A Twinkle in My Eye

by George Gauthier

Chapter 4

Spuyten Duyvil

I got a text message from my old fiend Percy inviting me to visit him in his new apartment in New York City. Percy is another long time member of our Olympian community. Since I hadn't seen him in several years I readily agreed to go up the following week.

I was surprised that the address he had given me was not some high rise condo in Manhattan but a newly built rental building located in the Spuyten Duyvil section of the Bronx, the only borough of New York City located on the mainland. The other four are on islands. I wondered at the choice, but postponed my questions till I could ask them of Percy in person.

Meanwhile I did as I have always done when heading into unfamiliar territory which the Bronx certainly was. I conducted what the military calls a map reconnaissance, a table top exercise originally done with printed maps but nowadays on Google Maps which included satellite and street views of both the immediate area and the wider region.

One thing I noted with approval was that the building was located on or near major transportation routes of different sorts not only arterial streets and parkways. It was built on the slope of a hill just up from a station of the Metro North commuter railroad which put Grand Central Terminal only twenty-two minutes away. So it had easy access by rail to Manhattan. A bus stop a block away was served by two express busses into Manhattan and by a city bus which ran across the Bronx and connected with three subway lines. The closest was the line running down Broadway, while lines running along the Grand Concourse, and Jerome Avenue served Yankee Stadium and the west and east sides of Manhattan respectively.

The nearby airport at White Plains offered air taxi and charter flights, while recently refurbished La Guardia Airport was only a dozen miles away, an easy drive of about fifteen minutes.

Not being in any hurry and wanting to make this trip be more about the journey itself than the destination, I elected not to take a plane up to New York but instead to travel by night train, specifically Amtrak's Silver Service.

With money no object I traveled in style, reserving a first class private bedroom which included complimentary meals plus a turndown service from a really cute and obviously gay attendant who introduced himself as Justin. I looked at him quizzically then asked:

"Please don't take this the wrong way Justin. Cute as you are, I respect your position and I am not hitting on you, but you do bear a remarkable resemblance to someone I know. He works as a chamber boy in my apartment building."

"Ah, that would be my cousin Jaeden. We're second cousins once removed or something like that, but everyone says we look like twins."

"It really is a small world!"

Nothing naughty happened, but Justin and I did engage in an innocent flirtation all the way up the East Coast.

After I arrived in New York Percy explained that he was the advance man for a plan to establish a pied-à-terre in New York for those in the Olympian community who lived among the mundanes. The Olympian gods had top drawer accommodations in the skinny skyscrapers in Billionaires Row on Fifty-Seventh Street.

The business agent for the Olympians had leased four of the fifty-five apartments: two were one bedroom units and the other pair had two bedrooms. The accommodations could be booked something like a time-share vacation home though without ownership rights. Charges were set low, just enough to recover operational costs.

These apartments were not intended as permanent residences for the heroes and demigods like Percy himself, Bellerophon, and Theseus, though the supremely pretty Hyacinth youth was no hero but just Apollo's boyfriend. Caught up in a love triangle, he had met his death at the hand of Zephyr then revived and made immortal in compensation for his murder. It took Zephyr a long time to get back in the graces of his fellow Olympians who wondered how a being who had lived for millions of years could get so worked up about some pretty Earth boy.

Some heroes like the wily Odysseus were born fully human but enhanced just as I had been. Wily Odysseus was not only a counselor to the Olympians but also their point man for their financial intermediaries. Others like Perseus and Bellerophon were half-human demigods sprung from the genetically engineered seed of an Olympian which conferred genuine powers on them though far less than those of the gods themselves. Regardless they acted as agents for the Olympians among the mundanes in any number of ways.

Forget what the myths say about the Greek gods raising dead heroes to the Heavens as constellations which anyway are just chance alignments of far off stars in the heavens. After becoming immortal many heroes lived openly under the own names for several lifetimes, which contributed to the myths which grew up around them.

In time the wisdom and maturity which came with greater life experience induced them step back from the limelight and start living discreetly. In other words they grew up and stopped being so irritatingly touchy and quarrelsome, and randy. The myths got that right about them, as I can testify from personal experience.

And yes, as you might have guessed Percy was indeed Perseus, he who slew the Medusa whose gaze was said to turn men into stone, though, as with so many other Classical myths the truth was rather more prosaic. Quite coincidentally though Cellini's famous statue of Perseus holding the severed head of Medusa is quite a good likeness of my friend, for he is quite as handsome and as muscular as the sculptor made him out to be, and he does have curly hair.

Medusa was fully human, a deranged serial killer and leader of a crackpot cult who claimed to be the daughter of two deities of the sea. She wore her hair twisted into a dozen braids resembling snakes. It was not her gaze which turned men to stone but a paralytic poison which disabled their muscles including those needed for respiration.

She would contrive to be alone with her victim and get close enough to flip open the hidden compartment in a ring on her finger and blow the powder into her victim's face while she immediately raised a mask to cover her mouth and nose and keep the poison out of her lungs. In a matter of minutes her victim was dead by asphyxiation, his features twisted in horror at the realization of his demise. Five brave men once tried to put an end to her reign of terror but died after she threw a glass vial filled with the deadly powder onto the stone floor, killing all of them.

Unlike how the myth would have it, Perseus did not use his shield as a mirror to let him kill Medusa without looking right at her. Instead a bronze mirror on a wall let him catch her with her back turned. She had thought herself safe in her high tower with guards stationed at the only door at ground level. She never expected a killer to fly in through the unglazed window.

But Perseus could fly under his own power. As a son of Zeus he could levitate by manipulating the gravitational field of the Earth to partially reverse its effect and lift himself up and then call up a jet of air to push him where he wanted to go. Forget those tiny winged sandals of myth which also inspired the wings on the ankles of the Marvel superhero Submariner. How could they ever have worked anyway?

In any event, as the real estate agent for the Olympians Percy had chosen well:

Scenically located, the apartments had terrific views of the joining of the Hudson and Harlem Rivers and of the cliffs of the Palisades in New Jersey and of the heights of Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan. It was built atop the more westerly of the pair of ridges running north and south, in the West Bronx, the one facing the Hudson. The other parallels the Harlem River. The steep ridges explain the dozens of step streets in the borough.

The western ridge is much the greener of the two, so a more comfortable setting for those like myself who are still getting used to living in megacities which are several orders of magnitude larger than almost anything in antiquity. Even Rome at its height had only a million inhabitants.

Several other apartment buildings down the street looked out over the Hudson, though the affluent area was mostly given over to the mansions of the affluent widely spaced along tree lined streets.

The building itself was brand new with triple paned windows to block the noise from the railroad below and the traffic on the Henry Hudson Bridge above. The building featured amenities like balconies, a rooftop terrace, a residents lounge, and a fitness center, plus parking, a bike room and basement storage.

You might not know it from its gritty reputation, but nearly of quarter of the Bronx is parkland including huge parks like Van Cortlandt and Pelham Bay Parks, the Bronx Zoo, and the New York Botanical Garden, all linked by wide parkways.

The neighborhood parks in Spuyten Duyvil included Seton and Ewan Parks, Half Moon Overlook, and Riverdale Park along the Hudson just above the railroad tracks. A paved running path lead to the Wave Hill public garden and cultural center, once the summer home of Theodore Roosevelt and Mark Twain.

All in all this was so much better than crowded and overly urban Manhattan, Brooklyn, or Queens. So the Bronx would be where I will be laying my head whenever I traveled to the Big Apple.

From Spuyten Duyvil I could head downtown for visits to the Museum of Natural History or to the New-York Historical Society next door with Central Park just the street. Shakespeare in the Park is set to resume when the Delacorte Theater reopens in 2025. I can also rent a bike in Central Park or people watch or just read quietly in my favorite spot in the Conservatory Gardens at 104 Street.

Alternately, at Christmas time I might catch the model train exhibit at the Botanical Garden or visit the Zoo in nice weather. It is fully landscaped now, much better than I remember it from the 1950s, and the animals are treated much better as well, though now that we have wildlife videos, should we really keep them caged?

Hint: if you are staying in Manhattan and want to visit the Botanical Garden, take the Metro North Commuter train on the Harlem line. It stops right at a pedestrian entrance to the Botanical Garden. The ride takes about twenty minutes and these days is safer than the subway.

I am not much of a fan of art museums these days. The crowds of clueless tourists are a real turn off. Don't get me wrong. I am anything but an art snob. I once came to the defense of a dyspeptic guy at a party who dismissed Great Art as furniture for rich people. He had a point. And like Franklyn Dyson he was right on about the vaunted craquelure in oil paintings which he also likened to the guide lines in a paint by numbers kit, something which outrages the art snobs, much to my not so secret delight.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art though really is worth visiting, both the main museum and the medieval collections at the Cloisters uptown. You can mostly get to see anything except for the special exhibitions which draw huge crowds to rival those that wait to view the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris. I don't know why folks bother waiting for hours only to shuffle forward for a glimpse of just a few seconds at a work of art seen from behind a barrier from thirty feet away through glass.

It's better to tour art museums via their digital portals which show you details you can never see in person and let you linger as long as you like. That is even more true for very large art works like the Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy or Trajan's Column in Rome which you really cannot take in on site. And why crick your neck looking up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Forget the Palace of Versailles where the crowd is packed in like sardines as they shuffle from one room to the next. It is all you can do to hold your hands along your sides to thwart the pickpockets. No, at Versailles better tour the gardens which are well worth a visit.

Of Karens and Kens

I watch more videos on YouTube than I really should. My time would be better spent reading books and periodicals. I looked at the statistics on my Kindle which showed that in the last couple of years I read only about 150 or so books a year, far below my normal pace. Back in 2019 I saw that I had read three times that many, 467, not counting books read on other apps like Nook, Apple Books, or Libby which lets you borrow digital books from the public library. I also read printed books mostly because I like their heft and smell.

Now there are many videos on YouTube which engage the intellect as much as a good book, but all too many others offer only entertainment instead of enlightenment. I am thinking especially of those videos with cats and kittens doing what they do best, charming clueless humans who do not realize how in thrall they are to a supposedly inferior species. Then there are videos which highlight sensationalism: police chases, car crashes, world's most dangerous roads, landslides, tornados, and such. You start watching such stuff, and suddenly it is two hours later.

One genre which I really need to cut back on are videos featuring the Karens of this world. A Karen is an entitled person of either gender though many use Ken for the males of the species. It is so great when Karma punishes these villains for their transgressions. The satisfaction we feel watching it happen is such a guilty pleasure that it is probably bad for our souls

Which is my lead-in to a series of vignettes of my own encounters with Karens and Kens down the years. In the interests of gender equality, about half the vignettes are about Kens and half about Karens.

With my facility in Koine I was helping scholars at the university read ancient documents recently unearthed in Egypt. As I crossed the quad some frat boy mistook me for a pledge and grabbed my arm.

"Where do you think you're going, Squirt?" He demanded. "Why aren't you back at the frat house doing chores?"

I disengaged with a quick turn which stressed his wrist so he had to let go.

"Hands off! What's your problem anyway?"

"Oh, you are so screwed, pretty boy. I can't wait to take the pledge paddle to your skinny ass!"

"Ah, I get it. Frat house, pledge, paddle. That means you're some fraternity brat. Well I have news for you kid. I am not a member of your boys club. So keep your hands to yourself, or you will find yourself in trouble."

"You're the one in trouble. I am a pledge master and..."

I cut him off with:

"I could hardly care less. Whether pledge or pledge master, they're no more than undergraduates."

"Seriously? I hope you aren't trying to pass yourself off as a graduate student. Hell, you look like you are still in high school."

"Oh, I am no grad student. What I am is adjunct faculty, with an appointment in the Classics Department."

The color alone of my ID settled the issue. That took the fellow down a peg or two. He begged me not to report him. I told that I would sleep on it then went about my business. I never did report him, but I hope a couple of sleepless nights taught him a lesson.

I have always hated the practice of hazing whether in fraternities, athletic teams, the military, or any other social group. My attitude is that we humans should leave hazing to troops of baboons. They're just wild animals and don't know better.

More typically my confrontations with Kens are more kinetic, if you take my meaning. With a guy, in a physical confrontation, I don't have to hold back, not entirely. I do have the option of clocking him and when I have to, I do so with a clear conscience.

Sure I try to avoid fights, but when it happens, when someone forces the issue and I win, oh does it feel ever so good. There are few things in life more satisfying than winning a fight which you didn't want, which you didn't start, but which you did finish on your own terms. Don't be misled by the mild-mannered persona I normally present to the world. That is the real me -- most of the time. However, when needs be, I too have a Dark Side to turn to.

The next story of an encounter with a Ken was at second hand. It concerns a disabled veteran of our long war in Afghanistan, a boyfriend of a friend of mine, and his confrontation on the New York subway with a overly chivalrous Ken who demanded that the veteran, a young man of twenty four, give up his priority seat on the crowded subway. The dialog below is virtually verbatim, edited from the transcript of the audio recording made by the Just Press Record app on the man's Apple Watch and iPhone.

"You there, kid. Get up from that seat. It rightfully belongs to this young lady with her toddler in a stroller."

"So? How is this her seat and not mine. I was here first. She got on just now. She is no older than I am so she sure as hell is no senior. Even if she were disabled in a way which doesn't show, well so am I. So I have a prior claim to this seat. Anyway why doesn't she speak for herself?

"All right. This is me speaking for myself." she started to say, "I admit that I myself am healthy enough, but my toddler at two and a half really can be a burden."

"He could be, if you had to carry him im your arms, but he is in a stroller. Unlike you, ma'am, I really do need this seat. I am in no condition to ride the subway standing up."

"Bullshit!" the Ken interjected. "Priority seating should go to the lady with the kid."

"Who appointed you the constable of the subway?"

"Move it or else."

"Else what? Are you going to drag me off the seat, maybe beat me up? Fair warning. Don't try it. I'm not what I once was, but I still won't let you or anyone else buffalo me. The fact is, I have every right to this seat"

"You have no right to it! No kid your age could possibly be disabled."

"Wrong! My disabilities are only too real if not easily apparent. I don't spend so much of my time in the hospital just for fun, you know."

The veteran did not explain that his latest bout of malaria was so bad the hospital had to put him in an ice bath to get his body temperature down, or the high fever might well have killed him. Still weak from his ordeal, and with continual sciatic pain from nerve damage from a shrapnel wound to his hip, he had no patience with a Ken badgering him about a seat on the subway.

"How is it that a grown man does not know that there must be a dozen ways someone my age could be disabled? Like birth defects, infectious disease or traumatic injury from a car crash, fight, street crime, or from military service."

"In theory maybe, but anyone can see that there is nothing wrong with you."

"Is that your professional medical opinion, sir? Are you a doctor or maybe an EMT? If you were, your offhand diagnosis would amount to malpractice. For my part I have a squad of doctors who would swear that I am anything but healthy. The fact is that you don't know a damn thing about medicine or about my state of well-being or about my medical history. And especially not a thing about my military history."

"What does your military history have to do with it?"

"Everything! My military history is why I have a medical one. That history includes two Purple Hearts, which is why I am carried on the rolls of the DVA as one hundred percent combat disabled."

"It's right here on my ID card from the DVA. Or take a look at my iPhone. That's my Medical ID listing my various ills. And for first responders I keep a copy of my medical records in my Dropbox account."

"I didn't survive two tours to the Sandbox just to knuckle under to the likes of you. So take your bullshit elsewhere. Get Lost!"

On my own trip to New York I ran into a matched pair of a Karen and a Ken who were actually worse than that. They were professional criminals.

One afternoon, as I took an escalator down to the subway platform on the East Side, a well-dressed young lady turned and asked me for the time. No problem, but as I raised my wrist to wake up the display on my Apple watch I caught a look of disappointment on her face. Nevertheless she did thank me and said nothing further till we got down to the platform.

Cautious fellow that I was, I surmised that she expected that a young guy like me would not be wearing a wrist watch which the youth of today consider old fashioned. Like most people my apparent age she would expect me to reach for my smartphone to check the time. So just in case I pressed the Just Press Record app on my watch.

Sure enough as I stepped off the escalator the young lady asked me if I had a phone she could borrow. She had left hers at home. I shook my head and told her no.

"No? What do you mean no? Are you saying you don't have a phone? Everyone has a phone these days. You're lying aren't you. It's because I am black, isn't it. You're a racist."

In a deliberately patronizing tone I told her:

"When I said no, that was not so much a denial as a refusal. I do not have a phone which you could borrow, neither you nor anyone else. I never lend my phone to strangers, and I never take it out even for my own use while in the subway system. So enough with the interrogation already."

"I don't see what the problem is."

"Phones are the item mostly likely to be stolen on the subway."

"So now I am a thief?"

"No, not that I can tell -- not yet anyway. And drop the fake umbrage, will you. It is not very convincing anyway."

I didn't think she would try to run off with my phone herself. She was wearing heels, whereas and I was an obviously fit and likely quick on my feet. No, if anything, it would be a sprinter or a thug who would snatch it from her, leaving her of course surprised, distraught, and apologetic about the sorry-ass thief who had snatched my phone right out of her hands.

And who should step up to us but a guy whom I immediately pegged as her partner in crime, a thug, a big black guy, like really big and powerfully built, who growled.

"Give her the damn phone you lily white honkey bastard."

Eyebrows raised I faced him and said:

"What you said just now is only partly true, I admit to being lily white, but I am no bastard but the legitimate offspring of my parents. As for being racist, you are one who hurled a racial epithet. That makes you the racist."

He shook his head. "Fancy words won't help you, Squirt. Anyone who thinks he can talk down to me is going to get a mouthful of knuckles, and that's just for starters, punk. The phone. Give it up. Or else."

"Or else what?" I said looking around but seeing very few potential witnesses waiting for the express. I knew that even if I handed over my phone he would hit me anyway to keep me from trailing him and raising the alarm. So I played for time. I wanted him to incriminate himself further as I recorded our verbal exchange. He obliged.

"Or else my right fist rearranges your face, and my left cracks your skull. Did you know that the temples are the thinnest and weakest part of the human skull?"

"Oh, I get it! Hulk Smash!" I said in the best Hulk imitation I could manage, though as a light tenor (and not much short of a counter tenor), I cannot really manage a bass voice.

That was when he made his move with a straight right to the head. He was pretty quick for such a big man, I'll give him that, but fast reaction time, my small size and triple strength musculature made me so much faster. Before he could react to my counter offensive I had half-turned and kicked his knee, a joint never intended to bend backwards. That brought him down.

His lady friend came at me with her hands raised in claws screaming: "I'll scratch your eyes out"

"Right!" I told her dismissively

Cognizant of the legalities of the use of force in self-defense I merely disabled her by stomping on her instep, crippling her. Her method of attack was foolish anyway, however instinctive it felt to her. You shouldn't hold your hands apart and then spread and curve the fingers like the claws of a cat. From what I see in the movies, that may be ladylike, but it is all too easy to block or even turn against the attacker.

A defender will grab the fingers and either bend them back till they snap or twist the wrist the wrong way forcing Little Miss Cat Claws to her knees and turning her into a captive audience who you hope will listen to reason and agree to stand down. More likely she will just spit venom and threats in which case a knee to the face will shut her up. Knock some sense into her is how that is usually described.

She was lucky that I did not yield to the temptation to demonstrate exactly how one really takes someone's eyes out. And no I am not going to describe the technique in this memoir, not because I am squeamish, because I am not, nor because, even with a trigger warning, it might upset those of my readers who are squeamish. No, the problem is with overly suggestible readers. I don't want folks trying this at home.

Suffice it to say that what I have not described was the very same technique that the Army veteran on the subway would have been trained to use, though he himself never had to fight in close quarters hand to hand. I wish I could say the same for myself, but when headhunters, cannibals, pirates, or fanatics seeking a human sacrifice come at you, you fight dirty, as low down dirty as you can, though I haven't had to do that for a couple of centuries, thankfully.

It is the stuff of PTSD nightmares and marks the soul. Or maybe that is just me, omega male and natural born lover boy that I am. It is likely less true or even wholly untrue of alpha males like Ajax, Hector, Castor and Pollux, and especially Heracles, all of them combative types with hair trigger tempers. Braggarts to a man, they are always willing enough to boast of their fights, but never to bare their souls, especially to someone like me.

The audio recording and the Hulk's long criminal record carried weight with the police and the courts. The criminal duo served time, and good riddance too.

Another encounter with a classic Karen started with me sitting alone under an umbrella at an outdoor table at my neighborhood Starbucks, I was sipping a Venti Mocha and munching on a Chocolate Croissant. My left hand held a book reader turned to a page from a book of military history "The Allure of Battle.", if I remember rightly.

Then a kid at the next table complained to his mother that he was bored. It seems that his mother had not made sure her son had brought his kid-safe smartphone with him when they left the house. Turning to me he asked politely if I would let him play games on my phone, indicating the device in my hand. It was really a book reader much like a Kindle only half the size. They are marketed under the brand name Boox. Get it?

The boy's mistake was understandable since the Boox reader was only a little larger than my iPhone. Moreover, I had attached an Apple decal to the back for a decoy.

I told him: "Sorry kid, but this isn't a toy."

The boy shrugged, disappointed but not really put out. Seeing his mother frown, at me, not at her kid, I sensed trouble and tapped the icon on my own Apple watch for the Just Press Record app. Sure enough she started in.

"Oh, let him play with it. You've had it long enough. It's my son's turn."

"What do you mean my turn or his turn? I don't take turns. Only I use this. This device is mine and mine alone. Oh, and I really don't like being interrupted when I am reading."

"It's just for a little while. What would be the harm with letting him play a few games?

"This is not a game console. There isn't a single game installed on it.

"You are a very bad liar. Of course it has games. Do you take me for a fool."

"Is that a rhetorical question or do you really want me to answer it?"

With that she slapped me hard across the face.

"Seriously? You think you can just haul off and smack someone?"

"It no more than you deserved. If my husband were here he'd thrash you good, you little fairy."

With that she grabbed her kid's hand and left the Starbucks. Now I let the slur and the slap pass by even though I regard women who slap men as cowards counting on our chivalry to protect them from retribution. Anyway I was soon engrossed once again in my book, thinking the incident at an end.

Nope! She came back with a cop.

"Excuse me sir, this lady says that you took her iPhone."

"There it is!", she shouted triumphantly pointing. "That's my phone. You can tell from the logo on the back. Make him hand it over."

This time she wasn't going to get a pass from me or get off with just a smart ass remark. Here she was trying to get me arrested and to steal my phone with the help of the police whom she had enlisted to back her play. I shook my head and told the cop:

"Officer or rather Constable, this is not her phone, and I can prove it. Let her give you her phone number then dial it yourself on your own phone and see if this thing rings."

"Well, of course it won't ring." the lady said dismissively. "It won't make a sound because he muted the ringer."

"I did no such thing, but let me engage the screen lock. There. Now let her try her thumbprint or facial recognition to get it open. Or type the PIN. Well, lady. Would you care to try?"

"No answer? OK, the thing is none of those would work on this phone because it is not a phone at all, just a book reader."

"That's ridiculous. The apple logo is right there on the back."

"Yes, but only because I stuck the decorative decal to the back of its protective case makes it look like a smart phone. Here let me slip it off. See for yourself, Constable. That mailing label above the logo has my name and address on it. Mine, not hers."

"As for my iPhone, that is still in my pocket. Here, let me show you. It in a transparent plastic case. You will note that the opaque case I handed to you just now would be a little too large for the phone.

"There must be some mistake," the Karen insisted, flustered.

"More than a mistake lady." I retorted. "A crime, two crimes really: first assault and battery then attempted theft by fraud. Constable, she slapped my face, smacked me good. I expect you can still see the imprint it left on my cheek.

"I can indeed. It looks like you are developing a black eye too. So Sir, would you care to press charges? I can arrest her for four offenses not just two, assault, battery, attempted theft by fraud, plus making a false statement to law enforcement."

"Definitely. The good news is that she won't have wasted your time entirely. You can make an arrest after all, a righteous bust as you cops term it."

"A fan of cop shows are you" the constable asked chuckling at my familiarity with cop lingo.

"Actually what I am a fan of is my boyfriend Constable Franco. Also my good friend Sergeant Delany. Oh, and to buttress your case I can supply you with a recording of the audio of our encounter which registered her damning admission and even the smack of her hand to my face."

"Ma'am, I going to need you to turn around. You're under arrest. Oh, and here's a word of advice. Next time don't lie to the cops. We really hate it when citizens try to manipulate us."

"Oh, and Sir, I will let Delany know that I ran into you. I am sure that he will want to hear your story. And that boyfriend of yours too, er..."

"Constable Paolo Franco." I supplied.

The silly fool of a Karen resisted arrest and slapped the cop's hands away, adding two more charges. I did feel sorry for her son, a nice enough kid who seemed not to have taken after his mother. When his father picked him up at the police station he gave his wife a look of disgust which suggested a divorce might soon be in the offing. Bad enough a disgraceful public scene, but in front of their son?

Before I left the Starbucks a couple of young ladies told me that if I hadn't managed to refute the mother's lies, they would have came forward and spoken up for me as eyewitnesses. They had seen and heard anything and thought that slap of hers was a cheap shot.

There are two reasons why I carry the Boox device which that mother tried to steal. The main one is for reading books in bright outdoor light. There is less glare as with the screen of a tablet. The second is as a decoy. If I ever got held up and had to hand over my phone, I would give up my book reader instead. I would hand it over with the Apple logo visible and a drop wallet with cash and expired credit cards. With any luck the bad guys would merely glance at their loot before pocketing it and running off. By then I would be long gone the other way and still have all the essentials.

Here is a tip. If you are going to carry a drop wallet, don't be cheap. Sweeten the deal with at least a hundred in twenties. You don't want a robber who riffs through your cash to get mad at you because all you had on you was a measly fifteen bucks. If you do get robbed give the cops the serial numbers of both the bills and credit cards. The robbers will ditch the wallet soon enough, but the bills and cards will incriminate them.

Tip two: Now this is nothing against most cops. Heck, one of my boyfriends is a cop, and his sergeant is a good friend. After all, without cops civilization would collapse. We would have anarchy followed by the misrule of the strong over the weak.

But citizens need to protect themselves against the bad cops, those who would abuse their authority. Some cops are unscrupulous or overly ambitious, or prejudiced one way or another, and some are just plain mean, bullies in blue. A good way to protect yourself is to make a surreptitious audio recording of any encounter with cops using an app like Just Press Record or Voice Memo. Don't tell the cops about it, and show it only to your lawyer.

Above all, once you are detained or just come under suspicion don't talk to the cops, no matter how friendly they come across as. In an adversarial situation the cops are not your friend. You are never going to talk your way out of trouble. They will put the worst possible interpretation on anything you say and use it against you. Ignore attempts at small talk. It's a trap. Invoke your rights under the fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments. Shut up. Let your attorney do the talking for you.

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[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead