Here's my very first official posting in my new Criminal Journal: March 14, 2013.
Criminal Journal: March 14, 2013
That’s ol’ Benjamin Brittain up there, on the podium, conducting. Leading off the opening entry in my new Criminal Journal.
No, of course he’s not a criminal!
Ever since Andrew The Good taught me how to scan from my H/P 8500 Pro All-in-One printer, I love to include graphics in my journals! Taught me how to snatch images off anyplace on the Internet, too. Ol’ B.B. was snatched from a Google Site.
“But what’s he doing there up top, Al?”
Glad you asked. But sorry you had to. Got to focus better, if I’m to be a successful Journaliste.
It’s like this.
“Christ, Al, your writing style sure leaves much to be desired. You don’t have to say, “It’s like this,” when you start off one of your stories. You just say it. Say it!”
Well, I’m sorry about that.
All right already. I’m saying it. Ever since Monday Night, when I was last criminalized, my partner Mo has been very nervous and upset, worried, you know? I have to text or phone her when I go to bed, and I have to text or phone or email her that I’m alive and well, when I get up in the morning. “Mayhem in the A.M.” You know?
“And that’s why Benjamin Brittain, England’s greatest composer since Henry Purcell, starts off Criminal Journal?”
I’m getting to that.
“Well, get to it!”
This morning’s email to my partner, Mo, began. “Seven o’clock, and all is well.”
But then I realized this brand-new over-educated generation doesn’t know anything, despite the fact that every graduate averages $30,000 in debt, so I figured I’d better explain to her why I said that. So I added that this form of address, to start the day, you know, “7 o’clock, and all is well” is what the old-fashioned Night Watchman sang out as he made his rounds or perhaps doubled up as a Gaslight Lighter, street by street, in Merry Old England and all over Europe and America.
So when Benjamin Brittain wrote Peer Gynt or whatever opera it was he was composing, he started his libretto that way. You know, like “Enter the Night Watchman, singing, “Seven o’clock. And all is well.”
My wife, Teo Savory graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 1929. And her first job was singing the opening line in Brittain’s new opera, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.
So she goes to her first rehearsal, and she belts out her only part, “Seven o’clock and all is well.” Sir Thomas taps his podium impatiently. “All is NOT well, Miss Savory,” he shouts out critically.
“And that’s why Benjamin Brittain opens up your new journal, Al?”
You don’t like?
Well, I’ve already told you how the Criminal Journal came about. Notice we’re far, far from my first journal, the scholarly ethnographic BUS JOURNAL of 2007 and 2008, used as a textbook at the (ugh) state university Lo, these past six years. But I wasn’t being criminalized every day in those enlightened times.
On the other hand, I was mugged six times in my six months in New York after my wife died November, 1989. And I’ll get to that. But I should begin Criminal Journal with the latest, most recent mugging, don’t you think?
I was fast asleep three nights ago when all of a sudden there’s a stranger standing over my bed! I leap out of bed and scream, “What’s going on? Who are you?” I’m trembling all over.
“Don’t be alarmed,” this stranger says calmly. “I’m a police officer. I found your side door unlocked, and I came in to investigate.”
I tried to clear my head. My cat Glenwood’s tail was all swelled up, I noticed, as if a dog had suddenly appeared.
I had the presence of mind to walk this young fellow to the side door, to show me it was unlocked, thinking to get rid of him that way. He was weird-looking, emaciated really. The kind of face a premature baby has. As if squeezed with a forceps. His arms were unnaturally thin, too. He was like a miniature person. He wasn’t Black or White, as I must have explained to the authorities, under questioning, a million times.
Kind of a mawkish beige.
And he leaves, thank God, reminding me to lock the handle of the door. Unfortunately, the deadbolt doesn’t work. You can’t get it to move. Paul Carranno, from The Occupy Movement, backed his huge truck into that metal door a year ago, smashed it, and the deadbolt hasn’t ever lined up the way it’s supposed to.
“And this was the criminal portion of your evening?”
Be patient. This creepy guy comes back.
After he left, I was so shaken by being awaken that way, I couldn’t go back to sleep. So, late as it was, I turned on all the lights in the Back Room of the bookshop, a huge 5,000 square foot barn full of bookshelves, and continued my chore of shelving all our novels and fiction in the new shelving Joseph built for us recently. It’s satisfying to dump all the junk and alphabetize all the goodies. I dig into cartons where my partners Juan and Mo have been hiding all the books, and I find treasures, which I alphabetize in Joseph’s bookshelves. Bernard Malamud, Isak Dinesen, even P. G. Wodehouse. Of course, Juan and Mo and everyone else’s never heard of these 20th Century authors. For one thing, they don’t do graphic novels, although let’s hope some comic book artist comes around to straighten them out soon.
If only James Joyce had been born in the 21st Century and did a ‘zine. Oh, well. I’m gonna be 77 in two months, and this is the way I want to end my days: finding used copies of the books that meant something to me all my life, my pre-digital life, before Kindles and Androids, Microsoft Office Word, and iPhones, iPads, iPods, and ibityourcockoff.
Finally, I was exhausted enough to try to go back to bed. Glenwood, my cat, is nocturnal, but I ain’t. He decided to take a crap in the corner of the barn back there, so that had to be dealt with, too.
I’m lying in bed, but I’m hearing creaking and scratching everywhere. It’s probably Glenwood searching for phantoms, but I can’t fall asleep, with all these nervous sounds.
“Al, the sounds weren’t nervous. You were nervous.”
Whatever. I get out of bed, and I start poking around. Check out the bathroom. Think to check the side door, and by God, it’s unlocked!!! Oh, my!
If I had any brains, I would have run outside. But I keep looking. And lurking in a corner of the front room, by the front door, which is double-locked, is that creepy ugly son-of-a-bitch,
He’s got a fist full of dollars in his hand and the change tray from our cash register.
“What the hell?!” I shout at him.
He’s so calm. In that halting voice, kind of chicano accent, if you know what I mean, he says again, “Don’t be alarmed. I’m a police officer.”
Yeah. And I’m the King of Siam.
He goes on. “I apprehended a criminal in your parking lot. With this cash and your change tray in his hands.”
He calmly hands over the one-dollar and five-dollar bills, all we collected the day before, maybe $30 total. And the heavy change tray, full of pennies and nickels, dimes, and quarters.
I walk to the cash register, my mind in a whirl. I feel so sick. Nauseous, you know?
He slowly walks through the doorway to the back room, and as he leaves by the infamous side door, he says smirkingly, “Don’t forget to snap the deadbolt this time.”
Awww. I can’t work that damn deadbolt. All I have between this creepy Perpetrator and me is a loose handle lock a child could open with a tinker-toy.
Back in the Mists of Antiquity, when Mo was an employee, not a boss, and I was the Boss, she began this thing about worrying because I’m so old and frail. Not that I’m really old-and-frail, but I should be old-and-frail, I mean I am old, but I’m not frail. The last time I went to a (ugh) Doctor, oh about fifteen years ago, it was a young woman of all things, she supposed to look at my eye–a cinder got in there thrown up from my bicycle wheel, but first she has to doctor me, listen to my heart and lungs through her stethoscope. “Are you a professional athlete, Mr. Brilliant?” she asks. Boy, was hearing that worth a hundred bucks! I modestly told Dr. Young Woman I didn’t have a car, but I rode my bicycle everywhere, and that probably accounted for the stethoscope information and highest medical ranking. Well, she took care of my eye.
“So, Al, Mo is worried, right? She thinks you’re not up to living in the bookshop, coping with armed robbers?”
Right! I have to text or phone her before I go to bed. But, you see, I threw out the damn cell phone. Couldn’t stand using a telephone that way. And it was always interrupting me when I’d be trying to write my journals, or my memoirs, or my novels. I hate being interrupted. Expensive, too.
“Sorry to interrupt. But how do you phone or text Mo when you throw out your cellular device?”
Exactly. Mo made me get a new cell phone. But I draw the line at spending any money. Hey, it turns out if you’re on Food Stamps like me, an outfit called Assurance gives you a free cell phone. And 200 free minutes a month!!! Check it out!
“I’m not on Food Stamps, to use your term, thank you very much.”
Crazy, man! I get $125 every month. Not in cash. But automatically on to this credit card thing that I take to (ugh) Food Lion. Bangs right in there 15th of every month. Like clockwork. You don’t have to do a thing. Somehow this “EBT Card” it’s called, picks up $125 smack on the 15th. I ain’t shittin’ you. Really. And a free cell phone. No wonder the Republican one-percenters are so livid at us 99% on welfare.
The point is . . . I do have a cell phone. Free! And Mo entered her name and number in the speed dial. I’m to phone her every time we get broken into. Or, she says, any time I hear strange noises or, really, for any reason whatsoever.
But I’m not thinking straight. This guy has given me the willies. I‘m so confused. I haven’t had to use my free cell phone but once, a month ago, when we got broken into last. Then I called “911,” as if El-Quida was on the loose. But this time, should I call the Police? I mean, I got the money back and the tray full of change. The guy is gone. I don’t know what to do. But I’m thinking, “Mo wants me to phone her.” That’s the only coherent thought in my poor head.
I’m always telling my friend, Anya Russian, that Yiddish sounds like what it means. She says it’s called anyamatopoetic. After her? No, just being silly, but you would say, “Al, you were at sixes and sevens.” Because you’re a goy. Sixes and Sevens my asshole. In Yiddish you say, “You’re fa’shimmeled!”
Fa’shimmeled! That’s what I was. Not “Sixes and Sevens.”
Thank God I had the sense to call Mo. Of course, she answered right away. It’s the middle of the night. I’m hesitant to bother her, to wake her up. Don’t be hesitant. Everyone in their twenties is awake. Anya Russian never goes to sleep before 4 a.m. Mo answers on the first ring.
And in no time at all, seconds it feels like, she and her boyfriend, Dave, are driving up to Glenwood Coffee & Books. I knew at once I had done the right thing. Jinxed as I was, I got it right. I felt so good. I had been through at least three hours of hell. So confused. Slimed, really. But it was so good to see Dave and Mo walk through the front door.
Naturally, I told them the whole story. Word for word. They hate that back door and its loose handle lock as much as I. Dave said he could open it in a second with a credit card or even a piece of paper.
Mo said we had to call the Police. Well, of course we had to. But my brain was so feshtookenah I couldn’t think straight. I tried to prevent her, but Mo has a smart cell phone, and she had a Police Car over in a jiffy. Sargeant Held and Officer Jackson.
Mo tried to get the Sargeant to look at the Side Door, but he said he had to ask me some questions first. He and Officer Jackson listened to my tale. Then he asked the strangest questions.
The first one was, “Are you on any medication?” Then he asked me who the President of the United States was.
I told him, “He ain’t my President. As a member of Occupy Greensboro, I’m against Citizen’s United Supreme Court decision.” Turns out the Sargeant didn’t know what I meant.
Officer Jackson, a nice woman, asks kindly what my name was. I asked her what was her’s? But I got mine right. “Alan Brilliant,” I told her. Sargeant Held again, “What day is it?” Who the hell knows the date? He didn’t know the date! But I knew it was Monday. Even though it was already Tuesday. Of course, being a policeman, he thought it was Monday, too.
Finally, the two policepeople check out the Side Door with the loose handle. “It’s open all right,” says the Sargeant. Well, duh!
He explains to Mo that it’s no good taking fingerprints. That was his Big Mistake. ‘Cause Mo knows all about fingerprints. She practically cuts him a new asshole. Turns out she didn’t like any of his questioning line. What right did he have asking me if I am on medication? Points out he didn’t know the date it was either. “Hold on a minute,” says Sargeant Held. “You hold on!” shouts Mo. She talks very fast, you know, And extremely loud. She’s not trying to be impolite, she just happens to talk fash and loud. She’s practically jabbing Sargeant Held in the chest with her finger. At any rate, he’s backing up.
I realize, now, going over all this, what a sleeze ball he was. Mo was right. But it just added to my confusion at the time. At least Officer Jackson was a really beautiful young woman. I had that much presence of mind, as us victims say.
Oh, they stayed for hours. Officer Jackson had to somehow type up a complete report. I have a copy if you want to see it. Then she slowly and distinctly explained the report to me, as if I was in kindergarten. “If you have any questions” kind of thing, “the phone number you call is right here, in bold type, see?”
Dave and Mo finally drove me to their home, after Mo and Sargeant Held finished their fighting. Officer Jackson gave me a really nice smile. I felt we had made a pleasant connection, you know?
I slept well. But my dratted cell phone woke me up at eight, a few hours later. It was another policeperson, a Policeman, who said Sargeant Held had given us an 8 a.m. appointment, why wasn’t I meeting him at the bookshop like I was supposed to?
“Well, Al, that certainly was an adventure . . .”
Hold on. I’m not done.
“Well, I really have to go . . .”
There’s two more policemen to come. One a real butch dyke!
“It’s time to get to work . . .”
This will only take a second. And there’s a really good Punch Line to end everything with.
“Well . . .”
This policeman with whom I was never told I had an appointment, well he was a pleasant enough fellow. Explained he didn’t carry a gun. Okay, says I. What he means is he doesn’t want to go into the bookshop.
“I don’t carry a gun,” he says to me. “I only do fingerprints, things like that. We need back-up.”
Here I was about to just unlock the front door and walk right into my bookshop. Without a gun. Without any back-up.
And you ask me why I am calling this a Criminal journal!!!
Anyway, he gets on his walkie-talkie, and he calls for back-up. Can you believe it. He thinks the spooky criminal still lurks inside my bookshop, just waiting for me to arrive. Sargeant Held thinks this guy is a phantom, a chimera. Well, he didn’t use the word, “chimera.”
Another police car arrives! Squad Cars they’re called.
This is a 220-lb 6’2” white-haired woman with a mammoth bosom absolutely bursting out of her police uniform shirt. She’s totally packed with weaponry.
She cautions us to remain outside, as I unlock the door. She rushes into the bookshop. “Come out with your hands up!: she screams. “I am a policeman! Everyone in here come out with your hands where I can see them! I am armed, and my weapon is drawn.”
I’m standing safe in the parking lot, and I’m scared of her. Luckily, no one was inside. Had there been a customer in there,. Business would be over for that day, for sure.
After quite a long time., she comes out to where this unarmed fellow and I, also unarmed in this lifetime, are patiently waiting. I almost put my hands up when she finally came outside.
“Situation is clear,” she says, in a normal tone of voice, normal for her maybe, but still pretty booming. She walks up to me. “I liked your sign on the bathroom door,” she says. She chuckles, reciting the sign Mo put up about how bathrooms don’t have gender, so ours isn’t a Men’s Room or a “Ladies Room,” anyone can use either bathroom. “But,” she says sternly, but still with a sense of humor I think, “I didn’t like all those posters about Police Brutality.” I kind of blanched.
Well, that about wraps it up. Aside from still shaking in my boots three days later and having to call or text or email Mo every morning and night, that’s about it. For this one event. There’s a whole mess of events to catch you all up on. I’ve waited too long to write this here Criminal Journal. Should have started years ago.
There’s the six muggings in New York. Two more, right here in the bookshop. And, since this journal will include everything criminal that happens, I might include a few things Charlie had to say after our last game of chess.
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