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Baby, Please Don't Go
... down to New Orleans, you know I love you so
(This article has a couple AI-generated images, which will be clearly labelled.)
It was 2009 or so and I was driving to work, listening to KFOG on the radio. People still listened to the radio then. Sometimes the station had those call-in contests, and even if you knew the answer, calling in just got you endless busy signals.
It was Fat Tuesday, the day of Mardi Gras, and KFOG had one of those contests: they played three song snippets where the lyrics included the words “New Orleans” and you had to call in with the song, singer, and group. The prize was two tickets to see The Pretenders. They didn’t even say “If you’re the thirteenth caller, you can go” You just needed the answers.
The first two songs were easy and all the callers got them:
Mick Jagger’s voice: “Sold in the market down in New Orleans”
Dickie Betts: “On my way to New Orleans this morning”
But the third clip had everybody stumped:
Raspy voice: “Baby please don’t go, down to New Orleans, you know I love you so, baby please don’t go.”
This is an old song originally made popular by Big Joe Williams, as everybody knows (insert emoji here):
As it happened, though, I have the CD of Van Morrison’s Greatest Hits and I’d just heard this a few weeks before. Damn, I knew this one! “Shall I waste my time and try?” I wondered.
I had no way to use the phone hands-free. I waited until I got to a parking lot and dialed the number, certain I’d get the busy signal. But no! I got right in.
They asked the first two songs, which of course I got, and then on the third, I said, triumphantly, “Baby, Please Don’t Go, Van Morrison.” I won!
But not quite. Then they said, “And the group?”
Uh-oh. I didn’t know that one. Maybe you do. Maybe you should have called in.
(Van looks like a baby in this picture, doesn’t he?)
They said, “Say ‘Them.’ “ So I did. They asked my name, and then I waited. On the radio, they played an edited version of our conversation:
Q: The first song?
me: Mick Jagger, “Brown Sugar,” The Rolling Stones
Q: The second?
me: Dickie Betts, “Ramblin’ Man,” The Allman Brothers
Q: (excitedly) And the third?
me: Van Morrison, “Baby, Please Don’t Go,” Them
So they edited out their prompt! Through the magic of editing, I knew them all. I was going to see The Pretenders! I’m not a huge fan, but I like them well enough. And it was free. They don’t send you physical tickets; the theater sets them aside for you in Will Call, and you have to present identification. So you can’t just sell the tickets, unless you go.
Now I had two tickets, but at the time I wasn’t dating anyone. There was a guy I worked with, Daryl (the name’s been changed to protect his identity), somewhat younger than me, and we liked to hang out together at work. We rarely saw each other outside of work, although once we went to a concert with his girlfriend (we’ll call her Karen). He had since broken up with Karen, and apparently she didn’t handle it well. She’d been enacting a real-life version of “Baby Please Don’t Go,” sending him constant text messages.
I asked Daryl if he wanted to go, and he said “sure.” The concert was on a Sunday night, and that afternoon he called to tell me to pick him up at work. This was only a little bit strange, since as far as I knew, he could have been actually working.
When I picked him, he told me why he was at work: he’d slept there. The night before, Karen had come to his house at 1:00 am and demanded he return a bowl she’d left with him. He gave it to her, and then she said “Why won’t you have a conversation with me?” He declined to “have a conversation” with her, she kept insisting, and this continued until finally he decided to get in his car and drive away.
Karen stood in his path to keep him from leaving. He pushed her out of the way, and she fell down. He went to work where she couldn’t follow, and curled up on one of the couches. Karen went to the police, and they issued an Emergency Restraining Order against him.
I’m not a legal connoisseur of the varieties of Restraining Order, but apparently this variety expires quickly and has to be turned into a Temporary Restraining Order, which requires a judge. The Emergency variety does not. The police had called him, which is why he didn’t go home.
I asked if he really wanted to go to the concert now, and he said Yes, so we went. We got there about an hour early, and while we were standing around, he got a voicemail. It was the police. He disappeared to listen and return the call. About 20 minutes later he came back
.(An AI-generated image.)
I asked, “So is there a warrant for your arrest?”
Daryl: “They didn’t say. They said a lot of things.”
Me: “Like what?”
Daryl: “They kept asking me to come in and talk to them. ‘I can’t help you unless you come in!’ they kept saying. ‘You need to come in here so we can clear this up.’”
I thought that probably we didn’t want to go to this concert, and Daryl agreed. We drove home, and he called a lawyer friend. A long conversation ensued as I drove. He hung up, and told me what the lawyer said.
“He said the cops have nothing. Don’t go in there. Don’t talk to them any more.”
I didn’t want to express an opinion on something like this. He’d just gotten legal advice, after all. But it definitely did not seem like going to his home was a good option.
I asked if he wanted to stay at my house, but he had some friends he could spend the night with. The next day he got together with the lawyer and his associates, and their opinion was that if Karen did go before the judge, she would lose. They had to be prepared, though, so they spent the week collecting all the text messages she’d sent him. In the end, the Emergency Restraining Order did expire and he never had to go to court.
But let’s imagine a counter-factual: what if Daryl did go to the police station so they could “help him?” There’s a video on YouTube with almost 18 million views called “Don’t Talk to the Police.” by James Duane, a law professor and former defense attorney. The gist is: the police don’t want to help you; they want to arrest someone, and at the moment you’re their candidate:
.(AI-generated image. No real people.)
This is an entertaining video, and that’s why it has 18 million views. Take some time right now and watch it. If you think Saul Goodman in Better Call Saul is a fast-talking lawyer, you haven’t seen anything yet. After he finishes, he turns it over to a real police officer, who tells you that everything Prof. Duane just said is true.
Prof. Duane explains that there is absolutely nothing you can gain from talking to the police. You want to be helpful; you want to tell your side of the story; most of all, you want to get out of that interview room and go home. You probably know that what you say can be used against you in court (every Law and Order episode drills that into you), but you probably don’t know that it cannot be used for you. The police know you want to go home, you’ll probably say a few things you shouldn’t, and unfortunately they can and do use them against you.
So I won something in that contest more valuable than seeing the Pretenders. I learned something I hope I never need to know: God bless the 5th Amendment.