Monday, July 6, 2009

Truth, justice and the American way

Perhaps we were a little too hasty a while ago, when we wagged our finger at that Carriagetown desperado, the alleged disturber of the peace who hosted a party in a tony Amesbury subdivision with Gary Shane and the Detour providing the musical soundtrack — much to the consternation of at least one of his neighbors. (Can’t remember? The refresher course is here.) We were trying to make two points: One, “Murder She Wrote” is a rocking good show, and, two, you don’t argue with cops, even if you’re right, because you’ll just end up being led away in handcuffs and get your name in the newspaper the next day. Which is exactly what happened.

But in our sadly expedient grown-up conformity, we completely missed the moral center of the story, the one you should tell your kids, although you will completely regret it: That you should always stick up for what’s right, even if that means you’ve got to read about it in the papers the next day. And go to court. And go to court again. And again. You know, whatever it takes to do what’s right, to fight the power. Which is what our intrepid Prospect Street host had to do to clear his name, to shed the shame of being a putative disturber of the peace, to balance the scales that blindfolded lady (No, not Jessica Fletcher, the other symbol of Justice) has in her hands. By the time the thing went to court, nobody from the Commonwealth wanted to get too close. In the light of day, it looked, well, a little mall-coppish. It was a stinker, it had to go away. All that was left were the details — making sure it was dismissed, straight up, with no admission of guilt, because the peace wasn’t especially disturbed, and that our perpetually cash-strapped state didn’t try to soak him in court costs. Which, of course, they tried, attempting to slip in another hundred clams in costs until they got called on it. He paid the $150 in court costs and walked out of Newburyport District Court a free man.

The story is already mythic, but the part where the judge invited himself to the next party, no, that really is myth. It never happened, although it should have and will always be part of the story we tell about how one man took on the entire power structure and lived to host another party. “My saga has ended,” he says. “My slate is clean. Good has won out over evil.” And, by the way, the air conditioning has been fixed, so the windows will be closed for the next party. We’ll miss sitting on the deck, listening to the Detour plein-air, but nobody will miss the excitement from the dust-up with the law. We’re too old and responsible for that, right?

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