upstate over the summer. I remember being thrilled at his generous and responsible performance. Now I picture the gang cooking up schemes on my account, my beer, my reputation.

Like it or not, I’m an informational dead end for the cops. I don’t know those guys. They may be as innocent as I am. I’ve never known them to do anything but buy booze in a bar and call up to ask what I think of the flu. Mark might be in profound trouble, but I couldn’t cover for him. I suggested one of the guys might have used my machine for criminal purposes while Mark was getting cigarettes.

By then the brutal cop seemed bored and the beneficent one was getting cranky. I was useless. The food never came.

I asked if I were free to go. The LES DIY had been released in hours. That amused them both: “Not quite….”

Now I’m going to sleep. If no one kills me or drags me away or takes this laptop or cuts my power or my URL, I’m certain to continue tomorrow. A lot of ifs, I know. Your assignment is to read the Bill Of Rights all day. Good night.

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