This is how it started, ended and continued. Thus.
simply. But wildly oppressive.
First they packed us into an LA County bus with mesh screens on the windows. A bunch of handcuffed losers we were. And dulled to death, sapped of killer testosterone, by the romantic blather piped in through the bus by a loud speaker torment controlled by the driver.
Many annoying, bland, stagnant songs played. Even those I liked were not the type I would listen to with only men around. Like this.
For instance, the one I remember most vividly playing while we drove into downtown was 10cc’s “I’m Not In Love.”
I always liked this song. In my car.
In my house.
Not in a bus full of Jose’s and Trayvon’s. Fucking disastrous memory affiliation here.
Now, if I hear that song, I think of fucking LA County jail. And the weekend I spent there in 1993.
But on its own terms…I love this song.
The ambivalent self-escape and denial practiced by the 70’s-style long, messy hair-doed singer. A song of ambiguous irrationality, rare in pop music. I always had a soft spot for this song, but after my 1993 foray into LA County’s jail system, I can never look at this song the same way again.
Ah, see. The previous summer. I think it was summer. This was over 20 years ago. The sign of old age is when you can recollect memories that are over 2 decades old. This is the sign. I do it all the time. I sit here and sentimentalize over crap that happened so long ago that most of the under-aged numskulls in the blogosphere weren’t even born.
This is how we define old.
In 1993 I was drinking at a local bar.
I chatted with people and I seemed to entertain a thick affinity for Jack Daniels this night. It was about 1 or 2 in the morning when I drove away. For some reason, I decided to visit my post office box in an adjacent city. Everyone must retrieve their mail at 2 in the morning. Last call mail pick-up. This is the shit I did.
I pulled up at the post office (24 hour deal) and parked very, very far from the curb (police report substantiated).
I don’t know if I actually went inside to check the box, but the bottom line is that I passed out in my car. With the scent of Jack Daniels accompanying my solitary party.
The police pulled me out, arrested and booked me. I think I pissed on the police station’s tiled floor.
Before the bus ride to downtown, though, I had to plead guilty. And be sentenced.
One weekend in county jail you lame ass alcoholic motherfucker.
It was a condemnation I wore like a steel collar.
A month before my confinement was to begin, I met a girl. We hit it off. We were romping and drilling like rabbits within that span of time.
I had to break the news to her. It was a big deal, for me. It was like coming out of the drunk closet. We had spent so many good times together but really, we didn’t know each other very well. She could very well leave me when I told her the truth of how I would be “absent” for a weekend. Or I could lie. Lying was not foreign to me. Hmm.
I decided to tell the truth.
I broke the news during lunch at Marie Callenders in Whittier one afternoon. I was nervous as shit. I told her in the most halting, guilt-ridden manner I could summon. She made me sweat. She seemed thoughtful. I was a wimp. She let her eyes dart. This is when I was still afraid of women. She made indecisive and judgmental noises.
After pleading, she relinquished a little. She was OK with all this if I stopped drinking (which I had, at that time).
When 10cc played on the radio in the stupid bus, instead of thinking of my future cell mates, I thought of my new girlfriend. We had spent every weekend together. Dry humped, real humping, kissing. Now I would be away from her, spending all my time with a bunch of smelly, foul, obscene, men. Criminals. It was my descent into hell. I was sad, crushed, forlorn, but not very repentant.
One of my proudest moments happened in the holding tank. It just goes to show how deprived I am, in all manners of speaking.
See, before you are shipped off to the jail, you need to “turn yourself in” at the court where you plead guilty. In my case, it was a suburban outpost. After you go through the rigmarole, you are sent to a small room in the back of the court house. I walked in and apparently all of LA’s hoodlum, cholo class had beaten me to the punch because the holding cell was crowded.
LA County is fond of apples because it makes prisoners regular, and regular prisoners means a good foothold to communal peace. Constipation creates tension and friction. Let them eat apples.
I walked in to the holding cell and all these dudes were just picking at apples like Goddamned beavers.
One skinny black dude leaned back on the concrete bench and chucked the core of his 8th apple into a cardboard box and asked me, in a not completely genteel manner, what I was doing here. Rather than revert to my nerdy, retarded manner of over-explanation, my survival/social instincts kicked in.
“Booze,” I answered simply.
This seemed to win his coherence and maybe even respect.
He smiled and visibly relaxed. Another of his brothers looked up at me dully.
“Yeah, dat’s why we all here, I guess,” he ventured and I was able to enter the ring quietly.
Some have wondered.
My new girlfriend picked me up at LA County jail at 3:45 on Sunday morning. She brought me food to munch on. She sat in that shithole neighborhood and waited for me. We went to lunch that day.
I was in love, but she dumped me the November of the following year (1994).