Archive for October 2013

THE GROVE STREET CARNIVAL   3 comments

THE GROVE STREET CARNIVAL

pinsAt Roll Call Sergeant Capp advised us that there was a street carnival setting up on Grove Street All the buildings on both sides of Groves Street had burned and been torn down. So it was pretty easy for the carnival people to get the permit to close the street. I guess some idiot in City Hall thought it would be a good idea for the carnival. We thought it would be a fiasco.

We remembered when a fast food place opened a restaurant on Broadway. They brought in a clown. When they ran out of  free stuff the crowd went crazy. We were able to bring things under control without too much trouble although they did try to lynch the clown. When we pulled him away from the crowd and got the noose off him. He was sitting in our car crying.

He said, “Who wants to hang a clown?”

I felt sorry for him so I didn’t say anything, but I couldn’t blame the crowd. I have always hated clowns.

It was a beautiful day so the crowds really came out for the carnival.  As we drove past we could see small rides being set up. There were several trailers there with the sides opened to expose the games. Most “games of chance” at these carnivals are rigged. The only real chance you have of winning is if they let you win to attract more suckers.

One had a small side show. They had a South American Capybara which they were advertising as “The World’s Largest Rat.” They also had a pony ride set up. We were surprised it was going so well. The crowds were heavy but everyone was in a good mood. I hoped it stayed that way. But this was Bushwick so of course that wasn’t going to happen.

We kept rolling by between jobs just to check it out. There were ten Auxiliary Police assigned to the carnival. They were standing in groups, five on Wilson and five on Central. If trouble broke out they would be worse than  useless. A car would have to cover each group until we could get them out of there so they would not get hurt. It would be bad P.R. for the city if the auxiliaries got hurt. That would take two cars away from the trouble.

It went pretty well until the afternoon. We made a drive by around two. Things had changed. Looking around we saw that the crowds were drinking heavily and we knew that this was not going to end well.

Harry shook his head, “It looks like the shit will be hitting the fan soon. We better get ready.”

We went to the station house and spoke to the Lt. Johnson.

“Loo, the crowd is drunk and it’s starting to get ugly on Grove St.”

“When you go back tell the Auxiliaries to get back here on the double if trouble starts.”

“OK, Loo.”

We stopped by both groups of Auxiliaries. We told them that the driver was to stay in their car the other four were to stand by it. As soon as trouble started they were to get in the car and report it to the Desk Officer in person. We resumed patrol. All the available cars in the precinct were orbiting within two or three blocks of the carnival.

Sure as hell there was soon an argument over one of the games. It had a ball on a chain and all you had to do was swing the ball and knock three duck pins off the counter.

The player was yelling that it was fixed. Which I have no doubt it was. As I said before anyone who thinks they can really win one of those games without the operator letting him win is either very  naive or just plain stupid. Very few of those living within the confines of the Eight-three precinct were naïve but a great many were stupid.

From there it grew into a full scale riot. All they needed was half an excuse to loot. The Auxiliaries called it in as they left the scene. Every available car in the precinct responded. We were there in less than a minute but still several trailers were on fire as we pulled up. The FD was called. We got there too late to see who started the fires. The owner of the carnival was very uncooperative. He would give no information about who started the fires.

I told him, “Look you must have seen something.”

He just shook his head, “We should move away from that trailer. It’s burning really bad.”

“It’s not that bad we’re far enough away.”

“No, It’s loaded with propane tanks.”

“Did you tell the firemen that?”

“No.”

We notified the FD and they concentrated on that one to avoid an explosion.

We had rounded up most of the looters when the owner came over to us.

“I don’t want to press any charges. I don’t want to get involved.”

Sgt. Cap told him, “They are stealing everything that is not nailed down. I think you are already involved. We have been arresting them.”
“They are not stealing any property. They have my permission to take it.”

Sgt. Capp said, “Are you saying you are giving it to them?”

“Yes.”

Several of us wrote what he said down in our memo books and had him sign verifying that he gave the property away. It was frustrating for us to stand by and watch them take everything they could carry. We kept them from burning any more trailers and stopped fights but that was about all we could do.

We were standing there when. A teenager who worked for the carnival came to running to us crying.

“They’re trying to cook the pony.”

We followed him behind one of the trailers. The pony had been tied up and four teenagers were trying to drag it into a large fire.

We laid into them with our sticks. We kicked their asses and told them they were lucky because if we had gotten there too late and the pony was in the fire they would have gone in after it. When they were gone the pony was untied and a couple of cops followed the kid to the station house with the pony.

Someone also stole the capybara. We never did find out what happened to it but we were leery of running into it in a basement. They are harmless but I know if I suddenly came upon it in a dark basement there would be shots fired.

No arrests for looting were made that day and it all actually ended pretty peacefully. Most of the trailers were destroyed either by fire of just being smashed and looted.

The day after the carnival was pretty quiet we drove by and they were packing up the pieces. At least getting everything that wasn’t destroyed the day before. It was a shame because we could have saved most of the stuff if that asshole hadn’t said he was giving them permission.

About a month later an insurance investigator came to the precinct. He was asking why the police let the crowds steal everything. We told him what the owner of the carnival had told us about giving it away. He then told us that the owners story to the insurance company was that he begged us to save his property but was told we didn’t want to start a riot. When we told him that the owner had signed our memo books stating he was giving the property away and wanted no arrests made the investigator got a huge smile on his face.

We told him that the owner had signed the books of at least ten cops and two Sergeants. The carnival owner called the C.O. the next day. He said his insurance company would not pay off because he had given the property away. He wanted to make a complaint against us saying that he had never given permission for us to show his signature to the insurance company and he was now going to go bankrupt. He stated he might sue. The C.O. had the Integrity Sergeant call him back. The Sergeant, Arty Hines told him go ahead and sue because the we did nothing wrong and that all the information regarding the whole affair was being sent to the Brooklyn D.A.’s Office to see if they wanted to charge him with insurance fraud. We never heard another word about it

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Posted October 21, 2013 by kevingcox in Random Thoughts

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A Few Blackout Moments   2 comments

Broadway Blackout

 Someone commented after my last blog that they wanted to see another 83 story. So here it is. It is totally fiction of course. Nothing like this could have ever happened in 83 during the blackout. Any resemblance to any real people or incidents is a total coincidence.   We were still shaking our heads about that idiot Captain coming out here alone when we heard a new commotion from Broadway. We ran to the corner just in time to see two RMP’s drive down the street. On the roof of one of the cars was a precinct scooter cop. He was waving a cavalry saber and screaming charge at the top of his lungs.

Just one more surreal image for a night out of a Harlan Ellison nightmare. I hoped he would not chop any looter’s head off. Many things could be ignored tonight but decapitations would probably be noticed and frowned upon by the city.

By now the stores were starting to run out of things to steal. The looters were getting more desperate to get something before there was nothing left. Denny and I chased a few guys up to the fourth floor storeroom of a furniture store. They had tried for the roof but it was chained closed. It must have felt strange for them trying to break out of a store instead of into it. We caught the four of them and chased them out with a couple of slap shots to the ass. They were only teenagers, too young and too dumb to deserve a real ass kicking. They were only following what their elders, who should have known better, were doing.

Denny and I sat down on the steps to relax and have a cigarette before going out to find someone who deserved to get his ass kicked. Getting up to leave we heard noises from downstairs. We were standing in total darkness. Looking over the railing we could see a parade of several hundred looters stretching from the first to the third floor coming up the stairs. They were all following one asshole with a penlight.

Now we were the ones trapped at the chained door to the roof. Since they didn’t know how many of us were there our best chance was to stay quiet until they got close. Then scare the balls off them.

Crouching at the top landing with heavy four cell steel flashlights in one hand and guns in the other, we waited. Just before the light from the penlight hit us we both jumped up turning our flashlights on blinding them. As our lights came on we started screaming as loud as we could and firing shots into the walls and ceilings. The bright lights, the screaming, the sounds of the guns going off and the plaster raining down caused a panic. The leaders in front now wanted to get to the back as soon as possible. They turned and charged into those behind them. Bodies were flying everywhere as they all fought to get down the stairs. Everybody was screaming now. Denny and I charged down the stairs and started whacking the stunned crowd with our flashlights. The company that makes the flashlights says they are not to be used for that purpose, but I can tell you they work well when applied forcefully.

By the time we got out of the store there must have been fifty people who were heading off to the hospital almost all of them injured by other looters.

Gerry and Bob met us outside they had been in the meat market next door as all this went down. When they saw the stampede leaving the store they came over to hurry them out. Bob ran up to us.

“What the hell happened in there? We were looking for you when all of sudden they all came out screaming.”

We told them the story laughing.

Gerry said, “You were lucky. Be careful when you go into the stores now. The looters set the meat market on fire with us in it. We were able to get out but I don’t think we should go too far in unless we have another way out.”

Many of the stores had the back doors and windows bricked up or chained to keep burglars out. It would not be good to be caught in one of those with no equipment and no way out.

Just then out from a vacant lot came possibly the strangest looking man we had seen all night. Which was no small feat because we had seen so many strange people and things that night. He hobbled out like Quasimodo bleeding from a hundred small cuts. His face was bruised and swollen. He had a strange vacant look in his eyes. His clothes were hanging off him like rags. He looked like Robinson Crusoe had been marooned in Bushwick instead of a desert island. When he saw us he squealed like an animal and half ran half hobbled around the corner. Cursing, mumbling and giggling the whole way.

Gerry turned, “What the hell was that?”

Out from the building on the other side of the lot came Frank LaMota. Frankie came over to us.

“Did you just see an asshole come out of that lot? I was chasing this mope across the roof when the idiot ran right off.”

I looked up it was a six story building.

“And he lived?”

Frankie said “The shithead fell about fifteen feet and landed in a tree. He bounced from branch to branch the whole way down. All I could hear was the guy screaming and branches breaking until the skell hit the ground. We thought he was dead until he stumbled up and gave us the finger.”

“The guy just ran down Grove Street”

Frankie smiled, “Good, I’m going to kick his ass.”

“Frankie, it looked like he has already had his ass pretty well kicked.”

“You think so; wait until I get through with him for giving me the finger.”

He and his partner Patty D. tore off around the corner. I could hear him yelling

“I see you asshole. You’re mine now.”

I said, “Denny boy, that is going to be one hurting skell in the morning.”

 

Posted October 15, 2013 by kevingcox in Random Thoughts

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Loss of community   6 comments

Explorer of the Seas Bermuda Oct 20139I haven’t written anything for a few weeks. I was up in New York for the 83 precinct reunion. Old stories told and retold with a toast or two to those who are no longer with us. It was a great time with some of the greatest cops who ever lived.  We were the last of the cowboy cops.

After that a birthday party for my daughter Jen. Again a great time. Then it was onto the Explorer of the Seas for a trip to Bermuda. The picture is Red Hook from the cruise ship when we set sail. When we got back there was a more private dinner for Jen’s birthday. It was a great two weeks but now I am back in Florida. I am scheduled for another Inspired Mic reading on Tuesday at the Beachfront Beanery. If you can make it give it a try. I am also back writing things on this blog.

Now for something different that I have been thinking about. I have heard a million reasons why people are disconnected from their neighborhoods and neighbors. I feel there is one reason that no one ever thinks of.

So what is this terrible thing that has cut us off from those around us, air conditioning. Just think about this. Remember hot summer nights, everyone in the neighborhood would be out sitting on stoops or lawn chairs. The kids playing in the street or in the Johnny Pumps. For those who don’t know a fire hydrant in Brooklyn was a Johnny Pump. They were the Red Hook version of a country swimming hole. There was very little street crime because every block had a hundred people sitting outside. Besides everyone knew each other. It is easier to steal from strangers.

So there we had all the kids, the parents and grandparents sitting outside, talking about the days affairs with the neighbors. That has come to an end. Now we all stay in our air conditioned homes or apartments. Huddled against the heat we lose the sense of belonging to a community. Our new air conditioned neighborhood doesn’t go further than the front door. On a hot summer night a city street can be as empty as a ghost town. The window lights don’t connect, they are each separate and lonely.

Well that is it for today. Next time I hope to make more sense.

Marion Harmon, A Writer in Vegas.

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