Jan. 4 2012 03:55 PM

Deck the halls with a little rosé, a zealous cop and some new friends in the holding tank

Enrique Limon

Watch out, 2012. I'm coming at you guns-blazing. I've led an eventful life, but something happens when you outgrow your 20s. At least it did for me: I started becoming responsible.

Thing is, every time I try to act right, my good intentions get swished around in an awfulness blender and come back and bite me in the nalgas. Case in point, I ended up spending Christmas in Downtown's Central Jail.

Oh, it was a joyous occasion.

My friend Chris came to visit, and after having dinner with my family, we tore it up. Neither of us was driving, and we'd even booked a hotel room close to the action.

The scene was Rich's. There was fake snow falling from the rafters and even a slutty Rudolph go-go dancing with a scantily clad elf. I joined an all-Asian dance circle, and, honey, I got down. After I'd done my thang to LMFAO's Sexy and I Know It, the leader of the troupe tried to yank me back in and accidentally scratched my right ear. There was blood everywhere. You'd think he'd pulled some Freddy Krueger shit. But after icing it for a while, the bleeding stopped, and again we owned the night.

On our way out, Chris was adamant about getting a burrito. For me, the best part of Christmas are the leftovers, so I tried reasoning with him to head back, as a bounty of HoneyBaked Ham, Yukon Gold mashed potatoes and other goodies awaited us at the hotel.

On a mission, he crossed Vermont Street. I waited for the walk sign, and as I joined him, a cop shone his patrol lights and ordered me to stop. The officer, sans badge or ID tag, instructed me to surrender my identification, proceeded with what I believe was an illegal search and wrote me a jaywalking ticket. He mentioned—as I was spread against the car that, by signing it, I wasn't admitting guilt.

“What happens if I don't sign it?” I asked in a normal tone.

“That's it!” he shouted. By then, a crowd had gathered, and the looks and giggles coming from the gaggle of gays had proven too much for him. He grabbed my right hand and began handcuffing me. Swift as a butterfly, I grabbed the pen and signed the ticket with my left. Therein lied the Catch-22.

He was befuddled, as I had technically signed it, so he consulted his buddies on his next move; by then, it had turned into a three-man operation.

Chris, in the meantime, whose gay voice, on a scale of 1 to 10 rings in at about a Neil Patrick Harris, had gone up a couple of octaves to Honey Badger narrator as he sassed the cop from the sidewalk and recorded everything on his iPhone.

Officer No Name threw me in the back seat, slammed the door on my knee and, no rights read, took me Downtown. He asked what I do for a living.

“I'm a journalist,” I responded, “and you just gave me my next story.” 

Silence followed. Four phone calls a couple of days later, I finally got his identity: John G. Ampol, badge No. 6034. turns out Officer Ampol is something of a media darling. Voiceofsandiego.org has him being active in the efforts “to clean up North Park's geography.” There's an entry on him at RateMyCop.com that we won't quote.

“Do you know why you're here?” the jail's admitting officer asked as he booked me.

“Absolutely no idea,” I replied. The next three words out of his mouth shocked me: “Drunk in public.”

Yep. Apparently, the thimbleful of Beringer (rosé, for that touch of class) that I'd toasted with eight hours prior, along with some 17 pounds of food, made me a big ol' lush. Mind you, no field sobriety or breathalyzer test was administered.

I channeled my inner Paris Hilton and gave them one hell of a mugshot. Told to turn right, I even gave a slimming three-quarters side glance. The Glamour Shots session over, I was led to Holding Tank No. 1, where a handful of new friends awaited.

There was Joe the transient, who insisted we were being fed airborne viruses; two homies doing lines of ice off a steel bench; and a second Joe, who'd allegedly attempted to push someone off a moving trolley. There was also Coy, the ingénue of the bunch, who'd apparently attempted to break into his buddy's mom's house, and an African-American gentleman who slept the night away and woke up only once to take a massive dump.

“I'm just pretending I'm sleeping on a duvet and not this whore-ass place,” he said when I asked about his ability to sleep in such surroundings. “I'd hate to see the other guy,” he added before dozing off again, pointing to my blood-stained shirt. I imagined the other guy still wiggle-wiggle-wigglin' the night away.

The ceiling was rusted, and smeared feces adorned the cinderblock walls. It was something right out of a Norman Rockwell illustration (if Norman were on a crank bender, that is).

Inability to the tell the time caused a sense of desperation. “This place is worse than Auschwitz,” Coy said. “I bet you they at least had a clock.”

Visions of luscious ham danced in my head as a bagged lunch was distributed. It included a couple of slices of bread, a slab of mystery meat, a packet of “American” brand mayo and another of “Mustard” brand mustard and a baggie with celery sticks swimming in water.

Eleven hours and some serious bonding later, we were good to go. “I never thought my first time in jail would be like this,” Coy said as he awoke on the floor in a puddle of his own tears and celery water. “At least I can say it was an experience, right?”

You can now.

Write to enrique@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Enrique blogs at elzonkeyshow.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @enriquelimon.


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