When it comes down to it, there’s really very little funny about the FBI. Or cops in general.
It was one of those things that catches you completely off guard; like hitting a rock on your skateboard and getting tossed ass over tits. One minute I was thinking about staying up all night with Yvonne talkin’ about the revolutionary virtues of Siouxsie and the Banshees. The next, I was being dragged out of Dulles Airport in handcuffs.
I strolled into the airport feeling really fuckin’ good about the world, even if the airport was named after one of the biggest CIA fuckbastards in history. Warm fuzzies were still swirlin’ around my guts after spending a week in Richmond celebrating the continued existence of dear Greg Wells. With sweet memories of good friends and good times, I dropped a couple of suitcases full of memoirs off with the Transportation Security Administration and headed off to the gate. Even though I was tired and wore out from all the fun, I was eager to get back to PDX for some hell raising with Montana Jane.
I sat down and was just getting into the latest TC Boyle book when the loudspeaker shouted, “Will passenger Michael G. Antipathy please report to the ticket counter.”
Thinking they’d decided to upgrade me to first class or sport me a pair of flying wings, I skipped up to the desk. A stern faced Delta agent met me. “The TSA found something in your luggage. You’ll have to go back and sign a declaration then hurry back here. We can’t hold the flight.”
Thinking my stash of gay porn or photos from my glory days set off some alarm, I went back to the TSA stand feeling nothing more than a slight sense of inconvenience. After all, I was legit. I hadn’t committed a prosecutable offense since my mohawk was two feet tall and seein’ that I hadn’t received a paycheck in more than six years that didn’t come from Uncle Sam, I was as enfranchised as one could be.
Unfortunately, George Bush, Tom Ridge and a whole lot of state and Federal Law Enforcement didn’t feel the same way. The little fenced-in TSA petting zoo (where they X Ray checked luggage) was literally packed with cops and stiff suited FBI dicks. I walked up in my most cordial manner and coughed up my most innocuous Beaver Cleaver voice. “Hi, you guys called?”
A fat Dulles pig looked me up and down and said, “Yeah, wait a minute.”
That minute never came. Exactly 45 second later I was in handcuffs, being carried out of the airport by three pigs.
Ten minutes later I was locked in a plexiglass cell in the new underground Anti-terrorism station the Feds had built right under the razor wire perimeter fence at Dulles. “This is just a misunderstanding, everything is fine, these cops and Feds are just friends I haven’t met yet,” my inner Kevin Seconds ranted, while my inner Earth First! wolf totem-spirit squirmed and squealed in claustrophobic discomfort.
With every passing second, my panic level shot skyward. I was locked up in a jail no one knew existed. I was another casualty in the Gov’s latest Dirty War. No one knew I was missing, no one knew where I was. Fuck, I could almost feel the oppressive tropical heat of Guantanamo Bay pushing against my all too pasty honky flesh. Then, just as I was wishing I had implanted cyanide pills into my cheeks for a quick and painless exit from human bondage, a pair of fat Dulles cops came in and unhandcuffed me. The cops, in their usual gruff fashion, informed me that I hadn’t been arrested, but rather was merely being detained and would be free to go after I was questioned in the other room.
They led me into a mid-sized conference room that was literally lined with the overweight, snickering fodder of Dulles’ finest. A dozen FBI agents, stereotypical in every way, ringed the oval shaped table in the middle of the room. I sat down and a Fed with a TV evangelist’s corrupt smirk addressed me. “I’m Agent Shitbag and these are my associates. Do you know why you’re here today?”
Trying to stay cool I answered. “’Cuz I’m on my way back to Portland?”
He shook his head as though I didn’t believe Jesus needed another $50 and answered his own question. “No. You are here because we found WEAPONS and QUESTIONABLE MATERIALS in your baggage. Show him...”
A Dulles pig with incredibly bugged out eyes, a bulbous paunch above his belt buckle and terribly bad attitude, presented a pair of plastic bags. (He would later become known to me as R.E. Gaines, super pigbastard extraordinaire.) One contained a frame of an antique pistol, the other, a 100 year old straight razor my great grandfather had carried over from Wales.
The FBI agent continued. “We realize neither of these appear to be weapons, especially considering they were in your checked luggage, but I assure you the US government takes all security risks very seriously. And after inspecting the rest of your baggage, we feel you may pose a security risk.”
I nodded to show I was paying attention, but remained silent. Agent Shitbag continued. “Of the things we found these three were the most alarming.”
He pulled out a photograph of my mother, dressed in a puffy Christmas sweater, holding an AR 15. “We found this in your carry on bag. Who is this woman and what militia does she belong to?”
I accidentally smiled. The thought of my little ol’ mom serving in a militia in her reindeer embroidered sweatshirt was a little too much to take seriously. “Naw, that’s my mom. She’s not in a militia. What militia invites old women in Rudolph sweatshirts to join anyway?”
The FBI agent, apparently satisfied with that logic, put the photo down and picked up a copy of a Robert Mapplethorpe book. “And what is this?”
Agent Shitbag stared down his nose at me like he was about to cast me into the flaming pits of Hell (which are located not far from DC, the truth be known). “But what kind of book?”
I shrugged. Though it was gay porn, by Mapplethorpe’s standards that book may as well have been Dr. Seuss. There were no bondage shots, no bullwhip shafts stuck up butts, no nothing. “I dunno. There’s pictures of flowers and babies and stuff...”
Officer R.E. Gaines, not able to contain his excitement, shouted out. “And also pictures of men engaging in sexual relations with other men!!!”
Another fat Dulles pig appeared from his post at the wall, grabbed the book, got right in my face and threatened, “You’re never gonna get a wife if you keep shit like this around!”
The cops and Feds all nodded, sharing a comfortable moment of consensus amongst themselves before Agent Shitbag picked up a map/calendar of the upcoming RNC. “And what is this?” he spit venomously.
“I dunno. I haven’t looked at it yet. A map?”
He smacked it down on the table. “It is not only a map but a listing of events planned to disrupt the Republican National Convention. Did the John Kerry campaign give this to you? Where did you have contact with John Kerry? Have you planned terrorist activities with the Kerry campaign? Is the Kerry campaign working with your mother’s militia?”
By this time Agent Shitbag’s face had turned jellybean red and I feared (hoped) he might drop dead from a heart attack. But like all hopes, this one didn’t come true. The fattest of the Dulles pigs smacked his fist down on the table. “Answer the question.”
Suddenly remembering that I was alone in an underground bunker with three dozen pigs and that they literally had control over whether or not I left this jail alive, I suddenly found the cooperation they were looking for.
“No, I didn’t get it from the John Kerry campaign. I got it from a coffee shop in DC. There was a whole stack of them. And for the last time, my little old mother is not in the militia.”
The cops looked at each other helplessly, as through suddenly realizing that the big score they hoped would get them all promoted and into screenplay deals with Miramax films had crumbled. I was just another weird kid with weird shit in his bags.
Agent Shitbag tried twice more to trick me into confessing that my mother was a militia leader and that John Kerry was waiting for me back in PDX with a skimask and handful of tree spikes before the FBI dicks rose triumphantly, as though they had just finished cracking the case of the century, and walked on out. R.E.Gaines wrote me a subpoena and told me I would have to find my own way back to the airport. Six months, two delayed court dates, three cross-country trips and a few thousand bucks later, my charges of Carrying a Concealed Weapon in an Airport Terminal (for the straight razor) were dismissed as the bullshit they were.
As neat and interesting as it was to see first hand how incompetent and unprofessional American law enforcement is, the whole experience was fucking scary. The American security apparatus is chock full of assholes and idiots with a whole lot of overlap between the two. The war on terror has empowered every Archie Bunker shithead with a badge to do more or less whatever they choose and unless you have a law degree or enough money to buy access to someone who does, there ain’t shit any of us can do about it. In a world where fanzines, NPR and street demos have proven less than effective at fighting jackbooted thugs, it might be good to reaffirm the fact that cops are like herpes, best avoided at all costs.
PS- Bar shows still suck. After seein’ Bane and Terror play to gaggles of stoked hardcore kids who dance their hearts out, stage dive off every available platform and smile like they’re high on ecstasy, it’s kinda hard to get excited in a smoky bar full of grumpy old punks just like you. Hardcore shows need the kids!