[Editor’s Note: Keep in mind, this all happened and was written in the summer before I started law school, so my legal analysis was pretty… nonexistent. Much of this comes from an effort to document what had happened in the days following my arrest. -JD]

NY Penal Law – Ch. 40 of Consolidated Laws

Part 3 – Specific Offenses

Title N – Offenses Against Public Order, Public Sensibilities and the Right to Privacy

Article 240 – Offenses Against Public Order

Section 240.20: Disorderly Conduct

“A person is guilty of disorderly conduct when, with intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof: [emphasis added]

  1. He engages in fighting or in violent, tumultuous or threatening behavior; or
  2. He makes unreasonable noise; or
  3. In a public place, he uses abusive or obscene language, or makes an obscene gesture; or
  4. Without lawful authority, he disturbs any lawful assembly or meeting of persons; or
  5. He destructs [distracts? I can’t read my own handwriting] vehicular or pedestrian traffic; or
  6. He congregates with other persons in a public place and refuses to comply with a lawful order of the police to disperse; or
  7. He creates a hazardous or physically offensive condition by any act which serves no legitimate purpose.

Disorderly conduct is a violation.”


NY Penal Code – Article 70 § 70.15 Sentences of Imprisonment for misdemeanors and Violations

“4. Violation. A sentence of imprisonment for a violation shall be a definite sentence. When such a sentence is imposed the term shall be fixed by the court, and shall not exceed fifteen days.”


“Man, I’ll take a vacation.” – Teenager in the lock-up discussing a previous two-week sentence


“Objectivity is one of the first casualties of ‘culture shock.'” – HST


Many of the guys in the hold seemed to know and fear specific city court judges. Hon. Debra Givens was thought universally to be especially harsh on the first day; the 2nd day I actually Keane, whom I had heard doles out heavy bails for everything from possession down to trespassing on the 1st day [of sunrise court], but he dismissed my charges right away, after asking me where I lived.


“Qualified immunity” generally protects police officers from wrongful arrest suits. [After going to law school and taking courses in these suits, it’s wildly more complicated than that, but I was basically right.]


When a charge is dismissed in court, the police report is destroyed. The public defender’s office may still have a copy.


Public Defender only had my charging info, but I got that, documentation from ECHC of my time there, and the police report from B District today, 7/20. B District was out of pamphlets describing the complaint process when I asked.


[At this point in my journal, I wrote a poem about my experience, already published under the title “A Prayer for ECHC,” which you can read here.]


This other kid in the holds with me, one of the few white people in there, was this weird hippy kid with sandals and cargo shorts on, a scruffy Bonnaroo beard, and a wildly talkative nature. I kept thinking he was on his way to an ass-beating, or at least a slap the guards weren’t looking. He was in on a domestic charge, violation of an order of protection. According to him, he was living with his girlfriend while she had a restraining order against him. They had apparently made up and were back together,  but she never rescinded the order. Why a person would want to live with a significant other in a situation where any argument could end with her calling the cops and immediate arrest and jail time for him, I can’t fathom.

I suspect about 85% of what came out of his mouth was bullshit, nervous talking just to talk, to quell the nerves and maybe stave off animosity from the others. If people think you’re a fool, so be it, as long as you aren’t worth the energy to get angry with. But people, as they say, do strange things, especially young men and women in love.

For my part, I did a little verbal defense at times, but mostly tried to look bored by it all. I guess it worked, but the hold-crowd I spent the most time with was mostly drug-charges and drunks. I didn’t spend too much time with the six or so teenagers from “the Towers” who came in the 2nd day, talking about “sleeping niggas” in prison and elsewhere. If you are ever in county lock-up with many strange and some menacing faces, never underestimate the power of humor — especially that which comes from old black men, who know better than you.

7/17/11 Buffalo, NY

Sun easing into the Niagara River… bright, attractive young dates wandering Elmwood in L.L. Bean shirts and sundresses.

I’m sweating profusely in the bum park in front of the M&T on Elmwood, a result of my reluctant decision to wear khaki slacks out tonight. On a day that topped 90 degrees with a heavy dose of humidity, to boot, this may seem ill-considered. Why not go with the Champion mesh soccer shorts, the perfect breathability for this weather? My decision to wear pants carried heavier reasons than the simple anatomical realities of wearing loose shorts around attractive women.

It also stems from the fact that I spent 30 of the last 40 hours in the Erie County Holding Center. This fact comes up sartorially (?) because wardrobe turns out to be a major factor when you are incarcerated in the weedy procedural limbo between Arrest by the Buffalo Police Department and Judgment in Buffalo Criminal Court. The latter phase is executed by officials with mild leeway in the application of the sometimes obtuse but at least demarcated context of NYS Criminal Law; the former relies on individuals with near-total discretion in the at-the-moment execution of that law, who are nearly always given the benefit of the doubt and are safeguarded by a powerful union, a pervasive beneficent public image, and, often, the inability or ignorance of those who their “mistakes” affect and often devastate.

And of course it is the same outside this city’s walls, but I don’t live out there, and the point about wearing pants makes sense, from a personal policy point-of-view, because if you are ever arrested while having fun on the streets of Buffalo you are likely to be taken to one of the “court holds” in the basement, where the temperature can be 20-30 degrees cooler than that outside and where you want to spend less time clasping your calves and shivering and more time looking tough, nonchalant, or bored — or a casual mixture of all three.

Upstairs, in the cells, the temperature is about that of the street multiplied by whatever factor is accounted for by the lack of ventilation and extra sweaty bodies. But at least you can take your pants off.


Tags on the wall of the cell:

“Scheule Street”

“Babcock”

“Dirty Money”


Tags in the pre-court holding room:

“Fuck The World”

“Latin Kings”

“Tiny”

“CAN

I

LIVE”


Started in court hold w/ blue walls, walked to another, bussed to courthouse hold


It isn’t TV. There’s no “I want my lawyer!” There isn’t even a phone call. Three of the 4 phones I could have used were broken and none were able to call cell phones… and no one in a position to do anything for me has a landline. The one landline number I could remember was my mother’s. She lives in Cohoes, NY, near Albany. When I finally jockeyed through the 40 or so other guys trying (and re-trying, and trying again) to reach someone with bail or at least to make contact with “their people,” I dialed my mother and was told that her phone service provider isn’t set up to receive collect calls. The “one free phone call” wasn’t even free. And it didn’t matter anyways, because she was “out of the calling area,” according to the voice on the line, and it would cost me extra. And how? My debit card was in property lock-up with my cell phone and phone directory. There was no phone book there. Even if there had been, it was too late — time to move upstairs to the cells, where there was no possibility of a phone call to anyone with anything. “You’re not coming out tonight,” said the female guard.


The guards have nothing to do with why you’re in there. To them, I was just a disorderly charge, which could have meant violent behavior or anything. There is no mitigation by circumstance. And they control EVERY aspect of your movement within their facilities and the courthouse up until the moment the judge says you can leave.


11 pm is “lights out,” except they never turn the lights out. The guard just turned the muted TV I had been watching off when she saw I was standing up to look at it and looked at her watch, didn’t break stride.

Around this time I started to get nervous. I had slept dependably all day and eaten up good chunks of time doing so because I hadn’t slept the night before, except in nervous flashes on the crowded floors of the various holding pens we were placed in. Bur now it was “lights out,” 2300, and [6 or 7, unsure what I wrote] hours ’til they woke us for court… which started at 0900. And I can’t get to sleep anyways.

I did some more push-ups. Looked through the window-slats through 3 sets of bars across the hall at Division Street (?) and got depressed about the possibility of seeing someone, anyone I know that had no idea I was in jail. Sat back down. Prayed for more nicotine attacks to help me sleep. Made a couple paper footballs out of the ECHC manual. Then drank water, laid down, and really prayed.

I was worried that I would lose it, kept thinking about what if I don’t get called for court tomorrow, and have to spend another night; what if my bail is too high; what if I still can’t get through to anyone I know? I prayed. I thought of my mother the devout Catholic and the God I don’t believe exists and I said Hail Marys and the Lord’s Prayer until the repetition and fond memories of my childhood numbed me into a fitful, almost crazed, sleep.


I worked out a lot in the cell. There was nothing else to do. Push-ups, crunches, and an improvised tricep exercise [that I’m pretty sure I stole from The Departed] with my feet far in front of me and lifting my whole trunk weight with my arms placed on the edge of the bed. I felt a little silly, because I felt like I was stealing scenes from Hollywood prison montages [yeah, definitely stole that from The Departed], while the sun was up anyway. But it made me feel less desperate so I didn’t care.


I spent 30 hours in there. The guy two down it was his second night. If you’re sentenced and a legit inmate you can get books, paper, pens, etc., to ease it, but people do this for years. At the thought of books, etc., I felt in myself the possibility of easing into a relaxed resignment to it, and I thought of the quote from The Wire: “You only do 2 days: day you get in and day you get out.”

But still.


It’s gorgeous on my back porch. Low 70’s and a light breeze, I have beer and cigarettes and fresh air and a candle and this notebook, and it’s still probably a lonely hell in Alpha-17. The 17-year-old kid next to me got a court date by complaining; the older black guy 2 down who had been there a day before us might still be there. Or maybe he went through with his promise:

“If I’m not out today, I’m gonna be here a long time.”


The storm’s coming, Severe thunderstorms predicted from 7am ’til dawn the next day. I’ll be out of cigarettes and beer again by afternoon tomorrow, and I plan to be productive.

I know I’ll be alright.

I’ll be broke and trapped in my house — and without regular meals — but I’ll be alright.


I was in custody from 6 a.m. Saturday, July 16, 2011, to 10 a.m. Sunday the 17th. Of those 30 hours, twenty were spent in an unadorned single-occupant cell, #17 on Alpha Block, and ten were spent being shuffled to and from different holding areas with 40-50 other in-limbo men. Of the twenty in the cell, I spent about 8 or 9 watching a muted flat screen TV at the end of my cell block: Seniors Golf, Criminal MindsStargate Atlantis, an ab workout infomercial. The rest was more boring.


When I was arrested I was walking through the parking lot of an apartment complex on North Street. The parking lot extends north to Summer Street, and is a common shortcut for those walking to Allentown from Norwood or Ashland Avenues, or for those too bored from seeing the same houses on Richmond or avoiding the same huslters and prostitutes on the dark stretch between Bryant and North on Elmwood.

I was wearing a t-shirt. jeans with a gaping rip in the right knee that I hadn’t time or skill to repair, and old kitchen-stained boat shoes. I was carrying an unopened 24 oz. can of Mike’s Hard Lemonade. I had maybe six Marb Lights in a pack in my pocket [pretty sure they were Camels], a lighter, my cell phone, keys, belt, and $0.02 in my pocket — my net worth at the time.

I saw the cop cars from about 50 yards off but didn’t think anything of them. The cops are called to this or that dispute in that complex and on the block parallel to it on Elmwood so often that seeing a few cruisers idling on my way home along these routes is hardly notable.

As I passed a cruiser with a blonde female cop at the wheel, she turned and said, “Hey, you, get over here.”

I stopped, turned, and asked her why she wanted me to approach her car. She got out and told me to “get over there” again as she walked towards me. I asked why again and she grabbed me and threw me up against the car.

“You can’t do this,” I said.

“Oh, is that so, Mr. Law School?” she asked and began to cuff me.

“You have no reason to arrest me,” I said, and then unwisely added, “Don’t be a dumbass.”

My comment wasn’t simple angst or stupid aggression, though it comes across that way. It was a plea for her to do the right thing and not arrest me without reason. I had done nothing to warrant arrest or even handcuffs.

At this comment, she turned, with one of my cuffed wrists in her left hand, and smacked me dead in the face with her palm, slammed me into the trunk of her car, finished cuffing me, and threw me in the back. While I sat in the car, I heard her and her fellow officers discussing my cigarettes and beer, laughing. When she returned to the car, I pleaded for her to let me go, as I had done nothing wrong. When I insisted upon this last point, she said, “Mr. Drum, everything you’re saying lets me know I’m doing the right thing in taking you downtown.”

When we got there I was taken to the scary, padded, window- and camera-less intake room and the rest of my belongings were seized. And so began 30 hours in the custody of the Erie County Sheriff’s Department.

The cop delayed her paperwork long enough to prevent me from seeing a judge at “sunrise court” on Saturday morning, so I was forced to wait for the Sunday session — which I almost didn’t get called for. Weekends don’t have later sessions of arraignment, so if you don’t get called for “sunrise” or don’t get bail together by noon(ish), you’re staying the night.


I was never read my Miranda rights. When I got to one of the early court holds, after the first day’s “sunshine” session, I mentioned this to a group of guys and no one in that circle of twelve or so had been read their rights. Some of them also seemed to think I would be held indefinitely, under investigation for whatever robbery or crime had brought the police to that fateful parking lot in the first place.

This had apparently happened to one of the men in there. He had been walking home when he was stopped by officers he passed on his way, like me. They began questioning him and eventually arrested him, after which he was placed in custody for a period of many days.


There was a lot of bullshitting in there. One man in particular, the man who had been in county lock-up since the day before I was taken in, would sidle up to me and mention in hushed tones that we were going “upstate” to “Elmira,” [which now, in the light of history, makes no fucking sense] because that’s what they do with you when you’ve been in ECHC limbo for too long and they don’t know what to do with you. I called bullshit, and he eventually gave up on it, but I couldn’t help thinking that his ruse was rooted in some kind of truth, that some friend or acquaintance of his had been fucked around so badly that he actually wound up an inmate in state prison for some bullshit charge. The same man picked on the 17-year-old mercilessly, saying that because the boy’s charges for fighting came when he was on ACD for a Disorderly charge, he’d probably get a year in jail, because “it’s a year for ‘disorderly’… at least.” He winked at me over the boy’s slumped shoulders as he said this, sharing a new victim with the ignorant cracker he’d fucked with before, but the boy was distraught. His phone calls hadn’t gotten through, either, and his parents had no idea where he was. Even if we got out, he’d have to walk several miles to get home in Adidas sandals — he didn’t have money on him to make a call from a pay phone outside, either. And though he came up for arraignment after me, finally lifted from the windowless, clockless limbo hell in the courthouse basement, I left before I saw what happened to him… and I didn’t see him at the property pick-up desk or on the street afterwards. Some inside thought he’d have to be released into the care of an adult, due to his age — a factor I thought should have prevented him from being locked up in the first place, for a simple assault with other minors.

7-10-11 Buffalo, NY

January 3, 2019

As we wait upon another gathering, on the anniversary of Nikolai Tesla’s birth (which I note for no reason), I am struck by our frailty and our loneliness. We haven’t lost one yet and I don’t know why. I’m drinking too much Cake Vodka and black cat is screaming for release or entry, depending.

There is nothing to say in laziness. You need to work for thought, you must seek it, at this age, and with this much dust on the neurons.

Undated Journal Entry

January 3, 2019

Wait let’s start again.
There is only so much I can remember but I believe sunlight was important.
I’m in a tough spot with this.
I went to bed waiting to die because I thought it would be pleasing after so much sunlight and joy to go out on a high note like the last flash of a meteor as it rips through the atmosphere and not like the anticlimactic rumblings of a thunderstorm that just slowly got too far away to hear.

I crave it. A thunderstorm ending, like a dry patch of soil, but it never delivers.

Time continues on its arrow. There is no use in hoping that the thunderstorm will quiet your urges, for as long as there is a breath in your lungs you will wish for not this one, but the next strike. Not your life, but the next life. And as hopeless as this ship’s voyage might appear, destined as it is for the shoals of heat-death and the plausible end of our universe, the desire to live another day — not just our last, as a species — seems only rational, only right.

It cuts too deep, this yearning. It stops me in my tracks, brings tears, makes me envious of the colicky child, who can say what we’re all thinking:

“Let me be, in all conjugations!

Let my life, if it is to be of no great consequence, at least continue, until I can be a repository of sensory experiences on a morning talk show and have some value to the world, if only as a recycling bin.”

How terrifying to think that this might occur. Do we question whether our decagenarians misremembered Pearl Harbor? Whether they were occupied beating a small boy into racial submission when Kennedy was shot? Whether they have ever truly lived or if their survival is akin to a barnacle, a husk of accumulated minerals piggy-backing on the arc of history?

Such a death (such a life, Jake) is a troubling vision, best to be avoided by seeking warmth and creating warmth. By lighting a fire and letting others tend it. Such a life is to be avoided if only because it is so peculiarly human. Only we could devise an existence that spans a century without ever being anything but mean and then celebrate the dark arrival on the other side of the bridge with open arms, smiling coyly at the holstered sidearm.

I seem to have abandoned my old style of date-listing, with the day number and month reversed in order and the month spelled out: “30 June 2011.” I think that is the British way, and it was argued in something I read that it creates an item of text that is visually easier on the brain than the standard, all-numeric date description. The mind has too much trouble switching the number designating the month into its calendar name, and is then forced to switch back to numerical thinking when it comes to the day. All that is probably automatic by the time an American child reaches 5th grade, though, so who really cares?

I did, apparently.

It is around 3pm on perhaps the most gorgeous day of the year so far. Clear blue skies, low humidity and cool in the shade, with a welcome breeze coming off the lake to keep both sun and shade comfortable.

Not So Young men with tattoos and unshaven faces lounge over iced coffee on the patio at Innermark [sic] Coffee. The young would-be professionals of Buffalo that we can’t keep from leaving the area, idle at 3 p.m, on a Thursday.

I’m interrupted from staring at a couple that won’t talk to one another by a text message from [redacted] about the show tonight at Elmwood Lounge. She wants to know what time to get there and what the order of performers will be, rightly attempting to avoid too much time spent watching the old AA-cases play the Lotto. Or to avoid drinking too much herself, perhaps. It’s hard to know how much performance-anxiety comes on before a gig for a girl who’s played something like 12 of these events. I can’t guess; I’ve never played one myself, but I’ve heard older salts than [redacted] claim the butterflies never really go away.

God, look at me — spelled her fucking name wrong again with an “e” I know doesn’t exist. Just another notch in the now-ragged Don’t Know What The Hell I’m Doing belt.I swear it’s turned a master’s black with experience; I seem to get worse at this booking thing as time goes on. The first Caustic Sets shows were highly-attended, praised events. Now I’m lucky if I can pay the sound guy without taking a hit. Somebody stopped caring along the way: me or the audiences or both.

But so goes regular entertainment in this weird town, where attendance surges at a band’s first, sloppy performances and deflates markedly as they begin to actually learn how to play their instruments. After a band has either released a full record or toured extensively the attitude in the local scene can turn to open hostility, the sad, immature abandonment issues of an insular community that feels they are under attack from all sides: the easy ignorance of the region’s general population, the constant threat of this or that talented regional star pulling stumps and heading for Brooklyn or Portland or some other post-countercultural Mecca. And the threat from within: that one day you may wake up with hunger cramps, mountains of unpaid bills, and a broken foot you can’t treat, and just say Fuck It.

…And it is certainly a struggle we are losing. Every year art and fresh ideas lose another handful to Opportunity, either elsewhere or within. There is more potential in this city for great works than anyone can guess, even me, and I’ve been raving about Buffalo to anyone who will listen for almost 5 years now. But we haven’t seen it work, yet. We haven’t seen the click, where some representative of all that is beautiful and terrible about our city breaks out and takes a few of us with them.

So we talk ourselves down from the ledge and stew or atrophy or have our Fuck It moment. I’ve always advocated a complete rejection of the idea that we need to focus on outward success for redemption, that the best things happening are happening here, and let all else hang or go to Heaven as it will. Not a hostility to the outside world so much as a careful gardening and shoring up of the foundations at home. Reject the lame chicken wing bullshit and find a way to stamp your own mark on the town. For it is ours, after all, and there will be others after us. I, for one, would feel like kind of a prick if we left the seat up and no beer in the fridge. Right?

Well, whatever to all that. I’ve made this goddamn argument so many times to so many people. it isn’t even worth fully explaining it anymore. Just enjoy the weather, you carp. Nobody wants to be scolded, let alone by someone that owes them money. Let’s end this on some kind of a not worth a damn. The caffeine is wearing off and there’s work to do, anyways. And there goes my stomach, the 100-year lunch rush.

What I wouldn’t give for a nice pile of eggs and meat and tomatoes and spinach in a perfect rye bagel toasted at 500 degrees on a slow-moving conveyor, so the outside crisps up and the guts of the dough cook to perfection. Some pepperjack cheese, onions, 800 cups of coffee, and a Sunday’s worth of cheap, cold champagne to look forward to. I’d give more than it’s all worth, that’s for certain.

Not that any of this seems likely to jump out of the bushes at me in the next week, month, or more, given some strange decision-making on my part with regards to employment that I’ve engaged in recently. But a man has to dream, I suppose. It’s become somewhat risky to strive for excellence or even comfort lately, but there’s nothing for it, so I’ll keep an eye out for breakfast and get back to work, staving off, as best I can, the urge to flee from myself.