So that nothing is wasted in nature
Every day I think about untwisting and untangling these strings I’m in
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Ah fuck I gotta write this thing I guess so here goes. I was gonna start today with this story about two New York City detectives and what they did to an eighteen year old woman and I kept thinking about it and not wanting to write it but maybe I’ll start and see what happens no promises ok? That’s how these stories work right they’re so upsetting that most of us look away and pretend it’s not happening.
It was September of 2017 and a young woman and two of her friends were hanging out in a car near Coney Island when the cops slithered out of the midnight inky ocean or however it is cops arrive places. They were plainclothes narcotics officers and I’m not sure what happened to get them inside of the car but we can probably fill in the blanks in the timeline with an interstitial title card that says COP STUFF and in any case they found a bit of pot and some Klonopin on the girl or woman I can’t decide what to call an eighteen year old in a story like this and they arrested her and brought her into their unmarked van where she says they raped her while driving around the city. She said she remembered the route they took because she saw things she recognized out of the window like the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and her grandmother’s apartment.
After they were done with her they let her go and she went to the hospital where she told a nurse what had happened and other police arrived and they listened to her story and eventually arrested Richard Hall and Edward Martins who have maintained their innocence all along by saying the sex with the girl woman teenager they had arrested had been consensual and who knows maybe it was maybe a young woman out with her friends all of a sudden confronted by cops and nervous about the prospect of getting in trouble for drugs decided she wanted to have sex with two older men while handcuffed in a van driving around Brooklyn of her own volition or maybe it was the much more obvious thing that happened who knows.
A year and a half later which is to say this week prosecutors have decided to drop most of the charges against the cops due to they now think the woman wasn’t entirely truthful in her testimony in front of a grand jury and they say now that she had changed some of the details in her story a couple of times such as what she was wearing at the time and what the inside of the van in question looked like. I’m fairly certain that sort of confusion about specificity of detail can arise during a traumatic experience like that but I am not an expert on this matter or anything else.
Now the two cops are only facing a series of less serious charges including official misconduct and bribery of services according to the New York Times and they still might get seven years in jail for that although I wouldn’t necessarily count on it because you can murder a guy and not go to jail. Nonetheless that’s a lot better than the twenty five years they had been looking at as far as they are concerned and as an added bonus they get to talk about how the girl is a liar now at trial probably which is one of the classic defenses when it comes to sexual assault you point out how the woman has lied about one thing and then it’s only natural to start to wonder what else she might be lying about. So much of human communication whether it’s in trials like this one or discussions online or political disagreement comes down to finding an inconsistency in what someone had said or done before and then using that as a means to cast doubt on everything they are saying currently and that’s the one move it’s the only thing humans have devised in terms of dialogue after all this time bitching at each other. You would think we would have come up with a second rhetorical maneuver by now since we are really very good at inventing new things in various other realms but we haven’t.
While that story is bad enough on its own the particulars of it aren’t even what stand out here for me because did you know that back in the day many years ago all the way back in 2017 when this was happening that it wasn’t even illegal as of yet for police officers to have sex with people in their custody in New York? What the fuck? It was indeed a serious crime for a prison guard to have sex with an inmate but not this type of thing where the person was still relatively free where it was only the idea of prison that hovered over the entire proceedings. Then it was sort of a gray area under the law and you could get away with it and cops often did and may still.
New York has since closed that loophole in their state laws but as of last year according to the ACLU New York was one of thirty five states where consent could be used as a defense when a police officer is accused of raping someone they had arrested.
Writing on the story last year Buzzfeed reported that “of at least 158 law enforcement officers charged since 2006 with sexual assault, sexual battery, or unlawful sexual contact with somebody under their control, at least 26 have been acquitted or had charges dropped based on the consent defense, according to a review of a Buffalo News database of more than 700 law enforcement officers accused of sexual misconduct.”
Police sexual misconduct is pretty common you might not be surprised to hear.
“According to a 2010 Cato Institute review, sexual misconduct is the second-most-frequently reported form of police misconduct, after excessive force,” according to the Associated Press.
Sometimes they even get in trouble for it.
In 2015 the Associated Press counted almost one thousand officers between 2009 and 2014 “who lost their badges in a six-year period for rape, sodomy and other sexual assault; sex crimes that included possession of child pornography; or sexual misconduct such as propositioning citizens or having consensual but prohibited on-duty intercourse.”
That number was likely to be a vast understatement they said because it only counted officers who actually lost their jobs and many states including California and New York where there are quite a fair few number of cops didn’t have records about such things because why would they. In some states where they reported no firings for sexual misconduct they found cases through news reports or court records that it had actually happened so those states were lying or negligent or both.
“It’s happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” Chief Bernadette DiPino of the Sarasota Police Department in Florida who studied the issue told the AP. “It’s so underreported and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”
What’s more a significant percentage of these incidents involve particularly vulnerable people like minors or women of color or sex workers or addicts or in other words people who the police perceive as having even less power than the average person and are therefore less likely to make a whole thing about it.
As the Washington Post reported last year a study from the National Institute of Justice looked at over 6,700 officer arrests throughout the country over a seven year period and found half of the arrests were for sexual misconduct involving minors.
This part is even worse than all of that which is that cops often prey on women who are victims of domestic violence who call the police for protection.
“As one officer quoted in an investigative report by the Philadelphia Inquirer said, ‘I would see women that were vulnerable where I could appear as a knight in shining armor,’” the Post reported.
“He explained, ‘I’m going to help this woman who’s being abused by her boyfriend, and then I’ll ask for sexual favors.’ Another bragged that getting dates with such victims was like ‘shooting fish in a barrel.’”
It was Ash Wednesday yesterday which if you’re not familiar is the one day every year a couple of people show up at your work with dirt on their face and you’re like what the hell and then you remember it’s Jesus dirt. For Christians the day of repentance marks the beginning of Lent which is the forty day period leading up to uh I’m struggling to remember all this shit uh Good Friday which is the day Jesus was crucified and then Easter which is the day he was born again or as it was otherwise known when I was an altar boy a real fucking emotional whirlwind.
I was thinking about it yesterday not because I saw anyone with dirt on their face due to I barely left the house but because I remembered what they used to say to us before they blessed us with the ashes which was remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return, which is a pretty fucked up thing to say to a LEGO playing nerd who can barely do division.
The prayer is based on a quote from Genesis which goes like this:
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.
By coincidence that song above by Oneohtrix Point Never with Iggy Pop just came on and it set the tone perfectly here. Here’s how that song goes:
Love, make me clean
Love, touch me, cure me
The pure always act from love
The damned always act from love
Every day I think about untwisting and untangling these strings I’m in
And to lead a pure life
I look ahead at a clear sky
Ain’t gonna get there
But it’s a nice dream, it’s a nice dream
Death, make me brave
Death, leave me swinging
The pure always act from love
The damned always act from love
The truth is an act of love
Some day, I swear, we’re gonna go to a place where we can do everything we want to
And we can pet the crocodiles
I was thinking this morning when I woke up way too early from too vivid dreams that when someone dies which is to say when they begin their journey back to ash that we can still look at them for a while typically. Their body is still there and after some hard work by a mortician remember that show Six Feet Under that was really good wasn’t it you can see them and remember them how they were. Maybe they have their favorite dress or a necklace they loved on maybe it was one you gave them many years ago. But they can’t speak and they can’t smile anymore and so the process has begun of stripping away the parts of them that made the person real to you and isn’t that also what happens when someone who is still alive is removed from your life. You can remember how they looked but after a while you start to forget what their laugh sounded like or what it looked like when they walked across a room and so piece by piece it’s stripped from you and then someday it’s all gone and it’s dirt now.
We think there’s another part that’s coming later still though don’t we. We don’t believe it but we think it. Maybe it’s heaven or just later on down the road years from now and we get to pet the crocodiles together.
Here’s another song I just listened to called “Headache” by Grouper and it starts like this: My mother once told me she walked into the ocean. Didn’t want to die, just couldn’t tell where the horizon was. Wanted to have a closer look. Why is this costume weighing me down?
Here’s the part I actually wanted to get to this whole time and it’s about a woman named Laura Gilpin. Gilpin wanted to be a poet and she went to Sarah Lawrence College and got an MFA from Columbia University and then she was a poet not because of the degrees but because she wrote poems which is what a poet does. I wanted to be a poet once and I went to school to be a poet and I wrote some poems but I’m not a poet anymore because I do something else now.
Gilpin’s first book The Hocus-Pocus of the Universe was a marvel and people knew it at the time which is such an unlikely thing to happen. Imagine writing some poems and then people liked them and gave you money for them? What a world.
She won the Walt Whitman Award for it in 1976 which is a prestigious award for first time poets and I just looked on Amazon and you can buy a used hardcover copy of the book today for $1,099 which seems a bit steep even considering how good it is.
Here’s one of the most memorable pieces from it which I was reminded of on Twitterthis week.
The Two-Headed Calf
Tomorrow when the farm boys find this
freak of nature, they will wrap his body
in newspaper and carry him to the museum.
But tonight he is alive and in the north
field with his mother. It is a perfect
summer evening: the moon rising over
the orchard, the wind in the grass.
And as he stares into the sky, he sees
twice as many stars as usual.
After that book was published Gilpin decided maybe she didn’t want to be a poet anymore or at least didn’t want to have that on her business cards because of course you never stop being a poet or do you but the thing she went and did was become a nurse and an advocate for better standards in patient care.
“Laura became a registered nurse and one of the first staff members of Planetree, an organization dedicated to developing and implementing a patient-centered model of care in hospitals,” her obituary reads. “This became Laura’s life work, and for over 20 years she wrote and spoke tirelessly and traveled the world to promote this vision.”
Here’s an excerpt of another poem of hers which I grabbed an image of from heresince I’m not sure how to do the formatting on this thing.
I thought you would like that one.
Then Gilpin died at the age of fifty seven from brain cancer but not before she published one more book of poems and that bracketing makes a perfectly sad sort of sense to me because I’ve always said poetry is best written by and best appreciated by the young and the old because it’s meant to be a manual of sorts that teaches how to live and how to die with grace.
We started watching the Sopranos this week. Michelle has never seen it and I haven’t watched it since it was first on and naturally Tony’s ducks have resonated with me since I’m always crying about the goddamn bunny in my backyard on here. But also this part from episode three stuck with me.
TONY: Somebody called me a Frankenstein today.
TONY: This Hasid I’m doin’ business with. These Hasids, they’re out there, but they got their beliefs, you know. They’re not afraid of death. At least this one guy wasn’t.
MELFI: Maybe they have the belief because they are afraid.
TONY: I’m not afraid of death. Not if it’s for something. You know, a war, something like that. A reason. But Jackie, to see this, this strong, beautiful man just wither away to nothing. And you can’t do nothing about it. And you, you can’t fight it.
MELFI: Do you envy the Hasids and their beliefs?
TONY: All this shit’s for nothing. And if all this shit’s for nothing, why do I gotta think about it?
MELFI: That’s the mystery, isn’t it? The mystery of god, or whatever you want to call it, of why we’re given the questionable gift of knowing we’re gonna die. Do you feel like Frankenstein? A thing lacking humanity, lacking human feelings?
I sometimes think it’s a rip off to be the type of person who is obsessed with mortality and riddled with existential dread because it doesn’t make a difference in the end. The blissfully unbothered and the curdled nighttime cowards all end up in the same place it’s just the latter have to spend the trip there in a panic.
About a year ago Michelle was teaching a unit on crayfish to her third graders and so she went to the fish store or whatever the fuck it is and bought some and got the thing to put them in and set it up in the classroom and they were supposed to take care of them for the rest of the year. One of them came without any hands though so the rest of the crayfish turned on him I think it’s a him and they bullied him to the point that she had to take it out and put it into its own space. At the end of the year the rest of the piece of shit crayfish either died or were sent home with students I forget that part but now the one crayfish nerd lives at our house and it sits in a little aquarium where it has a fancy stone pineapple it hides in. After a while it grew its little pincher hands back. We dumped food into the water and it turned that food into new hands.
I just went to dump a few pellets of food into the water and he’s hiding in there and when he sees you coming he’ll scuttle backwards so fast it almost looks like he teleports from one spot to the next. Sometimes he sheds his entire skin and then we both go and look like wow what the shit and then we come back and it’s gone because he ate his whole ass other body. We call him Survivor and he’s very lonely although we talk to him sometimes and I have existential panic attacks some nights when we can hear him scraping against the walls of his prison and I hope very much that its tiny fucking brain is too small to understand the concept of hell because if not he might think he’s in it.