The lessons of the street

You must anticipate always how the talk is going to go. It’s something you pick up quite young, same as you learn the different species of cop: the Black and White (named for the color scheme of their automobiles), who are L.A.. city police and in general the least flexible; the L.A. county sheriff’s department, who style themselves more of an elite, try to maintain a certain distance from the public, and are less apt to harass you unless you seem worthy; the Compton city cops, who travel only one to a car and come on very tough, like leaning four of you at a time against the wall and shaking you all down; the juvies, who ride in unmarked Plymouths and are cruising all over the place soon as the sun goes down, pulling up alongside you with pleasantries like, “Which one’s buying the wine tonight?” or, “Who are you guys planning to rob this time?” They are kidding, of course, trying to be pals. But Watts kids, like most, do not like being put in with winos, or dangerous drivers or thieves, or in any bag considered criminal or evil. Whatever the cop’s motives, it looks like mean and deliberate ignorance.

Thomas Pynchon’s notes on his thug life.


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