Death to Beermas

My friend Miguel had an opening Thursday night at his Orchard Street gallery. Esoteric bread sculptures. I surveyed the works for several minutes and then grabbed a beer. The sky was clear for the first time this month and I stepped outside. New York has been experiencing a very English summer. This evening air was soft. Almost summery. I declared the evening to be Beermas. A good night for drinking beer. I joined the conversation about Michael Jackson’s death. I was explaining how he never recorded a song you could sing around the campfire.

“Beat it.” A young blonde art assistant said as if she had been in a Girl Scout chorus at summer camp.

“What about Ben?” A bearded artist suggested with authority. He didn’t look like Boy Scout material, but he was right because I had heard Indonesians sing BEN around a campfire by the shore of Lake Toba.

Before I could defend my premise a non-descript Chevy pulled over close to the curb. I stepped away, pulling the blonde with me. Three cops were in the car. I realized they had stopped to put a halt to our drinking in public. My reaction time wasn’t as spry as the young people on the sidewalk and the driver of the unmarked car pointed at me, “Let’s see some ID.”

“I’m old enough to drink.”

“It’s against the law to drink from an open container in New York City.” He cited the ordnance without giving a number. He was from the 7th precinct. It was the end of the month. They had yet to reach their quota of tickets. His partners corralled ten of us. each with a bottle of beer in our hands. “Who owns this gallery?”

“I do.” Miguel exited from the gallery with a cigarette in his mouth. “What’s the problem?”

“It’s against the law to distribute beer from a commercial space without a license.” He certainly knew his stuff. His partners were backing him up with hands on their weapons. 9mm pistols. Everyone was dangerous to these cops.

“There are over 500 galleries in New York. Everyone does it.” Miguel was arguing for a break. It was the first time he had heard of this law, although the New York Times had mentioned a Chelsea gallery being cited for the same offense several months ago. “I’ll tell everyone to put away the beers and shut the gallery. Would that be enough?”

“Too late for that.” The officer was in his late-20s. He was aggressively standing close to Miguel hoping for further trouble. Miguel would not play his game and said, “Here’s my ID. Do what you have to do.”

And that was write the beer-drinkers for ‘open container’ fines. $25. His partners were embarrassed by their fellow policeman’s behavior. He might have been having a bad day. Several of the artists were mocking him. He turned his head with the speed of a snapping turtle discovering someone is painting its tail.

“Anyone want to go to the precinct house. You wouldn’t think that was funny.”

“Officer, no one wants to go anywhere but home tonight.” I lifted my hands with palms open.

“And what’s that supposed to mean?” He was in no mood for discussion.

“Nothing officer. Nothing at all.”

“Good,” He bit his lip, realizing he may have overstepped his bounds. “Sorry about this, but if i passed you by and someone saw me, then I would have gotten my ass chewed out or even cited same as you. It’s not me. It’s the precinct house.”

No one said anything and the cops drove away. We went downstairs to finish the beer. The officer was wrong. He was the one who killed Beermas. But then that’s the way of life in the Land of the Free. No fun at all.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *