kurt and i went to montreal to see a thing called pouzza fest, an annual punk festival organized by hugo mudie, the singer of the sainte catherines. we planned everything like busses and tickets and hostel out way in advance and picked the bands we wanted to see like half an hour before we were supposed to leave each night.
on saturday night, after seeing mikey erg and the holy mess, we saw smoke filling the air on the street in front of us.
"holy shit, is that pepper spray?" i asked loudly to nobody in particular.
"no, moron." replied a college-aged bystander. "that’s a fire."
not wanting any of that action, kurt & i ducked into a nearby establishment called Le Gentleman’s Choice (i swear to god this is the real name of a real strip club). immediately the black-light glow hit us as did the fake tux-wearing bouncer for the $5 cover fee. we paid, walked in, sat down and ordered a beer. like, one for the both of us. we looked super hetero at that point,
i guess strippers are like a thing you have to be into. i wonder if it’s possible to acquire a taste for strippers, the way that you acquire a taste for coffee or beer or the smiths. eh. anyway. after a handful of awkward dances sitting on pervert’s row, we walked out and tried to make our way back to the hostel before ambling out again at 2am to see the secret lawrence arms show at the club we were at earlier.
not wanting to hit the fire we’d seen earlier at st denis and ontario, we doubled back and headed up ste catherines to berri, which we’d soon realize was a bad choice. dumb us accidentally joined a crowd of student protesters and saw a sea of riot cops marching on their way to meet us head on.
when they charged, kurt & i lost each other. i jogged across the street to find a safer route back to our hostel. kurt says he hid in some bushes. a riot cop forced me back to the path i’d just left and i made it safely through the crowd to the intersection of berri and ontario, mere blocks from our temporary residence.
all of a sudden, i felt a large pair of gloved hands grabbing my arms and without saying a word, forced me into the back of a van. my knees hit the carpeted floor hard and my face was planted into the weird fake leather that they make van seats out of. my hands were zip-tied together and i was thrown onto a bench beside a fluorescent green-haired goth cyber-punk.
we had a quick chat about what we thought was going on (we were being held? for what? something about molotov cocktails?) and then were both extracted from the van, searched for identification and pushed into the much smaller backseat of a cop car.
we continued to hypothesize about our near-future until we noticed a young girl being pushed up against the rear window on my side. even though she was being held down by two officers, she still found energy to wag her tongue at us inside and even shoot up devil horns when she’d pry an arm free from the cops.
eventually, they cuffed her and threw her in beside me, forcing me to push myself forward and rest my shoulder on the screen separating the front seats from the back. added to the nervous sweat, humid tension and the arms strapped too tight behind our backs, it was uncomfortable.
two officers got into the front and started the car, again without explaining anything. the girl beside me kept spitting and throwing french expletives around. the word “cochon” was popular. i tried to stay calm and wrap my head around what was going on between the rapid-fire french back-and-forth between the cops and the weirdos on either side of me. i got nowhere.
after winding our way through unfamiliar montreal, we arrived at the loading dock of the police station. the green-haired dude on my right was pulled out of the car first, leaving the screaming girl and myself in the backseat alone.
we watched as the cops took mugshots and then removed his cyber-punk costume piece by piece. the girl and i made pleasant introductions and tried to talk to each other through broken french and english. eventually our panic and nervous energy wore through our facades (hers loud and manic, mine decidedly more calm) and we looked at each other the way teenagers do in the backseats of cars.
i mean, how often do you really get to make out with a girl in the back of a cop car? especially in such a politically charged time, it would be a statement about… something, right? but then i thought about it and my brain went “ehhhhh…” and we regained composure. we just watched the cops play with the fluorescent green wig. not long after, we were pulled out of the cop car and individually debriefed.
i was searched again and provided all pertinent information to the police. each of my belongings, including $14.00 cash and shoelaces were cataloged, placed in separate, sealed envelopes and then placed into a larger sealed envelope. we all joked about the procedures (bureaucratic!), my involvement in the protests (very little to none) and toronto’s sports teams (awful). the girl from the backseat was getting booked beside me and at one point, her top just popped off even though she still had her cuffs on. together, all of us laughed at the absurdity of her situation.
even when an older detective walked by and shouted, “hey bruce!” i smiled and waved back. it wasn’t until later that an officer explained that he was calling me bruce in reference to bruce lee, because apparently they don’t get a lot of asians around there. hm, racism in high-ranking police officers? somehow even that didn’t rattle me. i laughed it off and went about with helping the good-natured french cops with their english spelling.
it was only when i asked exactly why i was there that the mood soured. aggravated assault, i was told. when i asked who i could have possibly assaulted, the booking clerk shrugged her shoulders and told me that i’d better have a good lawyer and be ready to wait a couple of days.
she then pointed to a cell with nothing but a lone payphone. i was instructed to wait until someone called to arrange for a free defense for my actions. after a few lonely minutes, the phone rang and i again provided the pertinent information. i was offered no explanation or solace except that i’d hear back from them within two or three hours. i never heard from them again.
when i came out, i was led further into the station, past the drunk tank and into a block of solo cells. around me, strangers huddled alone in big, red blankets. i hadn’t gotten one. my cell was just two hardwood benches and a metal sink/toilet combination in the center of the room.
it was then that i realized the total solemnity of the situation and how totally fucked i might actually be. i was about to ask the officer leading me in if i could have a magazine when the heavy metal grate slammed shut in front of me. shit, i was in jail.
i was alone and i had no idea when i’d see a lawyer or someone that might help with my situation. on occasion, someone new would come in to be dropped off or to speak in quick french with another inmate. i had nobody. i asked for my one phone call, which is what i’d learned from movies.
"no," replied a guard in poor english. "you just have to wait." kurt was going to be pissed.
i settled in for the night. without a blanket, it was just me, my sweat-soaked t-shirt, jeans and my chuck taylors with no shoelaces. i hadn’t worn socks on the way out earlier in the evening, figuring i’d be back before it got too cold.
then it got cold. i shivered the entire four hours before i saw another guard, though the bright flourescents that permeated the entire block never changed the entire time i was there. i asked for a blanket when i saw the guard again. she shrugged me off. two more hours passed before she showed her face and when i repeated my request, she replied non-chalantly and sauntered off to grab one for me. when i finally got my sorely needed blanket at daybreak, it smelled of stale urine.
every chance i got, i asked a guard or cleaning person for the time, knowing that kurt & i were schduled to leave on a bus back to toronto at 9pm that night. eventually, my block-mates stirred and were released on a sporadic schedule. except for myself and one other.
in the nineteen hours i was there, we were fed twice. the first meal was a small carton of oasis orange juice and a piece of sponge cake tossed at me through the bars. the second, six hours later, consisted of another round of oj, sponge cake and a lukewarm, uncooked cheese and margarine sandwich hand-delivered by a kind policewoman who would wink and smile at me each time she passed by.
the cell across from mine was occupied by someone completely shrouded in his red blanket who had enough orange juice cartons and sponge cake wrappers generously littered across his floor to assume he’d been there quite a while.
he finally roused around 11am to ask a guard if there was any breakfast coming in surpisingly plain english. even more surprisingly, the guard told us we’d be getting lunch (the aforementioned cheese sandwich) in an hour. almost twelve hours had passed. most of them had been spent in an unsatisfying sleep but it passed the time.
after everyone else in our block was let out, the dude in the cell across from me (now lucas) and i talked. i tossed him my second piece of sponge cake because he looked hungry. we played as many drinking games as our limited pop-culture overlap would allow. to wile away the boredom, he also in turns, kicked at the bars in front of him, balled up urine soaked toilet paper to throw at the cameras and tossed his pee all over the floor in hopes that a police officer would come in and slip on his waste.
i tried to keep things positive though. i talked about cheese sandwiches and fashioned my oversized red blanket into capes and togas to keep things light and to keep him from splashing piss everywhere. by now, the urine smell had permeated everything on me and i’d kind of gotten used to it.
it was only when i looked at the walls & noticed that yeah, over the years, everything had likely been peed on and then given only the most cursory of cleanings. i was literally rotting in a pee-soaked room.
around 1pm, i heard the clacks of high heels walking down the hall. a tall, pretty, older woman (officer beauregard) showed up with a stout, grey-haired man (officer henry rollins) who had a canon dslr and black rubber gloves on. she explained that she was the chief investigator and that we’d be talking in a few hours. officer henry rollins took a few pictures of me in my cell and shrugged that they were probably good enough. i gave her a quick cliff’s notes version of what was happening to me and she smiled and promised to get to it. in the meantime though, i’d have to wait.
lucas and i continued to play games. every so often, somebody would come in to either drop off another inmate or just to check that we hadn’t fucked up our cells. each time, they’d scold lucas and i’d make sure to check the time. we’d also use that opportunity to see if there’d been an update on our individual cases and every time, the guards would promise to check. they never got back to us so we whined loudly for coffee and cigarettes.
at about 4:40, officer henry rollins was back with someone new in a green shirt (officer jolly green giant). he led me out of the cell and to an interrogation room down the hall. after checking that the in-room camera was operational, we got to talking.
they were friendly and understanding so i was polite and tried to be helpful. they asked what had happened the night before and i was honest. then i asked about the charge i’d been given the night before. it’d been upgraded to assault on an officer with a deadly weapon and possession and intent on using an explosive. my jaw dropped. very plainly, they asked me if i was responsible for throwing molotov cocktails at police officers. i could have not overstated how fucked up i thought that was but i could see skepticism in their eyes. talk of rubber bullets came up.
"well, yeah… that would explain this," i said as i rolled up my sleeve. there on my upper left arm was a mysterious purple splotchy bruise the size of a hacky sack.
the police were understandably confused. “you mean, you don’t remember getting shot with a rubber bullet?”
"yeah… i might have been but i was confused and a little drunk."
"could you have maybe been hit in the… butt and not known it?"
"hmmm… i suppose." my eyes lit up when i realized what they were asking. "do you guys need to see my butt?"
they were hesitant but nodded. my arresting officer had apparently shot the offender in the left butt cheek and was convinced that it was me. i jumped up, eager to see myself if i’d been shot in the butt without realizing it. i pulled my skinny jeans down just enough to expose my left buttock. the investigator asked me to pull it down a little more.
"you want to see more?" i asked as i demurely lowered my pants another inch.
"i don’t WANT to see more, i need to." he replied, exasperated. he was a good dude so i helped out. there was nothing there. that viewing of my butt essentially saved my life. somehow, mooning two police officers proved my innocence.
giddy, i looked back at his partner, officer jolly green giant, who was studying my ass intently, leaning forward and resting the eraser of his pencil on his chin, he continued, “i’d like to see the right one too.”
after my first superficial ass examination, they explained that kurt had found me at the police station and i was returned to my cell for the time being. officer henry rollins told me to give him fifteen minutes to go over the evidence with officer beauregard. my mood was lighter when they locked me in this time but when i looked over, i saw lucas still lying on the bench, still unsure of his own fate.
my block-mate and i joked again but it was somber. i tried to hide my jubilation but after nearly fifteen hours in jail, i’d be free once again in less than an hour.
then an hour passed. it felt like the longest hour of my life. not only was i just nearly promised freedom, but some asshat clown cops decided to torture someone in the room next to our cell block. in between french pleas for mercy and snickering coming from some of the guards, lucas shouted back in an attempt to help whoever was on the other side of the wall.
finally though, i was pulled out of my cell by the mousy booking clerk from the night before. on my way out, i waved to lucas but he knew i was leaving for sure this time.
i sat back in the same interrogation room and gave a severely detailed account of what had taken place the night before. after writing everything out, reviewing it and signing it in triplicate, they told me i was free to go.
i walked back to the booking desk, waving and saying goodbye to the laughing officers from the night before. i grabbed my stuff out of the sealed envelope and relaced my shoes. i handed my card to the investigators should they have any more questions and was led out by a younger officer who wanted to know what i’d done all night.
i’d been dragged in at 12:30am that day and was finally walking out at 7:10pm. kurt was on his way to meet me. the sun was going down and we almost died in the cab on the way back to the hostel. now i’m on a fucking bus coming home.
you all have to call me “jailbird” now because that’s a sweet nickname.
oh ps. kurt was like “oh while you were in jail, i saw the lawrence arms & hugo sang a bunch of songs with them. it was awesome” and then i was like “oh i got you this souvenir from jail” and peed on his leg while he was sleeping just now.