The Wall Street Journal had a piece on Friday about how Alice Cooper and his band rented a mansion in Greenwich, Connecticut in the early 1970s. Greenwich was known as one of the richest, most exclusive cities in the nation at that time. Cooper and his hell-raising cohorts did not blend in seamlessly.
That article reminded me of an adventure I had in the Greenwich train station a few years later – shortly after I turned 20. Here’s the story from Public Policy Hooligan:
I hoped to move from Blacksburg, Virginia to Boston – which I considered a Valhalla of Intellect – in the Fall of 1976. However, I lacked the bucks to migrate. In lieu of relocating, I borrowed a car from my parents and briefly reconnoitered the Northeast Corridor. I wanted to spend a day exploring Manhattan but was sufficiently anti-Gotham not to sleep within city limits. I remembered from the previous summer’s trip [visiting a girlfriend in Darien] that the turf near Connecticut train stations seemed placid. Late one Friday night, I pulled into a parking lot near the Greenwich, Connecticut station, readying for an early morning launch into New York.
After an excellent night’s sleep, I ambled into the train station and splashed water from a drinking fountain onto my face. Greenwich was one of the wealthiest cities in the nation, and no one mistook me for a local blue blood. Not far from the drinking fountain, sitting like a ramrod, was an indignant bitty who could have been typecast in a 1930s W.C. Fields reel. Her blouse looked like she’d cornered the starch market and her blue-white hair was wound way too tight atop her head. She scowled at me as if she thought I would hijack a train to Cuba. I was puzzled by her wrath, since I was certain my mug wasn’t on “Wanted” posters in local post offices.
As I loosened up my shoulders and stretched my arms overhead, I noticed a policeman coming up the stairs from the station’s lower level. Then I noticed another cop entering the passenger waiting area from a street level door.
Donuts? Hot ‘n’ Fresh?
I glanced at the doors through which I’d entered the station and saw a posse of five cops advancing like they meant business.
Coincidentally, all these public servants were converging at the spot where I was standing. Even the cops in Connecticut looked preppy.
After the lawmen encircled me, the oldest cop – probably a sergeant – asked in a “we know it’s you” tone: “Is that your Pinto with Virginia plates?”
“We had a report of a suspicious person in the Hilton Hotel parking lot.”
“I slept there in my car, and I didn’t see anyone suspicious the whole night.”
“Can we see your driver’s license?”
“Sure.” I fetched my wallet out of my pocket and … Oops. I had failed to insert my license snugly back into my wallet after a pre-dawn I.D. check courtesy of a cop in Princeton, New Jersey, where I snoozed a few nights before.
“It’s in my car.”
“Let’s get it.”
As I exited the station with my uniformed honor guard, that old lady’s mouth was open wide enough to swallow a diesel engine. She put her right hand on her heart in gratitude to the lawmen who had just prevented a rampage that would have made the front page of all the New York tabloids.
As we neared my car, I mentioned I was heading into Manhattan and asked if anyone could suggest a good used book store. Nobody volunteered any information. I figured cops didn’t like used books. This was more police than I ever had on my tail before.
The inside of my car looked like a Vandal horde had pillaged it, but that was simply the rolling chaos in which I traveled. After rummaging a few minutes, that durn license finally turned up. I assumed the cops had already checked if the vehicle was reported as stolen.
As I handed over my license, I said I’d be driving north as soon as I returned from New York City that evening. The police were probably relieved to know they wouldn’t have to deal with this cracker again. After studying my license for 30 seconds, the boss cop handed it back and announced that I could move along.
I got back to the train station with two minutes to spare for the 8 a.m. train. When the Grand Dame of Greenwich spotted me, she almost shrieked. Maybe she glanced to see if my hands were dripping blood from massacring the policemen. When she realized I’d probably been released on my own recognizance, an entire lifetime’s blind faith in law enforcement vanished in a flash. I have always regretted that I forgot to wink as I passed by her.
After walking approximately two hundred miles that day in Manhattan (or so it felt), I headed on to Boston. Cambridge had so many used book stores that I didn’t have to ask cops for any leads.