Rule Number One: NEVER throw a cigarette butt at a cop (inadvertent or otherwise)

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I offer up these savvy tips for successful street living, virtually free of charge.
Whenever I’m drinking late at night at this secluded spot on the campus — this second-floor balcony over-looked this trail below — I’ll think back to this time I was hanging out here 7 or 8 years ago.

I happened to toss my cigarette butt over the railing to the trail below. Something I normally don’t do. I loathe litter. But I was in a bad mood. It was after midnight and I had just drunk my last beer and smoked my last cigarette and I was flat broke and it was the middle of the winter and it was pouring rain. So now I was trapped on this balcony for the foreseeable future with no beer and no cigarettes and no nothing and my life was just a piece of shit that had amounted to nothing. So I was in a sour mood. So I just flung the cigarette butt over the railing in an act of defiance like “FUCK THIS WORLD!!”

Unbeknownst to me, there happened to be two cops walking on the trail below me. I don’t know if my cigarette butt hit the cops on the head. But at the least it must have come very close. Because the two cops immediately made a bee-line to where I was sitting on the balcony. And one of the cops was raging mad as a hornet. As if my tossed cigarette butt was an affront to his very manhood. And I — homeless degenerate lurking on the campus — represented everything vile and evil and wrong with our current society. In other words, he took it very personally.

“DID YOU THROW THAT CIGARETTE BUTT??” said the cop.

“Yes I did,” I admitted. The butt no doubt had the DNA of my saliva on it. So there was no way to avoid the rap.

“ARE YOU DRINKING??” said the cop.

“No. I already DRANK it all!!” I said, with real anger in my voice (I was still pissed about being out of beer).

“ARE YOU BEING A WISE-ASS??” said the cop.

“Not consciously,” I said.

So the cop started writing me up a $450 littering ticket.

“You’re not going to give me a littering ticket for one cigarette butt are you?” I said.

“I SURE AS HELL AM!!” said the cop, thrusting the little yellow citation at me.

So I ended up doing 45 hours of community service picking up litter and thousands of cigarette butts in the park to repay my debt to society. All because of that one lousy cigarette butt.

And it didn’t end there. That cop developed a personal vendetta against me. Every time I turned around he would show up. Catch me in the act of drinking in public. And hit me with a $250 “open container” ticket. He must have hit me with nearly 10 tickets over the course of the year. And one night he even gave me the flashlight treatment and hand-cuffed me and arrested me and hauled me down to the Berkeley police station where I spent the night in the drunk tank (the weird thing is I wasn’t even drunk at the time, I had just started on my first beer).

But then, over the course of the next year, over the course of all our interactions, I finally wore the cop down with my fabled charm. Or maybe he just forget what he was mad about me in the first place. And he actually started to feel friendly towards me. And whenever he’d see me he’d say “Hey Pete, how ya doin’?” with a beaming smile on his face. And we’d banter back and forth with a little friendly small-talk before we went our separate ways.

Copping to cops

 
 
 
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Some people want to make cops out to be the villains. The oppressors. The enforcers of the “police state. And there’s some truth and validity to that outlook. Myself?? I mostly look at cops as the referees. The umpires. Somebody has to make those judgment calls.
 
People see cops as heroes or villains and everything in between. I mostly see them as social garbage-collectors. They get called in to try and clean up society’s messes.
 
I once read this survey of cops where the cops themselves claimed that 20% of the cops weren’t fit to be cops. They were too dumb or lazy or had bad judgment or were lousy at dealing with people or had weird attitudes. I mean cops are basically just a cross-section of human beings — the good and the bad and everything in between.

So I keep that survey in mind, every fifth interaction I have with a cop.

The cops main job — like the sports referee — is to maintain the social order, and enforce the rules and the laws. And I guess therein lies the rub. Because many people on the bottom of society feel the laws are written specifically to oppress them, and benefit the rich. But it’s important to remember: The cops don’t write the rules. They only enforce them. Though they do have a certain amount of lee-way as to precisely HOW they enforce them. And the cops have to make zillions of judgment calls every day they’re on the job. And sometimes they have to make split-second judgment calls while in the middle of highly stressful, and even dangerous, situations. All the while knowing that every judgment call they make will be second-guessed by somebody.

 
The better cops know that there’s “the letter of the law” and “the spirit of the law.” And have an intuitive sense of when to apply one or the other. It’s like a basketball referee — technically they could call a foul on every play. But the good ones have a feel for the flow of the game, and they interpret the rules with that in mind.
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Many people think the job “inordinately attracts people who are bullies or thugs and like to beat people up.” And I’m sure the job certainly attracts a certain amount of bullies who enjoy wielding power over others. But it also attracts many other types. My older brother was a cop for a couple of years when he was a young man. And he was what you might call a “boy scout” type. He legitimately wanted to help protect the people from the bad guys and all that.  Then there are others who want to be a cop simply because they’re attracted to the excitement. And then there are others that see it simply as a decent job where they can make a living and support their families. 
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I don’t know, it’s a complicated subject. Of course I’m mostly like Bukowski:  “I got nothing against cops. I just feel better when they’re not around.”
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An unpleasant encounter with a police officer at 2 in the morning

 

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I don’t know if it’s the hot, balmy, feverish heat wave we’ve been having lately (last night i was outside at midnight in just a short-sleeve shirt) but last night was a little weird even by my standards.

Around 2 AM I decide to call it a night. And needless to say I got a little buzz going as I happily cut across the Berkeley campus towards my campsite in the hills. When I pass this cop who’s standing on this balcony over-looking me. He calls out to me. But I can’t make out what he said. So I just say “How ya’ doing,” and keep walking. But then I can hear the cop’s footsteps rushing towards me from behind me. So I stop and turn to face him, to see what his problem is.

“You do know it’s 2 AM and after curfew,” said the cop. “Are you involved with the campus or with any campus-related business.”‘

“Not really,” I said. “But I did work for the Daily Californian for about 10 years.”

“Could I see you ID, sir?”

“Surely,” I said. I take out my wallet, hand him my ID, and he starts running my name across the wire.The cop is a little asian guy with a shaved-head. So for some reason his head keeps reminding me of a big bullet.

“Where are you headed?” asked the cop.

“Up to the Berkeley hills,” I said, offering as little information as necessary. I considered asking him about the two people who were walking directly ahead of me, and ALSO cutting across the campus at 2 AM, and why was he jacking me up but not them. But it’s usually not a good idea to question the cop’s motives in these situations. It’s best to just try and go along with their program as best you can. Whatever that might be.

“A young woman was sexually assaulted in the Berkeley hills recently,” said the cop. “Are you aware of that?”

“No I’m not,” I said.

“You didn’t read about it in the Daily Cal?”

“No I didn’t,” I said.

“The suspect was a white male in his 40s. And you resemble the suspect.”

“I’m 61,” I said. “But I’m flattered that you think I look younger than I am.”

I can hear the dispatcher at the other end of the wire passing on some information.

“I’ve just been told that you’ve recently been sited several times for trespassing,” said the cop. “And that you were arrested recently for assault.”

“No I haven’t,” I said. “That’s a lie.”

The cop continues to grill me about the sexual assault. And suddenly I get pissed.

“WHY DO YOU KEEP ACCUSING ME OF SEXUAL ASSAULT??” I said with an angry edge to my voice. “I HAVEN’T DONE ANYTHING!!”

“Hey, WHOA! Back off!” said the cop.

“Oh I’m sorry,” I said, quickly changing gears. “I didn’t mean to be belligerant.”

I realize this little shitheel is just looking for any excuse to jack me up. So I make a point of trying not to give him one. But it’s galling. It’s perfectly fine for him to treat me rudely and belligerently. His sneering attitude during the entire exchange has been that I’m some kind of lowly dirtbag who’s guilty of some grave, but unspecified, crime, and that it’s his duty to punish me.

“I know you’re just doing your job,” I said.

(“. . .and a lousy job of it, too, you stupid fuck,” I want to add, but think better of it. The fact is, this guy is an idiot with a head full of rocks. The good cops, the smart cops, can always tell intuitively who is just minding their own business and who the real trouble-makers are. They have an instinct about it. And they can usually tell which is which within seconds of an encounter. Whereas idiots like this guy, he doesn’t have a clue. Instead of keeping the peace, he’ll spend his whole career creating one disturbance after another, that he manufactures out of thin air for no good reason. Even cops themselves will tell you, when they’re surveyed, that 25% of cops are unfit to be cops. Keep those odds in mind the next time you’ve had your fourth encounter with a cop).

At this point another cop on a motorcycle pulls up for back-up. So that changes the dynamic.

“The dispatcher just told me that they were wrong about the tresspassing charge,” said the cop. “But that you were arrested for assault. Why did you lie about that?”

“Because it happened way back in 1995 and it was completely bogus and the charges were dropped the next day and I had completely forgotten about it. That’s why. Aside from that I’ve lived in Berkeley for 40 years and you can run my name across the wire and you’ll find that my record is pretty clean.”

The cop continues to harangue me, looking for any angle to get at me. Finally I just say: “Whatever you want from me, I’m here for you.” (I don’t want to give him ANY excuse to accuse me of resisting, because I know he’s just looking for any excuse to throw the cuffs on me.)

So finally the cop hands me back my ID. Along with a sneering threat: “But if I EVER catch you on this campus again after curfew I’ll BLAH BLAH BLAH!!”

At this point I’m not even listening to him. I just cheerily wave good-bye (and good riddance) and say “You men have a good night.” And turn and head up the hill.

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Hate Man nostalgia: “Hate Man gets crunched”

 

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On this date last year, June 3, 2016: The city just grabbed Hate Man’s recycling bin where he stores some of his stuff and threw it out. So he’s stunned at this moment. Taking the hit. His jug of fresh brewed coffee and 12 pounds of sugar (Hate Man has a sweet tooth, that 12 pounds probably lasted him a week, ha ha) and some of his journals were in there. Two jackets and a blanket. Among other stuff. So its a loss. . . . . But Hate Man was philosophical. “Its like what Edgar Cayce used to say. ‘Everything is appropriate.'” . . . . . Speaking of sugar,  Hate Man once asked me to buy him a cup of coffee at Peat’s. “Get the coffee black. And then fill this other cup half-way full with sugar from the condiments table.” “Why do you want all that sugar?” I asked. “That’s how much sugar I put in my coffee,” Hate said.

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An unfortunate encounter with a particular cop

 

A favorite hangout spot.

This is one of my favorite late-night hangout spots on the Berkeley campus. The balcony alongside the Golden Bear restaurant. Its usually deserted after 10 PM. And it has an awning to protect you against the rain.  Plus, there’s a big pillar directly in front of me that mostly blocks me from public view.   So I can sit here and quietly sip my Olde English malt liquor while I spew my madness and venom across the Facebook airwaves.

The only time I ever had a problem at this spot was this one time about four years ago. It was around midnight. And I had just finished my last beer. And was smoking my last cigarette. And it starts fucking raining. So I’m doubley pissed. I’m now out of beer. AND I’ve got to deal with the fucking rain. So the party is definitely over for the night

I took the last drag on my last fucking cigarette and tossed the butt over the railing of the balcony. “Fuck it!” I said.

Generally I don’t like to litter. And I pick up all my cigarette butts. But it was one of those dismal moments where you just feel “Fuck it!”

The next thing I know, two cops are in my face. “DID YOU TOSS THIS CIGARETTE BUTT??” said the cop. He was visibly angry. Evidently the two cops had been walking up the trail below me. And the cigarette butt hit the cop on the head.

“Yes,” I admitted. “That was my cigarette butt.”  I was guilty of crimes against humanity.

“ARE YOU DRINKING??” said the cop.

“No.  I already DRANK it all,” I said, bitterly. Which was the honest to God truth. I was genuinely pissed that I was out of beer. But honesty isn’t necessarily the best policy when dealing with cops.

“ARE YOU BEING A WISE ASS?” said the cop.

“Not consciously,” I said.

I could tell by the cop’s demeanor that I represented everything that was vile and degenerate about our modern America society.

“COULD I SEE YOUR I.D., SIR??” said the cop. And he proceeded to write me up a $450 littering ticket.

“You’re giving me a $450 littering ticket for one cigarette butt?” I said.

“I SURE AS HELL AM!!” said the cop.

For a second I considered throwing my butt over the railing again. For old time’s sake. But then I thought I better not press my luck.

To make matters worse, for the next YEAR that particular cop had a personal vendetta against me. It was personal with him. Whenever I was quietly sitting somewhere drinking my beer. He would find me. And write me up a $250 “open container” ticket. He nailed me at least 7 or 8 times. I guess he thought I had thrown the butt on his head on purpose. He even arrested me one night. Shined his flashlight right in my face, made me do the “walk the straight line” test. Which I handled with aplomb. But he arrested me anyways. Handcuffed me and hauled me down to the Berkeley jail where I spent the night in the drunk tank. Which was a weird S&M kind of experience. Being handcuffed and everything.

This went on for a year. Where this cop was constantly on my ass as a nemesis.

But eventually, in the course of all our interactions, I began to wear the cop down with my fabled charm. And he ended up actually really liking me. We practically became friends. “Hey Pete, how ya doing?” he’d say whenever he saw me. Addressing me by my first name. Which is rare when dealing with cops. They generally like to keep it formal and polite while they’re busting your ass. Go figure. So he stopped bothering me.

Which is why I can still hang out at this spot after midnight quietly drinking my malt liquor. THE END

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