As y’all know, I’m a big fan of wide open spaces – which leaves me shit out of luck given where I live. Still, if I can’t get to the country, there are a couple of places I can go in the metropolitan area that almost feel like being in the country. And one of those places (actually two) are in Staten Island. Yesterday (what with being a beautiful day), I decided a ride on the boat to IKEA would be fun. But when I got there, the length of the line was just too prohibitive…so I mozied south to the ferry where you never get turned away and asked to wait for the next ride.
My newest bucolic spot is almost under (but not quite) the Verrazano Bridge where there’s some sort of military installation, a scenic lookout, and a little road which goes into a forest. My routine is to score a 24 oz can of Keystone Ice, ride to the forest, and sit my ass down for 30 minutes or so as I fantasize I’m someplace that’s real country.
So I’m maybe halfway through my can – just minding my own business – when a couple of helicopters start buzzing and hovering over the area. And I’m thinking “I could go to Governor’s Island if I want to be assaulted by ‘copter noise. WTF?!?! Some fucking country this is!” Still, I figure it’s just some sort of training stuff associated with the installation and live through the noise.
But then one of the helios stops dead over the harbor where he has a perfect view of (drum roll) me! And suddenly, I get this strange feeling that this isn’t a training deal. They’re checking out the guy who rode in on his bike and is now lingering in the forest and may be up to no good.
The helicopter was actually pretty far away. But I know that with a good pair of binoculars, they can see me. So I tip my cap and raise the can in a toast to the sky to let the boys know “I’m a schmuck with a beer and a hankerin’ for the country. Ease up, guys.” Whatever…time for an experiment. I’m almost done with the beer so I guzzle the last few ounces, hop on the bike and move on up to the scenic lookout. As soon as I arrive (maybe three minutes later), the ‘copter pulls off and flies away.
Now I know this sounds like I’ve become Paranoid Bill. But when you’ve had phone lines tapped, been staked out by government agents, and had email accounts hacked (all of which I have), shit like this morphs from paranoia to reality. And it’s why I’m not so sure Edward Snowden was a traitor!
Were those helicopters really checking me out? Who the fuck knows? I just hope Big Brother sees all the volunteering I do while they examine me from A to Z. One thing I gotta say though. I pity the guy whose job it is to stake me out. Not a lot to see, brother. Hope ya got a good book.
Funny story before I go: OTIS BLACKWELL (who I’ve written about before) was a big-time songwriter (“Don’t Be Cruel,” “Return To Sender,” “Great Balls of Fire,” “Handyman” and many more) who I backed on the guitar. Songwriters (unless they’re staffers) are paid mechanical royalties by publishers (hopefully) and airplay and performance money by corporations whose sole job it is to monitor music use and then bill the users for that use. Either way…that money is forwarded without any taxes withheld.
Predictably, Otis’ success brought problems with the IRS as I imagine he wasn’t paying his taxes. But his issues hadn’t reached the criminal level (like someone we know) and so, the gov posted an IRS agent to follow Otis around wherever he went! Watching how Otis operated, the agent showed up for work one day to say “Hey Otis! I got an idea for a song!” (Apparently, just like everybody can write a book…the agent thought he could write a song!)
Otis reported that the guy was pretty good at staying on his tail but alas, songwriting wasn’t on his list of talents. In retrospect, I wonder if the guys who staked me out could write a tag line…or build an ad in photoshop…or be webmaster to a blog…or most of all, appear competent and non-threatening so all the reprobates would want to run an ad with them. Not likely they’d be interested. Not that glamorous. Kind of a moot point.
P.S. The shot (which I took) is from the lookout.