Wednesday, April 1, 2009
I'm headed home to Red Hook from a friend's place in Manhattan. It's late, so I get off the subway before my usual stop, which can be kind of sketchy in the wee hours. I exit at Carroll Street, which is a more gentrified area than Red Hook. Red Hook is very interesting but has... projects. Nothing against people who have to live there -- most of them are working poor, but there is an element of crime and it's worth thinking about when the streets are empty.
So I'm walking down Court Street, which is empty at this hour. I'm listening to my ipod, to this happy song by a female singer from Mauritania that my friend Brahim recorded for me, and suddenly two guys fly past running as fast as they can run, one trying to catch the other. I'm like: hmm, wondering what this change of scene calls for. My first thought is kids playing, but they're grown, it's late at night, they look really, really serious. So the guy chasing the other one grabs him by the shoulders as they're running full tilt and throws him to the ground. They slide across the sidewalk. The aggressor pulls the other guy's shirt up.
At this point I stop. Something is happening, but what? I still have my earbuds in, I'm listening to the happy song, the guys are rolling around on the ground. Suddenly cop cars appear from every side street, one going the wrong way down Court Street, one the right way, one from every direction on all four side streets, on either side of me. Lights on. Like in a movie, like it was staged. It actually looks like a scene on Law & Order, and earlier in the day I had passed a film crew filming a scene from a movie or show on this very block, but this is real.
I'm still listening to the Mauritanian girl. It always takes me a minute. I'm kind of slow to respond to sudden, unexpected developments. I watch. I'm the only guy on the street and cops are running from every direction with guns drawn and the guys are on the ground, and at this point this extremely short guy who tends bar at the tiniest bar in the world runs out of the bar and asks me what's happening. Finally I remove my earbuds. There's shouting. I tell him what I saw. We stand there for a minute; a van appears, a group of guys in black get out, drag the formerly running guy off. The short guy says it looks like an undercover drug bust. I'm thinking: How could I have walked through this and not seen what was building up? How did I not see the cop cars idling on every side street, the van, the guys about to take off running? I'm thinking maybe I should not have been listening to the Mauritanian girl.
The short guy and I look at each other. I say, "Take it easy." He says, "Yeah." I head home. Nothing to see here. Move along.