Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Woman Who Only Wants to Help

A chapter from "The Peninsula," a book about Occupy Seattle

by Michael Dare

They took her kids. Martha didn't deserve that, she really didn't. It wasn't her fault her shithead husband had decided to solve America's mortgage crisis by deserting his wife and children. They locked her out of the house, gave her ten minutes to get her stuff that stretched into half an hour, piled in the front yard, forget the good furniture. She fit as much as she could into the car, that's what she thought, it was all in the car, talking to herself, if they hadn't taken the car she'd still have her kids, what were their names?, walking up third from the Seattle courthouse where she had entered with her kids but left without them, their names, her kids, her life, her only excuse for existence, why couldn't she remember their names? One of them at least, at this point,must need their diaper changed, because she was their mother and they came first, that much was clear from the start, whatever her needs were, they were subservient to her kids, she was their servant, their go-to-guy for everything, they were too small, they couldn't eat, bathe, or get dressed without her help and now she had no one to help, not a soul, not even herself because she wasn't there, not at all, a short-circuited automaton just walking down the street, oblivious to everything, the corners, the lights, the other pedestrians who somehow knew to get out of her way, talking to herself, a conversation the world at large knew it was best to steer clear of.

Left foot, right foot, la de dah, walking, down a sidewalk in downtown Seattle, nowhere to go in the active task of forgetting where she's been, she comes across a bunch of tents in the park, a drum circle, some sort of meeting, people talking, making signs, demonstrating, marching back and forth, having fun, a party, a masquerade ball, people in masks and capes, like the funway at a radical political carnival, backpacks and bikes, people eating, people sleeping, people arguing, people kissing, what fairyland was this, what microcosm of all society had she stumbled into? Surely someone here could use her help.

George was pre-op and didn't give a damn if everyone knew. His days of raging queenhood were soon to be over and what was wrong with wearing his pink tutu to celebrate. He flitted about the campsite like Tinkerbell on steroids, no amount of female clothing could hide his masculine physique or his mescaline mind. What better place than Occupy to trip your brains out.

Today's magic word was rude. "How rude" George declared to the random guy who touched a donut but picked up another. Everyone was so rude these days. Maybe when he was a real woman they'd show him some respect. Meanwhile, working the food booth suited him fine.

"Hi, can I help?" He whipped around to see a disheveled housewife from hell who said "Really, just give me something to do and I'll do it." He'd seen rude before but this was beyond the pale. Who asked HER if he needed her help? Nobody.

"How rude" he said.

Martha tried to figure out how she was being rude. Nobody had ever said that to her. She wasn't being rude, she was being helpful, so that's what she said, "I only want to help."

George looked at her with new found disgust and self-loathing. If this was what it meant to be a woman, he wanted no part of it. He wanted the glamorous life, to be fabulous, which he was, fabulous, not like the star of "Housewives of Skid Row" standing in front of him. Then again, the garbage needed taking out. "You can take out the garbage" he said as a flirtatious tease.

It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to her. Somebody needed her, finally, and she was overwhelmed with a sense of well being and connection with the universe, much like the mushroom euphoria of George who was mysteriously giggling up a storm when Martha took off.

In his domain, the food tent, nothing escaped his notice. There is a fine line between a line and people just milling around, he thought. If you cut in front of a line, well, you're just being rude, but if you cut in front of a bunch of people just milling around, like that misshapen gorilla just did, what did that make you?

George was puzzling this through when suddenly "Hi, can I help?" interrupted his reverie.

OMG, here she was again. How much time has passed? He was sure he had gotten rid of her, but he had to admit the garbage was gone, not knowing she hadn't found a suitable trash bin but had just left the plastic bags full of pizza containers and coffee cups on the sidewalk around the corner. From his perspective, she had done a fine job, even though her way of creeping up on him was just, well, rude.

"Thank you, I guess you could clean up a bit," he said and she was on it. Where did those Handi-Wipes and Mr. Clean come from? Soon the whole tent was cleaner than Dubya's conscience.

Someone donated a giant bag of salad, dressing, paper plates and forks. George had on his dainty sanitary gloves with the lace frills, putting together salads by the handful, when the last speck of dirt was wiped from the table and Martha rudely exclaimed "What now?"

George started contemplating precisely what he wanted Martha to do now. Luckily, someone showed up with a stack of pizzas before something extraordinarily rude came out of his mouth. "Why don't you be a dear and distribute these at the other side of the park," he said. Martha took off with the boxes.

The salad depleted, the gloves removed, the Purell squirted into baby pink palms, George barely had a chance to rest his weary buns on the director's chair when there she was and he gave a little shriek. "OMG, what are you doing here?" Couldn't she take a hint? When someone sends you to the other side of the park to do something, you're supposed to take as long as possible getting back, but here she was, Raggedy Ann starring in the Mary Tyler Moore Show, perky, buoyant, out of her mind.

I must get rid of this woman, thought George. She is a burr in the saddle of my girlish enthusiasm.

"Have you been to City Hall?" he said.

"No, what's at City Hall?" said the marionette posing as a functional human being.

"There's another Occupy site at City Hall. I'm SURE they could use your help."

"Really? Because I want to help, I really do."

"I can see that, so you go, girl, get yourself to City Hall."

"Where is it?"

"Right down that way," he said, pointing down Fourth. "You can't miss it. It's on the same side of the street and it's an Occupy camp just like this one. They'll find something for you to do. Just follow that guy."

Propeller Man is a strong, tall, Liam Neeson type, long beard, always looking down, never talking to anyone, just walking around in circles with his suitcase on wheels and the pull-out handle, twirling occasionally, breaking into dance, not a real dance, not a dance that betrays any classical training, he isn't a Broadway chorus boy gone to seed (note to self: Write "Broadway Chorus Boy Gone to Seed".), it could only be called a dance because it follows a certain pattern, part mime, he'll surf a wave then surf it again, spin around with his arms out, reach for the sky, Feiffer's ballerina, an ode to a fucked up Grecian urn, another circle, posing then back again then gone, just walking, no longer propeller man, dour man, pissed off about something you don't want to know.

"Follow him?" said Martha.

"Yep, he's going to City Hall."


Other than sirens, traffic, snoring, not a sound. The plaza is full, everyone who has a tent is tucked into it, some in sleeping bags filling the empty spaces between the tents.

Hank appears to be asleep, sitting in a chair under the 10X12, leaning back, feet up on another chair, eyes closed, covered in blankets and sleeping bags and mittens, but secretly alert to every sound, he is, in fact, on duty, as someone must be every second.

"Hi, can I help?"

He opens his eyes. Where did this housewife come from? Who is that guy spinning around talking to himself who looks like Liam Neeson, and not the natty Liam Neeson from Schindler's List but more like one of the Warsaw Jews headed to the Pogrom, heavy jacket, wool pants, furry hat, not quite talking to himself but obviously deeply concerned about something.

"What?" is all Hank manages to say.

"I'm here to help. That pretty girl at Westlake sent me here because she said you needed help."

Hank looks at his watch. 4:30? Fuck. Everyone's due another 90 minutes of peace. "There's really nothing that needs to be done right now," he said.

"Well what's the next thing that needs to be done?"

Hank looks around. Everyone's asleep. "Well, the next thing is to wake everyone up but" before he can finish his sentence, before he can say "not till 6" or "in an hour and half," Martha is off waking everyone up.

WTH, Hank jumps from his seat, throws the blankets to the ground and chases after Martha, who is going up to each tent, shaking it, and saying, no, shouting, "Everyone up, time to get up."

And this is where I enter the picture. Everything you have read up to this point is conjecture based upon pieces of the story I was able to piece together later. But as of now, this very moment when I am woken up, I am actually there. I guarantee that some version of what I just wrote happened, but I wasn't there so I had to fill in the cracks. The rest of this story is in fact, fact.

I am asleep in my tent. At 6AM, it will be my job to wake everyone up, so why is someone waking me up? What time is it? I scramble for my watch which does not glow so I stumble for a flashlight. 4:30!? I must jump out of my tent to shut up the demon who just woke me up but fear that the sight of my near naked body might accomplish the opposite. I must get dressed. Much like Paris Hilton, I do not sleep in the same clothes I wear during the day. A certain amount of time must be devoted to getting myself together, during which time whoever was outside shouting "Wake up" to the world had actually succeeded in waking everyone up, damn my hygiene, if I'd only slept in my jeans, I might have prevented who knows how many sleeping souls from a rude awakening.

Finally, I emerge from my tent and try to keep my voice down while shouting at the what?, housewife?, cloth coat, rubber gloves, born to clean tattooed on her forehead. (I will try my hardest not to allow any fiction from the first half to permeate the second half - without good reason.)

"What the fuck are you doing?" I'm sure I must have said.

"He said I should wake everyone up," said the housewife.

Hank looks at me and says "No I didn't," trying to puzzle it out, how had things gone so terribly terribly wrong?

"Yes you did, you liar," she huffs at Hank. "You said it was the next thing to do."

"What?" I say to Hank. "Did you say that?"

"Sort of, but..." Poor Hank is perplexed. Both he and I do not know what is going on. We only know we want it to stop. I take control.

"Look, it's 4:30 in the morning. We don't have to be up till 6," I say to Cinderella, but it's too late, people are already up, making coffee, some in simple sleeping bags are packed and gone, Christ, wandering the streets of downtown Seattle at 4:30, all because of this lunatic.

Having not already read the beginning of this story, I do not know what is going on, so I do what I always do, separate the parties and actually listen to what they have to say.

But first I had to do what I never do, just what Obama had to do upon entering office, go around apologizing to everybody for someone else's mistakes. I go to each tent and explain that "you've actually got until 7 so we were going to wake you up at 6 so you'd have an hour but someone went berserk and woke you up at 4:30 so you've actually got another 2 1/2 hours." Whew! This was not how I planned on starting my day. I was thinking something more along the lines of a bagel and coffee, not a whole series of "Fuck you"s from inside tents of gin-soaked teenagers tweeting to their friends about the asshole outside their tent.

So Hank tells me his tale. He also hadn't read the beginning of this story so his tale makes no sense. All he knew was this lady showed up and he either did or did not tell her to wake everyone up, poor Hank, still trying to puzzle it through, to remember the conversation verbatim, shaking his head in a perpetual mask of confusion.

We turn around and notice Martha following in my footsteps, going up to each tent and apologizing for having woken them up before.

"Wait here, make coffee for people already up," I say to Henry, then dash after whoever that is to shut her up.

Turns out to be an easy thing to do. She is the woman who only wants to help, so all I have to say is "Would you help me over here, please?" and she follows me to a corner of the plaza where we could have some privacy and I could be a willing ear.

Her name is Martha and at some point she asks me if I could help get her kids back and I have to give this serious thought. "Yes" was out of the question. Though I very well might help, depending upon the circumstances, you do not look a crazy person in the eye and tell them you will help them anywhere but a loony bin.

The more I listen, I understand she has undergone some sort of psychological trauma, the twitches, the vacant pleading eyes, the inability to concentrate, the firm and steady demand to do something for you.

I am not qualified to diagnose anyone this far gone, and I don't want to give her false hope. She's so out there I'm not sure anything she tells me is true. In any case, as long as she is occupying the plaza, she is on my watch and my responsibility.

You know that ACORN social worker who was caught on tape offering assistance to a caricature of a prostitute and pimp who were seated before her seeking help? The one that was deliberately re-edited to make it look like taxpayer money was being spent to set up whore houses? The one that a festering boil on the anus of humanity named Andrew Breitbart (RIH) used to actually bring down ACORN, a wonderful agency that has helped millions of people?

I now realize of COURSE the social worker offered to help.

Let's say you're working at a social agency whose directive is to help people who need it.

Someone comes into your office who is clearly deranged and says "I want to build a casino on the moon. Can you help me?"

When you say yes, because that's your job, to help people, when you look them in the eye and say "Yes, I can help you," you are NOT saying you are going to help them build a casino on the moon, you are saying you are going to figure out how to get them the psychiatric help they clearly need.

And if they run out the door at that moment and shout to the world "This government agency is helping me build a casino on the moon," and the footage of the bewildered social worker is used to bring down the agency she works for, there's nothing to call that but hard core Republican and the scourge of humanity.

Who knew I'd be faced with a similar problem. When I say to her "I can help you," she may think I mean I can help her get her kids back, but what I really mean is I can help her deal with it. To not let it destroy her life like it destroyed mine. How can I look at this woman and not see myself 20 years ago when my own daughters were taken away? Look at me, I want to say, I survived, and besides, however much you may miss them now when they're cute, it may not be an even trade with the misery they may cause you when they grow up. It may be GOOD they're out of your life.

All this I do not tell her.

"What do you need? Whatever you need. I'm good at that. I can find things," almost, but not quite, Lenny in Of Mice and Men, saying how much he likes rabbits. I ask her if she has a tent or sleeping bag but no, they just left her her, no telling who "they" are. I'd get her a sleeping bag and tent tonight if she was still around, but right now? "You want a library? I can get you a library. How about carpeting? I know where there's lots of carpeting."

I picture the plaza carpeted. No. "You know what we could use?"

"What, tell me what?"

"We need to be able to post things, like schedules of meetings and GAs, a place where people can leave messages."


"We need a bulletin board" and she's off, out of the plaza and into the city.

Cool. Either we end up with a bulletin board or we never see her again. Either would be fine with me. There is only so much of other people's problems I can absorb. I might be a nice person but do not ask me to commit random acts of first aid or psychiatry upon any wounded individual. The guy with the gash on his leg will not appreciated it when I throw up on him, and the crazy person will not appreciate showing up as a crazy person in one of my short stories.

City Hall security show up to wake everyone at 6 only to find most of us are already up and hot chai is available. They continue to do their jobs for the next hour till 6:50 and everything is clear. I go back to the food tent to relax when someone runs up to me and says "You've got to come, quick."

I run out to the plaza to discover a pile of heavy 10X12 wooden pallets you see at the back of grocery stores, a bunch of flattened corrugated boxes, and Martha. "I got some nails here," she says. "I figure you can find something to use as a hammer and you can nail these boxes to those pallets and here," she fumbles in her apron, "I got toothpicks to use as thumbtacks," and she looks at me like a golden retriever who brought back a stick, waiting for me to pet her and scratch her ears and say "Good girl."

I look at my watch. I look around. The guards standing by ready to bust us for violating the permit, SNAP, just like that, we have nowhere to stay tonight. This seems a splendid opportunity to raise my voice.

"We've got two minutes to get this crap out of here!"

I do not know where it goes. I have a bad back and do not participate in the heavy lifting. I simply hold my ground, counting down the seconds, the guards on their walkie-talkies gabbing to someone above, the mayor?, the police chief?, who knows.

There is a round of applause all around as it becomes clear we have survived another day. We retreat to the tent as the hoses come out.

We look at her. At this point, she is just another in a long line of people at the bottom, propeller man, flag men 1&2, bike guy, Wolfhound, Gizmo, Vets #1&2, anarchist #47, dozens of street freaks with hundreds of maladies, so a woman flittering about the camp like Blanche Dubois going "Where are my babies?" is just par for the course.

I get on with my day, read the mayor's paper, hang out on his balcony, have fun with his secretary, and plant myself in the lobby of City Hall to Facebook and Twitter and Blog myself into a stupor right there in front of everybody. I have to do this to justify our continued occupation by exhibiting free speech. I figure muttering "fuck you" under my breath in public doesn't count, so I must commit actual free speech online every day from the hallowed lobby of City Hall. I believe on the day in question, I attended a meeting of the Sanitation Department in the Bertha Knight Landis Room where the hors d'oeuvres were delicious.

The next day is a semi-repeat. At 6 :55, the whole plaza is clear except for Mademoiselle who sits herself down in a chair in the middle of the plaza and refuses to move without her coat. It is cold. She needs it and won't budge until someone brings it to her.

I do not want to see her forcibly removed by the guards. I also do not want to dive into the three foot high pile of soaking occupy detritus that accumulates every day. I do not even know what her coat looks like and she won't tell me.

"Has anyone seen this woman's coat?" I yell.

"No, but I found her tiara and slippers," someone yells back.

Good one but sarcasm doesn't work with crazy. She believes it. "Bring them to me," she says.

I look around and find a coat. I do not know if it is hers. I might have said "your majesty" while handing it to her but I do not remember.

We have a little City Hall General Assembly and there is a consensus she has to go. Every time she helps it is a disaster and she can't stop helping. It is up to me.

Simple rule. If you want to get rid of somebody, the easiest way is not to throw them out but find them somewhere else to go.

There are few places that will take in absolutely anybody from the street, and the ones that do don't advertise or they would get inundated. So I ask around. One place sends me to another which sends me to another. Finally, I end up in a building with nothing on the ground floor and no sign whatsoever. You have to know to go in a certain door and walk around back to the stairs hidden from the street. Once up on the second floor, it is a shadow world, like the lobby of a low rent hotel, people with all their belongings sitting around in folding chairs reading newspapers and drinking coffee. A check-in desk behind glass in a wall with a door and a buzzer to let you in.

I step up and tell the guy at the desk my dilemma. He stops me and says "The woman you're describing has probably been here before. We get a lot of repeats."

I tell him her name and he says it doesn't sound familiar. "Here's how it works. We open at X and close at Y and we fill up pretty fast. No one needs a reference, just show up. You're early enough that we've got about 8 beds left. I'd say you get her here in the next 15 minutes and I can guarantee access to the common room, a bed, some food, and some counseling."

Perfect. This is exactly what she needs. I scramble outside and run to City Hall which is just a block up the hill on James.

There she is, helping. I prepare my approach. I can not just ask her to follow me.

"Martha, I need your help," I say.

Her eyes perk up. Someone needed her. "What?" she says.

"I need you to grab your things and come with me, I want to show you something."

She is suspicious. This isn't going to be easy. She has already grown roots. City Hall is home and her only connection to reality. "Where?"

"It's right down the block, see, that building right there, but you don't want to leave your stuff. We've got to get there fast so come on."

She gathers everything she calls her own and follows me down the sidewalk. Along the way I tell her I found her a place to stay, in a bed, with privacy, that she didn't have to bum a tent.

This sounds good to her but she is incredulous. "You did this for me?" she says.

"Yeah, you've got to meet this guy there. You'll see. He's cool. It's right over here."

I lead her to the nondescript building that does NOT look like a homeless shelter, through the empty lobby, and to the elevator because she has bags and bags.

Exiting the elevator, I nod to the guy behind the desk and indicate towards Martha. He shrugs like he's never seen her before. I knew it. She is not a woman wise in any way to the world of the street. She is more like a half-drowned bewildered kitten/alien washed ashore in a foreign land by a tsunami of unimaginable pain.

She steps to the window, speaks to the gentleman, then comes back and looks at me.

"You did this for me?"

"Well, yeah."

"Thank you."

Burnt in my skull. The most sincere and heartfelt thank you I have ever received in my life. A heartbreak. A monument. A shrine.

"You think they can help me get my kids back?"

I'm sure I said something reassuring. I gave her a hug and got out of there before I remembered, a broken wreck of a human without a home, similarly separated from the children I love, I've had time to heal, 20 years, but I know EXACTLY what she is going through and I wonder if I looked half as pathetic to other people when my misery was still fresh and not scabbed over with layers of emotional scar tissue ripped open again because all it takes is to be reminded, shit, sometimes being sympathetic, much less empathetic, is a real bitch and my breath starts coming fast and it all comes back, every once in a while, it seems, I must shed tears for my children, walking down the goddam street, tears for just how fucked up the world is and how impossibly helpless we are against random elements, what's the point?, it's all futile, walking, down a sidewalk in downtown Seattle, clearly just another crazy person who can't keep their emotions under control, I look at them, the others, what must they think of me, I'm not like this, goddam it, there is a difference between Martha and me but for the moment I haven't the slightest idea what that could be.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Book-It's Prairie Nocturne is a knock out

Reviewed by Michael Dare

"A story wants to be told a certain way, or it is merely the alphabet badly recited. At the right time the words borrow us, so to speak, and then out can come the unsuspected sides of things with the force like that of music.”
- Ivan Doig

The dialogue is rarely the best part of a novel. In-between the quotes, the novelist is telling you what one of their characters is saying, but outside the quotes is the author stripped bare and entirely dependent upon their particular use of language. If a character says something the reader disagrees with, they could end up hating the character, but if the TEXT says something the reader disagrees with, they could end up hating the author.

All novelists provide perspective, good ones a perspective unique to themselves, and great ones a perspective simultaneously unique and universal. Ivan Doig is one of the great ones, and I can say that despite the fact I've never read a single word he's written, because I have seen Book-It Repertory's new production of Prairie Nocturne.

I don't know how I missed him but strangely enough, I'm glad I did, because what better way to get turned on to an author than through a Book-It production. If you close your eyes, it's like a book on tape - a bunch of actors are reading a book to you - and if it's a good book, you'll keep listening. Open your eyes and there they are, in costume, on a stage, still reading to you, but going in and out of character as the book demands, sometimes doing accents and pantomime, surrounded by state of the art stagecraft, where the slightest change of set and lighting moves you instantaneously from a mountain cabin to a riverboat going down a canyon to a limousine going down the street, they give you just enough to picture it in your mind's eye, but never too much to distract from the language of the storytelling.

This time, director Laura Ferri and adaptor Elena Hartwell invite us back to the 20s in Montana to investigate the relationship between Susan, a music instructor, and the two men who love her, Monty, a singing student, and Wesley, a cattle tycoon who brought Monty to her in the first place. The triangle is complicated by the fact Wesley's married (to a wife we never meet), and Monty is black, the Klu Klux Klan is on the rampage, and he's a mama's boy. Luckily, his mama filled him with a spirit of gospel that blessed him with a voice and repertory for the ages, taking him from the backwoods of Montana all the way to Carnegie Hall. (Monty has a real-life counterpart, Taylor Gordon, who actually did go from Montana to Carnegie Hall in the 20's. Doig says "I tape-recorded his memories of those times not long before he died, familyless, in 1971, and his papers and other Harlem Renaissance archival holdings are rich with detail," details he uses to fill the book with authenticity.)

Myra Platt, as Susan, is more talented than anyone has a right to be. She not only blazes through some excellent Chopin, she co-wrote the original music to Ivan Doig's lyrics with Theresa Holmes. Despite the flashiness of the other characters, when you start wondering who this is really about, it all comes down to her, and we become as much her pupils as Monty.

Shawn Belyea does the best he can with the thankless role of Wesley, the good natured gentleman whose relationship with Susan was in the past, and who doesn't get to do much but be a man and relive the love of his life without ever reconsumating it, but Geoffery Simmons get a real star turn as Monty. With Denzel's good looks and sensitivity, plus a magnificent singing voice, watching his rise from rodeo clown (really!) to tuxedoed solo artist is totally engrossing.

Special props to Faith Russell as Angeline, Monty's mom, who not only gets one spectacular solo number in a church at the end of act one, but has one of my favorite moments of the evening, a moment I'm always looking for in a Book-It production, a moment uniquely theirs.

In the book, every time Monty sings, he's infused with the spirit of his mother, so at his first singing lesson, when he first opens up and reveals the strength of his vocal cords, she's stage left singing with him, backing him up, giving him the encouragement he needs. Obviously she doesn't do that in the book. In the movie, they might have done something schmaltzy, like in the Lion King, have his dead mother appear in the clouds to sing with him, but here, it's a subtle touch, a translation of the spirit of the book as well as the actual words. Only Book-it could have pulled it off.

February 7 - March 4, 2012
Previews: February 7, 8, 9
Opening Night: Friday, February 10

Center House Theatre, Seattle Center
Evening shows begin at 7:30pm
Matine├ęs begin at 2:00pm

Buy Tickets Online or through the box office: 206.216.0833.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Open letter to Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn

Mayor Mike McGinn
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Ave., 7th Floor
Seattle, WA 98104

January 12, 2012

Michael Dare
Seattle City Hall
600 Fourth Ave., The Peninsula
Seattle, WA 98104

Mr. Mayor,

Occupy Seattle has been occupying your front doorstep at City Hall for three months now, the longest permitted occupation in America so I'm told, which is something we have to be proud of. Though some of Occupy's clashes with the police have been horrendous, Occupy City Hall, simply through attrition, has become a role model for occupy/anything, which is strange because we haven't really done anything other than outlast the rest. That's about to end as our permit will not be renewed and we have to be out by Friday night.

Since your invitation was open ended, I'm wondering what happened this week for the city to withdraw its permission for us to occupy our small slice of City Hall. It seems capricious, unless you also consider that the only other Occupy site in town, a house on 23rd, was also shut down this week. When the trucks come to remove whatever's left of our encampment at City Hall at 7AM this Saturday morning, that will be the last remaining Occupy site in Seattle since it all started in October. The message has changed from "we'll work with you" to "we'll squash you like a bug."

There's a reason we need a presence in city hall. Everyone in the movement is grateful for the lip service of Nick Licata's resolution 31337 in favor of the basic principles of Occupy Wall Street, which passed the city council unanimously and was signed by you, but a quick scan of the contents reveal that nothing you support has actually been done. When exactly has the City of Seattle actively addressed and come up with plans to immediately modify the "sustained unemployment, growing income disparity, banking system failures, stalled earning power, unjust tax systems, and corporate influence in politics" that this resolution calls for? Maybe I missed it when some bankster was arrested for fraud or some politician volunteered to refuse to accept any corporate contributions, or when any sweet tax deal on a local corporation was rescinded. I certainly wasn't there when our rights to free speech were expanded instead of contracted. I know it's only been three months, but that's been long enough for numerous other cities to declare that corporations aren't people. Why hasn't Seattle?

That's why we need to Occupy City Hall.

Mr. Mayor, please step out on your balcony and look down at the plaza. What do you see? You see the Puget Sound in between skyscrapers, the cranes, the courthouse, the county administration, the jail, and the walkway in the sky from the jail to the courthouse, with Rainier right behind. What you don't see is the homeless shelter in the basement of city hall. You don't have to be reminded of the underprivileged unless you look to your left at the peninsula, where there's a hopeless frankentent of tarps and twine belonging to the 99%, a homeless shelter on higher ground. That's what we're doing here. The homeless movement and the 99% are joined at the hip and they are ours. We have nowhere else to go. We're here to remind you. You need to be reminded. That's what we need to Occupy City Hall.

I've been told our permit is not to be renewed due to, among other things, lack of activity. As a peacemaker, I should consider it a compliment that I've kept things calm. As a member of the Occupy movement who is willing to work with the system to achieve our goals, goals I believe we both share, our relationship has served as a gauge between the forces of revolution and the powers that be. The very little steam that has been let out at City Hall has kept the pressure down. That's why we need to Occupy City Hall.

Look down now and you see some homeless people who've moved up in the world, from the streets to the peninsula, taking on the sacred duty of simply reminding you that the Occupy Movement has not gone away, we're just the hardy ones willing to camp out all winter, and like a garden, the movement is growing roots, strong roots, roots strong enough to support a mighty political tsunami that will rock this country to its core when it's reborn this spring with greater focus, lucid organization, common goals, and bigger numbers. Is that what it takes? Do we have to gather greater numbers than the entire Seattle Police Department to convince you that policing isn't the answer we're looking for?

Nobody has gone away. We've just retreated to get our bearing, to refocus and learn from our mistakes. The Occupy Movement is a rapidly evolving social experiment unprecedented in history. Never before have so many smart techies kept the waters roiling with activity throughout the globe and, well, it's winter, so we're staying indoors, but online, right now, the decisions are being made that will make the rebirth in spring a miraculous thing. The biggest question will be how to translate the initial Wall Street rhetoric of the movement to specific local action. We camp out on your doorstep and demand you show us any any actual evidence of systemic change in the City of Seattle that has come about due to the Occupy Movement.

Nobody is in control. Occupy is anarchistic at its core, full of splinter groups, like mine, or the anarchists recently thrown out of their house on 23rd, groups who can't claim to represent the movement, only to be part of it, mingling with the homeless, the hopeless, and the insane, the 99% is nothing if not LARGE, crackheads with torches and Iraq war vets with PTSD who are pissed off and willing to fight for the 99% with all the skills they attained as servicemen, and the peaceful, thoughtful, free speech advocates fighting for change within the system, butting heads with the frustrated, enraged, testosterone charged revolutionaries who see conflict and violence as the only way to achieve our goals. We haven't come to any conclusions. Nobody knows what's going to happen except we're not going to stop. 

Mr. Mayor, the holes in the public safety net are so large that all but the fat cats fall through. We ask for economic equality. We lose our free bus zone. We've had enough. 

There is a Navajo story of the two wolves within us - good and evil, hate and love, always battling - and the one that wins is the one you feed.

Every time the Seattle police force does battle with the Occupy Movement, it feeds the anarchists who thrive on conflict. Letting us peacefully camp at city hall feeds the other wolf.

Our disappearance from City Hall will mean the Occupy movement has no location in Seattle. This is unacceptable, and like Whack-a-moles, we're sure to show up somewhere else. Let's say we occupy Westlake again tomorrow. What would you do? Send Chief Diaz after us again and simply repeat history, only this time with more American soldiers in the tents? 

You asked me to act as liaison between Chief Diaz and the Occupy movement. If I believe that all conflicts are worth avoiding, how do I do that? Call Diaz on my speed dial and beg him not to pepper spray me, tell him that if he just backs off, we'll all respect him in the morning?

If the movement has no place to call home, no place it is "occupying," it will inevitably be brought up at every General Assembly (currently being held at the convention center at least twice a week), and yes, it is random, it is what spur of the moment democracy looks like, and if the re-occupation of Westlake isn't immanent, you can bet that SOMETHING is. The movement is full of committed individuals who are not going away until practical results are achieved. They're not going to wait for the findings of an oversight committee. You're sitting on a powderkeg. Do the right thing and you can be a hero. This is what revolution looks like.  

Though our success at City Hall might seem only symbolic, it's working. I'm connected every day to dozens of occupy sites around the globe who are looking at Seattle as a role model for positive relationships between the occupy movement and city governments. They are simply astonished that an occupation has lasted this long.

We have several other sites we're looking at. I have no doubt another permit is immanent. Will you please call off the hounds and give us enough time to secure a new location before moving?

Thank you,

Michael Dare
Lobbyist for the 99%


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Paul Krassner's Predictions for 2012

Predictions for 2012

By Paul Krassner

Politics: The electoral college will be replaced by a system where voters will choose the polling firm they trust the most. Barack Obama will be re-elected because his vice-presidential running mate Joe Biden will be replaced by Hillary Clinton, thereby gaining the women’s vote. Failed Republican campaigners will all take other jobs. Mitt Romney will start smoking a pipe and portray the character Bob Dobbs in a movie about the cultish Church of the Subgenius. Newt Gingrich and Herman Cain will form The Adultery Party to run in 2016, joined by Democrats John Edwards and Bill Clinton. Ron Paul will unite with Ru Paul and they’ll perform on Dancing With the Stars. Rick Santorum will be caught in an airport bathroom stall having a gay encounter. Michelle Bachmann will launch a lie-detector company. Rick Perry will copyright the word “Oops.” And it will be revealed that Donald Trump was actually born on Mars; he will have a birth certificate to prove it, along with a photo of him as a Martian baby with the first comb-over ever.

Show Business: Vegetarian converts will include Lady Gaga, who will wear a dress made entirely of heirloom tomatoes, and Meatloaf will change his name to Tofuloaf. Hermit the Frog and Miss Piggy will win Academy Awards for best male and female actors. Angelina Jolie will legally adopt Brad Pitt. Kim Kardashian will get married and divorced on the same day. The Tea Party will become a popular sitcom. Capital-punishment executions will become a top-rated reality-TV series. The Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur live on a three-hour special to be telecast on every single channel simultaneously, with an offstage voiceover narration by God. Atheists and agnostics will picket the production, only to be struck by lightning. Howard Stern will expose himself on America’s Got Talent. The Taliban and al-Quaeda will be the final competitors on The Biggest Terrorists. Hulu and Netflix will merge as Huflix.

Fashion Trends: Square Hitler-style mustaches will finally become stylish after decades of ridicule. Botox will become a soft drink that will get rid of unwanted wrinkles from the inside. Pornography will be allowed in public libraries, but moaning out loud will definitely not be permitted. Fetus transplants from poor pregnant girls to wealthy anti-abortion women will become a controversial new fad. Arizona, Mississippi and Tennessee will refuse to recognize Leap Year. Lottery winners will be fingerprinted. Private prisons will be turned into ashrams. Inspired by Steve Jobs, many industries will continue his legacy by transforming planned obsolescence into a virtue. Prescription drugs will become children’s names, such as Ambien and Lipitor. Travel agents will begin arranging guilt trips for clients who have given up on airplanes. Combination vibrators and insomnia cures will be invented, trademarked as Dildoze. Pope Benedict XVI will permit condoms to be marketed if there are tiny pinhole pricks in the reservoir tips in order to ensure a fighting chance for spermatozoa to get through. Serial pedophiles, gay bashers and Internet hackers will form unions.

The Economy: The Department of Energy will release a report concluding that so-called “clean coal” is, in point of fact, “filthy dirty.” The Bank of America will stop doing business with Veriozon and switch to Credo. largest protest in history will take place by ongoing Occupy-the-Federal-Reserve-System demonstrations. The recession will evolve into a depression, which will end quickly as the war on drugs morphs into the legalization of every single strain of cannabis will be designated as medical marijuana. Facebook members will be taxed for every friend, Twitter users will be taxed for every letter, Monsanto will be taxed for every genetically modified food, and masturbators will be taxed for every ejaculation. The Supreme Court will download all corporations into embryos. Several million jobs will be created as Unemployment Insurance clerks.

International Relations: North Korea’s new leader will be caught cheating on his SAT examination, but he will redeem himself when he allows almost 70 McDonalds restaurants to open all over his dictatorial realm. Saudi-Arabia will outlaw laughter. Iraq will become our 51st state. Afghanistan will require all men to wear burkas. Iran will develop a nuclear bomb, than drop it by accident on Libya and Syria. World War III will be fought entirely by drone planes attempting to destroy each other in the air. Products made in China will be increasingly pirated by American entrepreneurs. Global warming will continue to melt icebergs as well as Sarah Palin’s cold heart. The world will end on December 21st, but will begin all over again on December 23rd, just in time for last-minute Christmas shopping. The most popular gift will be cans of pepper-spray in a variety of flavors. Pakistan will continue to be bribed by us. The Nobel Peace Prize will be secretly awarded to Anonymous.

Paul Krassner is the publisher of the infamous Disneyland Memorial Orgy poster. His latest book is an expanded and updated edition of his autobiography, Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture, available at  and as a Kindle e-book.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Personal message to everyone who thinks the permit holder for Occupy Seattle should be on a rotating basis

I have accepted the personal invitation of the Mayor of Seattle to occupy City Hall for more than two months now, making this the most successful and long-lived occupancy in America. No one else did that. Not to go all Ayn Rand on your ass, but I did that, and without one single penny of funds or ounce of encouragement from the Occupy movement. Mike McGinn has been kind enough to offer me, not you, a permit to sign every week, and every week I have accepted. This occupation is only continuing because I now have a proven track record of making agreements with the city and abiding by them. The only other person in Seattle with such a track record is Vivian McPeak, permit holder for Hempfest for 20 years, my mentor, and the only person I consulted before signing my first permit. (FYI, he considers the idea of "rotating permit holder" to be absurd and counter-productive, and I'm infinitely more prone to listen to his advice than anyone else's.)

There is no precedent for any of this. We're all blazing trails in the wilderness. We can't follow any previous revolutionary model. This is a new thing. I'm not following any game plan other than keeping it alive. A US mayor offering a chunk of city fucking hall to a political organization in order for then to live and thrive so they can expel corruption from the bowels of government in conjunction with hundreds of other Occupy sites around the world? Impossible. Yet it's happening because I've persevered when others gave up, I actually trust that Mayor McGinn and the city council have got the movement's back, and I won't let this incredible relationship be jeopardized by some peculiar notion that personal success must be punished and all duties must be shared. 

It's not like it was ever my goal in life to be a permit holder. The only reason I am one is because nobody else was willing to step up and sign the paper, but this isn't what I want to do. I want to write best-selling novels and make movies in Hollywood with a swimming pool full of bimbos. Instead, I'm a permit holder in a leaky tent in Seattle. C'est la fucking vie. If anyone else wants the duties of permit holder, I got no problem delegating authority. You want to run the tent, all you've got to do is ask. You want me to tell the city that your signature is as trustworthy as mine, I won't, because I don't know that. I just met all of you, and we're the easiest organization on earth to infiltrate. I have no idea what you have in mind. You might be a CIA agent or undercover cop or just plain psycho out to destabilize the movement, because that's what a "rotating" leadership is, destabilized.

The only person who can evict Occupy Seattle from city hall is Mayor Mike McGinn, and he can do it with a snap of his fingers by simple withdrawing his invitation. We mysteriously have a relationship of respect, made obvious when the Mayor emailed my phone number to Police Chief Diaz as the person to talk to if he has any more problems with the Occupy movement. I've asked to be on the police oversight committee, where I believe the Occupy movement needs to be represented. Anyone else ask to be on that committee? Please don't be shocked if it turns out to be me just because I was the only one who asked. (More likely, no one from Occupy.)

In any case, as long as a permit is offered me, I will accept it. We are not a leaderless movement, we are a leaderful movement. If anyone else wants a permit, please, I actively encourage you to go get one. We need more Occupy sites. I hope to inspire you. But this one's mine.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

An Occupied Hempfest Christmas

Occupy Seattle met at Gasworks for a pot luck Christmas eve dinner.
There was an overabundance of sweets. If you're diabetic, you might have died. 
There was real food too, ham and turkey and salad and stuffing. Everyone was well fed.
The fire was nice and just the thing we need at all the other Occupy sites in winter. (Good luck with it.)
The only ones who had anything to complain about were the actual occupants of Gasworks, the homeless who were living there under the radar, and who worried that Occupy Seattle would draw attention to them and get them thrown out. They were sitting at their own table saying "Fuck the Occupiers, they're going to ruin this for everybody if they set up camp." Luckily, even though the invitation was made, nobody set up tents, and the actual occupiers of Gasworks were free to remain. This is a problem we have to face. The Occupy movement has got to advocate for the homeless and not fuck things up for them. They are us. 
The next morning, Christmas day, Hempfest had its annual drug war protest at the city jail. It was a trek for everyone else to get downtown. For me, it was just a walk across the street from the Occupy tent at city hall.
It's a strange event, sad but hopeful...
that nobody sees...
the streets are almost vacant...
but we're not doing it for them,
we're doing it for everybody in this horrible building who doesn't belong... 
and we know they can't hear us when we sing them Christmas carols... 
but we do it anyway... 
hoping every prisoner on earth who is a victim of the drug war can somehow feel our presence, that there's someone out here who cares, because what else are we going to do...
let the DEA get away with ruining lives,
destroying families, 
preventing sick people from getting their legitimate medicine,
and refusing to budge on the issue until every corporation currently making a killing on the outlawing of pot gets to wet their beak on the decriminalization?
When it should be free, with no more regulation than tomatoes, as safe as a medicine can be, a sacrament, a blessing, and the greatest and most useful plant on earth.
We wish you a marijuana,
We wish you a marijuana,
We wish you a marijuana,
and a hempy new year.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Protesters in Westlake for a major American hero

Does being a liaison between Occupy Seattle and the Chief of Police make me a traitor?

I live at city hall. The first thing I do every morning is read the mayor's newspaper in his waiting room on the 7th floor. This morning, the lead story concerned the US Justice department ripping the Seattle Police department a new one for its use of excessive force. They were particularly hard on Chief of Police John Diaz who was actively defending his department.

Ever see a picture in a newspaper and look up to see that person standing in front of you? Chief Diaz came right out of the elevator and went in to a meeting with the Mayor.

Afterwards, they both emerged from McGinn's office and stood there talking in front of me. God knows what inspired me to butt my ugly head into a conversation between the Mayor and the Chief of Police, but I walked right up to introduce myself. I thanked Mayor McGinn for making our site at City Hall the most successful and long-lived in America. He said he was waiting for someone to notice that.

Diaz saw this happen, an open and trusting relationship between the mayor and an occupier, so I took advantage of the moment. I told Chief Diaz that I was from the Hempfest and used to working with the police to put on protest events. I offered myself as a liaison between himself and the movement, making it very clear that I was taking this action unilaterally, without approval from the general assembly, but I was deliberately disobeying the rule not to talk to police because we need a dialogue going. I was very clear I was speaking only for myself, not FOR the movement, but simply as a member OF the movement. He agreed and asked for my contact information.

I searched for a pen. He searched for a pen. Mayor McGinn told me to just give my information to his secretary and she would send it on.

Cool. When Chief Diaz got back to his office, there was an email waiting for him from the Mayor saying if he ever had any problems with the Occupy Movement, give Michael Dare a call. Hilarious. I'm not holding my breath.

In any case, Mayor McGinn was more than pleased to see such an exchange, and renewed his commitment to working with those in the movement willing to work with instead of against the system. He agreed to sit down later to discuss the future of the movement and how we can work together to further both of our goals.

Like it or not, Occupy Seattle now has a liaison with the Mayor's office and the Police Department.

I posted this information to an Occupy group and someone responded with this... "If you talk to a cop and he beats you then you are a hero. If you talk to a cop and both you and the cop are civil and even discuss your different opinions.... Well then you're just a snitch and a traitor! But good for you!"

Let me clarify what I believe a "liaison" does by inventing a fantasy situation.

Let's say we're gathered somewhere surrounded by police. We are quite rationally fearful of getting pepper-sprayed or worse, so we prepare for a clash.

The liaison walks up to the police and says "Hi guys, what's up? Why are you here? What are we doing wrong?"

The police say "It's the candle."

The liaison says "What?"

The police say "You can't have an open flame."

The liaison says "You've got to be kidding me. You're not here to suppress free speech?"

The police say "You can have as much free speech as you want. What you can't have is an open flame."

The liaison says "So if we blow out that candle, you'll go away?"

The police say "Yep."

The liaison walks back to the Occupy gathering and says "All they care about is the candle. Blow out the candle and the cops will go away."

The liaison is stared at in disbelief. Somebody takes it upon themselves to blow out the candle just to see what will happen. The cops go away.

Voila. Incident averted. A peaceful protest is allowed to continue because somebody talked to the police.

This is obviously over-simplified but you get the idea. Sometimes mis-communication is the only problem. The police don't know what we're doing so they are naturally fearful of entering the situation. Their entire training has to do with how to handle unstable situations. As for being a "snitch," sometimes, literally, all the police need to know is what we're doing.

Once again, let's say we're gathered in a park. The police are there prepared for anything because they don't know what we're going to do. Somebody goes up to them and says "We're marching from here to the Federal building for a short rally, then returning here."

The police have an INSTANT change of tactics. Knowing where we're going and what route we're taking, the police move in front of us to CLEAR THE ROUTE. Suddenly, they're working FOR us to make sure nobody gets hurt.

Okay, this tactic wouldn't have worked at the docks where we were clearly breaking the law, but there have been other situations where all we were doing was exhibiting free speech. In those situations, violence can have be completely averted by simply informing the police ahead of time where we're marching, 

As a liaison, obviously I know a lot of things I'm not telling the police, like where marijuana grow rooms are situated in Seattle, or where Jimmy Hoffa is buried. (In one of the grow rooms.) But if I tell the police "We're going to be meeting here at this time and marching to there at that time," does that make me a police informant? Not any more than Vivian McPeak is a police informant when he tells the Seattle Police department that hundreds of thousands of people are going to be gathering in Myrtle Edwards Park in an open act of civil disobedience in protest against the War on Drugs.

Hempfest is the world's largest peaceful protest rally. In a city park. With the co-operation of the Mayor and Police. This is a city that lets Hempfest happen. This is a city that will let the Occupy movement happen. All you've got to do is talk to them.