Monday, September 21, 2009

Cyberpunk Apocalypse "on a list"

This morning at 1:30am the Cyberpunk Apocalypse writer's collective was rudely awakened. Outside, car doors sounded like popcorn. On an otherwise quiet street it was enough to get me out of bed. I looked out my open window, to see a fleet of police vehicles that went off in both directions farther than my view would allow. "Sara, there are like a hundred cops outside."
A flashlight beam hit my face and someone loudly pronounced, "There's someone in the attic."
There was rapping on the door before I picked up my shirt. I heard the police open my side gate and walk into my back yard, as I rushed to the second floor, and by the time I was halfway down the living room steps one of the writers-in-residence was talking through the back door with her boyfriend as the officers scanned our compost and ripe squash with one hand on their hips. "The owner of the house lives here," she said.
Coming up behind her I spoke above their conversation, "I own the property. I'm Dan. What's up?"
"Uh," said the one with glasses. The surprise that the three officers displayed may have been sincere.
Whatever the police were expecting to find, it wasn't a 22 year-old homeowner in khakis and a button-down shirt.
"Do you have any documentation?"
"I have the deed upstairs," I said. "Stay there, I'll be right back."
Sara was up now--everyone was up--as I scurried around looking for my deed. I grabbed my wallet so I could show them I.D. and I went back downstairs.
The one with glasses was waiting while the other two looked under the porch and around the yard one last time. They told me to just go out front, where I guess they had told the other guys to wait because they hadn't knocked my door down.
When I stepped out the front my roommate and her boyfriend were right behind to witness the line of cop cars and SUVs that stretched from 54th to 55th street bumper to bumper. There were around ten cops standing out front plus the three who came around the side. Some of the ones who had gotten out of their cars seemed to have gotten back in now that there wasn't going to be much of a show. I gave one man the deed and pulled out my drivers license while a few shotgun barrels were lowered, and the one with glasses pointed out that I had dropped my library card.
They said that there must have been "a mix up." One guy said, "We must have scared a year off your life," a couple of times in a row. Flashlights still going everywhere.
I agreed that it was startling, and asked them again "What's up?"
"What alleged charges? I mean--" My roommate put more formally.
"Well," said an officer. "You know the G20's coming..." He nodded--like that was enough.
"Yeah," I nodded in agreement--cringing for whatever reason.
He said that we must have gotten "on a list."
When my roommate asked how? why?
Someone shrugged, someone else asked "Do you talk to your neighbors?"
"People coming in and out," said another.
"People that live here," my roommate responded as I repacked my deed, license and library card.
"A neighbor probably said something."
"A neighbor said something tonight?"
They seemed to indicate that was the case, but in a way, without any verbal confirmation, that made me feel like they weren't telling us the truth, or they couldn't, or they just wanted to end the conversation as soon as possible.
I went inside, and with a great slamming of car doors they left. A caravan of cops longer than the one in the Columbus Day parade.
If you've been reading this blog then you probably know that I've been out of town--working fourteen hour days as a traveling poster salesman to raise money for the writer's space. A space I hope will do good for Pittsburgh by anybody's standards. Someplace that encourages creative thought and the building of a stronger and more diverse writing community in our amazing city.
Originally I wasn't supposed to get back in town until today--right around now.
And if I hadn't changed to an earlier flight I would be returning to a ransacked home. Perhaps my doors would have been boarded up, and my roommates would be on the streets or in jail because they couldn't prove that they have the owner's permission to be here.
And that's not the way it's supposed to work. That's not right, and that's not legal.

The Cyberpunk Apocalypse is not just my home, it is my life. Even though nothing came from our nighttime visitors except startled nerves and a loss of sleep, I can't help but feel absolutely violated. That those men, all dressed the same, would come onto my property--uninvited, in those numbers, pointing those guns, as if to say, "We could take everything. Your home, your life, your life's work--we could take everything that you are trying so hard to build. Just because."

But, this is the world we are living in. This is the right-now. There's no denying it. As Apache helicopters swoop over our heads and out-of-towner cops eye us suspiciously, and we eye each other suspiciously--I feel that a dark period has been forced upon our city which has been favored with relatively clear skies in this hard year.
I think if we can get through this week without tearing ourselves apart--we will be stronger for it.


ekroczek said...

I'm sorry this happened to you, Dan. I admire the way you've chosen to handle it. Take care.


Justin Kownacki said...

"I think if we can get through this week without tearing ourselves apart--we will be stronger for it."

Remind your neighbors of that. Specifically the ones who, you know... "said something"...

Cait said...

good luck this weekend daniel. I hope stuff doesn't blow up too badly. youre are doing great things!

jarvis said...

I think if we can get through this week without tearing ourselves apart--we will be stronger for it.

I said something to a customer today that sounded a lot like this. He said it was a good way to look at it; I said come see me in a week.

And I really liked the line about suspecting each other. You know, because I like being paranoid that my new friend is getting paid to be my friend.

Anonymous said...

@Justin Kownacki

I'm sure those neighbors lived through many a sleepless nights of crackheads and drug dealers running rampant on their street of hookers plying their trade a block or two away on Butler Street. Don't cop an attitude at them wondering what a bunch of odd new young neighbors is up to if you haven't lived in their places the past however many years.

FreePlay said...

I think what you wrote was a great response to a disruptive and aggravating experience. You should know you've got support out in the blogosphere keep up the good work and never let the man get you down.
~gaia punk

I write at

The Next Canadian Dracula said...

fucked with because you have a teabagger/deather neighbor?

what the fuck has happened to my country?

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

Dan, hope everyone is doing ok this morning, I know nerves must be frayed and emotions running high. I admire greatly how you've expressed yourself and your feelings in this post. You're compassion for the officers is a model for us all.

We will get through this and we will be stronger for it.

Don @ Lilliput Review

Chris said...

What a Story! We have to vote this weekend here in Germany! I told the people to read your story, so that they will not vote the "conservative-Black-Guys" here in germany. Cause if they do...this cases will be our future. Here; at your place; & all over the planet;

thx for sahring your (fucked up) experience!

Unknown said...

I'm sorry to hear about this. No matter what, your friends in Lawrenceville are behind you. We can stand together, k?

44th Street

Quietdown said...

Thanks for being cool and for the interview, Daniel! It's up on my blog and at Bed & Breakfast so far.
Just trying to get the word out about the Apocalypse and what happened to yinz guys.

Bill Bernstein said...

Wow. Just wow.

Unbridled impunity. I think your guess as to what would've happened to the house and to your housemates, if you'd still been out on the road, is probably spot-on.

I hope that the actual human beings who perpetrated the whole thing feel pretty crappy about themselves -- the "just soldiers following orders" excuse shouldn't sit well with them.

And the idea that, after entering your property, they could cast doubt on your identity as the owner... ridiculous. They can fucking look that shit up downtown, probably in the building next door. They HAVE TO look that shit up downtown.

Onny Chatterjee said...

Dan, I'm curious, did they have a warrant? We're they just going to illegally search your home if you weren't there?

I'm glad things worked out ok.

Anonymous said...

i live close to you. we've never met, but perhaps we should.
being targeted is no way to live, for sure.
i would strongly encourage you to report this incident to the ACLU, as they are keeping a running tab of these occurances. please consider it and contact me if you need support.
keep on being a positive community member,
Carnegie Street

The Next Canadian Dracula said...

that would be too hard wouldn't it...

Daniel Patrick McCloskey said...

Onny, no they didn't have a warrant or any charges. I don't blame my neighbours particularly, I just wish things could be different. Thanks for all your support.

George Donnelly said...

Why are you giving them an information dump on you and your property? That's not required. Did you get badge numbers?

Put them on the defensive first. Ask them if they are sworn peace officers. Make them prove it by showing ID, business card, bond number.

If they demand info, ask why they need it. They have made an oath to respect your rights, as stated in the constitution. Make them keep that oath.

Jesus420 said...

Pics or it did not happen...

Unknown said...

Hey Dan,

It's Mike Pirnot (remember me?). Rough stuff, my mom forwarded this from your mom.

Anyway, I hope all is well and drop me an e-mail sometime ( Also, let me know if you are ever in Kutztown again!


Christa said...

This is absurd and scary. Why is this “keeping the peace” attitude a free ticket to harass and step all over our rights. I honestly believe what sets some people apart is how they handle these situations. The minute the reaction is the same or worst than the action then you are like them..ignorant. Well done!

Get your Gandhi on!

Anonymous said...

Please don't assume that the police were telling the truth when they said that they came because of a call from your neighbors. Police are legally permitted to lie and they do lie. I would infer that they were lying in your case because it's hard (at least for me) to reconcile the statement that the police came because you're "on a list" with the statement that they came because your neighbors called. Perhaps there is a "list" and the police only follow up on it when they get a call complaining about someone on the list, but that seems unlikely. More likely, in my view, is that the police identified you in some other way (websites?) and then, on the spot, individual officers fabricated reasons that they hoped would leave you feeling paranoid.

Anonymous said...

Your library card -- that's what stands out to me in this post. It symbolizes what's good in our society, and it lay there on the ground in stark contrast to all those uniforms assuming the worst... Handled with gusto. Bravo!

Todd said...

Unlike George, I think you acted in the correct manner: respectful, agreeable and cooperative. "Putting them on the defensive" never gets anything accomplished except putting them on the offensive and possibly getting you fined/arrested.

Although in an ideal world things like this wouldn't happen... considering that the leaders of the the 20 largest political organizations in the world are going to be meeting here *tomorrow* and considering that when treated respectfully these officers acted likewise to those in question, I don't think this encounter is such a horrible occurrence.


George Donnelly said...

It's respectful to aggressively raid someone's home at 2AM for no reason? The homeowner got lucky, it could have been much worse.

Bowing down and complying with aggression is what has gotten us to this stage. It won't get us out of it.

Note I am not advocating rudeness or violence - just non-violent self-defense.

Barbara Sheridan said...

@George Donnelly

It's respectful to aggressively raid someone's home at 2AM for no reason?

"Aggressively raiding" imho is breaking down the doors, hauling everyone out of bed and slamming them against the walls before arresting them.

I don't know Mr. McCloskey personally and while I'm sure he's a fine upstanding young citizen, too many others before him in that immediate area have not been.

The 10th ward was been a trouble spot for a long time. This week in particular I imagine the police are likely taking a "better safe than sorry approach".

The Next Canadian Dracula said...

"trouble spot"? trouble spot for who? lost drunken "preppies" looking for the frat house?

i'm really curious as to what you are referring to. i live in highland park and hear gun shots and street fights all of the time... is THAT the kind of trouble you're talking about?

Barbara Sheridan said...

@The Next Canadian Dracula

i live in highland park and hear gun shots and street fights all of the time... is THAT the kind of trouble you're talking about?

That's the kind of trouble I associate with that part of L'ville.

Have the "preppie" types you're referring to finally outnumbered the n'er do well element down that way?

Color me gobsmacked.

jarvis said...

everyone, calm down please. lawrenceville united has taken care of the tenth ward; there are no more abandoned buildings, drug addicts or misguided bullets.
and i haven't seen any preppie types, just cops, old people and smelly kids my age.

The Next Canadian Dracula said...

the thing to remember is that most people who cause trouble don't do it in the neighborhoods they live in. the highland park/east lib corridor is the walking route from l'ville and garfield to 'shlib' and larimer etc. especially on stanton avenue which leads to the meadow stree bridge over negley run. most of these problems are also caused by 12 year olds who have no self control and no fear of much repercussion: ie: taken home by the ear to their absentee parents, etc.

the suggestion that lawrenceville is any kind of "trouble spot" based on who lives there (college kids and old people?) is absurd and highly naive in my opinion.

nevermind the fact that even the owner of the house in this incident was unable to figure out what the complaint was... i could see if there was a raging kegger in progress with 400 watt sound system and people having sex in the bushes around his house. i somehow doubt that was the case here, and haven't really seen... and even that would not warrant proving that you own the house with a deed.

Dragon said...

Welcome to the Modern Distopia.
It looks like the late 1930's with jack booted goons hounding folks for no reason. You pulled some flags from on high, otherwise You would have never had an official visit.
Probably some desk jockey who doesn't know or understand what Cyberpunk Apocalypse. For one so young, You did well. I would not fare so well.

Get a fireproof container/safe/box for your deed. original documents shouldn't be kept on site. certified copies would do. Get a lock on the back gate. You are on a list and as long as that list survives your visitors will return. Make them climb.

Mike Booth said...

Re: "This is the world we're living in..." Permit me to remind you respectfully, Dan, that the world is much bigger than the USA, and most of it is much more civilized, something that most Americans seem to be unaware of.

I invite you to take a look at one formula which might make you think about changing your life: (Scroll down to the first part of the three-part article.)

Best of luck in any case,

Mike Booth