Monday, August 30, 2010

In a gloomy mood of late, I had been ruminating on life's many disappointments. But after checking out photographer Steven Hirsch's Courthouse Confessions, I remember that my problems are banal and rather vanilla in this rough-and-tumble town. Thankfully, nothing currently requires my appearance in court (pfui! pfui!). I'll take my bourgeois frustration with dead-end jobs and under-achievement over being locked up in the Tombs fighting for my shoes any day (pfui! pfui! pfui! kaynehora!).

Surprisingly, people are very chatty on their way to their court dates. Mr. Hirsch must be a sympathetic fellow, as people willingly open up about what they are going through. He transcribes what they said apparently without comment or editorial, as it says on the masthead, in their own words.

Most of the stories here are profoundly sad. Others have plenty of bravado and levity. Stories of being chased by over-weight, out-of-breath New York City cops, the rush of tagging the city for graffiti and street artists. Other stories are so confusing I wasn't sure who had done what to whom.

But many of the stories here show people who have a lot of problems and the court date is perhaps the least of them. Some glumly admit they made a bad decision. Most seem glad to have someone to listen to their side of the story; it is indeed a gift just to have someone to listen sometimes. Tragically, there are stories that demonstrate how the mental health system fails the people who need it most, like the gentle soul in the Superman costume who just wanted to save the sparrows. There is a lot of police harassment of street vendors, and use of excessive force. Many of these stories are great evidence for the utter uselessness of the war on drugs, and the prejudices of the whole system. Sadly, there are also random and horrible acts of violence. And after reading about how many people are carrying great big knives I will think twice about yelling at people on the subway for blocking the doors.

I have written a lot about what to wear in court. And while your lawyer might want you to show up in a suit, clearly it is sometimes better to come as you are.

Mr. Hirsch has another blog devoted to comings and goings at 100 Centre Street, the main court building, which handles high profile cases. Celebrity stalkers, scammers, mobsters and murderers who get their names in the paper. Looking at the photos there I wonder if weapons charges aren't used as publicity for Rap artists (is that what the kids call them today?). Mr. Hirsch also has some beautiful, yet unflattering photos at Street Creatures, and a blog devoted to street kids in Tompkins Square Park called Crustypunks.



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