>The Last Words of Lasantha Wickramatunga

>Wickramatunga, a Sri Lankan newspaper editor, was assassinated last Thursday. His newspaper was critical of government conduct in the war against the Tamil Tigers. Gunmen had tried to kill Wickramagunga before, and he knew he was a walking dead man. He left a letter to be opened on his death. In it, he names the government as his murderer (even though he’d been a long-time friend to the president)and mourns the loss of democracy and human rights on the island. The text of the letter is at the address below. It’s moving and disturbing.

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/stevecoll/2009/01/letter-from-the.html

>When Home Isn’t

>In the week or so I’ve been back in NYC I’ve managed to pick up two police summonses. The first came when I was leaving a warehouse show where some friends were playing. Free cans of Colt 45 and empanadas, the best Christmas party in a while. I’d just cracked a Colt when my crew decided to leave. I walked outside with my can.
‘You’re going to get a ticket for that,’ Cindy said.
‘Yeah whatever,’ from yours truly.
Twenty feet from the club door a squad car pulled up. Busted.
‘What’s that?’ the cop said.
I showed him.
‘Pour it out,’ Cindy said.
‘You can keep it’ the cop said. He was young, twenty-five maybe, handsome, African American. Had a certain suavity to him. As he was writing me up, he took a call from a woman and flirted with her. Then he said, ‘Sorry baby, I’ll hit you back later. I’m writing a ticket here.’
Overall, the cops were pretty decent about it.
‘I knew that had to either be a Colt or a coconut drink,’ the black cop said. ‘No other can looks like that.’
I’ll take the blame: that summons was on me but still it was a sign how the Bburg waterfront has changed. The empty streets among the industrial buildings were the last place you’d ever see a cop, even as recently as a year or two ago. But there are some big money highrises going up there and it seems the developers have put out the word that they want the rabble kept in line, even though the highrises are still mostly vacant (and given the economy, just might stay that way).
As I stood sipping my Colt the cop reassured me that I would beat the summons easy.
‘Just tell them you were drinking coconut juice and I wouldn’t listen,’ he said. They’ll throw it out. Happens all the time.
I thanked him and they drove away.

A few days later I was talking a late night walk down the same empty waterfront streets. I passed the big development for ‘The Edge’ a condo-tower complex promising ‘edgy’ living for millionaires at the edge of the East River. They’ll even have their own water taxi to Manhattan (how nice for them). I saw a cop car cruising but I was sober and up to no wrong. I reached the waterfront park that had long been an afterhours hangout for all kinds of strange characters to do strange things – especially Hasidic men, who smoked pot there, cruised prostitutes and had gay flings with each other (I kid you not; I’ve seen them on the benches, making out like mohels). The park was empty though; because of the cold, I thought. I walked in and stood staring out at the water. A few minutes later, I turned around to see two cops running at me like I was raping a four year-old.
‘You know you can’t be in here at night’ they said.
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘It’s not posted.’
‘Do you have anything sharp on you?’ One said. He was another handsome young cop, Asian-American this time. Looked like he was about twenty-three. Bburg must be where the send the rookies to make their bones.
‘Sharp?’ I said. ‘All I got is my cellphone and keys.’
‘I’m going to pat you down,’ the Asian said. ‘It’s for my safety. You could decide to beat me up and throw me in the water.’
‘You never know,’ I said. I didn’t say that them beating me up was a lot more likely.
‘I like your jacket’ he said as he frisked me. ‘Biker jacket right? Nice leather.’
Another lame summons. Another cop slightly embarrassed at writing it (although it didn’t stop him from writing it – quota to fill).
‘This is worse than the Giuliani days,’ I said.
‘I was a kid back then,’ the young Asian cop said. ‘I don’t remember that.’
‘Trust me,’ I said, ‘It sucked.’
And it did suck, but not in Bburg. Even in Giuliani’s most delusional ‘Il Duce’ days, cops weren’t harassing people in the Grand Street Park at 1 a.m. on a Tuesday night. Williamsburg had still been low rent and therefore below the radar for ‘quality of life’ complaints. I wanted to lecture the cops on the injustice of it; I wanted to ask them how they felt wasting their time locking down a neighborhood to make it more appealing to people who earned a hundred times more than they did. I kept it simple.
‘You couldn’t find a cop here in the old days when there were gangs and rapes and muggings every night. I wish they had you guys doing something more useful.’
‘I wish they did too’ the young Asian cop said. ‘Don’t worry about it. When you show up, they’ll just dismiss it.’
‘But that’s the problem,’ I said. ‘I have to take time out of my day for complete bullshit.’
He shrugged. He had a quota to meet and I was helping him fill it.
And me? I was only doing exactly what I’d been doing for years; but the new Williamsburg has no place for it.