Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Personal / Writing / Satire /
I’ve posted a few of my political letters — my famous letters to the White House — but actually, now that I recall it, I’d written a political / social satire or two in letter form earlier. I here describe the best I can recall a letter I posted to the NYC police when I was first out of the army in 1963, attending grad school full time. I had a tiny apartment on E 4th Street, just off 2nd Avenue, the building called “The Garden of Eden”: its mural of the temptation I later learned painted by my great friend and great artist of a decade later, Gatja Rothe.
I’d lived on Morningside Heights, I’d lived in Greenwich Village, now here I was on the Lower East Side, my father waxing sarcastic about how my grandparents had escaped the Lower East Side to Brooklyn, my father had escaped Brooklyn to Queens, then to Nassau, and here I am reverting to the prime suburb of Ellis Island! Anyway, in 1963 I took the law seriously, or tried to. It drove me nuts how cabbies drove their taxis with every conceivable dangerous discourtesy: and so did the cops!
I wrote the cops: that the cops cruised through the red light as slowly as possible, rubbing their contempt for the law into the longest possible stretch of time. They could have been more contemptuous of the law by parking in the intersection no matter the light and walking away, leaving the intersection blocked. The hacks screamed through the light as it turned red, maxing their revs, red-lining above 6000. The cops casually held all in contempt, as time crawled.
I humbly suggested that pedestrians be allowed to carry fire arms on the streets. And that pedestrians be held blameless no matter how many cabbies they slaughtered: clearly self-defense.
That cab screamed and then stopped screaming.
Oh, no, I assured them: pedestrians couldn’t shoots the cops, no matter the provocation: cops are sacred. Cops, like priests, are right: no matter what. No: cabbies are profane. Cabbies should obey the law, and answer to common courtesy; or bear the consequences.
Much to my surprise a bunch-a-cops, in suits and badges, not uniforms and badges, hiked up to my apartment, several floors of walk-up, and knocked on my door. I was the guy who wroe the letter? They smiled at me, red faced, enjoying the hell out of the memory.
They told me how my letter had circulated all around the precinct, and beyond, all the cops reading it and laughing.
The New Yorker reported passing my letter around the office when I told Nixon he should cancel the election and just appoint himself to a longer term. Other letters of mine got passed around in my sight, among friends. The Candida Donatio Agency said that everyone in the place had read all my stories, some of them twice. Etc. Nixon sent me a gold embossed thank you letter. But that was the only time I got visited by the addressees: until NYU sent a sheriff and FBI swat team to wrestle me to the ground and cuff me behind my back, slam me in the slammer, censor as well as torture me.
How come the SWATs weren’t smiling? weren’t laughing? It was the same joke!
One thing those suit-cops hadn’t loved about my letter was a reference I made to Cromwell as a secular saint. No, these cops were Irish! They couldn’t imagine my view of the Puritan with a big stick as exercising restraint. And maybe they were right: on that count.