The place where Im staying adjoins one of New York Citys Police Academies.
Several nights ago, were in a deserted pizza parlor. Theres us, theres the pizza guy, and twenty empty booths. The pizza guy is watching a ball game so he wont fall asleep on his feet. Were gnawing our dripping-hot slices.
The door opens and a couple of Police Academy trainees walk in. Grey shirts, black pants, black shoes. Overstuffed duffel bags. A few minutes later, two more trainees enter. Then one. Then four. Then one who holds the door open for ten. Eventually they fill the place. There must be 50 uniformed Police Academy trainees around us. Invasion USA.
Next day the same thing happens at a bagel joint where Im grabbing a late lunch. First the place is empty. Then its filled to capacity with black and grey uniforms.
They all seem to be studying for a test. Books cracked, tips exchanged. Standard Procedure. You cant carry it off-duty.
The cops-to-be are black and white and brown. The cops-to-be are male and female. The cops-to-be are New York City. So young. So brave.
When I hear gunfire I run away from it. When cops hear gunfire they run toward it. Some of the nicest people I know are cops. But it wasnt always that way.
In my childhood we moved to a "restricted" suburb of Pittsburgh. No black. No Spanish. You could count the Jews on your right hand, and apparently some of the town folk did.
Late one night my Mom spied a mouse in our new residence. My Dad was out of town on business. My brother and I, clad in flannel pajamas, ran around the house with a shoe box, trying to capture the mouse and set it free outside. My Mom panicked and called the law.
Minutes later this big cop in black pants and black boots buzzed the door.
The big cop crushed the mouse under his boot, deliberately grinding its viscera into my Moms white carpet. The big cop about-faced without a word.
Welcome to the neighborhood.
At the door the big cop spared a glance for my brother and me. The big cops face said: Faggot Jew boys cant catch a mouse.
I used a light fixture fitting to pry the bloody remains out of my Moms carpet. It took ten long minutes. I concentrated on not gagging and not blaming my mother.
In my part of New York City it is hard for the hate-inclined to stay hateful, because there is no racial majority here. We are all different, and we all live together.
Today the cops-to-be are all over this neighborhood. The bagel place, the pizza place, the Korean deli. The cops-to-be look relieved. They must have passed the test. I want to hold doors open for them. I want to honor them. So young, so brave.
24 July 2001
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