They drove me to the 78th Precinct and locked me up. I introduced myself to the other gentlemen in the cell, shaking each one of their hands with both of mine with a diplomat’s largesse. They seemed amused by this, particularly an older black gentleman who responded to my handshake with a deep bow. When he said, ‘Pleased, I’m sure,’ with a distinct upper-class English accent, I made note that one could fall further than I had. I was ashamed at finding solace in another’s misfortunes, but I must say that my humble Queens roots insulated me from the stellar self-loathing that aristocrat must have felt at being locked up in the same Brooklyn jail as the rest of us. Little did I suspect that a string of ever-greater failures would make the distance between a larva and a sexless worker ant assigned to cleaning up the queen’s waste a more appropriate social distance to measure myself against.
I sat down in the corner. I longed to masturbate, as one might imagine considering the unpleasant circumstances, but people kept passing outside the bars. I was forced to discreetly use my elbow to stimulate my loins by pretending to massage my inner knee as if I had injured it during an athletic competition; for example, during a running race one might expect to garner such an injury, particularly if their training regimen had been overly rigorous.
I assumed a severe expression and stated loudly to each of my cellmates: ‘My knee hurts!’ I shouted as if it were an oath or a threat while looking each one of them directly in their eyes. I continued the false knee-rubbing until the hardness of my elbow found a rival in the hardness of my member. I adjusted my expression and bearing until I resembled the anonymously painted 17th century Dutch masterpiece Portrait of an Elderly Lady. I imagined I was wearing the same austere black clothing, and I assumed that mimicking her facial expression would dissuade the others in the cell from looking at me and possibly discovering the true nature of my movements.
But even as the physical pleasure emanating from my genitals began to escalate in accord with my discreet ministrations, I grew sorrowful; I recalled an incident many years earlier when I had first seen the painting in an art history book of Ramona’s. She had been sitting on her bed with Johnny paging through the book while he ridiculed the paintings. With respect to Portrait of an Elderly Lady, Johnny said the woman appeared to be wearing an air filter from a Ford F350 around her neck. They both were highly amused, and enjoined me to come and look. Although Johnny’s facetious comparison was not at all unfounded, it amused me only for a moment; instead, I found myself distracted by a different aspect of the picture: the woman appeared to be masturbating a thin, tendril-like penis in her right hand. Outside the irony of her gender—transexuality was not common in 17th century Holland, to the best of my knowledge—I found her suggestive, masturbatory gesture to be extremely arousing, and I was overcome with a need to execute this gesture upon myself. I pretended to be offended by Johnny’s mockery of the painting; I told them they were both unconscionable philistines whose company I could not bear. I bade swift retreat to my quarters where I viciously manipulated my genitalia with my right hand while I pretended my left was resting on a cane or armrest in the exact manner of the portrait, which, if I correctly recall, was thought to have been painted around 1630. Recollecting the happiness and gentle absurdities that had once characterized our family house, it was difficult not to slip into a maudlin mood despite being near orgasm on the floor of the jail cell.
Damone Ramone: A Rock and Roll Betrayal: