The first officer was reasonably cool, and didn't try to blind us. "Hey. What are you guys doing? Sir," and here he addressed my son, "Would you step over here please, and take your hands out of your pockets? thank you."
I explained to him that we were working on a school project. He blinked.
"At one in the morning?"
I assured him that yes, if that was what time it was, then that's when we were working on it. Honestly, why do people ask these things? "Are you wearing dark glasses at night?" "Is that a tattoo?" "Are you really doing this thing you're doing right now?"
Yes, good people. This is now. This is now now. And I have been with me all day, so I should know.
In any case, the Laughing Mouse had, indeed, had a project he needed to work on. And naturally it was due the next day (technically, I suppose, due later that day). He'd had a particular effect in mind, something urban and gritty. We'd gone to that particular underpass at night to capture the desired effect. Alas, some well-meaning fascist swine had plastered over all the lovely graffiti that had been there just a week before.
"That's odd," I'd said as we pulled up, "I could have sworn this was just the kind of scene you needed . . ."
Gone were the gang tags, the artistic misspellings, the multi-coloured howls of pent-up minds. Gone were the spray paint screams, the declarations of war, love, lust and fear. Gone was the exorcism of nightmare, frozen, preserved on a faux stone canvas. Now it was all a dreary grey, uniform and dull. Still, the concrete was peeling a little, and with the proper lighting that would do. After a few false starts we'd gotten the demon-possessed-computer-system-disguised-as-a-camera to work properly, and I captured his soul onto digital memory in a variety of poses.
Then the cops had shown up. If I'd been thinking faster, I would have asked to photograph them as well. But I was distracted by the opportunity to add to the Laughing Mouse's education. While the first cop ran my citizenship papers, (call it a licence if you like), I went over cop etiquette with him. Chill, stay calm, be as polite as you can. Bring the tension level down if you're able - sometimes they forget to. And always, always, keep your voice down and your hands in plain sight. Because a police badge is also a target, and nobody wants to deal with a tense cop unless he has to. Trust me.
By the time we were done there were three cop cars, all because of little old us. Seems someone called them in, convinced we were tagging or something. Well, we'd been there for an hour, so next time I want to make graffiti, I guess I'll take less than an hour to do it. But there was a lot of tension around that area because there had been that Devil Graffiti about, and anything that might threaten the Grey, and therefore all of society, was making people nervous.
"Yeah, they just cleaned this place up last week," one cop said, "covered everything up real good . . ."
By the time we were done, there were three police cars. But everyone was relaxed, and we laughed a little before going our separate ways. Then the cops parked around each other to hang out and celebrate a non-eventful encounter, and The Laughing Mouse and I went home and crashed in our nice warm beds like the screaming anarchists we were.
(Police lights courtesy of deeranddeerhunting.com; Spaceballs is (c) Mel Brooks; pigbird image courtesy of associatedpress.com; sleeping kitten pic courtesy of piccat.com. All rights reserved by their rightful holders and all that.)