Arrest and Jail

June 23rd, 2017

Arrest and Jail


Dave, a friend of Ruben’s,  was visiting from Michigan.  And he had a car!  This is a real treat for city-dwellers; it means you can get off the island of Manhattan and out beyond the octopus reach of the subway and busses system of NYC, like far away — like to a beach on Long Island, which, one steamy summer day, is what we did.

We found a public beach on the south shore of Long Island — a real find, because most of the shoreline there is closed to the public, private and fenced off, but this was part of a state park.

We three long-haired young men spread out our beach cloths and lay down so we could watch the surf.  I had dropped acid before we had left, so I was ready for a great time just watching the breakers roll in, one after the other, the sea a breathing being, the earth a comforting mother.

The crackling of something, a disembodied voice, a walkie-talkie, and suddenly we were surrounded by cops, five, six of them, burly young guys who rousted us up, cuffed us, and marched us up the beach, their guns, pointing at us, draped by towels to hide them from the sensitive eyes of the ‘regular’ swimmers from the town.

At the police substation by the beach, they made us sit in hard chairs with our cuffed hands behind us, and shouted questions at us, going through the things we’d brought to the beach.

“Whose jacket fis this?”

“Who does this blue towel belong to?”

“How about this backpack?”

“These two little envelopes, whose are they?”

I copped to owning the two envelopes, which each contained a nickel of dope.

“You own it!  You heard them say that, right guys?” to the other officers.

All agreed they’d heard it.

My only excuse is that I was tripping on acid.  And stupid.

That got us taken into town, where they separated us and stuck us into a cage with about 20 other men.  The cage was big enough for seven, so the other 17 had to stand or sit on the floor.  Or lie on the floor, as it took a long time for us to get arraigned, where the next day you get hauled in front of  a shirt-sleeved judge who bangs out a decision to imprison you right away.  The only good part of all this is you’re not shackled, until they send you to the County Jail (Nassau County).

On the trip to county jail you’re shackled through handcuffs to other guys in handcuffs.  The van drives through an iron-barred gate, and you’re marched out, through several barred doors, lined up against the wall for the anus-check.  Then it’s up some stairs, where most of the guys get a punch before they’re sent on into a cell, and the door slides shut with a clang.

The cell’s about 6 x 8 feet long, sink, seatless toilet, strap-spring bed with pad.  Two sheets are on the bed.  I’m still wearing my beach clothes.

David was hounded by the guards downstairs, who berated his as a faggot, harassing him until he finally screamed, “Okay, I’m gay all right?”  and they sent him to another part of the jail, for “protective custody.”

On the bed was a pouch of Indian brand cigarette tobacco and a packet of Tops rolling papers.  At least there wouldn’t be nicotine withdrawal.

Ruben got assigned the cell next to mine.  So there was that.  We could talk across our barred doors, though we couldn’t see each other.

I was still tripping.  I was very much afraid.  Not a great combination.  A truly bad trip; every fear turned into a fantasy that was about to destroy momentarily.  I was trapped inside my head as well as inside the jail.  Guilt, shame, terror, quickly dashed hope, all swirled around my prainpan.

Sleep was the only relief.

The next day I was allowed my single telephone call.  I called Buck, my friend and writing partner, and asked him to call my parents, who were the only ones I knew with the financial resources to help.  The rest of the day was more mental torture.

The next morning, another day of inedible food and no more.  My cell was on an upper level, a kind of balcony, if you will, and face, across a deep well, a wall of windows.  Outside, through the windows, we could see golfers on a green course, whacking their balls in happy abandon in that bright and glorious day (but not for us).

At about one in the afternoon, I got the call echoing down the hall:  “Bentley, get your shit together and go, you’re outta here.”   I gathered everything together (bed sheets, my stuff; I slipped the tobacco and papers through the door, shoving it in his direction; I was glad to see his hand retrieve it.  “I’ll get you out,” I managed to say to him.

“Hey, where you been?  We been looking for you!” the guards taunted, knowing I could have nowhere else but in my cell.

I scuttled to the gate at the end of my cell row, and was never so glad as to leave that miserable place.   At the bottom, I found the cage where I could retrieve my few miserable things like my wallet, keys, jacket, etc. (I was still wearing my bathing suit).

Waiting for me outside was the bail bondsman.  He gave me his card.

Thanks, Dad.

When I got back to my apartment, I was frantically set on only one thing: to get Ruben and David out.  I called everyone I could think of: his brother in Harlem, all our friends.  It took almost a day to raise the money for the bail bond, but by morning we had it; I called the bondsman who had given me his card, and that evening, Ruben and Dave were out and at my home.

I was totally paranoid at that point.  I thoroughly cleaned out the apartment — every speck of dope, all the acid in the freezer, every bit of hash — and for weeks wouldn’t let anyone bring shit into my home.

Took me til I got to Boston to get over it.


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