It took about an hour to make my way over to the part of town where I was staying. After getting off the bus I walked through deserted streets, stopping at a 24-hour market to get a drink; I was parched. Back outside, Gatorade in hand, my night was finally coming to an end. Or so I thought.
Now on the same block as the house, I noticed a police car driving slowly in the opposite direction. Suddenly everything was screeching tires and flashing lights. Apparently they took note of me also. As the patrol car came to a rest on the sidewalk in front of me, two officers crouched behind their doors with drawn guns pointed at me. Arms and Gatorade raised, I asked what I did. While being handcuffed and put in the backseat they told me it was illegal to have an open glass bottle on a public street. If only I had the foresight to drink my Gatorade from a plain paper bag. So once again I found myself en route to central booking. The cop in the passenger seat asked me where I was from. I told him New York and he turned back in his seat and muttered “Goddamn Yankee werewolves coming down here and ruining our Mardi Gras.” Back I went to the Ticketron lines, with presumably a different crowd of customers standing with me, once again waiting to pay $50 bail to get out. I didn’t bother making a phone call this time.
There was a baseball player in the 1930s named Johnny Vander Meer who holds what I believe is the only baseball record that will never be broken. People can talk all they want of great batting and pitching records. Someday Joe Dimaggio’s consecutive game hitting streak will fall. But no one will ever break Johnny Vander Meer’s record of two consecutive no-hitters. You know why? Because to break it someone would have to throw three consecutive no-hitters. Which just ain’t gonna happen. And this is how I used to look at being arrested twice in one day; it could never be surpassed because to break that record you would need to be arrested three times in one day--and how the Hell could that happen? I have since learned that this is not as uncommon as one might think. Go figure. So maybe Mr. Vander Meer should be looking over his shoulder after all.
By the time I got back to their house the sun was coming up. We couldn’t raise the $500 for a bail bond to get him out so he sat in jail through Fat Tuesday, which is the big day of Mardi Gras. I showed up for my court appearance indigent as only an 18 year old can be. When the judge called my name I stood up and walked forward. My friend was brought out and he stood next to me, wearing handcuffs and in obvious pain. We both pled not guilty and a trial date was set for the following month. Before Mr. 49 Chevy was taken back to jail I told him I would come back to testify on his behalf, tell the court what really happened. He looked at me with none of the bravado from days earlier. He said he was afraid they would hurt him, maybe even kill him, if he tried to press charges; he wanted to drop it and get on with his life. After he was taken back to the lockup I saw the bailiff to get paperwork for the new court date. I remember telling him I would return to fight the charges against me. He looked at me like someone who had seen way too many people who just didn’t understand the world. He said “Kid, are you crazy? If you don’t come back they’ll just fine you the $50 bail you already paid and it’ll be done.” Of course he was right but it took a while to sink in.
As I was heading towards the door I heard my name called for the second time that morning in the court—I had completely forgotten about my big Gatorade caper. I turned to face the judge again. He looked down on me with some disdain and said in an annoyed voice “you again?” Finally, inexplicably, when I told him my story reason actually prevailed; he said it was an antiquated statute for which it was ridiculous to be arrested. He threw the case out. 24 hours later, between me, Lenny and his girlfriend, we were finally able to raise the $500 to get a bail bond and spring the Chevy man.
A couple of days later Lenny and I left New Orleans, and for reasons I can’t recall we went in different directions. He was heading west and I was going home, to New York. Once again I was standing on a road with my thumb out in search of a ride, this time by myself. I was looking forward to an uneventful trip home. Yeah, right.
Final chapter goes up on Friday.