I blame bad art for getting busted.
“My friend takes amazing pictures,” my girlfriend said, fawning in a fashion that likely meant his photos were unfit for Mars Bar’s putrescent toilet.
“Is there free wine or liquor?” I asked. I judge an art opening not on the works presented but by the open bar. Serving Franzia or Yellowtail equals a big fat fail. Pour Brooklyn Lager or Jameson, and I’ll give any gallery a glowing review.
“Tons of free alcohol,” my girlfriend said, soothing me with the honeyed words I needed to hear. Upon arriving at the graffiti-splashed Williamsburg gallery, I was unsure of the larger letdown: The colossal prints of unclothed ladyfolk contorted (artfully, of course) on burning leaves or the sole social lubricant: room-temperature chardonnay, so metallic that a Bowery bum would pause before pouring the rotgut into his rotting gut.
“I’ll be back in a minute,” I told my girlfriend, decamping to a corner bodega to procure more palatable mood-altering potion. I scored Sierra Nevada’s skunky Torpedo Extra IPA.The ale’s so assertively hoppy it smells like marijuana. Outside the gallery, I dropped the 12-ouncer into a brown paper bag, popped the cap and pulled on the cool, piney pleasure.The Torpedo destroyed my frown, sending tiny waves of contentment and what I’ve come to call happiness rippling through my bloodstream. I took another taste, then another for good measure, so lost in my good-beer reverie that I neglected to notice my audience.
“Come ovah here,” a stubble-headed cop commanded, beckoning from inside his cruiser. I pointed to my chest: moi? “Yeah, you. What do you think you’re doing?” “I just stepped outside of the gallery, sir,” I said, employing the deferential tones that the boys in blue so love.
“You know you can’t drink on the sidewalk,” said the officer, who barely looked old enough to drink himself.
“No buts. Let me see your ID.”
Let’s pause for a station break. Aside from dipsomania and my tendency to sniff my sneakers, my most glaring character defect is my disdain for authority. Teachers, bosses, cops, they all rankle my canker. I chose the freelancing life, toiling from home in my holey underwear and finger-scooping crunchy Jif from the jar, because I’m incapable of answering to a tight-assed supervisor. Hell, I’ve held just one full-time job in my life, and that was scribing for a C-rate porn publisher—who would’ve fired me for insubordination if I hadn’t first quit. This diatribe is just a protracted way of saying that, despite the knockoff Louis Vuitton wallet bulging my right pocket, I fibbed to Officer Babycheeks.
“Whaddya mean you don’t have an ID?” the officer replied. His jaw dropped in disbelief, as if I told him that de-clawed hamsters ran circles inside my skull.
“I just don’t have it,” I said haughtily, still cradling my beer. Truth is, I was practicing what my police-averse pal Aaron preached. During December’s drunken Kris Kringle Santacon gathering, Aaron and his wife were caught guzzling whiskey. The officers de manded identification, but Aaron insisted they lacked licenses. “Never give a cop your ID,” he later whispered. Incensed, but not wanting to handcuff Mr. and Mrs. Claus, the officer let them loose. My jean shorts, however, were not the same as a jolly Saint Nick outfit.
“Well, there’s two options,” the cop said, his lips curling around his canines like Dracula does moments before piercing a pulsing jugular. “You can either show me an ID right now, or you can take a ride to the Tombs.” For those who’ve never had the pleasure of incarceration, the “Tombs” is the fun-loving nickname for the Manhattan Detention Complex. My tough-guy act cracked like an egg. I passed the cop my license, hoping he’d be pleased I was an organ donor. “Oops, forgot I had it!” I said, laughing in machine-gun bursts. Ha-ha, I’m so absent-minded!
“Why’d you lie?” the cop asked, his anger boiling like water on a stove.
“I…didn’t know I had my wallet on me,” I replied, my own personal entry into the Bad Excuse Hall of Fame.
“You know, I was gonna let you off with a warning, but now I’m gonna give you a ticket.” He passed me a carnation-pink summons for an open-container violation, another $25 for the city coffers. “Now stay inside,” Officer Babycheeks said. I followed his index finger back into the gallery, a fate that, if not for the Torpedo I still seized, might’ve been worse than a night in jail.