Has it really been ten years since this happened?! On December 31, 1999, I was arrested while scaling the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge with a backpack full of Martinis. And I don’t even like Martinis! Back by popular demand, here’s the story, as originally published in Twisted Times.
A True Crime Story
By Jack L. Lopes
There’s an old superstition that says whatever you’re doing at the stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve is what you’re going to be doing all year long. I sure hope it’s not true. At the cusp of the new Millennium, as the clocks chimed Y2K and another dead calendar page fluttered off into the void, seven friends and I were getting arrested for climbing the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Our plan to welcome the new century with an enviable view and a perfect martini did not come to pass. Instead, we became the last arrests of 1999 and the first police report of 2000. At the stroke of Midnight we were on a pier-side police barge, being searched and handcuffed while the fireworks went off around us.
It’s an odd and unlikely story that begins back in February of 1995, when my friend and fellow traveler Sebastian Melmoth suffered an unfortunate arrest on the Bay Bridge for drunk driving, and subsequently swore an oath that no liquor would touch his lips until the year 2000. His fierce will did not fail him, and he kept his promise to the end, but as the years went by he developed a powerful thirst.
A veteran urban adventurer and a connoisseur of the industrial arts, Melmoth has a particular fondness for bridges. He has climbed dozens of them, in this country and in Europe, and has introduced many enthusiasts to the pursuit. His first choice, and arguably the ideal spot to toast any new era, was the Golden Gate Bridge, but after actor-activist-moron Woody Harrelson and a few angry friends got arrested stringing propaganda banners from that span, the Bridge Authority went berserk on new security measures, welding access doors shut and installing surveillance cameras from top to bottom and end to end. By late 1999, Melmoth had settled on the idea of a Bay Bridge celebration, but he kept the final plans to himself, knowing he would have to pick just a handful of climbers from the army of friends and friends’ friends who had by now heard rumors of this unique New Year’s Eve celebration. I got the call a few days beforehand — one of the lucky few. There were to be eight of us, and two boats. We would meet in the city at 9:30.