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PART II The Thug & The Fiefdom
PART II The Thug & The Fiefdom
When they finally took me to the cell they refused to give me a pillow, blanket, toilet paper, or return my shoes. The cell was a tiny cubicle just large enough to hold a cot and a stainless steel toilet with no seat. There was one small slit of a window that was too high up to look out of.
All night I seethed with anger at being put in a cage. In the morning I could only think of the film shoot I was scheduled to direct at that hour, and of that when evening came I would be missing a day of work. And why all this? The police were so bored that they managed to created a criminal were one didn’t exist.
One of the worst things about being in jail was trying to keep your mind from racing. Around noon a book cart came by my cell that represented the extent of the jailhouse library. The reading selection ranged from Dick and Jane level reading material to outdated issues of the Reader’s Digest magazine. All of it too inane to hold one’s attention.
In the afternoon we were allowed out in the yard for an hour. The other convicts ran in circles around the yard to burn off energy. I was not allowed to see a lawyer or have a notebook and pencil. In the evening they brought a cup for of green liquid and told me to go into the shower and rub it over myself from head to toe because the had to ‘delouse me.’
That evening I was released on $1,500 bail. An exorbitant amount for a public nuisance charge. As I headed out the door they returned my shoes with the strings tied together in a tangle of 20 knots. Just a little goodbye gift from the guards.
Two weeks later I was finally able to see the public defender. His first action was to tell me he hoped I had learned a lesson. When your own lawyer assumes you are guilty before he even meets you, you know justice is not in the game plan. By this time I was so dispirited that I signed anything they wanted and plead guilty to any charges they asked. Anything as long as I could maintain the freedom to live my life.
Although I didn’t tell the public defender this, I had learned a lesson. I had learned that there is corruption at every level of authority, and that the justice system will protect its own rather than uphold the law. I learned the depth of fear and despair one feels when the liberties that Americans hold so dear, are trampled into the ground by those in power. But most important, I learned that if you question the authority of those in power, it shakes them to the core. They react like frightened animals trapped in a corner, and will do anything it takes to restore their sense of unquestioned dominance.
A few days later I was speaking to a friend of mine who was a civics professor at the Penn State University. She urged me to file an official complain against the authorities. I knew it was the right thing to do. The truth is I was afraid that if I made trouble the corrupt elements would make my life rough for me, and being locked in a cage had made a strong impression on me, now all I wanted was to live in freedom.
A couple of weeks later I was walking across a bridge that overlooks the Susquahanna River. At the end was a monument to the local men who had died in World War II. As I read the names of those who had given their lives for our country and its ideals I felt ashamed. In the end I lacked the courage to stand up for those same ideals of liberty and justice.
When I got home I wrote a letter of complaint detailing my experience with the police and sent it to the two local newspapers and to the state senator’s offices. Both newspapers refused to print the letter. Years later the owner of the smaller weekly newspaper the County Observer came backstage at an Imperial Orgy performance and apologized.
“I felt for you,” he intoned. “I wish I could’ve helped, but there are people around here I can’t get on the wrong side of.”
The main newspaper, The Lewistown Sentinal, told me they would look into the matter and print a story, but never did. When you have no money, no power, and no voice, the media is the only hope the public has to tell their story in hopes of finding justice. When the media turns its back on the public, and when public officials are above criticism, it is a chilling sign of authoritarian control.
The one man who did stand up was a state senator by the name of Daniel F. Clark. Clark filed a complaint against the police officers and the sheriff’s office on my behalf. I didn’t realize it at the time, but now the war was on and I was a marked man. I had caused them to be called to account for their behavior by a legitimate source of power, and everyone in the local and state police force, the local politicians, the sheriff’s department, and the justice system were on alert and had aligned their defenses. I had crossed the line and must be put back in my place.
As I say, at the time I was completely unaware of what was taking place behind the scenes. I lead a quiet life as far as Lewistown was concerned. My days were filled with college classes in another town, and my evenings filled with work at the pizza shop. I didn’t drink much and rarely went out in public. I really had no contact with the police or other local authorities. But soon a turn of events would give the police a perfect foil that would allow them to place me in their grips.
After a few years my relationship with Leilani suddenly began to fall apart. She was half Hawaiian and came from a troubled home.
Although her stability was always a tad shaky, except that she couldn’t seem to go for more than a few hours without sucking down a joint, she had held herself together pretty well. Once my time was taken up by college and work, she became lonely and soon began to drink and take harder drugs.
When we split she went straight into the arms of a good-looking thug named Robert Murdoch who had just gotten released from prison for brutally assaulting a young woman. He looked a bit like a Robert De Niro in the movie Cape Fear.
Whenever possible Lealani tried to find ways to force a confrontation between Murdoch and I. On a May evening Leilani called and demanded that I give her a painting I had of the Hindu God Krishna. She was welcome to take the painting, but I had lent it out to a mutual friend to use as set decoration on a student film shoot. Even though she knew the painting was not there she said she was coming over to get it.
I had friends over that night and didn’t want to have them entangled in a scene, so when I heard Lealani and Murdoch pull up in front of my house I waited for them outside the front door. As soon as Leilani came near she began punching and scratching my face and chest. She tore my T-shirt off my body before I could subdue her. Murdoch stood a few feet away making threats and saying he would, “break me in two.”
When they refused to leave I called the police for protection and to force Murdoch off my property. The police refused to come. They said it was a personal dispute and they could not get involved. Although I didn’t understand what was going on, this was the first sign that the authorities were aligned against me and were simply waiting for a chance to knock me off my high horse.
After about an hour of drama that took place with the entire neighborhood watching, they finally left, but only after I threatened Murdoch with a baseball bat that a neighbor had handed to me.
Later that evening after my guests had left I called Leilani to tell her she could have the painting as soon as it was returned from the film shoot. Unfortunately Murdoch answered the phone. He said, “Watch your back. When you least expect it I’m going to come up behind you and stick I knife in your back.”
After I hung up the phone, about twenty minutes later I got a call from the state police. They said that Murdoch had filed a complaint against me and I would be placed under immediate arrest. They said I could expect a summons for a court date to arrive in the mail. Although the behavior of the police seemed astounding, I still hadn’t put the pieces together to understand what was really taking place.
Not long after that I received news that Leilani had been arrested and jailed on attempted murder charges. It seems that in a drunken rage Murdoch had beaten her up and during the attack she grabbed a meat cleaver and stuck it into his shoulder.
Knowing she had no one in there to help her, I called her mother, who lived in Hawaii so she could arrange bail. The charges were dropped a few weeks later.
The summer months passed by without further incident. Late in September Leilani’s mother called me to tell me that Leilani was having emotional and drug related problems. She said she was too far away to help and ask if I could try to help her. I told her that I had little contact with her and there wasn’t much I cold do.
Later that week I went out for a drink with friends. After one vodka and seven I returned home to find a note on my door from Leilani, saying she need to speak to me about something, and asking if I could come to the diner were she worked as a waitress.
On the way to the diner I noticed her car parked at a convenience store gas station and figured she had gotten off work early. I pulled in to see what she wanted. To my surprise Murdoch was there with her. Immediately an argument ensued. Murdoch said, “I’m going to give you a beating you’ll never forget.”
Then as Leilani and I spoke for a moment he went to a pay phone and called the police. The police must have absolutely rushed to the scene because they arrived in a moment’s notice and immediately arrested me. I couldn’t believe what was taking place. Even though Leilani told them I wasn’t doing anything illegal, they cuffed me and took me away.
These events seemed so irrational that I was left confused and overwhelmed. I ask what I was being charged with and they said public drunkenness. I explained that I had only one drink and requested a breathalyzer test to prove it, but they steadfastly refused.
In court the judge wisely explained that with a charge of public drunkenness it doesn’t matter how much alcohol you have consumed, if a police officer says you are drunk, then you are. A strange bit of logic, but when you’re in a madhouse, you learn not to question such things.
This time there were no insults. No roughing me up for kicks. It was all done by the book. The officers just seemed focused on getting me into the jail as quickly as possible.
I was processed and taken to my cell. This time I was given blankets, pillow, and toilet paper. Everything was done in a professional manner. But there mere fact that I was in jail at all belied that something was out of whack with these proceedings.
The night came and went. After breakfast one of the jail guards pulled me into a silent stairway. He was a large pot bellied man with shaggy hair and a big scruffy moustache.
“I read that letter you wrote,” he said menacingly “So you think us guards aren’t educated enough huh? I’ll have you know I used to be a substitute teacher at every high school in the county.”
I stood smiling slightly. Not uttering a word. Not revealing a single emotion.
“How do you think I did that if I’m not educated?”
He peered at me expectantly. Again I just smiled without response.
Realizing I would not react he ordered to me, “Go back to your cell, we’ll talk later.”
At around noon I was taken down to the sheriff’s private office and told to sit on a chair against the wall. In a nasty bit if nepotism a guard who was a relative of the sheriff’s stood outside the door like a palace sentry. Rising up slowly from his chair the sheriff glared at me.
“I had to fill out a lot of paperwork because of you.”
Again I sat looking straight into his eyes, betraying no emotion in my face. He spoke with a slow, depressed sounding drawl that is common in that part of the country.
“Have you served in the military?” he barked
“No,” I replied.
“Well I have! I don’t ever want to hear you talk about what people in the military think or feel. Do you hear me? Those people who fought and died for this country weren’t fighting for people like you, I can tell you that for sure.” His reference was to a point in my complaint that he clearly misunderstood.
All this was followed by a barrage of insults, threats, bragging, and complaints about how much work I caused for him.
“I could squash a piss ant like you and no one would say a word,” he warned. “The next time you have a complaint against me, you be a man and come say it right to my face, cause now I am going to make things rough for you.”
He hovered above me as I sat in the chair, his face a few inches above my head.
“You can complain to anyone you want, the governor, the president, It won’t effect me,” he shouted.
Clearly he felt untouchable in his little castle of power. In his personal Barney fiefdom he was a king among men. The alpha male. A regular John Wayne who all others feared. But outside that door he was a feebleminded coward with a yellow streak up his back so wide you could drive a Mac truck on it.
I was well aware that his goal was to get me to react so that he had an excuse for he and his country cousin to lay a beating on me. I was completely unimpressed by him and his bluster. There was something comical about his manner. If he ever had the courage to walk down the street in broad daylight I believe his cartoonish demeanor would have elicited muffled laughter from all directions.
He was a relic from another era that never really existed. A phantom of the American dream become delusion. In his youth he must have dreamed of General Patton. Dreamed that he too might lead valiant men into great battles for the good of all mankind. He was a man of order and discipline. Now those ideals had decayed into tools of contempt to unleash his bitterness onto those around him.
He clung to a worldview that comes into being when groups of men are isolated from the outside world. A world where men are men and women and sissy-boys don’t count. He stood for truth, justice and the American way, and he demanded that all others honor those ideals even as he twisted and perverted them to suit his personal needs.
As his stale breath rained down on me, his words flowed like dialogue from a clichéd parody of a drill sergeant in a 1980’s movie comedy. I sat unmoved and without fear. When reality walks off the map into the nether land where the surreal is accepted as gospel truth, then it is a world where I feel firm on my feet. In some odd way I felt that I had the upper hand. In my head I was already plotting the moment when I would call his bluff, and then his true colors would be revealed.
When POWs are captured they often retain their military structure while imprisoned in order to maintain their spiritual strength. So it seemed with this lot. They were a pack of dinosaurs who growled ferociously in order to convince themselves that the world still trembled at their feet, even while the dust and sediment blotted out the last rays of sunshine, heralding their demise.
When he finally accepted that he couldn’t get a rise out of me, he seemed to wilt. With a spent look on his face he wearily wandered back to his desk and ordered the guard to take me back to my cell.