As I thumbed through Light in All Directions, I realized, this season belongs to me. I have lots of poems about vampires, ghosts and nightmares. Here’s one inspired by several shakedowns while working the late shift in LA during the 1980s:
Oh-no, my mistaken identity.
Police believe they’ve profiled me
but don’t know my vampiric mind.
I rationalized my belief in flesh,
blood and love. Just because
I wear sunglasses and keep to the shade,
left my home one August night
to split open hearts with mine, doesn’t mean
the other creature will break free of my skin.
I never needed a mirror as a mask;
nevertheless, last night I gazed into the police
as they shoved me around the checkpoint.
The jangley cop securely said,
“We know your thirsty kind.”
His constipated sidekick punctuated
with an accident-flare to my sternum.
They so longed for my purple of bruises,
but I fanned my lips and yawned;
they flinched politely when
I said, “Sorry, no spare crimes on me.
I just need a nap and some Novocain.”
With me packing the blood so deep,
they told me to carry on,
but we all knew it was an escape
after dusk. From their dungeons
of reason they let me go
because they could,
and I glided away, above the dusty sidewalk,
both my shoulders brushing the invisible
corridors inside our national castle. (79)
In some ways I got over it after a probe busted 70 LAPD for large scale corruption in the Rampart Scandal. It just so happened that during that time my favorite hamburger stand happened to be at the corner of Beverly & Rampart. In those days, I was often hungry in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I've gotten over my bad attitude somewhat. In my hometown, the deputies have always been fair to me. In the huge beat that Valley Center covers, they have enough real trouble. But sometimes people send the police looking for trouble and they find it. For example, last week as I was driving home from work through Escondido, I saw some people along the road holding signs that said, "Checkpoint Ahead."
Escondido is notorious for a couple of council members riding the popularity of blaming illegal immigration for the state of all things. The council passed laws outlawing the parking of cars on lawns and setting up checkpoints for driver's licenses and insurance because it's believed undocumented immigrants don't have such things. The problem is that while such checkpoints are in operation, they cost more than your average patrol and they net fewer drunk drivers. In other words, police patrolling the entire city costs less and catches more dangerous DUIs than a checkpoint.
I turned off Lincoln onto Ivy and approached the checkpoint from the other direction. The police had set up command in front of the shopping center at Lincoln & Fig. The parking lot was full of tow trucks, generators for the floodlights and trailers.
I noticed a young Euro-American couple standing in the grass beside two car seats and a half-dozen sacks of groceries. They were watching an SUV be pulled onto a tow-truck. I asked if they'd had their car confiscated.
"No," said the man. "It was my brother's."
"They said he wasn't on his brother's insurance," the woman said.
As it turns out, the couple is unemployed and living with the brother's family. No car. No house. And now the impound fee to get their brother's SUV back. But at least they were legal citizens.
When you go looking for trouble, it isn't hard to find.