Cheap theater


Apologies for the heeling cellphone picture, taken in much haste and somewhat furtively: I was afraid a sniper in that erectile cophoister would pick me off without a by-your-leave.

These silly things have been, pardon the phrase, popping up all over the place since the bombs went off in Boston — not that they need an excuse; I’ve been seeing them, though in rather smaller numbers, for a couple of years now. Clearly the cops love ’em.

This particular Tinker Toy is in Jersey City, on the wrong side of the Hudson from New York. Dunno how many JCPD has, but NYPD has dozens — maybe hundreds, for all I know. Hell, every individual New York cop may have one, parked in his Rockland County driveway.

The NYC version is even more risible: It’s basically a sort of high-top panel van, which extrudes through its roof a preposterous little glassed-in crow’s nest. Dark glass, of course, to be extra-scary:


The whole effect reminds me very much of this little guy:

Marvin the Martian

I hate to go all semiotic on youse, but this really is all pure theater, isn’t it? Just like all that nonsense at airports, and like the latex gloves which all public functionaries now wear, whenever they might come into actual contact with one of us. The symbolism of that one is consecration aginst impurity, like those Cohens in airplanes who worry that they might fly over a cemetery, and take appropriate measures to avoid ritual pollution:

Orthodox gent wrapped in plastic on an airplane

Actually I think this is so extravagant it’s rather admirable, and there’s no smokescreen of clinical rationality attempting to make it look like good sound utilitarian public policy. And I can see why a cemetery might be treyf, particularly for a Cohen. But the cops’ and toll-takers’ rubber gloves are saying that the people who pay their salaries are treyf.

Behind the Jersey City cops’ stiffy is one of my favorite public monuments. When I first saw it, I thought, Golly, somebody out there hates marching bands as much as I do. But no. This is a monument to the Katyn massacre, erected by the good Polish people of Jersey City, a folk with great depth of feeling but, it appears, a high tolerance for bathos.

Did Polish officers really wear an outfit like that in the Thirties? If so, one is almost tempted to say they were asking for it. Like mimes. Mimes can’t get life insurance, did you know that? True fact.

Like a grievance magnet, the plinth of this monument has attracted lumpish bronze accretions commemorating other injuries. On one side there’s a cartoonlike bas-relief remembering the Poles who were sent to Siberia, and on the other a more recent mass of metal showing the Virgin Mary — at least, I assume it is She — cuddling the twin towers of the former world trade center(*). This one interestingly shows in its foreground the very monument on which it is mounted, bayonet protruding from the drum major’s breast and all. Nice touch. I didn’t look closely enough to see whether there was a tiny Nineleven plaque on the depicted plinth, and another tinier one inside that…. There was some book I used to read my kids that had an infinite regress like that in it: Goodnight Moon? Can’t recall.

(*) Referred to by some of us as Nelson and David, after the Rockefeller brothers who fobbed those hulking horrors upon us in the first place.