G.A. Minutes 5-22-18
We sure got lucky tonight at Peoples Plaza; the weather just rocks. When the first Occupiers roll up, the temperature is in the 60s, the sky is clear and a light southern breeze pays an occasional visit. Several guys from the Anonymous crew are already in the Plaza; they’ve been chalking again. This time they hit Wells Fargo and US Bank; good for them.
The Occupier who brings most of the food says, “Man, we just made it here under the wire this time. We were running around like crazy, trying to get everything together and get here on time. We made it though and I think we have everything”. The Anons haul all the food out of the Food Occupier’s car then help the Fire Magician set up the circle, the fire pit and a table. When they are finished, an Anon comments, “I think there’s something missing here”. The Fire Magician exclaims, “Oh crap! I forgot the bucket that sits under the fire pit; I’ll go back home and get it right away. He jumps in the Food Occupier’s car and takes off; it’s a good thing he lives just a few blocks away. He returns in a very short time and makes a small fire; we have the chairs sitting a good way from the fire pit as we probably won’t need the fire’s warmth tonight. The smell and sound are nice though; the fire also serves as a focal point for people to focus their energy.
Our first visitors are Menagerie Woman, Bush Man and two little dogs. We have not seen them since mid-October of last year when we were forced to discontinue our fires due to an early winter. At that time, Bush Man was in some type of a mental health facility and it was unclear if he and Menagerie Woman would stay together as a couple. Well here they are, still together. They tell us that Bush Man has been in mental health facilities several times over the winter; he’s now staying up the hill a bit in a halfway house. The outside visitation policy at this house is generous so as long as Bush Man attends all his scheduled classes and meetings, he’s able to spend many days and nights staying in the home of Menagerie Woman. He informs us that he hasn’t had a drink of alcohol in four days. Considering how he used to be, four days is an absolute miracle; we all congratulate him.
A couple of folks who we haven’t met in the past arrive, get food and drinks and take seats in the circle. They appear to be people of the street. An Occupier informs everyone, “There was a forum up at the Damiano at 5pm tonight called Beyond Backgrounds. I would have liked to attend but had too much work to do in order to get stuff ready for our fire circle. Anyway, it was about how people who have felonies on their record have a very hard time finding an apartment to rent. I believe the event was created by folks who have that felony problem. The female of the unknown couple nods toward her partner and informs us, “That’s his problem exactly, he has a felony; he served his time in prison but even though he’s out now, no one will rent to him”. The Occupier adds, “Yeah, I know that all of the low income public housing places refuse to rent to anyone who has a felony. That really sucks! Anyone who has finished their time in prison and is out should be given the same so called rights afforded to all other citizens. I hear that local housing advocates are formulating plans to get housing for so called ex-cons. That’s kinda why I wanted to go to their forum so I could hear what they have going on. I know quite a few peeps with felonies who could seriously benefit from having a place of their own”.
An occasional Anon, who has somewhat of a drinking problem, arrives. He brings three guys with him; two of them appear to be pretty drunk, the other one appears to be really, really drunk. The two pretty drunk dudes are helping the really drunk dude to stand and to walk; they’re not having much luck. One of them runs over to the water jug saying, “We’ve got to get this guy some water!” An Occupier thinks to herself, “Looks like he could use a stretcher too”. The drunk dudes all go to sit on a side bench outside of the fire circle. The occasional Anon sits up on the ledge that overlooks the fire circle; he comments, “This is so weird! Those guys are all drunk and I’m not. I haven’t had a drink in 5 days; isn’t that weird?” We assure him that while it may be unusual, it’s not weird and we encourage him to maintain his sobriety.
Another Occupier remarks, “I wonder when the trial of the Water Protector Occupiers will take place. I think their pre-trial hearing happened about a month ago. Seeing as neither one of them are here tonight I guess I can’t find out. Oh well, I’m sure we’ll see them soon”.
The next person to walk up is Mississippi Woman; she’s another one who we haven’t seen since mid-October. As usual, she’s hungry; she greets everyone then commences to survey the food table and the soup pot. She takes some of everything, lines up three full bowls of food and begins to do some heavy eating.
An Anon reports, “Next Tuesday we plan to have a protest out on the corner against Line 3; we hope that a lot of people will join us”. An Occupier replies, “Well you know we’ll be here”.
The big Native Anon strolls in, it’s been a week since he had his tonsils removed and he’s not feeling so hot. He complains, “You all know I’m a regular cigarette smoker but I haven’t been able to smoke since I had my surgery”. All the smokers in the circle groan and he continues, “Then to top it off, someone stole my pain medicine. I was given a big bottle of liquid hydrocodone and it was in the nurses med room and then it wasn’t. They think it was probably one of the staff members who stole it. It was some pretty strong stuff; the nurses had a hell of a time getting the pharmacy to give me another bottle”.
It turns out that Bush Man and the big native Anon are residents in the same halfway house. They’ve seen each other around but have not actually spoken until this evening. The budding of a new friendship?
The female of the unknown couple spies one of the fliers for The Woman Who Tells Good Stories that we always have sitting on the table. She sighs, “You mean they still haven’t found her? Oh my god, how long has it been?” An Occupier answers, “Close to three years; her body has still not been found. We always put those fliers out to keep her memory alive in people’s hearts and minds; when ever there’s a murdered and missing Indigenous women’s event we carry a big sign with her picture on it. Someday the answer will be found, until then, we need to keep her in our prayers or whatever”.
Menagerie Woman tells us, “Many years ago, I lived next door to The Woman Who Tells Good Stories. I didn’t think she was very nice at all; she was always yelling at me. I don’t think we ever had a normal conversation”. We all have to admit that although The Woman Who Tells Good Stories was always nice to us, when she was drunk we’d seen her be very aggressive to other people. Menagerie Woman continues, “To tell the truth, if something bad happens to someone who I don’t know, I don’t really care about it, it doesn’t mean a thing to me”. We all begin to make statements about how “We are our brother’s keeper” and stuff like that. Mississippi Woman comes up from her feeding frenzy and exclaims, “Oh no honey, you got to love everybody! I love everybody”. Then she gets “that look” on her face. We all think, “Oh no, she’s about to go into one of her rants; we have to distract her right away”.
Fortunately, an Anon accidentally knocks over a glass of apple juice that is sitting on the floor. It spills all over the notes of the Occupier who writes the meeting minutes. The Anon is very apologetic; the writing Occupier calmly states, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll just lay the papers out and they’ll quickly dry”. Mississippi Woman is sufficiently distracted and goes back to eating; problem solved.
A young man with spiky blond hair drops in. He’s been attending our fires off and on for a couple of years; the last time he was at our fire he was very upset because he had been kicked out of CHUM and all his belongings had been thrown away. He was kinda strange (who isn’t?) but could make himself easily understood. Then something happened; a few of the Occupiers had seen him around the neighborhood during the winter. He was babbling and completely incoherent. Tonight is no different; he’s not really interested in food or anything, he just wants to talk but no one can understand a word that he says. We all just smile and nod; maybe being forced to spend the winter out on the street just put him over the edge.
An Anon asks, “Did you all notice that someone started a fire in the porta potty across the street?” We say “What?!? Oh, no!” An Occupier remarks, “I did notice that it was sitting kinda crooked”. The Anon replies, “Everything on the inside is melted; the opening is still there and men can use it when standing up but if a person needs to sit down, it’s not gonna happen”.
The big Native Anon looks at one of the fliers for the Homeless Persons Bill of Rights and opines, “You know, I don’t really believe in this. What difference does it make? You all go to all this trouble to pass this policy and then the cops, business owners and others will just ignore it. You won’t have changed anything”. An Occupier responds, “That’s why we’re insisting that the HPB of R be voted in as an ordinance; we refuse to accept anything else. You’re correct, a policy doesn’t really have to be obeyed and it can be changed or discontinued at any time. The public doesn’t even have to be notified. An ordinance is the law; if anyone disobeys it there are consequences” The big dude says, “Oh”.
Menagerie Woman gives her dogs to Bush Man and comments, “I have to use the bathroom, I’ll be right back”. She is gone for a long time and when she returns she reports, “Well, you’re right, the porta potty is unusable. I went into the brew house across the street and used their bathroom. When I came out the staff people were blocking the door. They said, ‘You can’t use our bathroom unless you buy something. You are supposed to use the porta potty across the street’. I was too scared to say anything, I just ran out the door and over here”.
An Occupier tells her, “I’m going to the Citizens Review Board meeting tomorrow; I’ll tell them about the potty. I think they will be able to grease the wheels that will get the potty company to put up a new potty. This fire business sounds like some stupid, drunken, college boy prank to me. Maybe the cops have a camera by the potty so might be able to see who started the fire”.
Changing the subject, the Occupier who lives in Superior reports, “I went to that meeting with area college science professors last Wednesday. It was about the explosion and fire at the Husky Oil Refinery. The professors said that the soil in the surrounding neighborhood is definitely polluted but the company and the government say they don’t have instruments that are capable of measuring what or how much dangerous material is in the soil. The professors also said we should expect the Husky company to be telling lots of lies; they said we should not believe anything the company says. Great, huh?” We all groan.
An Anon has a small packet of something that is supposed to make the flames of the fire turn colors; he throws it into the fire. We all move far enough away so that we won’t breathe in whatever it is that is in the packet. It certainly works; soon the flames turn all sorts of beautiful colors. Everyone is quiet, just watching the flames.
A couple of possibly street young men arrive. They are very hungry; Fortunately, Mississippi Woman has gone home. She actually left some food for everyone else. An Occupier tells the young men, “Please eat you fill; I really don’t want to take any of this home”. The young men oblige; they get some soup from the pot and cookies, hard boiled eggs, pickles, chips and juice from the table. Once they have finished and seeing that it’s almost 10pm, we begin to pack up.
A few of the Anons will go to an Occupier couple’s home for a while. We plan to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.