Two Gun Mack

It’s a rainy Tuesday night and I’m sitting on the outdoor patio of a North Jersey bar smoking cigars and drinking draft beer with a guy I’m going to call Mack. As I suck smoke from a Punch maduro, a burst of lightning skitters across the Manhattan skyline, casting the Empire State Building in a brief wash of harsh white light. A few seconds later the sound of thunder reaches my ears.

“Wow,” I say.

“Should bought my camera,” Mack says. “Win a fucking Pulitzer if I got a picture of that.”

“Use your cell phone camera,” I suggest.

“Those things are for shit.”

I shrug and take a sip of my beer.

“So how’s the book going?” Mack asks.

“It’s going,” I reply. Tonight I don’t want to think about “the book.”

“So whatcha gonna write about when this one’s done?”

“I was thinking about writing a book about New Jersey cops.”

“Like Wambaugh in L.A.?” Mack says.

“Yeah,” I reply. “But he was a real cop. I’d have to do the Studs Terkel interview kind of thing.”

“Hell, I should write me a book. I’ve got tons of stories.”

Mack used to be a cop during the Seventies and Eighties. Divorced, he now spends his retirement doing security work, chasing women and doting on his grandchildren.

“Why don’t you?” I ask.

“You should’ve seen the reports I wrote as a cop. Like they were written in fucking crayon.”

I laugh and take a sip of my beer.

“Nah,” Mack says, dismissively waving cigar smoke away from his face. “I can’t be a writer. I’m too much of a linear thinker.”

“Good quality for a cop to have,” I say.

“Maybe. But I could never write a book. I hated doing reports in school. Hated it.”

“But you’ve got some good stories.”

“When I was a cop,” Mack says, “My department was just like The Choirboys. Only worse. It’s a miracle we never killed anybody.”

“What kind of shit you guys get into?” I ask, activating the tape recorder in my mind.

“Man. There was this one time we were down by the water, drunk and getting blowjobs from a bunch of cop groupie bimbos…”

“While on duty.”

“Of course while on duty,” Mack snorts. “The entire night shift was there. We got so tanked we threw our beer bottles into the water and started shooting them.”

“Oh Jesus.”

“There was a fucking apartment complex on the other side of the water. If one skipped bullet went just the right way….”

“You guys were lucky.”

“Now I look back on that and go ‘Why did we do such stupid fucking stuff?’ It amazes me I was like that once.”

“But you grew up,” I say.

“Had to,” Mack replies.

“Did guys coop a lot when you were on the job?” I ask, referring to the practice of policeman catching a few winks in their patrol cars.

“Back in the day,” Mack says. “If you went behind one of those billboard signs along the highway you’d catch five guys from five different municipalities taking naps.”

“If only the bank robbers knew when and where,” I reply.

“It was nuts,” Mack says. “One time I rolled up one on of my guys and walked over to see how he was doing. He was getting a hummer from some chick. I was like ‘Oops sorry.’”

“Some girls just love a man in uniform,” I say.

“But my favorite coop story,” Mack says. “Was when I found a cop doing lines of coke in his car – in the middle of a snowstorm. Now that’s the fucking definition of irony.”

“Sure is.”

“But those days are long gone,” Mack says.

“There’s GPS in every cruiser now,” I say. “Now the Sarge knows where everybody is at all times.”

“Yeah,” Mack says. “Today cops are much more supervised. But they still pull shit.”

“I’m sure.”

Mack polishes off his beer and signals the buxom young waitress prancing around in a miniskirt for a refill.

“Wanna another?” he asks.

“I’m good with what I have.”

“There was this one time I remember,” Mack says, continuing his reminiscing, “I had just gotten on the job. We get a call about a burglary in progress. Fucking idiot’s on the roof with his loot. The old timers I’m with tell the guy to get off the roof or they’ll shoot him.”

“So what did they do?”

“They shot at him,” Mack says. “BANG! BANG! BANG! That guy jumped on to a telephone poll and shimmied town like he was Tarzan of the Apes.”

“Did they hit him?’

“No.”

“So they shot past him.”

Mack gives me a baleful stare. “No. They really shot at him. They just missed.”

“Lucky for the burglar.”

“Yeah, well, he did a good stretch as I recall.”

The waitress returns with Mack’s beer, gives us a brilliant smile and walks away. We both watch her walk away.

“Cute, cute,” Mack clucks.

“So did you like being a cop?” I ask, refocusing my attention.

“Loved it,” Mack says. “I wasn’t always a model officer. But I did some good. Put some bad people away.”

“To putting bad people away,” I say, raising my glass.

“Amen to that brother.”

“So what was the thing you hated most about being a cop?” I ask.

“The fucking corruption,” Mack says. “Some cops were pure criminals. A guy I knew on the force had a saying, ‘If you can’t drink it, fuck it. And if you can’t fuck it, steal it.’”

“Man.”

“Did plenty of the first two,” Mack says. “But stealing? Nah. That was just wrong.”

“But some guys did.”

“Oh sure,” Mack says. “But I tell you about that some other time.”

“Fodder for my next book.”

“Yeah,” Mack says. “But I’ll have to make sure the statute of limitations has run out on that shit before I tell you about it – Mr. Writer.”

“Fair enough,” I say.

“I gotta take a leak,” Mack says, pushing his chair away from the table. “You got anymore cigars left?”

“Sure do.”

“Back in a sec.”

As I watch Mack walk to the bathroom I notice the slight bulge made by the small automatic pistol he’s got holstered underneath his untucked polo shirt. Even in retirement he remains armed. I also know Mack’s got a snub nosed revolver somewhere on him as well. Probably in an ankle holster. I only know this because Mack handed it to me one day, fully loaded, for my examination. “If you ever think you’re gonna need a gun,” Mack said. “Bring two. It’s faster than reloading.”

When Mack’s out of sight I think about his job and the life he’s led. Because of people like him there are some seriously evil beings who’ll never get a chance to hurt anyone ever again. Rapists, child molesters, serial killers, drug dealers – the terrible shadows that coexist and commingle in the light of a beautiful world- all put away by men and women who wear a badge. But what is the price they pay? How do they maintain their moral bearing? Mack’s a good guy, but I can tell he’s been scarred by his experiences. He stayed on the straight and narrow. But others he knew didn’t. There was a line I heard in a cop movie that’s always resonated with me. “This work gets ugly. And you get ugly with it.” How people handle that ugliness fascinates me. One day I’ll write about it.

Part of me is also fascinated by this topic because I wanted to be a policeman when I was a little boy. When I was in the seventh grade I won an essay writing contest and became the honorary police chief of my town for a day. Two detectives wearing polyester suits and loud ties drove me around in their unmarked car, called me “sir” and even let me shoot their guns at the firing range. I never forgot that experience. I even came close to becoming a cop but didn’t. I’m glad for that. But as I think about Two Gun Mack I wonder if I would have been a good one. I like to think so.

Another blast of lightning sears the Manhattan skyline, causing the Citicorp Building to flare and fade like the upturned face of child at a fireworks show. When the thunder arrives I take another sip of my beer, curious about a life I never led.

While everything said in this story is true, to maintain the confidentiality of the policemen I’ve talked to, I’ve composited them into the character of “Two Gun Mack.”


Comments

Two Gun Mack — 50 Comments

  1. Hey–love your work–check on you every week. Any idea what happened to Rob over at Clublife? Haven’t seen a post from him in 3 months.

  2. Good call on that error D. At least it’s a pretty generic name. Waiter – What prevented you from joining the police force? Was it an internal or external factor?

  3. Yeah that last post struck me as odd.
    I’ve done a lot of ride along’s and partied with the coppers. The groupies and BJ’s are real, so is the drinking to excess. The narc guys were the worst. They were just like the druggies, liked the same rides and trashy women, just used a different drug.
    The funny thing is they guys I hung with are now in management!

    Met my first honest to god mafia types through a former elected sheriff. I’m waiting for him to pass on before I tell that story!

  4. Great post, Mr. Waiter. I’m halfway through your book and loving every page. I understand about keeping some things private. Everyone needs to keep that little piece of themselves sacred and everyone needs a little privacy. I sometimes feel badly for celebrities when I see paparazzi constantly harssing them. For all of their money and fame, maybe they still don’t have it so great. It puts a perspective on things.

  5. You would definitely have made a good cop. This was a great story – made me late for work :) I enjoyed your last post too and I’m glad I read it before you took it down. I bought your book (in hardcover) and I enjoyed it partly because of your personal experiences. As far as I’m concerned, everything you write on here is a murky blend of fact and fiction so Brown Eyes and your road trip could be as composited as Two Gun Mack and his anecdotes.

  6. If you’re thinking about writing a book about cops, check out Ted Conover’s “NewJack”, a nonfiction book on prison guards at Sing Sing. He’s got a wonderful style of reporting and writing that I think would appeal to you. His “Coyotes”, about illegal immigration, is brilliant.

  7. Also check out the book “What Cops Know” it’s older, but a lot of good material.
    My favorite local cop story was the guy who pulled over a biker, they started mixing it up and he arrested the guy. While he was sitting in the cell, they got on each other again and the cop ended up beating the guy with his own artificial leg! Caught on tape—- cop no more!!!

  8. Hello Waiter,

    Just wanted to say thanks for the blog, and the book. I’m one of those people who work in a ugly job, and what you write, along with other things is what helps me stay the way Iam and stops the job from turning me into something ugly too.

    Thanks.

  9. I just found your site today, courtesy of a mention on an article I read on CNN. I’ve missed out of 5 years of hilarity and good reading.

    As a former server myself, I was laughing out loud at some of your posts. (Sigh… the good old days).

    I really thought this would just be a site filled with the (valid) complaints of a waiter so I was especially surprised to find it so well written, humorous and funny. And while anyone can enjoy your site, it is simply a delicious, naughty treat for anyone who’s been in the front of the house.

    Bravo!

  10. A bit like Arjuna in the Mahabharata war as he prepares to fight his cousins and teachers. I am sure you know how the epic proceeds as Krishna gives him the knowledge about karma, duty and righteousness. And so much more is covered in the Bhagavad Gita. The amazing part is how relevant the Gita is today, tomorrow – every day. You gotta do your job, period. Even the gods say so.

    You should read the Gita. I think you’ll really like it. Get a translation – it’ll be better than reading anyone’s commentary. Or drop me an email with your address – I’ll send you a copy published by a press from India. I like their version. It sticks to the original with no spin of any kind.

    This might be a good time to tell you how much I enjoy reading your blog… :)

  11. In Re: to the post you removed. I am being censored in places I didn’t expect. This is your area/domain and I expect and definitely respect your censorship. However I just want to rant that I can’t post a damned thing about a corp. I work for without it being removed. I don’t get it. Yahoo Answers, Craigslist, Google Groups, and even waitress/waiter forums my posts have been removed immediately. The only thing I’m saying is how filthy Cracker Barrel is and I am not even including a link. I’ve been simply documenting my employment at this hideous corp. and all my info. is removed within minutes of publishing. As a professional, I’m asking you, should I create a domain dedicated to documenting a certain restaurant corp? Would I get into trouble for letting the world know how hideous the Cracker Barrel is? Thanks for any info. on this.

  12. re: wonderland’s comment–My dad was in law enforcement for about 12 years, including my adolescent years (I never got away with anything!). I used to think cops walked on water until I grew older and a lot wiser. Speaking from entirely personal experience, it tore our family apart. Cops are trained to be in control at all times, and it’s hard for them to turn that off at home. I didn’t speak to my dad for 10 years following my parents’ divorce. A few years ago, we reconciled and I gained a friend. Ironically, he’s now a private investigator and frequently does work for defense attorneys!

  13. I just finished your book in one day. I couldn’t put it down. I have a blog of my own that I occasionally complain about incompetent guests on and one of my friends suggested reading your book, and I’m glad that she did. Hilarious stuff.

  14. A Punch Maduro? Ah, the rewards of fame! Try the Punch Presidente Maduro Maduro … 8 1/2″ of pure delight. Love the way you write. Cops are a whole realm unto themselves. It’s a job I could never do, perhaps more of a calling than a job, and with all their faults, I give them the greatest respect for their service.

  15. Oh so now you’re The Writer, not The Waiter? Does that mean your identity is secret again???

    Anyway, really liked this story. Got that great gruff romance that you tend to put into some of your more fictional works.

    Also, totally understand your position on taking down that story…all bloggers eventually put a little TOO much of themselves out there sometimes. Just don’t let it scare you :P

  16. Nice. And, not about this post, but thanks for bringing some thoughtfulness to the server vs. customer debate. Everybody eats out, but usually only on occasion, and some of us try to correct boorish behavior when it’s pointed out, but we are not professional customers. My $0.02.

    Otherwise, I thought Mark Twain used the spelling “lightening” in Tom Sawyer–this was in a paperback, and back in the days when proofreaders used their brains instead of software, mind you, but still. It jumped out at me, but it was used as a verb, sort of, and I thought it was probably right, since I had never known there was a verb for lightning anyway.

    It was a great description of a thunderstorm, though.

  17. I wanted to google a phrase you used. So I clicked on the text to select it… and nothing happened.
    A few more attempts and I realised that you’ve done something to make selected text show up in almost the same color as the rest of the page.

    I assume you did this to stop people from stealing your content. Do you think this will work ? People who really want to steal your work will do it anyway.

    All you have achieved is to annoy a longtime reader of your blog by disabling my ability to search for something I found interesting.

  18. Waiter-
    I, like nearly everyone else who has commented or will comment these posts, am a waiter-rant addict. Not only because of the awesome writing, but how you convey every server’s thoughts, dreams, fears, anxieties, and the other million other human expressions in your book. Everyone who has ever waited tables has wanted to say what you have said. It’s as if you put word in all of our mouths when we could not speak. THANK YOU, and keep up the good work!

  19. If you ever want to write that cop book, the place to start is “Cops” by Mark Baker. He wrote that book in the ’70s and ’80s — interviewed a lot of cops, told their stories uncensored. It’s a great book, but dated now; policing has changed; it could well be time for another book like that.

  20. Hi Waiter,

    Reading this post reminded me of my dad ( still alive) He was a constable in the R.U.C at the height of the “troubles” here in Northern Ireland.
    His job was no joke. I don’t know all the details , its something he doesnt talk about but he left when they tried to put a bomb under our family car.
    He said it was a simple choice to make.
    Some men who do the job of a police officer are heroes often unsung.

  21. I always like listening to old time coppers. I think their lives on the job were more colorful than ours. The stuff they got away with back then would land us in prison in a heartbeat today.

  22. If you like Wambaugh, try the novels of the late William Caunitz. Caunitz was NYPD. His first book, “One Police Plaza,” was made into an awful movie. The book itself is good, but I like some of his others better. He died (way too young, of course) in the middle of writing a book. It was finished by a guy he’d been mentoring who wrote good if very fictional cop stories.

  23. Waiter, do you find it strange that you hadn’t managed to find a girlfriend until you became well known? and presumably will be making a good deal of money? I do, bc sorry honey…you’re no prize to look at, now that we are able to see you. watch your back!

  24. o PLEASE. you are calling a guy who is ok w/ and turned a blind eye to cops getting bjs and doing cocaine on the job – a GOOD cop? lol. he managed to stay straight, you say??? lol
    listen, just because a cop TELLS you he’s an honest cop doesn’t mean he is!!! you can’t recognize corruption right under your nose so PLEASE don’t write about cops???!! you were having a beer and being led by the nose by a corrupt cop, silly waiter.

  25. right on, “please don’t write about cops”.

    every, and i mean every cop i’ve known is corrupt. its just a matter of degrees.

    they have to be. because if they snitch on each other, they’ll find a dead rat in their work-locker/desk drawer and no back-up when they need it. or even set-up in a dangerous situation ala the movie “training day”.

    no joke.

    reminds me of a saying, “who will guard us from the guards?” power corrupts.

    if cops weren’t dirty, i’d be in jail for my past misdeeds. that’s good for me, but not so good for others who didn’t have my juice.

    that’s life. cops are cops because they’re bullies and enjoy the power trip of being able to carry a gun.

    the other guy said “who drinks and carries a gun” or something like that. i’ll tell you. ALL OF THEM.

    Coke snorting, home wrecking racial profiling s.o.b.s’

    because they can.

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