G.A. Minutes 10-1-16
The air is actually slightly chilly when we arrive at People’s Plaza this evening. Skies are overcast, temperatures are in the high 50s and there is a slight, variable wind. We quickly set up the fire circle; the Fire Magician gets a big roaring fire going. We move up close and are immediately comforted by the heat.
An Occupier apologizes to the group, “I suppose you all noticed that I didn’t post any minutes from last Tuesday’s meeting. Sorry about that. Remember that I was gonna give that young pregnant girl a ride up to the Neighborhood Socialite’s house after we packed up? Well the socialite was already sleeping. The young girl didn’t have anywhere else to go except to a family member’s house way the heck out past Gary, New Duluth.
“I just couldn’t leave her out in the street so I gave her a ride there. I have a daughter of my own and she got herself into a few jams when she was away at college. She was saved by complete strangers and for that I am eternally grateful.
“We had to go through tons of road construction and it took forever. It was at least midnight by the time I got home. I was tired so I just went to bed. Too bad because it was kinda fun sitting around the fire in the light rain at our last meeting”.
Our first visitors are the multiracial couple who are staying at the CHUM. Although they have more than enough money to pay all the expenses required to rent an apartment and they have clean backgrounds, they are still having trouble finding a landlord who will rent to them.
The couple has brought a few friends from the CHUM along. The men are engaged in an animated conversation about video games. We have no idea what it’s all about; they are talking about the characters in the game as though the characters were actually real people. Whatever.
A pair of Native young men come up. They ask permission to get snacks, smudging before they take food. It appears they are in a romantic relationship. They take seats.
We had noticed the partner of the Stylish Native Woman sitting toward the back of the Plaza when we arrived. We waved to him knowing to just leave him alone. We know he sometimes needs space and will stop over when he’s ready.
The partner now comes over and gets some juice and a sandwich. As he takes his seat we see he looks absolutely exhausted. He falls asleep sitting up. After a while he gets up and leaves. He’s unable to talk tonight. We think he knows that we understand.
Someone mentions Standing Rock. It turns out that the multiracial couple is well aware of what’s going on there. They take turns telling us about the evils of fossil fuels, the various types of sustainable energy available and the necessity of protecting and caring for our Mother Earth. We already know this stuff but it’s way cool to hear street folks expressing this knowledge.
Menagerie Woman and Bush Man arrive. Bush Man is not drunk this time. His personality is the same but he’s way laid back and mellow. This is good.
The city official joins us. An Occupier comments to him, “We had a pleasantly weird meeting with Officer Lepak last Thursday. He told us he finds the whole situation just as ridiculous as we do. He said, ‘Everyone knows that your fires at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial were beneficial to the neighborhood. All the City departments are in support of your fires there. All except the CJMM BOD. I know the BOD has no legal authority over CJMM but somehow they are able to make the police department, fire department and the City Attorney dance to their tune. I just don’t get it’.
“We told him we’d be happy to go back to CJMM but that we’re more interested in having a community fire than we are in fighting with the cops.
“I wonder if the former CJMM BOD president knows some type of dirt about the City Attorney or the inner workings of the City and is using it to get his misguided way.”
The official man responds, “That’s entirely possible. It’s a very common thing within government”. Another Occupier adds, “I wonder if we could file a civil lawsuit”. The official answers, “I wish you would”.
The Occupier who does basic research says, “Well, I was starting to look for a pro bono attorney before we found out that the City Attorney was going to make new rules for CJMM. Maybe I’ll have more time once winter happens and I’ll be able to resume my search”.
The city man comments about the young man who was found dead a few blocks from the Plaza. He states, “The poor young man was a star college athlete and musician from an upstanding African family living here in Duluth. He had a brilliant future ahead of him. It’s so sad”.
An Occupier tells him, “The main homeless outreach worker said she had been trying to get him admitted to the hospital the day before. She said the young man was having an obvious mental health crisis but the hospital would not let him in because he wasn’t suicidal. She said the man’s death was not a suicide or homicide”. Another Occupier remarks, “Sometimes athletes have undiagnosed heart problems and things like that. Then all of a sudden they die”.
Changing the subject, an Occupier says to the city man, “Remember that Idle No More/Northwoods Wolf Alliance will be having their next NDN Taco Sale on this upcoming Friday 11am-2pm at the Washington Center. People will need to enter by the NYS door which is the one closest to 3rd Street. I think there will be some confusion the first time about how to get there but it’s really not hard to figure out”.
Ms. Community Cleanup comes up the stairs. She is accompanied by two of the biggest drunks on the street. We know them well; they’re pretty mellow guys but they sure do drink. Ms. Cleanup is not drunk. She tells us, “I’m using marijuana now. It works better for me”. The two guys appear to be only half drunk…… for now.
Two other young men appear. They were attracted by the smell of the burning sage. They tell us they are from Cass Lake and are in Duluth because they are both in treatment. They smudge themselves and one guy says, “This is so unbelievably wonderful that you do this for the people. Thank you very much”.
The other guy adds, “You wouldn’t happen to have a little bit of sage that we could take with us, would you? In treatment they don’t let us smudge whenever we need to. Smudging is the best thing for a person whenever they’re feeling down”. We give them a couple of handfuls of loose sage leaves.
The city official comments to the group, “The movie Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi is going to be shown on Sunday, October 23rd at Trepanier Hall”.
An Occupier tells about some millennial transgender people who gave a presentation at the U.U. Church. He tells us that when addressing a person who is gender non-specific one should use the pronoun zee.
Bush Man says, “WTF? What are you talking about? A person who is both male and female?” We say that’s not exactly it but we decline to explain more. The city official states, “I’m not going to do that. I will simply address the person as a human being”. An Occupier groans and another Occupier says to her, “You don’t support gender non-specific people?” She responds, “No, that’s not it. I already speak two languages and am trying to learn a third. I just don’t want to have to learn a gender non-specific one too”.
Someone looks up at the sky and comments, “Tonight there is a Black Moon”. Another adds, “The moon is actually there but we can’t see it because its backside is facing us. Its backside is the one that doesn’t face the sun. Also, it’s called a Black Moon because it’s the second new moon of the month”. Cool.
A man from the Skinner who has been a regular attendee at our fires for years sits down. He never talks much. Tonight he says, “So how’s everybody doing?”
Suddenly we hear yelling from out on the intersection behind the bushes. We hear a male voice shout, “No officer! Don’t do that!” Some Occupiers run quickly and peer over the bushes. They shrug their shoulders and return. Apparently someone is making a video.
Most of the fire worshippers have gone; only Occupiers remain. We watch the flames and think about packing up. A thirty something man who we don’t know sits down. He asks if he may join us. When we welcome him and give him some coffee he tells us a sad and very long story.
A condensed version of his story is as follows: He says he’s from Mankato and is visiting Duluth for the first time. He was sober for eight years and then he fell off the wagon. A neighbor convinced him to sell a small amount of meth for her. It turned out that the neighbor was in trouble for welfare fraud. She agreed to help the narcs in order to be absolved of her legal woes. When the dude sold the meth to an undercover cop, he was busted and ended up in drug court.
He was sent to several treatment places and until today had been sober for six months. He was allowed to take his parents brand new fancy car and bring his girlfriend and his three kids up to Duluth for the weekend. They went to Grandma’s Restaurant earlier and he had a drink. On their way back to the hotel, with him driving, some woman crashed into his car. He realized that he’d had a drink, had his three kids in the car, and then had an accident. He sort of freaked out. His girlfriend told him to just leave them all alone and to go for a walk.
So that’s how he found us. He says he feels very guilty. We listen to him for a while then tell him we need to pack up. An Occupier advises, “If you’re going to keep walking, be sure to stay on this street. It’s called Superior Street. Do notgo up the hill onto First Street”.
As we’re leaving an Occupier calls out, “The weather people say it’s going to rain on Tuesday”. If it doesn’t rain we’ll be back at People’s Plaza next Tuesday. If it rains, we’ll go to Coney Island.