Saturday, September 30, 2006
Sean had grown up always wanting to be a cop, dreaming of being a cop, and more than that, assuming a kind of success as a cop. His grandfather had been a captain; his father was Chief of Bronx Detectives. It was the family business. I assumed purer motives for myself, though, sure, this was the best paying job I could possibly find. Other guys became cops for reasons similar or different, but the result was the same.
Once you are a cop you are different from everyone else. In Sean's world this was good. In his family, among his friends, being a cop made him larger than life, a hero. In my world it worked very differently. Not that I... well, I think I am a good cop. I think I am doing good things. I had even just said this, "I'm a good cop, I like my job, I mean, I don't like trying to stick some guy's brains back into his skull on a rainy sidewalk, but…" He had just stared back at this. I didn't tell him that in my world it worked differently.
Now I say what honestly comes into my head: "Really doc," I say, "if anything's wrong it's what this schedule does to me. I miss my friends, I miss hanging out on Saturday nights. I miss being home with my wife."
"And that's frustrating?" I think that is right out his "how to interview" book.
"Of course it's frustrating." Worse, I want to add. Worse. It's totally isolating. I think about the last time I got high with my friends. One had his new girlfriend with him. When she found out she was getting high with a cop she freaked out. I spent the rest of the night assuring her I wasn't undercover. And whenever I meet new friends of Carolyn's, well, it's always strange. Now, well now everyone in the city's seen my picture. Everyone thinks they know something about me. They react with nervous pity and I don't like that at all. But I don't add any of this. I catch myself. If I don't I'll be stick in this psychiatrist's office forever.
"But that's just the bad stuff, and it ain't much. I love this job. Every job's got bad stuff."
"Yes," he says. "Yeah," I breathe.
"Isn't one of the bad things that you guys can't cut yourselves any slack?" I'm not sure what that means, and he realizes that, so he goes on.
"OK, your schedule's weird, so you're mostly, your world is mostly other cops. But then when something happens, especially when something bad happens, you're always putting the blame on the guy it happened to." I actually look him in the eye. "That seems like a lot of pressure."
"I don't know," I answer, and this is the truth. There's some time when nothing is said.
"You should think about that," he says, "and you know, if you want to come back, just call, the department's picking up the tab."
"I might do that," but we both know I won't.
"If you do come back, maybe we could talk some about other stuff that's happened to you. There's some things here," he flicks his hand, indicating the files on his desk, "that I might be able to work on with you."
"But you're ok." It's either a question or an answer. Not being sure I just say, "yeah, doc, really."
"Take a few more days," he scribbles on a pad and hands the note that gives me a week off. I look at it, the idea of a long day of sex with Carolyn flickers across my consciousness, then that drips away. "Thanks," I say. I start to leave.
"Two last things," he says. I stop.
"First, I'm going to guess that you're right. That you are a pretty good cop. And you like the job, you're telling the truth about that too." There's nothing to say to this.
"Second, you also know that what you said at the beginning doesn't matter."
"It doesn't matter that you weren't friends." I look at him. He looks at me.
I walk out of the office. I get into the elevator. I don't want other people to be in there but other people are in there. Maybe six. All women. All Manhattan-dressed New York women. The kind of women who would never, ever, be in my precinct. Who can probably not imagine the places that I work. If they even see me I am probably mistaken for a delivery guy. If they saw the gun they'd be terrified. I think, I could let them see the gun. But I don't. I don't do anything. I just stand there staring at my smeared reflection in the aluminum doors until they open on the lobby.
copyright 2004-2006 by Ira Socol
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sitting on the beach at Enniscrone, a few of us on towels, most just on the chill, damp sand, but the fire and his words cut through the cool of the evening and the exhaustion of our day at the sea. They had taken us all here, so far away, to get us out of the city for two nights, into the quiet. "They need quiet and they need to hear other sounds," Thomas and I had heard Father Timothy say and maybe it was a measure of our world back then that we had not the foggiest idea of what he meant.
But we went. Twenty-three of us jammed into four cars with the Priest and three fathers, leaving when it was still full dark, so dark that we did not see the day begin until we were far into the Donegal hills. And we came to the beach, I had not seen the beach since I was a much smaller one. And the sea - oh the sea - spreading out forever and beyond even that with the sun streaking across distant waves.
And now, that night, he told us stories of America. He had played, of course, for the Rovers down in Dublin, and that made him famous enough and made me the envy of many. But now he told us of his year in the States. Of the summer that the team went to Boston to be the "Boston Rovers" and play in New York and Detroit, in Los Angeles and Chicago and even Texas. These were all the most magical places we could conjure, and he described them all so well that we kept looking out across the dark and expecting to see the towers of Manhattan lighting the farthest horizon.
Then, as we slid toward sleep, he told us how the sea was different in America. "You see how the sea rolls in here," and we all nodded as the sparks flicked off the logs and raced toward heaven. "Well that ocean begins in America. The waves roll out from the shore, heading this way." Nothing could possibly have meant more to us at that moment, and that night, we did finally dream different dreams.
Today I stood on this western shore of the Atlantic. I heard the sound, and smelled the salt and looked deep into the distance before I would look at the point where this primal source meets the land. For I am still surprised - yes - always suprised that the waves here do not move as I have always seen them when I close my eyes.
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
photo of Enniscrone from the Dublin University Surfing and BodyBoarding Club
Thursday, September 21, 2006
Someone yells "he's there" and you start the chase. On dark wet pavement through the thickest July-night air you run down the block, through the alley, climb the rusty, shaky fire escape, there he is, just above, maybe two floors. Of course he's in sweats and Nikes and you're wearing a fifteen pound gunbelt and a bulletproof vest that's choking your chest, and the black Adidas you're wearing are good, sure, but no match really. You're gasping for breath and shouting into the radio asking for help even though you're not even sure what the address is and he gets to the roof and when you get to the roof he's gone. He might be running down the stairs inside but you don't see him or he may have jumped to that roof and be on those stairs but your partner hasn't even caught up with you yet so you can't search two stairwells. Most likely he's vanished into any of the apartments in the five floors below and he's hiding under a bed or he went out and down a different fire escape or the same one even or he's catching his own breath on a couch watching Channel 11 with a quart of Miller High Life.
"We're on the block," you hear the radio say, "Where are you? What are you looking for?" "Male, Black," you answer, sweat pouring down inside the vest, your breathing coming in deep gulps, "Maybe six-one, maybe two hundred, black sweats, black hoodie, white Nikes, Jordans I think." "What'd he do?" the radio asks. And you realize you have no fucking idea.
copyright 2004-2006 by Ira Socol
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
He has the "cop stare" down, but doesn't even understand how ridiculous that is. I could turn that on too. He won't scare me with cheap tricks. "Where were you, patrolman?" he asks, using the antique term of rank to try and gain some advantage. "Police Officer," I say. "Huh?" he responds, and I know I've already won. "I think we're called 'Police Officers.' I don't think the term Patrolman's actually been used since the sixties." He stares at me across the small gray table, "You think you're funny."
"This is not a joke," he states, his stare dwindling, I rock my chair back on the rear legs, studied insolence. "Surely not, but I was in the backyard, I wasn't there."
"Everybody says they were in the back yard." I laugh. He doesn't like that at all. "Yeah," I say, "there was a crowd back there." "Who?" he asks. "Who?" I say. "Who was there?" I press my luck. I grab the folder in front of him and in one movement spin it toward me and open it, scanning his notes. He grabs it back, violently. "I guess I don't really remember, you know," I'm casual, "we were just on back up, then we left."
I notice how old he is, like my dad maybe. I expect him to say "You kids got no respect these days," but realize that's from a movie or a Dragnet episode. He's tired. This is crap. I mean, of course it's serious, but I haven't done anything wrong. Someone has, but it isn't me, and I have better things to do right now than rat on people. I don't like the guys involved at all and if they can prove it, more power to them: fuck 'em, fire them, send them to Sing Sing; but it isn't gonna happen through me.
"How does a young guy like you end up with this attitude?" he asks, but he's not angry, he's resigned. I feel, well, yeah. "It seems to come with the job," I mumble. He waves me out.
Brandon's already sitting in the lobby. "Lunchtime?" "Yup," I say, "Chinatown?" "Very good," he says. The dead kid in the apartment on East 221st Street all but forgotten._______________________________
copyright 2004-2006 by Ira Socol
Friday, September 15, 2006
We parked, as usual, by the power station in the block below the bridge and walked in the street, navigating the old stone pavers rather than the concrete sidewalk, down to the bar. The fog rolled off the river, clawing across these lowlands and toward the center of the island, making it impossible to know that anything had deeply changed since 1750 or so. In Jeremy's the Brooklyn Brown Ale came in the 48 ounce styrofoam cups and Mary, who had never been here, was just off the plane from Shannon after all, said, "the beer comes in that?" Yes. It does. The Mets game was on the TV, late from the west coast. It had rained earlier and with the fog the wood of the narrow deck was faintly swollen and smelled of the earth, a bit like a dog's damp paw after a run in a forest.
We sat and stared at the street and kept drinking. Max came down from the last cheap apartment in the area and assured us we weren't driving anywhere else that night, that we looked like we'd have enough trouble getting across his living room – and we had to remember that his ancient wooden building was slipping into the eighteenth century landfill that had pushed this part of Manhattan out into the tidal straight causing his floor to slope at a radical angle.
At 3:30 we finally walked out. You could only see lights as they bounced off the water vapor that surrounded us. Max tripped on the wet paving stones and fell face first but got up without complaint. Mary held onto me, which was as pleasant as it was foolish. Colin screamed Gregory Corso's poetry into the night.
We all fell asleep on Max's floor. Some Irish-Caribbean fusion CD playing a touch too loudly. At 5:30 I had to get up and turn around. The blood was rushing to my head.
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
painting Peck Slip, 4 a.m. by Naima Rauam copyright by the artist
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
With the Hudson River at my back I sit and eat two slices of acceptable "Famous Original Rays" or whatever it is pizza as I stare into the pool below the Irish Hunger Memorial. The koi swim in calm arcs with a few manic direction shifts, which seems just about right. Whenever I am here I think of this sick joke that I can make big money by opening a "Famine Fries" stand in the shadow of this monument, but I try hard not to mention that to anyone.
Long ago, when I was a kid, this whole area west of the Trade Center was just a giant beach. They'd filled all this land in, out beyond the old pier lines, when they built the towers, but then they'd argued about this place called "Battery Park City" for two decades. So it sat there, vast and empty and cool in the summer and icy in the winter and all we had to do was hop the fence and you could do anything out here, soccer, or stickball, drugs or sex, sunbathing or music – it was the most un-Manhattan place in Manhattan, and we loved it.
We loved all of downtown then. Companies were fleeing New York and Tribeca hadn't happened yet and nobody at all lived anywhere around. The old folks bitched that the Trade Center was ugly and too big and too square and the plaza was horrible and boring and the shopping mall was just a shopping mall. But fuck them. The towers were fucking brilliant, transparent and glowing and changing colors with every twitch of the sky. For the price of fairly but not absurdly expensive drinks you could go hang out and get hammered up top at Windows with the best view on the planet. You could skateboard or rollerblade or dance all night to whatever music you could bring to the plaza and the lightposts had outlets right there for power. And after all the suits left the whole lower level was for play. We'd meet guys on the cleaning crew for soccer games lots of Sunday nights in the lobby of One.
And when the suits were going home? Well, you could just hang out and watch the human Niagara of commuters pouring down the escalators at Path Square. It was our wonderland. And the world's – pulling even that French acrobat guy who walked between the towers. Couldn't do that in Midtown. Wouldn't even if you could.
I look around. The beach has long since turned into the World Financial Center and yes, the whole Battery Park City thing where no one I know could afford to even imagine living. There is no un-Manhattan Manhattan anymore. It is all Manhattan. Even a third of Brooklyn and parts of Queens are Manhattan now. The World Financial Center would look very, very big to almost anyone, I realize, if we didn't remember the Trade Center which was so much grander. Oh well. It was my city then. It is not my city now.
Still. This is a safer place. All around me are the rich slugs who rule everything now – Friends cum Seinfeld cum Sex and the City, you understand. You can hardly even make them afraid – back when I was a kid even white boys like us could generate fear and get people to cross streets to avoid us. But at least they are actual New York rich slugs and I am more comfortable with that than I am across West Street where tourists from Madrid and Tokyo and Seoul and Iowa gather and buy 9/11 trinkets and revel in some bizarre faked American heroism. Screw them. None of this really matters to any of them, they just like feeling like victims.
I climb to my feet and wander into the Hunger Memorial, entering through the shrinking dark tunnel. People came fleeing real fear back then. They were starving, their children were starving. They were watching their children starve while the British Army dragged food out of the country and back to London. Terrorism indeed. I walk through the ancient abandoned house, a remnant of a true famine village, and past the long cold hearth. Back in the sun I follow the winding path. At the top I look out at the river. Maybe back in 1978 there was a high pile of dirt right here, and maybe I stood in this spot looking this way, seeing a wholly different world.
But it is time to head back to reality. I need to meet people at the Bridge Café on the other side of the island. I think short route, but then switch and walk south into the Winter Garden. The stone of the floor shines so brightly that I am stunned by it. The river glitters beyond the palm trees. Colorful kites hang in the air.
I climb the stairs. The giant window ahead is framed in visible technology that forces a viewer to wonder about how our earth is assembled. Beyond the window lies that vacant pit. "Forget the memorial," I say out loud but to no one. "Forget rebuilding and fill it in. Make it a beach where kids can play."
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
Fish photograph and Ground Zero photograph copyright 2006 by Jill Piers. Before Battery Park City photograph copyright 1978 Creative Time and 2006 The New York Times. Irish Hunger Memorial photograph copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The sky and the Liffey were steel grey that day and I shivered standing in the centre of the bridge, looking east with the wind shoving me from the back, trying to decide, well, not really what to do but what I thought about doing it. The busses, lorries, and flow of cars roared past along the quaysides and tourists made exclamations of wonder as they passed, and once in a few minutes a cloud would spit a bit of rain down, perhaps just to remind me that nature held most of the power.
She was up at Arnott's shopping for, well whatever. She loves the stores on Grafton Street and often pulls me through them – no, "pulls" is too strong and suggests unwillingness – I view top-level retail as some sort of great kinetic art show and do not mind at all. But when she settles into real purchasing modes she is more likely to work the lower price north side and to do it with great efficiency, and I am not much of a shopper in that way. So she went there and I went here. Claiming to need to check something at Books Upstairs by Trinity but not doing that at all, simply following a random path from College Green through Temple Bar and onto the Ha'penny, bringing me to this spot.
We'd agreed to meet at The Oval Bar at two-fifteen or half-past for sandwiches and pints and so we'd ride the bus back home together, and that we would. We'd talk about things as we do. We'd smile at each other and laugh and kiss and she'd kick her shoes off and put them in my lap and I'd massage them with my right hand as I drank with my left. This would all go on no matter what I decided, and it would all be good.
Did I want more or did she? Did I want her to move in, to be mine in "that way," or was I resisting, setting up reasons why not? Did she want what she always told her friends she would not do again, or was what she oft said the real thing? Were her jokes about me a defense mechanism for her or against me? Could something without a future go on and on forever? Or were we dooming ourselves to disappointment?
It seemed early in the autumn for the wind to be this raw. I pulled the phone from my pocket and checked the hour. Three ducks swam beneath me, all males, a pack on the prowl I suggested to myself. Behind me an American man said, "I totally love this city," which is always nice to hear.
I pushed myself off the railing. Turned to my left. Walked towards her.________________________
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
Monday, September 11, 2006
I said I wasn't putting a uniform on and I wasn't working the parade and while I wanted the day off that wasn't a huge deal because even if I didn't get the day off and, it's not like I'm not sensitive to the staffing reports that he needs to send in to One Police Plaza everyday, I'll pretty much be here when I'm here but that'll be between him and me. The lieutenant said, "Whatever, but what do we have on these guys in
Wednesday I make token attempts. I wear an old
On the train there are lots of cops, of course. Tons of cops and fireman all in uniform all heading down to be in the parade or to work at the parade. I've done that. Not marched but worked it. I did it as a rookie, all rookies do it even ones assigned to weird deep cover stuff. And last year because they said that kind of crap was more or less the price of the detective's shield, or surely the price of getting quickly bumped from Detective Third Class to Detective Second Class when you're getting that kind of pay raise without capturing Son of Sam or something. So I've worked the parade. It's not bad, I just never liked being in uniform in
I make it through the day mostly un-noticed. I get in late. I drink coffee. I walk a wide lap around the
At home this night I'll have a Guinness or two, but I'm not going to find a babysitter in my neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day night. Tomorrow I will spread this mountain of paperwork all over the conference room and try to see things in ways I have not before. I'll be wearing jeans and a shirt and tie and none of it will be green. Friday I'll tell the lieutenant something, but I doubt that anything I can say will make any difference.
copyright 2004 by Ira Socol
Friday, September 08, 2006
Dropping out of the window as the Long Tower chimes three and clambering down the drainpipe I move slowly and do not jump so I can touch the pavers without a sound. The moon has me in its sights, a moving spotlight appearing in a gateway in the clouds, and the shadow is something fearful.
Keeping my shoes off I scurry in stockinged feet through the alleys, ears wide to the unique dangers of this summer. There is the depth of the rumble of the Brit APCs and the rhythmic beat of the boots of the Provos running and the sadder rhyme of the Paras pounding their patrol routes. There is the silence of a city besieged and from the occasional open window the higher woodwind tones of mothers sobbing.
No one should be out on these streets right now, but all we have is each other and so I run to her when all pretend to sleep, and I run back when I have come to hope that this town's exhaustion has overtaken its fear and the people that surround me are truly at rest.
The street ahead has to be crossed and I lie face down on the cold stones, slipping forward, watching, listening. I feel the chill press through the fabric and shrink that Irish curse of mine – just a half hour ago it was filled and hot and wrapped in that tight love of hers – and I let myself know enough fear to keep me from the foolish bravery that has doomed us all.
Way off someplace. Way way off. There's a phonograph playing. I do not know why, but just now the streets are absorbing all of the bass notes, leaving only a treble voice scraping over the slate rooftops. "Go down, Miss Moses, there's nothin' you can say. It's just ol' Luke, and Luke's waitin' on the Judgement Day. "Well, Luke, my friend, what about young Anna Lee? "He said, "Do me a favor, son, won't ya stay and keep Anna Lee company?""
The voice pins me to the pavers. The moon is forcing hard shadows on the scene. The muscles in my chest are making it difficult to breath. I pull faces from my memory. Katie, Ma, the sisters, Honora. It is the women that you go on living for. It is the women most hurt when you disappear or die.
Five, four, three, two, I countdown to myself, "go," springing to my feet, racing left close as possible by the house fronts, then, crouched low, I cross to the home alley, moving as fast as I possibly can, I have never raced down the left wing on the pitch any faster, and I hop the wall because the gate makes noise and with quickness that only comes from years of practice slide open the kitchen window and land on the scarred lino floor.
And then I will make no more noise this night. And then I will not move until the sun breaks across the lough. I curl up on the floor of the tiny hall. My back pressed against the base of the stair. And I begin to dream.
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
photo adapted from Eamon Melaugh original via CAIN archives.
Lyrics, of course, from The Weight by J. R. Robertson as performed by The Band on the 1969 album Music from Big Pink.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Fastidious R. Thomson has taken the time to write and warn me that my penis may be too small. And who wouldn’t find that disturbing? I don’t know Fastidious, but neither do I know who’s been talking to him. An ex-girlfriend? That strange guy in the locker room at the pool? But before I can obsess too deeply, there’s more. Wallace J. Delicious thinks the problem is with my breasts. Ferdinand L. Welkommen says I need anti-depressants. He can get them for me cheap and without a prescription. Othmar P. Xylophonic knows that Viagra will make me and many women I have not yet met much happier.
Perhaps I should get back to work. There are reports to write. Phone calls to return. But the electronic bulk mail box is stuffed with troubling questions. Masonic W. Ruffhouse has heard that my credit may be bad. OK, duh. Emil C. Bushman thinks I need drugs to help me sleep. Again, certainly. But Bettye D. Celestial has frightening information from my personal horoscope. Cavernious Y. Homestead understands that I earn too little. And Candy U. Triumph knows what I want to see Paris Hilton do, and wants to help me out.
I consider all this. I’m not a very secretive person. I talk too much. Write too much. Post too many things on-line. If you type my name into Google you can find pages of hits. Still, it sure seems like too many people may know way too much. Do I have enemies working against me? What is the source of all this knowledge?
Just then a message arrives from Posterior V. Camelback. I am not, he insists, satisfying my woman. Well, this is one hell of a way to find out. So I ring “my woman.” Interrupt her at work. I say that I just got this email, and it says she is not satisfied. “Not satisfied with what?” she asks. I have to say that I am unsure. I tell her I just got this message, but it’s not like I’m going to open something from “Posterior V. Camelback.” There is a pause. I hear a deep sigh. Then her voice reappears: “Do you even have a job?”______________________________
copyright 2004 by Ira Socol Brenda, at Rubies in Crystal, posted her "recipe for spam" recently, and it reminded me of this, written "long ago"...
Sunday, September 03, 2006
On that weekend when they both disappeared from home, she with a black eye and he with a huge welt on his back where it had struck the radiator when he'd flown across the room, they pooled what money they had and split it mostly between his sock and her shoe and took the Number Six train down to Grand Central then the Seven over to Sixth then the D all the way to the end at Stillwell Avenue on Coney Island where neither had ever been. To celebrate escape they ate hot dogs at Nathan's and bought cokes and walked along the beach which was pretty empty on this early afternoon in early May. He told her he loved her and that they'd stay away forever and find jobs and live in one of those little houses they'd seen from the train that sat on walks not even streets and that, in their house, no one would ever hurt anybody. And the day turned into night and they actually found a twenty dollar bill in the sand plus a bunch of change and felt rich and had knishes and cream soda for dinner, splitting a cherry-cheese one for dessert, then curled up against a giant concrete support under the boardwalk. They were too tired to make out though as they both started to drift off and she pressed against him he got hard and thought about sex but they were only fourteen and hadn't even talked about doing that.
He woke up nervous not long after and spent the rest of the night in cautious watching, his mind trying to think of all the ways things could go their way and they could survive. She suggested McDonald's for breakfast because the bathrooms would be good and they could clean up, so they went there, then walked the boardwalk hand in hand all the way to Brighton Beach. They spent an hour walking the tiny paths among the bungalows and daydreaming that inconceivable future, and then they walked back and rode the Wonder Wheel and the Cyclone twice burning through way too much money and they looked at each other, there on the sidewalk in front of Astroland Park, and she started to cry.
They took the D train back to Forty-Second Street, then the Seven to Grand Central, then the Six back to Westchester Square. Then they walked towards their houses, knowing what was waiting.___________________________
copyright 2005-2006 by Ira Socol
photography adapted from assorted images including a main one © Burkhardt Seib
Saturday, September 02, 2006
It had stopped raining but the mist still clung to everything and the pavers and footwalks were wet and polished under the streetlamps and I said, "hey, this was fun," as her bus arrived and she leaned forward and kissed me, the fingers of her left hand just touching the back of my neck below the hairline, igniting me. "Ring me tomorrow," she said, then spun in an elegant twirl and climbed aboard.
The bus pushed through the fog and disappeared. I stood there on the silent, empty street thinking about the moonlight shining down on the tops of this enormous bank of clouds. And then I walked all the way home._____________________________
copyright 2006 by Ira Socol
Photograph adapted from Tsujiru.net Gallery