Home; And, Memory of a Near-Miss.

November 18, 2004

I found myself in a strangely familiar place when I arrived at JFK last night.

I deplaned, and found myself walking down a long hallway as I moved towards the taxi stand. Suddenly I realized where I was.
Years and years ago, I went to Jamaica with school friends–and a girl that I was mad for who broke up with me like three days before our vacation–and had to come back early to start a job driving a delivery van for a gourmet ice cream company. I smuggled some weed in my socks. Just a little; packets that fit snug in the arches of my feet.
When we got to JFK, we were walking down a long hallway, then suddenly were stopped. A flight from Eastern Europe deplaned, and they were let right through. I believe it was Lithuania. Why them and not us? I thought. A bad, bad feeling.
Suddenly, a little door opened up at the far end of this ominous, sleek hallway, and a cop came out with a scrappy-looking little dog. We were instructed to put our bags down on the floor beside us. At this point I was shitting bricks.
The dog came close. He was a few feet behind me, and barked. “Good boy,” said the cop. Then he went a few feet in front of me, and barked. “Good boy,” said the cop.
Then they let us through. I thought I was home free. I picked up my guitar at the baggage claim and went to the supermarket-checkout like customs station. I was chatting pleasantries with a tourist lady, and then two cops and a guy with a cop-mustache, dressed in a black t-shirt, with a badge on a chain, came up. Step over here, please.
The tourist lady got a great cocktail story; I was talking to this seemingly nice kid at customs–turned out to be a drug smuggler!
They asked me the same questions over and over again, as they sliced open my guitar case with a knife (I had secured the locks with duct tape, and I guesss they found it easier to just slice the lock off than fuss with the tape), dumped my dirty clothes out on a table. Where are you going? Where did you come from? Why do you live in New York but have a PA driver’s license? Why are you travelling alone? Oh. Oh. I see. Now where are you going? And why are you travelling alone?
They took me to a private room. Gave me a thorough pat down. I was near to bursting into tears. Take off your hat, said the mustache man. He shook it out, smelled it. Now take off your shoes. He shook each out, smelled them. I was waiting for him to ask me to take off my socks.
But he sighed, and he let me go. I gathered up my dirty clothes and guitar and hacked-up guitar case haphazardly in my arms, feeling lightheaded, babbling ha ha ha jokey stuff to sound innocent, and then I got on the bus.