Wednesday, September 24, 2008

West Point Police Blotter: July 4,1980

Our blog won an award after only 14 postings! OK, it wasn't a very prestigious one, still. I'm going to try to jump start this thing.

(Reprinted for Eating Chicken Vindaloo)As my junior year of high school ended at the end of June in 1980, my parents planned a trip to go down south, leaving me by myself for a couple weeks. Wait, let me back up.

Brother Tony Alva, then 16, “went to Virginia” for the summer with two of his friends, one 16 and the other 18 or 19. When I say “went to Virginia”, I mean the entire plan, down to the last minute detail, was “going to Virginia”. I wasn’t around when he convinced my parents that this was a wise, real-world experience that he should undertake, but I always imagined it went something like this.

Dad: So, what are you doing this summer?
TA: Me and a couple friends were thinking of driving to Virginia.
Mom: Well, they do say it’s for lovers. You’ll be safe.
Dad: We’ll *cough-cough* miss you.

Like I said, I wasn’t there, but I know questions like “What town?”, “What’s the number you can be reached at?”, and “How will you pay for things like food, clothing, shelter, and gas?” couldn’t have been asked. My brother had a part-time job that year cleaning dishes at the Thayer Hotel. And by part-time job, I mean “a means to raise money to smoke more pot”. And smoke pot he did. Impressive amounts. Legendary amounts. I don’t want to incriminate anyone here too badly because my dad put me on notice at the family reunion that he stops by Eating Chicken Vindaloo now and again, but let’s just say it was a lot.

Anywho, my parents signed off on sending his thug-pot-smoking-trouble-making-curfew-breaking ass down to Virginia, and they packed up my sisters and headed south. On the night of July 4th, we had a little gathering at my house, me and about 30 of my closest friends. Oh, and there was beer. Lots of beer. Back in the day, the drinking age was 18, and I was 17 myself, so it was extremely easy to get beer.

In addition to the party at my house, there were two other things happening on the post late in the night of July 4th: the gas station was broken into and many tools were allegedly stolen and a huge 12 foot by 12 foot PA system was stolen at a camper/air streamer gathering.

A couple months after his return from Virginia, apparently none the worse for wear, my brother and I were called into the MP station with my dad to be questioned about those crimes. We were interrogated separately, first him, then me, with our dad. I found it especially comical that my brother was a suspect since HE WASN’T EVEN IN THE STATE THE ENTIRE SUMMER. I don’t really know how his interrogation went – perhaps he’ll comment in great detail or post on this story to fill in the details from his perspective.

I was told about the crimes and that I was a suspect, but the CID guy interrogating me didn’t think it was me, and he wanted to help me prove my innocence, 'cause he really believed in me. See, he was the “Good Cop”. I told him I knew exactly where I was July 4th. I was busted the morning after my parents got back because one of my drunken dickhead friends thought it was hil-freaking-larious to run around the house flicking bottle caps all night - fucking Gorko! Not that I was punished. Man, I swear, my parents must have lost interest in raising us and were just crossing days off the calendar until we left home.

Anywho, I tell Mr. Goodcop I got 20 or 30 witnesses that can tell them where I was the night of July 4th. No, Mr. Goodcop had a better idea. How about ol’ Mathdude submit his fingerprints for the FBI and take a lie-detector test they were bringing up from DC (hey – it was 1980 for chrissakes)? We danced this danced for about 20 minutes – him insisting on me taking a lie detector test and being fingerprinted, me asking him how many witnesses would he need for me to “prove” I wasn’t at either crime scene.

Eventually he had to accept my refusal on both offers – fucking jerkwad. It was one of the wiser decisions I ever made. Brother Tony Alva initially said he would do the lie-detector test, thinking it would be a joke, and then refused when the FBI showed up with a huge freakin’ machine. I hope he’ll give his side of it, because I remember it was a pretty big deal.

So while we may have been on West Point’s Most Wanted List, neither of us made it into the FBI’s files. That we know of.

TA answered in the comments with:
You got most of it right Mathdude.

The back story...The real reason mom and dad let me take my adventure was basically the result of my exalted reputation coming to roost. I had just wrapped up getting into some sort of trouble, the kind that dad’s boss called him into his office about at a time when he was applying for a permanent slot there. He instructed me to “do everything in your power to stay out of trouble these next few weeks”. The next night I got into that fracas you blogged about over the cemetery wall. So, either three things were bound to happen had a hung around that summer: 1. I’d have found trouble of my own doing (get busted getting high or something) 2. Got in trouble on account of the MP’s thinking I ate babies as Jackson understood I did at the time, or 3. Trouble would have forced me to react in a way that would inevitably ended up being my fault even though it wasn’t (someone picking a fight with me because I was a long haired, baby eating, skateboarder).So when I suggested the trip, it was met with open arms.

How naive was I. If it wasn’t for our collective naïveté, my summer would have been quite frightening actually. The first night in VA we met a friend in a park at dusk. Ten minutes later, cops showed up and arrested us for being in a park after dusk (who fucking knew you couldn’t be in a park after dusk). At the station, they couldn’t believe our stories about being on this adventure so they of course, had to call mom and dad. Yep, dad laughs at that to this day (after crying about it for years). “Couldn’t go one day could you…?”.

We camped in the woods behind an elementary school for most of the time. We worked labor pool construction when we wanted to, getting picked up in Tyson’s Corner and riding in the back of the pick up truck to Harbor Place in Baltimore which was under construction at the time. Good money, could work when we felt like it or whenever we got up early enough to catch the ride. Attended the 13th Annual Great American Smoke In demonstration in Washington DC handing out pamphlets for The Coalition for the Abolition of Marijuana Prohibition (CAMP) getting stoned out of my mind. The demonstation was held on the Lincoln Memorial lawn over the July 4th holiday.

Traveled to VA beach to see friends and basically hung out. It was actually pretty chill deal.As the summer wound down, I ran out of money and had to come home of course. By that time I fully understood that my reputation was causing everybody a shit ton of grief and I committed to myself, probably for the first time, that I’d avoid trouble at all costs.

The call about the gas station break-in came a couple of months later and that’s where your story begins. They even offered me a glass of water which I promptly turned down in an attempt to get my finger prints (Nice try Barney Fife I watched Kojack too, dumbass!). Since I’d actually been careful after my return, I was anxious to prove to dad that I had nothing to do with either of those crimes, so I agreed to the lie detector test. What the hell, right? They scheduled it for a couple of weeks later and flew some agents in to administer it. Dad told me I didn’t have to go through with it, that it was my decision. I just wanted him to believe me really.So dad picks me up at school at noon (got out of school, excellent!) and we went down to the station. They put me in a chair and I could see the lie detector machine and it’s just as you describe, pretty scary. Think flux capacitor. The operators were dickheads too.

Dad saw it and wanted to talk to the officers about HIS reservations. What happened next was a turning point in my life: As I sat there looking at the machine, I most definitely changed my mind about going through with it, but I never had to deliver my vacillation to the Fed’s because through the door I heard dad and the officers talking. It quickly became pretty heated and all I heard was dad raising his voice (you know he NEVER raised his voice) and said, “Why should I believe you’re looking out for his best interests? When have any of you EVER looked out for his best interests?! I think you’re taking advantage of this situation and I don’t trust any of you!”, pretty bold considering the rank of some of those in the room with him. He opened the door and reiterated that it was still my choice, but he was recommending that I not go through with it. “Cool, let’s get out of here!” I said. On the way home he told me that he’d always have my back as long as I was clean on things. From that point on I’m pretty sure I flew either straight or kept myself under the radar.

I had nothing to do with either the PX gas station break in or the missing PA system.