Monday, April 15, 2013

Bailing on a Friend

I don’t normally take requests for blog posts, because, well, frankly no one has ever asked me to! But a good friend recently asked for a recounting of the time another good friend got arrested at a concert, and while I don’t think she meant for me to do so in this forum, I figured, what the hell? The main character (and boy was he a character!) is no longer with us, and the statute of limitations has long since expired, so what’s the harm in sharing a funny story with the world?

The specific details are cloudy for a variety of valid reasons, but I’m pretty sure the show we went to see that night at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, New York, was New Potato Caboose, a Grateful Dead inspired jam band.  But it could have been Blues Traveler. Or Max Creek. Or any number of hippie bands. Point is, we were there to have a good time.

And we started having that good time right away, courtesy of some substances that shall remain nameless. And colorless. And odorless…

But before that kicked in, we set out looking for some beer. Oh, and by we, there were five of us; all who shall remain equally nameless. Well, except for Kevin, since he’s now dead. And me, since, well, my picture is sort of up there in the top right corner.

We wandered the mostly Spanish-speaking town of Port Chester looking for someone to sell us beer. I can’t remember if we were underage, underfunded, or just under the influence, but for some reason, the task proved to be difficult.

At one point, we circled back toward the theater, hoping to score a ticket for Kevin’s cousin. But the show was sold out, and no one was scalping, so we began plotting Plan B. Not that there was that much to plot, as Plan B was ALWAYS simply identifying which exit door one of us would kick open from inside to let the ticketless masses in once the show started.

We found the door, and Kevin pressed his hear up against it to hear the opening band – I think it was the Spin Doctors (who would soon become the biggest band in the world…for about a week. But we had no interest in seeing them.) Just as Kevin was stepping away from the door, it flew open and sent him sprawling to the sidewalk. I saw his cousin eye the door for a moment, clearly thinking, this is my chance. But he chose to help Kevin up instead. Plus, we still had that beer to find.

"That was NOT a good sign," someone said, as we continued down the sidewalk, Kevin slightly more dazed and confused than the rest of us.

"No, but that is," Kevin said, pointing to Bud sign in the window of a bodega that soon sold us a six-pack of Busch Light for $10.  We popped our cans and toasted our success on the sidewalk, just as a police car was driving by.

The cops got out and hassled us a bit about drinking in public, but they seemed willing to let us go, so long as Kevin, since he admitted to buying the beer, could show proof of age. We watched as Kevin confidently pulled out his wallet and handed it to the cop. The cop eyed the license, but his eyes got even wider at something else. He motioned to his partner and they stepped over to the car. After a brief conference, and some radio communication, they came back and said, “I’m sorry son, but you’re going to have to come with us.”

Next thing we know, Kevin is handcuffed and stuffed in the backseat.

“We were just drinking a beer,” one of us called out. “Can’t you just give him a ticket? Or a fine?”

“This goes beyond beer,” the cop said, through the open window. “And speaking of which, you better dump the rest of that out before you DO get a ticket.”

We watched as they drove off, stunned into silence by the sudden turn in events.

“Now what?” one of us asked. “What do you think they found?”

“I have no idea,” Kevin’s cousin said. “I was just thinking maybe there was a warrant for his arrest of something, but they got all suspicious before they called anything in…”

“I guess we should go to the police station and see what’s up,” I suggested.

“Okay,” someone said, “But I can’t drive. This shit is starting to kick in…”

“You had one beer,” I started to say. Then I remembered. “Holy shit, I almost forgot about that! Now that you mention it, my stomach is starting to feel a little tingly.”

“I’ll drive,” Kevin’s cousin offered. He had driven down by himself in his pickup truck. “We can all squeeze.”

And squeeze we did. I couldn’t help but stare at the strange way that dude drove. He leaned way over the wheel, his nose almost touching the windshield, as his body bobbed and weaved into every turn like some sort of crazed Jack-in-the-Box. By the time we found the police station, I couldn’t tell if I was tripping or just plain dizzy.

Apparently I was tripping, as the police station scene was surreal. We found ourselves in this tiny room with a single sliding-glass window.  A dispatcher could clearly be seen talking on the phone, and gave us the “one minute” finger, but Kevin’s cousin knocked on the window anyway. Loudly.

I panicked and turned to leave, but couldn’t find the door. There were all these “WANTED” posters and “55 Saves Lives” signs on the wall, but I could not find the door.

“Who designed this place, Willy Wonka?” I asked out loud, as I ran my hands along the walls.

“Dude! Chill!” someone commanded. “You’re going to get us all busted.”

The cousin knocked again, this time getting the attention of a cop.

“Can I help you?” he asked, through the still closed window. A speaker amplified his voice to Wizard of Oz like levels.

“Uh, yeah,” Kevin’s cousin said, leaning into the speaker. “We’re here about my cousin? He was just arrested? We wanted to know if there’s anything we can do, to like, help him out?”

“What’s his name?” the cop asked. We told him and he said he’d be right back.

Fifteen long minutes later, he was.

“Okay, so listen,” his voice boomed through the speaker. “Your friend…he’s, uh, gonna be here awhile…”

“For drinking a beer?” someone said. “That’s ridiculous!”

“I’m not at liberty to go into detail,” the cop said, seeming to ignore the outburst, “but your friend was found in possession of some stolen property. It’s pretty serious stuff. There’s nothing you can do to help him tonight, so you might as well head on home.  And from the looks of your friend over there…” (I’m pretty sure he meant me!) “I should probably come out there and search all of ya’s. I’m sure I’d find something interesting…”

“Hang on,” Kevin’s cousin pressed. “You’re sure there’s no way he’s getting out tonight?”

“That’s right,” the cop said. “He’s got to be processed, transported, arraigned…”

“And there’s nothing we can do for him?”

The cop shook his head. “Not unless you’re going to bail him out in the morning.”

“Then I have just one last thing,” Kevin’s cousin asked. “Is there anyway you can go back there and get me his ticket? The show’s sold out and I…”

“Get the hell out of here,” the cop bellowed.

We didn’t wait to be asked twice.

Back at the theater, we immediately began to take up a collection from the hippies hanging outside during the break. I found a large popcorn tub and wrote, “Kevin’s Bail $$$” on the side and passed it around the crowd while his cousin slinked and snuck his way inside.

After collecting about twenty bucks, word came back that the band was about to take the stage. We handed over our ticket and went in to find our seats.

The audience was already restless from an apparently long delay, and booed as the stage manager came on for apparently the third time that night.

“Okay, okay, okay!” he said. “We got all the technical issues worked out, and we can finally start the show. But before I bring out the band, I need Mike Wood to go to the concession stand. You have a phone call.”

“Did you hear that?” I said to my friend. “It sounded like he said I had a phone call…”

“That IS what he said,” my friend said. “But it can’t be you. Who would be calling you here?”

“Beats me. I didn’t even know I was going to be here until a couple of hours ago!”

Our other friend came down the aisle, balancing three overflowing cups of beer.

“Dude, did they just say you had a phone call?” he asked.

“I think so,” I answered. “Should I go check?”

Apparently the people around us misunderstood the announcement, and thought the band was not coming out UNTIL I took my phone call, and they all began chanting, “Answer the fucking phone! Answer the fucking phone! Answer the fucking phone!”

So I answered the fucking phone. And it was Kevin! He used his one phone call to call me at the theater. He said they caught him with stolen credit cards and bail was set for $10,000.

“$10,000?” I repeated, thinking of the $17.50 we had managed to collect. “That's pretty harsh. But I’ll see what we can do.”

“You don’t need all of it, “Kevin said. “A cop gave me some numbers for bondsman, and it sounds like we just have to come up with 10% of it.”

“Oh. So like a hundred bucks? That’s no big deal…”

“Try $1000.”


A loud cheer from the crowd let me know the band was finally coming on.

“Okay, well, hang tight,” I said. “There’s a lot of people here and we already started up a collection. All we need is for everyone to give us a dollar and we’ll be good. Don’t worry.”

But Kevin had good reason to worry. After I hung up the phone, I got sort of got caught up in all the music and moving and grooving, and what little money we did manage to collect went to buy more beer. And McDonald’s on the way home.  Needless to say, Kevin wound up spending the night in jail, and wasn't released until his dad drove down and bailed him out the next day. 

But in my heart, I know Kevin would do the same thing for me!

Kevin Dalton
Oct. 4, 1972 - April 16, 2006 
"You didn't just live in the moment, you created it."