A few months ago, I was scared out of my wits when a heavy hand thudded on the door of my apartment.  I live in an apartment block with four top-to-bottom flats, accessible only via a secured entrance from the street, so my first thought was that it was a neighbor coming to complain about something, or possibly my landlord conducting a random spot-check.  Either way, it is an unusual enough occurrence (actually, no one had ever knocked on my door before – we are not casual, drinks-party neighbors, but the type who actively avoid each other in the stairwell) that my heart immediately started jackhammering in my chest.  The second rapid-fire thought, naturally, was that it was someone announcing their intention to rob and kill me.

My third thought would probably have been of the gas meter man, had it not been 8:00 at night and a gruff, muffled voice then announced, “Police.”

I can’t think of a single good reason that police would be calling at your home.  They don’t send police to tell you you’ve won the lottery.  They don’t sell cookies.  They’re only there to question you, arrest you, or give you bad news.

Or, someone pretending to be police is there to rob and kill you, possibly after they robbed and killed whatever idiot neighbor buzzed them into the building.  In any case, one opens the door with great reluctance, sometimes hiding a kitchen knife behind one’s back.  This is embarrassing when they are, in fact, real police, and one makes them hold their badges to the peephole and stand five feet back on the landing before one will crack the door two inches to eyeball them, sweaty fingers clutching the most lethal-looking implement from the butcher’s block. (more…)

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Yesterday my friend Tanya and I were at the Preakness in Baltimore. Across the street from the racetrack, a number of African-American residents were barbecueing various goodies outside their houses and selling them to the hordes of people attending the race. Street food, in other words — hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs, made fresh and sold alongside icy cold Budweisers.

Tanya and I partook and sat eating our goodies as two cops sat nearby in their cruiser, looking in our direction. Remember — thousands of people, cops, buses, taxis, parking attendants, racing enthusiasts, traffic cops, were milling around and walking in and out of the race track about 20 feet from where we sat as we chatted with the food vendors and enjoyed our lunch. It was as busy as a street corner in downtown Manhattan.

After about 10 minutes, the police — a ruddy-faced white guy with a shaved head and his female partner — put the cruiser in gear and drove up next to us.

Read the conversation after the jump: (more…)