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Jun 14 2011

“Disorderly Conduct” & escaping Central Booking

I got back under today after doing some weeks of recording prep & had some gnawing in my stomach that it might not be the smoothest of days underground but called on every busking angel I know to help change that & just let me sing. I chose 42nd St/ Times Square, Uptown  “A”  as it’s the spot that’s closest to my heart and just happens to be closest to my apartment as well.

Not four songs in two cops came up to my left side and stood there. Both were Hispanic, in their thirties, one however, was significantly taller and a bit rounder than the other.  They height/weight discrepancy along with their dual awkwardness kind of reminded me of an old school comedy team. Sheepishly, the taller of the two said, “You gotta stop”

“Ok” I responded, figuring with that awkward, wishy-washy tone they’d let me just pack up & go. So I packed up all my gear, took one last sip of water and stood up.

“Ok, so we’re kinda, sorta, well…” The taller of the cop-comedy-team mumbled…”We’re kinda waiting for our supervisor. I’m really sorry but we’re gonna probably have to give you a summons”

“Really? Seriously? Again?”

“Oh here she comes now, I see her” the shorter cop said

I looked around to see who this ‘supervisor’ was since she was the one who instigated the last summons I got, (court date July 11th, so anyone who wants to help me remember that so I don’t miss it I’d love the reminders!) Up comes the supervisor, the one who I was told by the last cop is lazy and mean. Great, and now she’s in charge of my fate….again

The supervisor from hell approached with a smaller version of herself in tow. Man that’s one a big, scary woman – I thought to myself. She was tall, large, dark and all I could think was she must have had to have that uniform custom made to fit that frame. Her presence made her sidekick and her two Hispanic ‘underlings’ look like ants. And at 5’1” I was tinier than even the smallest of her little army. I swear I stared at her stomach the whole time she towered over me, her voice just wafting over my head somewhere; “Do you have any ID with your address on it?” She boomed. God, was she really a ‘she’???

“I don’t know” I answered as I had a few cards with my name on them, but none with address on it..but I kept looking ’cause she scared the crap outta me. Just then a huge black hand reached over and pulled my Union card I was holding from me. “What’s this?”

“It’s my Union card” I said

“Is it yours?” she asked

“Yes it’s mine”

“Well, I don’t know if that’s you or not. It could be someone else’s. You could have stolen it”  … Well, you could compare names…you know, do the math, I thought, but I just let that slide given there were now three cops, one oversized almost-human-being-creature and one me.

“C’mon, we’re going upstairs” the Amazon supervisor boomed in her neither male nor female sound system of a voice.

Crap crap crap – I thought to myself,. This is turning into a whole ‘thing’ and I really have to pee! I lugged my gear up the 9 or 10 cement steps, getting a little muscle form the smaller cop on the last two steps. “Thank you” I said

Once on the landing I asked the taller, rounder cop, (I’ve found, often times, the rounder the cop the cooler they are. Just a hint if you’re ever in this same position, which I hope you’re not) who seemed pretty cool and looked kind of familiar to me, if I could go to the bathroom ’cause I really had to…” He, in his cool-round-cop-way, went over to his supervisor, ticket pad in hand and I heard “Hell no, I’m not lettin’ her go to the bathroom!” Which of course only made me have to pee more! Damn this was not the way I envisioned the day going at all. These guys really know how to put a serious harsh on a musical afternoon.

So, the same tall cop, walked back from the negative on the bathroom request and took my two forms of ID. He exited the station while scary Amazon woman and her female ‘mini-me’ ‘cop-ette’ stood to my left chatting/bonding and the shorter male cop stood in front of me, guarding me, I guess to make sure I didn’t make a mad dash to the ladies room or something. God. “Where’s he going with my ID?” I asked the smaller cop.

“Oh, he’ll be back, don’t worry”

Don’t worry? Don’t worry? He’s telling me? I’m surrounded by 4 cops and he’s telling me “Don’t worry” geeeze.

“So” and the smaller cop leaned in “Do you have any warrants out for your arrest?”

I paused, as I always do at this question because it always seems beyond ridiculous,  “No!” I said with a look that must have conveyed that sense of rediculousness ’cause he responded with a quick lean-in and whisper,

“Listen, I’m just trying to help you out here. See they’re gonna want to take you down to Central Booking and lock you up if they see there’s a warrant out on you. So I’m askin’ just to help you out”

“No!” I repeated myself, this time matching his ‘whisper voice’ which made me feel like I  was in an episode of “Law and Order” or something. All the while I was hoping that last summons I had been issued  a month or so back, for again, nothing,  hadn’t suddenly morphed into a warrant in my sleep

“Ok, so listen” and he leaned in really close this time and kept that intense whisper thing going full tilt. I turned my head a bit as all this ‘closeness’ was feeling, honestly well, a bit awkward, “They’ll probably just give you a ticket or a summons and not lock you up, but we’ll see once my partner comes back.”

Super, I thought as I backed up from the cops face and hopped back and forth trying to calm down my bladder which was pretty much screaming at me at this point. Another summons, just what I need, to spend the entire summer in court. Just then the tall, round cop came back through the turnstile. He mumbled some words to the Amazon woman (he seemed to mumble a lot) you know, the normal,  “You got this under control now?”

“Yes mam, I do, thank you. Thank you” etc etc and everyone saluted everyone else and then it was just the two cops and me left standing on the landing. A literal weight had been lifted. “ahhhh…”

“So” the tall cop said, still holding my ID’s. ” I got some good news and some bad news”

Super I thought – even good news from a cop is probably worse than bad news from a civilian. I braced myself.

“So, I was up there talkin’ to my chief and he’s a real hard ass and wants everything done by the books and I’m supposed to hand cuff you right now and take you in to Central Booking. I’m supposed to take you in not only ’cause you were singing there on the platform and all but I could take you in just ’cause you don’t have an ID with your address on it”. He paused, I gulped, waiting to see  what the ‘good news was  gonna be…”But I’m not gonna do that” Sigh… “Instead I’m gonna write you a summons. But just know you’re supposed to be going to jail tonight ok?”

“Ok….?” I said with a slight question mark at the end, not knowing if this whole explanation was something I was really supposed to be happy about.

“So, listen…” and the large cop came closer. “I hate doin’ this. Between you and me, if it was up to me I’d let you stay. I have no problem with you bein’ here. I’ve seen you before and this is all a bunch of bullshit to be honest with you. But, to be honest, someone like you, you’d not survive Central Booking anyway.”

“Yeah, you’d be eaten alive in there” the shorter cop chimed in “If it was up to us we’d just leave you alone. You ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong, you’re not hurting anyone or stealing or doin’ any crimes. But if our boss says we gotta deal with you, we gotta deal with you. It’s just the way it is. It don’t make no sense, but we gotta do it or we loose our jobs It sucks but it’s the way it is.”

I decided not to contest the issue of why I wouldn’t make it in Central Booking, better leave that alone I thought. All this time the larger cop was writing.  He then  looked up from his pad and said, “So, yeah, I’ve seen you before. I like your music. I really wish I didn’t have to do this, like I said, if it were up to me, I’d walk right by you” See, the roly-poly cops rock!

Just then, Naomi, a friend of mine from dance class passed by. She smiled at first and then noticed I was flanked by cops and her face contorted in such a way that let me know she had no idea what to make of what she was seeing. She kept looking back and forth, up and down, in front and in back of her to see what she’d just walked into. After a few seconds she summed it up and bravely, and I mean bravely, she walked right over to me and gave me a hug. Thank you Naomi. You rock to hug a friend while she’s surrounded by cops. Seriously! She gave me a look of concern and mouthed the words  “I hope you’re ok” as she walked away”

“Hey, It’s not our fault! It’s not our fault! Don’t shoot the messenger!” the larger, fast becoming the most animated  & jovial player in this little skit, shouted. “it’s not our fualt – It’s “The System”! And with that my lovely civilian support was swallowed up in the immense sea of moving bodies running through Times Square.

“So” I said “Yeah this system is nuts. right?”

“Yeah, it’s gotten out of control. I hate doing this stuff” the smaller cop said.

“Yeah, it’s super tough to work steadily getting summons after summons and spending so much time in court and afraid of being arrested”

“If it were up to us you’d be no problem, believe you me” the taller cop said while he scratched on the ticket with his pen.

“And  your supervisor, I hear she’s kinda … mean. Kind of tough” I said to the shorter cop as the taller was trying to figure out how to write a ticket.

“Yeah, she’s really rough”

“She’s only been here like three or four months, right?”  Believe me you know these things when you work underground. The minute the vibe changes, you know it. And her ‘vibe’ has changed everything

“Yeah, ’bout that long. She could have retired already but…”

“She likes the power right?”

“Yeah, she’s tough man. None of us like her”

Then the two cops, who obviously had not written up very many musicians started to banter back and forth like a comedy team,

“What’s the code again for “Disorderly Conduct”? My jovial cop-friend would ask

“Ummm…I dunno, here, here’s the sheet” his shorter,  side-kick  would  respond.

“Lemme look at that…man, I can’t find it anywhere”

“There it is” the smaller cop pointed to the white cardboard sheet covered in codes and their corresponding offenses

“Ok” the taller cop said “Here are you ID’s but don’t go running off anywhere” Like I’d really try to run with 75 pounds of gear and a full bladder, right.

“Which copy do I give her?” The taller cop asked the shorter

“Pink” I answered for him “It’s the pink one. You give me the pink one” I thought, how stupid, I’m not even a cop and I know that.

“Ok, Heidi, listen” the portly cop  stopped writing and looked at me, “One rule when you’re dealing with cops, if they don’t know something, don’t give them the answer. Got it? They might just mess up the ticket and it just might get thrown out. Ya got it?”

“Ah….yeah, I got it.” Damn! well, maybe he’ll give me another ‘out’

“Ok” the tall cop said, here’s your summons.”

“Ok. Hey, do I really have to go to court twice? I mean I just booked a show out of town for this date in August and I don’t want to miss the gig.”

“Well, I’ve heard of people taking multiple summons in and having the judge rule on all of them at the same time. Just bring your booking information for your show and both the summons on your July hearing and he might hear them both the same day. Tell him you have to work. He’ll probably hear them both”

“Ok, thanks” I said, this time without a question mark as this seemed like some actual good advice given the situation I was already in.

“And this is the same as the last one right? These are Transit tickets, right?”

“No, these are Criminal Court Summons”

“Seriously? Criminal Court?” Geeeeze…this system is just a mess I thought to myself…

“Now, I’m supposed to kick you out of here”

“Don’t worry” I said, “I’m leaving”

“Hey” the tall cop said, “Do you need to use the bathroom Heidi?”

“I’m ok, but thanks, I’ll pop into Starbucks upstairs” I said, recalling way too vividly that the bathrooms in the Times Square Subway are more  like  public indoor outhouses if that’s possible. Nothing flushes and there’s no water. Ok in a real pinch but when given a choice,which I’d now been granted, I’d choose Starbucks any  day.

“Hey, but listen, Heidi, don’t let this stop you, you know, from doing what you do. got it?”

“Ok, thanks, I won’t” Then I thought for a second, “Hey, what’s your supervisor’s hours?”

“Ah….very smart” The tall cop , who was fast becoming what looked like an ally, said. “Well, weekends are good. She’s off on the weekends. And she works evenings, four to twelve”

“K, so mornings and weekends are cool”

“You got it. You know, you’d make a really good cop” The tall cop poked his finger out in my direction as I turned to exit the ‘scene of the crime’, “Hey Heidi…”

“Yeah?” I said as I turned around

“And you never know, I might have just written that ticket out wrong….”

I smiled but said nothing as I could see his supervisor waddling up behind him. Guess I’ll find out July 11th

Ah, finally freedom & I could pee!

"Disorderly Conduct"

20 Responses to ““Disorderly Conduct” & escaping Central Booking”

  1. skeletoes says:

    Just like the cops always quick to hand out tickets..

    Heidi Reply:

    Waaaay to quick!

  2. Heidi says:

    Thanks so much for your comment – so interesting to her about busking cultures in other countries. Definitely a different culture in every country & yes, I agree w/ the ‘oxymoron’ – kinda takes the ‘heart’ out of the whole art form 🙂

  3. grannyfiddler says:

    i visit friends in Vancouver fairly often, and love the buskers there… but, as Abi says of the UK, it’s regulated there. not only do you have to audition, but there’s a dress code and buskers are scheduled and at designated spots. kind of an oxymoron…. regulated busking.

    loved your story. i’ll remember the ’round roly cop’ rule.

  4. Joe says:

    My sentiments are with the rest of the readers,I hope the tickets get thrown out.I’m glad they can’t silence you..keep the tunes coming.

  5. Abi says:

    Hi Heidi- this is really shocking. I’m a singer/songwriter from the UK, and I thought it was bad enough that for some cities in England you have to AUDITION to be a busker, some cities you have to PAY to be a busker. I thought OUR rules were stupid, but yours are OBSCENE! In what way are you a criminal, for God’s sake? Have you tried playing in coffee shops instead!?

  6. Rick Stone says:

    Speaking of Alice’s Restaurant. My friend Bob Arkin (bassist) was in that movie (he was the guy in the doorway who gets kind of pushed over when the bikers showed up). He used to play the streets a lot. Maybe you know him?

    Heidi Reply:

    I don’t but would love to meet him! How cool 🙂

  7. Marc says:

    Great story! You are an excellent writer. Reminds me of Alice’s Restaurant Massacre. With some filling out of details, etc. you should try to get it published.

    Heidi Reply:

    Thanks Marc ! : )

  8. Rick Stone says:


    We met Memorial Day weekend in the subway (I was on my way home from a gig). Sorry to hear about your ongoing hassles, but at least it gives you something to write about(trying to look at the bright side). It used to be like this when I played the streets back in the 80s too (under the Koch administration). I heard that it got a little better for a while under Dinkins (but I’d already quit busking by then) but then Guiliani and now Bloomberg have made it so much tougher. Guys like this just hate it that there’s an underground economy in New York and that so many of us have to make our living outside the box.

    Good luck with your summons and I really hope that those cops make a “mistake” when they filled it out.

    ~ Rick

    Heidi Reply:

    Thanks Rick – interesting to hear the patterns…yeah – they want our little change we make – just insane/criminal in my opinion. Still hoping for a true turn around & perhaps for that Amazon supervisor cop to friggin’ RETIRE already!: )

  9. Lucien says:

    OMG Heidi! Funny in VA Beach the look for street muscians during the summer, get to perform every night, maybe a summer in VA Beach, VA, by the beach would be easier! Hopefully it will (both) get thrown out!

    Heidi Reply:

    Omg – I’d totally summer in Va beach & busk the whole time! Who is “they”? I’ll contact them & see if I can make it work…I’d so love to do that for a few weeks – how fun!!! 🙂
    And yes – let’s pray they are both thrown out…

  10. Lyle Puente says:

    Can I be head of your fan club?

    Heidi Reply:

    You are hereby elected President of “The Subway Diaries fan Club”!!! 🙂

  11. Lyle Puente says:

    This is so well written and in a way… really great. The cops were really great, the characters very great….. this all falls into place as a great story.
    I’m glad you didnt go to central booking!

    Heidi Reply:

    Thnx – me to on Central Booking!
    And, no Lyle – YOU are great 🙂

  12. alexis says:

    unbelievable arrested for not having an id, that’s way too much.

    Heidi Reply:

    Yup – happens all the time…

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