in seventh grade, my first in junior high, i became acquainted with the unique bureaucratic phenomenon known as the vice principal. such was introduced to us in the context of "you don't want to have to meet the vice principal", and his (mine, as were and are so many others, was male, which suits the stereotype quite nicely) apparent and one-and-only responsibility was the euphemistic and, to the average 12 year old, terrifying remit of enforcing "discipline" among the schoolkids.
me and my friends being "good kids", we were quite unfamiliar with whatever went on behind the veep's closed door, but we and everybody else in the school knew within seconds whenever one of the "tough kids" became sent down there for whatever their most recent transgression. at first, i figured these recalcitrants would have been as i would have been--shaking in their shoes, and terrified of the life consequences that swift and just punishment would earn. you'd have to be, right? and then i noticed that there was always a little bit of a smile on the to-be-condemned's faces on the way in, and an even bigger one on the way out, and i started to wonder if i really understood the essence of what was going on in there.
it didn't take long for those habituated to the ceremony to have a pretty strong handle on the reality of their situation. there'd be a good stern talking-to, some random threats about permanent records and telling of parents, and then an inevitable "off you go, back to class" signaling the moment when discreet celebration would become appropriate. contrary to stereotype, these were actually, and i have come to learn for sure later in life, some of the smartest kids in the school. and, no, it didn't take very long at all.
toothless enforcement is, as any 12 year old middle school student can tell you, no enforcement at all.
so it is that we see on the agenda for the next city of lowell license commission hearing (6:30pm on thursday, may 23rd--http://www.lowellma.gov/depts/license/agenda.2013-05-21.2564002518
) "communication from deborah friedl, interim superintendent of police,
dated may 13, 2013, allegations of misconduct against the middle street village, inc., dba the village smokehouse, 92-98 middle st., alan f. kaplan, mgr., all alc. bev. restaurant licensee, date of alleged
violations april 25, 2013 - m.g.l. c. 138, s. 34, sale or delivery of
alcohol beverage to person under 21 years of age; and massachusetts
regulation 204 cmr 2.05 (2), to wit: violation of m.g.l. c. 138, s. 34,
and violation of m.g.l. c. 94C (controlled substances act)."
for those of you keeping score, this is the same middle street village, inc. dba the village smokehouse which was given the proverbial wrist-slap last commission meeting for hosting an otherwise-illegal open bar, for which the license commission, in its infinite wisdom and consistent inconsistency of practice, wagged a "don't do it again" finger and sent the would-have-been guilty back to class, or, as the situation would have it, breaking the laws of the commonwealth in serving booze in as many illegal manners as their imagination seems to have capacity to serve it.
i once had a dog--a dog that i loved dearly--who i picked up as an adult via the shelter in sterling. among the countless reasons for which i loved him more dearly than even i can say was his incessant striving to do whatever he could understand was expected of him. this led him to do many amazing things, like jumping into and swimming across a 32-degree pond in the absolute dead of winter when my frustration at his having run around to the other side of it right before i had to leave for work boiled over into some overly sharp commands to "come here". (i cried as i was drying him off). anyway, his first day in the house was taken up with various corrections, starting with admonition against getting up on the furniture. (he was a fairly large and extremely furry beast--an aussie shepherd cross weighing upwards towards 70 pounds). he must have had some german shep in him, because the admonition never had to be given a second time--he was one of the most obedient dogs i have ever known.
the next morning, my to-eventually-be-ex and i emerged from the bedroom to find him comfortably ensconced on the living room couch, and i immediately understood his thought process: "no daytime couch-lounging, but nobody has said anything about nighttime". so i corrected him that there would also be no nighttime couch lounging, and so we went on our daily routine. the next morning after that, my to-eventually-be-ex and i emerged from the bedroom to find him comfortably ensconced on the loveseat, and i again immediately understood his thought process as clearly as if he was speaking the words directly into my head. "no anytime couch-lounging, but nobody has said anything about the loveseat". that dog never again, in all his years, all 17 of them in all, got up on any piece of furniture, day or night. and i learned a lot about dogs, and about 12 year old students, and about your average city bar owner in that instant, and i wonder if that lesson might be lost on this entire city licensing process these days.
we already have fights erupting in city neighborhoods (there was another stabbing last night) and the warmer weather will only increase the frequency of this over the coming summer months. the "downtown disorder" fueled by irresponsible serving has already been observed to cause riots, near-fatal woundings, vandalism and a remarkable amount of public urination. like the pow wow oak bough coming down, this is one of those inevitabilities that one would think would require drawing on all our collective experience with dogs, vice principals and everyone who winks at their buddies when leaving what was supposed to be a "disciplinary" hearing with no meaningful discipline whatsoever.
brian's ivy hall got four days license suspension for failing to satisfy a GUIDELINE. (not calling the cops after cops were already on premise). the village smokehouse has gotten nothing for willfully breaking THE LAW on repeated occasions. make no mistake--these are two dogs staring lustfully at the living room couch of youthful alcoholic exuberance. (as they should be--it's their business). so want to know what i think? i think that not only will the one indulged continue to be on our furniture on a consistent and regular basis, but the other one looking at the inequity of the situation will grow to be even more so, and you can mark my words because there's science behind that statement to prove it. (has anyone seen the experiment video of the two capuchin monkeys treated unequally
do not get me wrong. i believe sincerely in the importance of each and every one of our many liquor establishments to our downtown as well as city-wide culture and economic recovery. (count the number of failed storefronts next time you're down here, and consider where we'd be without the hospitality industry). i do NOT feel that overzealous enforcement is any kind of a good thing, which is to say, i feel that all our enforcement needs to be is simple, fair and CONSISTENT.
so, in advance of thursday night's entertainment down at city hall, let's all ask ourselves and our city manager and our elected city councilors in addition to our appointed license commissioners "what the heck is going on". ("lemmetellya"--had to put a little mojo in there).
because it sure looks as if there's potential for more than a little couch/loveseat/toothless-vice-principal shenanigans, and we're all at risk to pay the price for it as any repeat offender skips out with that smile we all know so well that comes from an empty finger-wag.
oh, and i'll add a little vice principal post-script, and the quaintness of our lost national innocence is all over this one: back in nineteen-mumblety-mumblety my honor roll friends and i decided to have a little fun in the weeks leading up to our high school graduation. we decided to form a "teacher elimination squad", (yeah, i know), and arm ourselves with what was then high-tech water pistols (jokes by today's blaster standards) and full-body-disguises in order to run throughout the school and douse a few of our "favorites" in what used to be called a "prank", which would now be called terrorism and be met with full armed swat response, and i'm under no illusions whatsoever about that. anyway, in our anachronistically ironic way, we mapped out our approach, our escapade, our escape and our final getaway, stashing cars and equipment in strategic locations so that it could all run like clockwork. well, as any idiot otherwise criminal can tell you, everything goes exactly as planned right up until the plan is discovered to be complete horseshit, and after disrupting the library, locking the various principal types in their offices, and then heading to the top floor for our final flourish, we noted that several of the more athletic teachers had started to cordon off various stairwells (no elevators in those days--the ADA, like the DHS, was just a pipe dream) and it quickly became every-idiot-for-themselves with fewer and fewer ways out. i saw a couple buddies get pinched but was among the lucky who remembered that the back stairs behind the auditorium were inaccessible to the main building and emptied directly outside, so i skated free and never had to visit that VP's office like my friends did. and they were threatened with expulsion and not graduating and even actual arrest, but, as even these honor roll kids can now tell you, there's very little that certain vice principals will really do, and the whole thing very quickly becomes an eye-winking, back-slapping good time and absolutely devoid of any meaningful life lesson. (like arlo's experience on the group w bench, the father rapers who otherwise would think very little of a bunch of honor roll dweebs in burkas, come right back over as soon as its apparent that their nemeses are actually pissed about the whole thing, and, truth be told, i have some more varied and better friends because of it and i'm grateful forever for that, as would one of them several weeks later when i smuggled him through a police roadblock after a house party--there's a lot that "good kids" get away with that they shouldn't--make no mistake about that).
where was i?
enough is enough. selective and capricious enforcement is wrong. consistent and consistently fair enforcement is long overdue. sauce for the BIH goose needs to be good and fairly applied to the smokehouse, or we're in for an even longer and hotter summer. they got away with it last time. what did we all think they would do next?
enough is enough.