G.A. Minutes 7-4-17
Peoples Plaza is completely empty as the first Occupiers arrive for their weekly fire circle this evening. We realize that many of the street people received their small monthly government checks a few days ago. That means many of them will be off somewhere indulging in their substance of choice. However, there are no people of any sort on the street; there are lots of cars though. Whatever…. we take our time setting up the food, chairs and such and wait to see what happens.
It’s slightly chilly for an early July evening; the sky is partly cloudy; the temperature is in the mid-60s. A slight eastern breeze is responsible for the chill. The Fire Magician prepares the fire pit for a big fire but says he’ll wait to light it until the sun goes behind the buildings.
A 30 something, probably white, street man who is vaguely familiar to us takes a seat on a bench just outside of the circle. We say hello but he doesn’t acknowledge us. It appears he is having a quiet conversation with someone who we can’t see.
Our next visitor is the African American gay guy from Chicago who we met last week. He says, “Oh good, you’re here. I thought you said every Tuesday”. He seems kinda sad; when an Occupier asks if he’s o.k, he answers, “These last few days have been really stressful for me. My living situation is chaotic and all the fireworks going off all over the place are really getting on my nerves. I’ll be glad when I get my own place so I can have things the way I like them”.
The city official arrives; he’s still carrying his cane but he doesn’t need to use it. His knee has healed considerably so he takes the cane “just in case”. An Occupier says to him, “Say, I heard the Damiano will be needing a new executive director”. The city man verifies that particular rumor as true. The Occupier continues, “If they put the position out to the public you should apply. You have the experience needed and would be good at that job. The city man agrees, “Yes, I think I will apply; it probably wouldn’t interfere with my radio show”.
The sun is behind the buildings now so the Fire Magician starts up the fire. It roars up right away, protecting us against the cold wind.
A Native young woman who we don’t know sits down. Her behavior is boisterous and she appears to be drunk. She’s somewhat over weight and is wearing a thin ankle length skirt that has a side split going all the way up to the waist band. All her “stuff” is hanging out and it looks like she’s not wearing any underwear. She bounces from chair to chair, attempting to rub up against whoever is sitting there. Trust me; it is not a pretty sight.
When she gets to the chair that holds the Chicago Man she stops. Apparently, he’s the one who strikes her fancy. Chicago Man is polite; he listens to her conversation for a little while. It’s obvious she is making him feel uncomfortable; he gets up and gets some food from the table. She follows him; he moves away from the circle. She turns to the Occupiers and asks, “Is it o.k. if I bring my boyfriend here”. We say, “No problem” and she leaves.
Unfortunately, she quickly returns with a tall, slender young Native man in tow. We think we have met this young man in the past. He says hello then bends over, puts his head in his hands and just sits there. She resumes stalking Chicago Man. He briefly plays her game but we can see he’s getting annoyed.
At one point her boyfriend gets up and bends over the side bushes. An Occupier opines, “It looks like your boyfriend is throwing up over there in the bushes”. She checks on him briefly then returns to resume her stalking. However, (surprise, surprise) Chicago Man has disappeared.
The Anonymous group rolls up. They decide to just hang out around the fire. Seeing as Chicago Man is gone, the half-naked woman starts rubbing herself on all the male Anons. They are not pleased but refrain from insulting or yelling at her. They crank up their music.
An older Native man who looks very familiar to us stumbles in. He tells us he has been drinking continuously for 2 days. He asks the city official to call his sister who lives on the top of the hill and tell her that he (the drunken man) needs a ride home. The official man complies and relays the sister’s message that the drunken man is not allowed to come home when he’s drunk. That’s when we remember the dude. He was always coming to our fires up at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial and asking folks to call his sister.
The drunken old guy thanks him, then tells him, “You know, I really don’t like the way you’ve been treating your woman. It’s not right”. The city man is not married; he doesn’t even have a girlfriend. He responds, “Sorry, it’s not me. You have me confused with someone else”. The mistaken man replies, “But how can that be? I was just talking to your old lady today and she told me how bad you treat her”. The city man stands his ground.
The confused old guy turns to one of the Occupiers and growls, “I know who you are…..Cop Caller! All I have to say to you is FUCK OFF!!!” The Occupiers have become used to this alcoholic mistaken identity thing so she tells him, “Nope, it’s not me. You’re thinking of someone else”. He looks real closely at her and sighs, “I guess you’re right. I was wondering what happened to all your curls”.
The boyfriend of Half-Naked Woman has revived somewhat. He’s showing off his veins and track marks to the mistaken man. The mistaken man is impressed. The boyfriend calls over to Half-Naked Woman who is still busy rubbing up on folks, “Get over here and sit down!” She comes to sit beside him but she’s still squirming. He says softly but firmly, “What did I just tell you? Sit down and shut up!” She complies.
All evening the cops have been buzzing around with their sirens blaring and their lights flashing. There’s been fire trucks and ambulances too. Sometimes they go up the hill but mostly they’ve been heading for the freeway or Canal Park. We think there are probably some car accidents on the freeway. We doubt anybody is rioting down in Canal Park.
The Plaza is rapidly filling up with lots of people. Most of them are street folks who appear to be really wasted. There’s the little veteran homeless dude whose mom stops by the fire when she’s looking for him, the schizophrenic middle aged man from the Skinner, the handsome, dark haired, furry schizophrenic guy who rants around the neighborhood and many others. We wave to them, they wave back but they know not to sit in the circle when they’re too fucked up.
An Occupier looks around the Plaza at all the incoherent people staggering around and comments, “Well, at least the music from the Anons is good”.
Menagerie Woman and her best friend arrive; they’ve come in the friend’s car tonight and brought 3 dogs with them. We give water to the dogs. Bush Man is down in the Cities staying in some type of mental health care facility. The friend tells us she is in the process of moving. She’s been living in a large public housing building where everything is really nuts. Things are looking up though; she’s managed to find a larger apartment in a smaller building where she will have a patio and the opportunity to garden. She reports that the housing authority is now giving out housing vouchers that have a 90 day time frame as opposed to the previous ones that had a timeframe of 30 days. Apparently, the Duluth housing market for poor people is so tight that the housing people know it will be close to impossible for poor people to find somewhere to live.
The friend notices Half-Naked Woman sitting next to her boyfriend with her stuff hanging out. The friend states, “It looks like your skirt has come apart. Would you like me to help you fix it?” The Woman seems to notice for the first time that her skirt is open and replies, “Yes please”. The friend sees that the skirt has little buttons all down the slit and she begins buttoning them up. She advises, “You probably won’t be able to wear this again. Some of the buttons are missing and the skirt is a little too small for you”.
Another young Native man who visited our CJMM fires frequently appears. We haven’t seen him since we moved to People’s Plaza 2 years ago. This particular man always seemed to have his shit at least half way together. It appears he knows the Woman and her boyfriend well. He speaks to them sternly, “These people work really hard to make this fire and food for us. You need to respect it!”
The couple doesn’t say anything; they just get up and leave. The Anons are leaving too. They’re going to find a place by the lake where they can watch the fireworks. The half way together young man goes with them. It’s almost 10pm so most everyone in the space scurries off to find a watching spot. The Occupiers stay behind; they’re kinda conflicted about fireworks and the whole 4th of July charade.
As we are packing up, Chicago Man returns. He asks, “Has she gone yet?” We assure him that she has. He sits down next to an Occupier and sighs, “She was getting really annoying. July is a really bad month for me. It’s the month that my partner died, the month that his family that didn’t care about him when he was alive came into the picture and also the month of his funeral. I was allowed to attend the funeral but after that they just didn’t have any use for me”. We emphasize but don’t know what to tell him except that his pain will probably lessen with time.
As we are leaving, an Occupier comments, “Man, this was the weirdest meeting we had here. We didn’t even get to discuss anything on our agenda”. Another Occupier adds, “Yeah, I’ve always thought that I wanted to go back to CJMM to have our fires. Things were always much more active and dramatic there. After tonight, I’ve changed my mind. The Plaza is just fine with me”.
On that note, we plan to be back at People’s Plaza next Tuesday.
G.A. Minutes 7-4-17