But things began to get really out of hand when I needed to build a small storage shed near an ambiguous property line that we share. There had been twenty years of misuse by the prior owner of my house that I was attempting to correct in the process when I got arrested by East Hampton Town Police while I was at home in my pajamas. It was early one Saturday morning in October. That’s when I found out how this place really works. Can you say “good ole boy’s?” Sure you can.
How I came to be arrested was a digression on my part. The police showed up because I painted a number of what were intended to be temporary fluorescent pink peace signs on a fence that lines our common driveway the night before, putting the finishing touches on at first light of morning. I did this as a jocular response to a week of bad behavior by my neighbor that included a drunken rant to my son and accusations he had made to others that I was trying to “steal” his property and other disparaging accusations designed to harm my reputation. (How does one hide stolen real estate? Bury it?) So I decided to have some fun- after all I am an artist among other things- and I painted the peace signs expecting to powerwash them away after they had their affect, cleaning the fence in the process. Neither of us owns the fence as it lines the opposite side of our driveway along the rear property lines of the homes on the next street. No one sees it but my neighbor and I.
So when the police came, I figured it would be no problem to discuss the situation with the responding officer, which I did, and he agreed at first that a simple cleaning of the fence was appropriate. But then he decided to handcuff me and “begin an investigation” during which he petitioned the neighbors on the next street to press charges against me and succeeded. The cops wrote up a report, laughing and joking with my neighbor as they did, while I sat handcuffed in the back seat of the patrol car. Off toEast Hamptonjail we went, my wife still asleep in our bedroom with no idea that I had been arrested. After a couple of hours I was released on one hundred dollars bail and scheduled for arraignment in Town Court the following Thursday.
Looking to put myself in good favor with the judge, I cleaned off most of the fence on Wednesday, and then left the property to run some errands. When driving down my block I passed a police car and got bad vibes, but shook it off and continued on, blaming paranoia. I shouldn’t have been so naive.
It turns out that when I got to court the next day, a harassment charge had been added to the criminal mischief charges. It seems my neighbor had called the police again and claimed that although he never said anything on Saturday morning that I had threatened to kill him if he didn’t leave my wife alone. The police believed him, and he and his wife were given an order of protection against me. I also have to mention that my neighbor is friendly with The Chief of Police and had a private meeting with him on Monday before my arraignment. He brought coffee and spoke about how he wanted to teach a lesson to this new troublemaker. My wife happened to see the friendly greeting exchanged at Police Headquarters.
I hired an attorney and after a year of court appearances and a few thousand dollars all charges were eventually dropped, but not before the first judge had to recuse herself because of her experiences with my neighbor. You can’t make this stuff up.
So while you’re sunning yourself on beautiful Hamptons beaches this summer, or sipping your cocktail, lamenting the approaching end of your visit and thinking about what it would be like to stay, pay attention to the signs- they say more than the words they contain.
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