Thursday, February 10, 2011

Go Back to Russia

The transition from big-fish-in-a-small-pond of Pleasanton, California to the little-fish-in-a-big-pond of San Francisco was not easy. In Pleasanton, I was a big fish, a spectacle turning heads on Main Street. In 1983 San Francisco, where it seemed like everybody under 25 was punk, I was nothing special. Because of this very reason, the move was not easy?

It had been building for quite some time. I knew I had to leave and so did my parents. I just needed a push and that push came in the form of the Pleasanton Police.

Around 11 pm on a Saturday night I decided to walk down the block to my friend Bob’s party. Bob was one of my oldest friends, but since my conversion from burn-out to punk our friendship had soured. It wasn’t a conscious thing; however, when you’re 18 and your favorite band was Minor Threat and his favorite band was The Doors, there wasn’t much you could do to salvage your relationship. Music was identity and was everything, so if your friend was into the wrong kind of music, it was over.

Humanitarian that I was, I walked the short block just to make an appearance and say hi, hoping that his younger brother Brian was not around

Ever since my punk rock coming out, Brian was always aggressive towards me. Even though he was a skinny kid, he was mean and had disapproving eyes, and was fond of calling me faggot. I had witnessed many Bob and Craig all out brother fights, where Craig would get pummeled, but he never quit. I figured if he came at me he would act the same way.

By the time I got there, the cops were breaking up the party. There was one police car out front and one pulling up.

The front door of the house was open, the bright hallway light spilling onto their front lawn. Streams of people were coming out of the house in an orderly manner, walking to their cars. This wasn’t how Hollywood depicted these kinds of high school parties – no jumping over fences or running out of every door of the house.

I walked past the stream of people into the house. I just wanted Bobby to see me. I knew the house well and searched, but he wasn’t around so I left, making my way past the flowing stream leaving of adolescence. It must’ve been a big party because the front yard was filling up with Lollygaggers.

Leaning against the side of their car in front of the house, 2 Pleasanton Policemen watched me as I descended the steps attached to the concrete path that lead to the sidewalk. I kept my head down, but I knew they were watching.

“Hey, Comrade,” one of them said as I approached.

Not sure how to respond to such a stupid statement, I said the equivalent of a grunt,”“Huh, what?” looking perplexed.

In an angrier tone, he finished his thought: “It because of people like you…parties get busted. Go back to Russia.” His words followed me as I walked by.

I turned and indignantly replied, “Dude, I just got here.” I would learn that cops didn’t like to be called dude or homes. A few years later, my friend Josh and I were skateboarding down San Pablo Street in Emeryville, coming back from a Soul Asylum show at the Berkley Square. We were about a quarter mile from our warehouse, carefully crossing train tracks, when we heard a voice to our left: “Hey, get off the sidewalk!” We looked and a cop across the street, walking to his parked car, was gesturing toward us and seemed mad. It looked like he had just gone to a store and was on his way back.

I replied, “We’re not on the sidewalk, Homes!” He either didn’t like my righteous tone or use of the word “homes” because he moved quickly to his car, got in and flipped a u-turn. Josh and I didn’t wait around. We skated as fast as we could to the entrance of our warehouse. We knew that if we could make it inside, the cop would not come in. They knew who were and routinely were called to break up our warehouse’s parties and shows and knew that the space was a very dark maze of hallways and doors with no doorknobs.

I made it inside but Josh didn’t. I told my roommates what was going on and we ran to the roof to see if Josh got caught. Lying on the roof, we saw a silhouette of what we assumed was Josh slumped down in the back seat of the cop car. He was released early the next morning and came straight over, feigning being pissed at me. I was, however, the one that threw out the “Homes” comment.

Walking back to my house, looking over my shoulder, I knew this verbal exchange between the Pleasanton Police and I was not over. As expected, they leisurely got in their car and slowly followed me. It was like an excruciatingly slow chase. They never moved in front of me, careful to loom in the background like a storm cloud. If paranoia was not option, it now was.

The thought of running was an idea, but I knew how it would end and I had nowhere to go except to my house, which would be bad. So, I slowed the pace, looking back at them, shaking my head. I knew this would piss them off.

Walking across the lawn of my house, I picked up the pace, making a run for my door. Seeing that this was the end of the slow chase, they hit the gas and screeched to a halt in front of my house. Key in my hand, I quickly opened the door and slammed it shut, running to the den window to peak out the window.

They were halfway up the lawn and moving toward the door. The door bell rang. My parents were out for the evening, but my sister was home. I ran out of the den and to the bathroom, where she had just taken a shower.

“Get the door. What’s going on?” She could tell by the look of fear and excitement on my face that whoever was ringing the bell was there because of something I did. I quickly explained what was going on: “Bob was having a party. When I got there it was getting busted. I went in to say hi, but he wasn’t around, so I left. As I was leaving, these 2 fucking cops told me to ‘go back to Russia.’ And they followed me home.”

Not one to think things through, Lisa moved to the door, wearing a lush, white robe and towel around her hair, hiding her hennaed hair.

“Yes, what?” she said, opening the door a crack, exposing her turbaned head. The entry way was dark and I assume they thought they disturbed my mother while taking a shower.

“Well, uh.” They stuttered not expecting this and not sure really what to say.

“Leave him alone, he did nothing. You’re harassing him because his hair.” And she shut the door

I ran back to the window in the den and watched them get back in their car.

3 weeks later, I moved. I had outgrown my hometown of Pleasanton.

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