G.A. Minutes 5-24-16
When it comes to the weather in Duluth, things are getting curioser and curioser almost every day.
It rained heavily all Monday evening, night and into the early morning. Today the sky was perfectly clear, the sun shined brightly and temperatures were in the high 70s. About 5 minutes before most of us were leaving various places and cruising over to People’s Plaza, a thick fog rolled in. Temperatures dropped at least 20 degrees and a strong east wind kicked up.
Fortunately, Occupiers are veteran recreational fire attendees so we always come prepared for changes. We put on our spare socks, pants and jackets. We’d expected to have a small courtesy fire but we always bring plenty of wood so we’re good to go in that department too.
The Fire Magician gets a big fire roaring and we sit around and watch people who are wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts scurry along the street.
An Occupier spots a small knife and a pack of cigarettes sitting on one of the benches. He puts them in his pocket. It’s never a good idea to leave a knife lying around any area frequented by substance abusing folks. The place is quite a mess tonight. The Occupier who likes to clean things begins doing so.
A pretty young Native woman walks up. She says, “I think I’ve been to your fires before when they were up at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. I can tell that it’s safe here, can I sit down?”
We welcome her and she tells us her story, “I live in Cass Lake. I have schizo affect disorder and have to come down here twice a year to see my psychiatrist. There is medicine that I could take to help me cope but I can’t take it because I always overdose and end up in ICU on a breathing machine.
“I was institutionalized when I was 16 and when I turned 18 I was sent to prison for 7 years. When I was there I got my GED and I read a lot of books on psychology. I have a pretty good understanding of the mental illness I have. I also have a pretty good understanding of what other people are about. I’ve only been out for a couple of years.
“I’m required to have meetings with my psychiatrist for 2 weeks so I have to stay at CHUM while I’m here. I don’t like staying at CHUM because the staff and the other residents ask me all kinds of personal questions. I don’t like talking to people very much. It makes me afraid and I don’t understand what it is that they want from me but I know they always want something.
“When I leave CHUM I just walk the streets of downtown. I’m afraid someone is following me. I understand that probably no one is following me but I still think they are. Sometimes I go up on 1st St. and hang around and drink with the people there.
“I don’t like doing that either because men always put their arms around me, touch me and tell me they want to take care of me. Most of these men are crazier than I am. The women who were in prison with me know how I am and they leave me alone. The other women call me a bitch and a whore and they always want to fight”.
We have just been listening. An Occupier comments, “It could be because you’re a new woman on the scene; the men want to see if they can run their game on you. The women are jealous of the attention you’re getting”.
The young woman replies, “Where ever I go, men want to get close to me and talk to me. A guy at the casino told me it’s because so many of the Native women around here sell themselves. Well, I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to have sex with anyone. I just want to be left alone. I wish I was invisible.
“My family in Cass Lake don’t really care much about me. When I’m home I like to sit and drink with the old men. I feel safe with them but my mother yells at me and tells me I’m supposed to do something with my life.
“When I saw my psychiatrist today, I asked him to commit me to the psych ward where I could be safe. He said no, he wouldn’t do that. He said I know what’s going on and I need to learn how to function in society”.
About the time the young Native woman arrived, a young Native man also joined us. He’s been to our past fires many times. He usually just sits quietly and gazes into the flames. The young woman greeted him with “Boozhoo”. He smiled shyly and took a seat on the opposite side of the circle.
After she finishes telling her story, she says to the young man, “You’ve been so polite and haven’t tried to hit on me. Would you like a drink of vodka?” He shyly declines then quietly leaves.
The pretty woman turns to the Occupiers and explains, “The reason I told you all this personal stuff is because I can tell that you don’t want anything from me. I know you all just sit and listen to people. Thank you for the therapy session”. She goes off to look for a few of the more amiable street women.
We think she told quite a story. We also think that it’s sad she should be mandated to come all the way down to Duluth but that she is given no secure place to stay. We think that the situation is out of the control of her psychiatrist or that he doesn’t realize the serious stress involved in staying at CHUM or hanging on the street.
The young chronically homeless man arrives. He’s dressed for the current weather and informs us that the benches at the Plaza are no longer safe to sleep on at night. He says the police come by every night around 11pm and roust whomever they find. He tells us of the place close by the Plaza where he sleeps these days. The cops haven’t figured that one out yet.
The Occupier who lives in Superior checks in. He states, “As usual, I’m a little behind. What’s going on that I don’t know about?” An Occupier answers, “Well, were planning to attend the Juneteenth Celebration in Superior on Saturday June 18th 2pm-7pm. I’ll make a big salad.
“The next Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance NDN Taco Sale will be Friday June 3rd 11am-2pm. We’re going to be short a few of the regular helpers so will need to find some others who will help. Also, the March Against Monsanto scheduled for this upcoming Saturday has been cancelled. I don’t know the whole story; I was just told it was due to circumstances beyond their control.
“Anyway, it’s supposed to be raining like crazy on Saturday. We’re thinking we won’t have a meeting at all that day. Most of us have so many things we have to catch up on”.
The cleaning Occupier is finished now. Our area of People’s Plaza is immaculate.
The city official stops by. He’s going off to a Puerto Rican dinner again. He shows us a picture of the cleaning job that has been done behind CJMM and reports, “It’s not finished yet but at least it’s being done. Maybe my making some noise about it helped get things moving”.
We go on to discuss the situation with the DTA buses and Michigan St. being closed. The official comments, “MN Power waited until the new Depot bus terminal was finished and then they said they needed to close down the street. They could have closed it while the terminal was being built. Apparently, they don’t care about the needs of regular people”.
We also talk about the fact that the City Council agreed to table the discussion about new low income housing. Someone observes, “They sure don’t table any discussion about giving loans or tax breaks to millionaires who want to build more unnecessary high end housing”.
The woman who lives with an animal menagerie rides up on her bike. She’s all dressed up and wears a flower in her hair. She tells us, “I was supposed to go on a date but the guy never showed up”.
The quiet Native man returns. He’s gone home and changed into warmer clothing. He smudges, gets a little food and quietly disappears.
A tall, slender African American walks by. He looks around and asks, “Did any of you see a small knife lying around here somewhere?” An Occupier takes the knife and cigarettes out of his pocket and gives them to the man. The tall man is very happy and exclaims, “Wonderful! That knife was given to me by a close friend. It means a lot to me. I can’t believe I left it just sitting here. And you have my cigarettes too. You guys really rock!”
Another tall slender African American man comes up the stairs with the question “Do you folks have any food left?” An Occupier responds, “We’re just about to leave so you’d be helping us out by taking everything that’s left”. No problem, the dude puts most of the remaining cookies and sandwiches in his backpack, says thanks and goes on his way.
So according to the weather people, there’s at least a 70% chance of rain for next Saturday. We’ll take the night off and catch up on mandatory paperwork. We plan to be back here next Tuesday because it can’t rain forever……Right?