Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Smooth Criminal

The minute the cops approached me at the bar I knew I was toast. It was the regular Saturday night round up of underage drinkers at Stillwaters, a bar near the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Many people could get away with a quick cop interview, showing them their fake ID, and laughing in a mature fashion, but I, a 20 year old man still barely able to get into a PG-13 movie without being hassled, was not one of them. Yet I was not afraid of a night in a holding cell, for in truth I was anxious to get back to jail, where just 3 weeks beforehand I had had one of the best Sundays of my life.

I had a moped at school that was useful for driving to class on the University’s spectacularly spread out campus. It also had the added benefit of making me look completely ridiculous, as a man tooling around on his moped in 10-degree weather ought to. On the aforementioned Sunday I had offered my younger brother a ride to his dorm and he hopped on the back, giving me a look that said, “please don’t be drunk.” We took off, and as we raced down Langdon Street I heard sirens as a couple of gruff looking cops pulled us over. Apparently, it was illegal to have two people on a moped. This was not a big deal. Unfortunately a cursory check of my driver’s license revealed a slightly bigger deal. There was a warrant out for my arrest and I was placed in the squad car.

It turns out that I had forgotten to pay a ticket I had received a few months earlier for “Person Making Unreasonable Noise.” The noise in question was not so much unreasonable as it was misdirected. I had thought my roommates had locked me out of my apartment and had flown into a rage. It took the cops showing up to make me realize that I was banging, kicking, and screaming in front of someone else’s apartment.

As I was driven to jail I pondered that not paying the ticket may have been a mistake. Despite a lifetime of degenerative behavior I had thus far avoided jail, and the last thing I wanted to be doing was spending the Sunday of a big Wisconsin football game stuck in a dingy cell. I called my friends and told them that I would need to be bailed out as all my money was wrapped up in an online poker account. They said they would be down right away and actually sounded worried for my safety. Perhaps they, just as my brother did, assumed I was drunk and would perhaps find a way to make this situation far worse.

Upon entering the complex I was strip-searched. This was no big deal as I had obviously hidden my drugs in my moped and luckily no remnants were found. I was then led into the main area. Astoundingly, I was startled to see that, as opposed to the rank dungeon I expected, the jail looked brand new, like a showcase on the Price is Right. There was a large open-air common space with couches and a skylight, and artwork dotted the walls. Still, I was nervous, as I had heard stories of insane drunken derelicts rounded up on the streets of Madison, continuing their misbehavior in the prisons themselves. It didn’t help that I wasn’t exactly dressed for prison. My chinos and sweater vest made me look like Little Man Tate. Thus, I timidly stepped into the cell.

I was greeted by about 7 men, not with a yell or even a stony silence, but with a series of extremely pilot questions about my well-being. They asked if the cops were too hard on me and if the handcuffs had hurt my wrists. A man who looked like a friendly old librarian asked if the cops had caused the rip on my sleeve. It was as if, by virtue of being the kind of man who makes unreasonable noise, I had been inducted into the friendliest fraternity on earth. I took a chair and noticed that there was a large T.V. in the corner. I inquired into whether we could actually watch it, and not only could we, we had the remote and access to more channels then I had in my dorm room. We all settled into watch the football game, making small bets with each other, and laughing at a man named Dingo’s hilarious Regis Philbin impression.

Some time later a cop called my name and said that I had been bailed out. I looked at my watch and I couldn’t believe that nearly five hours had passed. I said some mournful goodbyes to my new chums and we all promised to keep in touch (by this point we had exchanged email addresses). I exited the jail to find five of my friends sitting in the visitor’s area. They had pooled their money to pay my $500 dollar bail and had clearly been waiting for quite a long time. I regaled them with tales of my new friends and the exciting football game that they had somehow missed. They did not seem much interested in how much fun I had had.  So I left them there, and leisurely strolled to my moped to collect my drugs. 

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

No He Can't

I was not the most natural candidate for student body president of my high school. For one thing, I had sold pot to much of the electorate, which, while not a detriment among the students, served to warn the faculty of just what an Adam Levy administration might entail. Also, I had no interest in increasing school spirit, or any kind of organizing of events. I would leave that to the toadies I was certain to gain once elected. No, I intended to win on the basis of a simple but bold message. That our school sucked, and that only someone with the courage to say that in front of all the students and faculty deserved to helm the sinking ship that was Columbia Prep.

And why did my high school suck? To me, mainly because we were situated across the street from Central Park, and were forbidden to enter it during school hours. The faculty had decided that an open park would tempt the students towards illicit activities and that it should be closed off during the day. This was idiotic for many reasons, mainly because if we wanted to smoke or whatever everyone would just walk a few blocks uptown. For us stoners though, this was a real pain in the ass.

When I announced my decision to my friends there was a general consensus that this was a terrific idea and that more importantly, it would really aggravate the teachers. I assembled a crack campaign team immediately. My best friend Mokey, mainly known for the time he accidentally scored for the opposing team in JV basketball, would join the ticket as a sort of Co-President. This would have the result of broadening our voter base and driving up turnout among people who liked Mokey but thought I was kind of a dick. My friend Brett would become our campaign manager and chief strategist. And Mokey’s ex-girlfriend Karen, who despite their break up still hung out with us for some reason, would design the posters and perform overall girl outreach.

We decided that as the insurgent campaign we would have to put together a completely new kind of strategy. One that disregarded traditional means of campaigning like being positive and talking about your ideas. Our plan was more subtle. A series of signs were created that advertised the ticket but had subtle drug references that we were certain everyone would understand. Brilliant slogans like “There are 420 reasons to elect Mokey and Adam.” We weren’t exactly sure how this would help us get votes but at least it would brand us as the pro-pot ticket and thus stigmatize our opponents as anti-fun.

And while our opponents weren’t actually anti-fun they were certainly pro-lameness. Our main adversary was pseudo-jock Robbie Crespi, a man so boring he actually advocated for more pep rallies. He was well liked though, especially among the younger girls, and he cast quite the bland yet imposing shadow on our maverick campaign.

As the election approached our pro-pot message seemed to be getting through. Mainly because the teachers had caught on and started ripping down our advertisements. I guess signs like “Mokey and Adam, Save the Trees!” were less understated then we had hoped. We decided that we needed to define our opponents as more then anti-fun, with a targeted negative advertising campaign calling them dorks. These too, were ripped down soon after going up.

Then a week before the election disaster struck, Mokey was stripped from the ticket for failing math, apparently no one who failed anything could be student body president. We doubted the motives of the school, as they clearly feared the heady breeze of progressive change that was sweeping through the student body. Yet we did not quit the race. A hesitant Brett was placed on the ticket and we regrouped for the stretch run. I settled in to write what I knew would be our last chance at victory; a rousing and revolutionary speech, to be delivered to the students and faculty on voting day. A speech that would directly excoriate Columbia Prep for it’s draconian park ban. I finished it at midnight the day of voting day. I wasn’t positive, but I was pretty sure I had crafted the perfect speech.

Twelve hours later, the gym was packed as I strode to the podium. To say I was nervous was to put it mildly, but the gravity of my message propelled me forward. The crowd was respectfully silent as I began “This school treats you all like pre-schoolers!” I bellowed. “Here we sit, next to Central Park, one of the city’s greatest resources, and we are not allowed to set foot in it! And why? Because someone may smoke a cigarette! I have news for you Columbia Prep, you may stop that one smoker, but you also stop the Frisbee thrower, the puddle skipper, and the duck watcher! You stop us from enjoying a sunny afternoon in May or a snow filled January morning. You stop us from being New Yorkers. Well, when I am President of this student body you won’t stop me!”

And on I went. I covered the myriad of abuses perpetrated on the students by the administration and how the park was indicative of a school where the rights of the individual were trampled on. 10 minutes later I stepped back to lap up polite applause, not exactly the thunderous ovation I expected, and retreated with my staff to await the results.

Needless to say, we were crushed. When we asked our dean what the totals were he said that Robbie had received more then 3/4ths of the vote, and that a number of write in candidates had made quite a showing as well. He also reminded me that student council presidents are not able to set school policy and if I had simply asked him I probably could have avoided getting so worked up. This was a thought that probably should have occurred me to sooner in hindsight.  And while I was disappointed, I was also relieved. The closer I got to the job, the more of a hassle it seemed like it was going to be. And we also realized that if we just walked down to 86th street we could enter the park anyway. Oh well, a point had been made.