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Sunday, July 27, 2014

To the Station

Greenwich Village, NY, 1958


I don’t “believe” in poetry. I don’t believe in the “healing power of art.” You want to believe in something? Try God. A little church in your neighborhood, or a cathedral. THAT’s something you can believe in. Solid.

Levitt says the kids today don’t have anything like that to believe in, and I tell her the parents are to blame. Moving down here to Greenwich Village and moving in without bothering to get married. Filling their kids’ ears with poetry that doesn’t rhyme and jazz with no melody. And that’s what they grow up believing.

These Beatniks come down here and tell us to call them Beats. They call themselves the Beat Generation and you know what I do? Just laugh. This isn’t your slice of heaven, I tell them. It’s the sixth precinct of New York City. And I am responsible for my beat in this precinct and for keeping the peace.

Kids like Ruby don’t always eat regular, so they steal from the fruit store. I’d lock her up for a day, teach the parents a lesson, but Levitt says no, Flo, we can’t do that, we’re a modern society and we have to do better. I say tell me, Levitt. Better than what?

Levitt says she feels bad for Ruby, who’s caught in the middle. Her mom spends her time painting nudes and her father skips town whenever he can to play music. Her older brother knows enough to stay off my radar, and as long as he obeys the law, I’m fine with it.

But his kid sis Ruby? Take her down to the station enough and she’ll learn. That’s what I say, even if it’s not what Levitt wants me to say.

But if Ruby were my kid, she wouldn’t be running around like a wild animal. She’d sit down to meat and potatoes every night and she’d eat her greens beforehand. She’d do her homework and she’d wear a school uniform. And she’d sure as Sam Hill know her multiplication tables and long division.

And if she mouthed off to me or ran away, she’d get a smack for it. Don’t think she wouldn’t.

Not to say I’m a mean father. My kids’ll tell you we have plenty of good times. Baseball games, jokes, once a week we have Sunday dinner and Saturday nights are for bowling, if the kids don’t have homework, that is. Sunday night we watch some Ed Sullivan and get up Monday and do it all over again.

Because we’re decent people, and that’s what decent people do. That may not be the Beat(nik) life. But it’s what’s cookin’ for the rest of us, Ruby. You think you're to cool to color within the lines? 

Look around you, little girl. Look what's happening to your mom. Your dad. Your brother and you.

You want a poem? Lemme spell it out for you.

Cool isn't easy when you're hungry.
All it does it make you drool.
Cool isn't comfy when you're broke
Even for the Beatnik folk.
You may think school isn't cool.
But you'll end up a fool.

That's my poem for the Beatniks, but you know what? They keep coming down here, thinking the Village is their Mecca. (You didn't think an officer would know such a big word, did ya? Well, think again).

But anyhoo, whatever you tell them, these Beats wanna go their own way. I say fine, but leave the kids out of it.

They don't listen. So their kids end up at the station. That's where Ruby's story begins.

It'll end there one day, too.

Officer Florian Grimaldi

Officer Florian Grimaldi
Sixth Precinct, NYC