G.A. Minutes 7-24-18
The air is pleasantly warm this evening when the first arriving Occupiers drive up on the sidewalk outside of Peoples Plaza. The temperature is in the high 70s and will probably noticeably decrease once the sun goes behind the buildings. A strong, variable and gusty wind should give us very fine weather tonight.
Of course, the big tree planter is still blocking the vehicle entryway onto the Plaza so the Occupiers bringing the majority of the supplies are forced to unload and drag everything up and across to the center of the space again. Fortunately, within a few minutes of the supply bringing Occupiers’ arrival, a bunch of our regular people come walking up; they are all prepared to help with the fire circle set up.
Among the regular folks are the big Native member of the Anonymous crew and the youngest Anon, another Occupier and the city official. Another Occupier and a former Anon and his fiance’ follow close on their heels. The big Anon asks, “So what’s up with the rest of my crew?” An Occupier tells him, “Some of them are out in the country helping to get the Healing Souls Camp up and running. The big guy then asks, “Well, is the Noise Parade still gonna happen this Friday?” The Occupier states, “Nope, that’s been moved to Friday, August 3rd. The big Anon has recently started a new job working the night shift, his circadian rhythms are still a bit off.
Everything is ready except there’s no metal bucket to catch the fire’s burnt embers once it gets to really going. The Fire Magician hops in his truck and runs up the hill to get it. The rest of us gather around the food table to retrieve our preferred snacks and drinks then choose a seat in the circle. The city official reports, “Tomorrow is Bag Day at St. Micheal’s”. An Occupier exclaims, “I just love Bag Days! My entire wardrobe has been purchased during Bag Days at St. Micheal’s” St. Micheal’s is a somewhat high end thrift shop in the Central Hillside. It’s donors are from a more well-to-do area of the city so the quality of the shop’s merchandise is par excellence. The prices are good on any day but on Bag Days one can donate a grocery sized bag of items that one no longer needs; in return, the donating person can take that grocery bag and fill it with any items throughout the entire shop that they find desirable. The cost of the newly filled bag…. five dollars. Cool aye?
The Fire Magician returns in a flash with the fire bucket; he gets a small to medium fire going right away. We don’t really need the fire for warmth right now but it’s nice to watch, smell and listen to it. A couple of young street guys, who we don’t recall meeting in the past, come over. One of them is brown and the other is not. The brown dude takes a seat in the circle while the not brown dude stands, chowing down, at the table. The young man in the circle, who is probably not African American, says, “I remember when you guys used to do this at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. Actually, I don’t think that creating CJMM was a good idea; I think it makes the black people in Duluth feel bad. We don’t need to make them feel embarrassed or ashamed”. We all wait for the city official, who is African American and also one of the founding members of CJMM, to respond. He doesn’t say anything; maybe he’s not in the mood to deal with such a lame-brained analysis? We all figure that if the city official not going to say anything then we’re not going to say anything either.
An Occupier reports, “Socialist Pizza is this upcoming Friday, 6:30pm at the Women’s Building”. The brown young man responds, “What is socialism?” We all try to think of a 25 words or less response; an Occupier begins, “There are many kinds of socialism”….. Chicago Man rolls in. Everyone greets him and he flits around the circle, giving hugs and such.
Seeming to have forgotten his previous question, the brown young man announces, “I’ve been to college; I studied Minority Relations and I think God is a woman”. He then begins to give us a lecture to prove how smart he is or something. He uses lots of big words but doesn’t appear to know the actual meanings of the these words or how to properly use them in a sentence. The question of who or what is God has come up many times over the years in our fire circle; the Occupiers, Anons and others in tonight’s circle give each other a look that says, “Let’s just leave this dude’s conversation alone”. However, Chicago Man bites and begins discussing the question in earnest. When the man from the Windy City starts explaining his personal pagan practices and beliefs, the little brown man and his companion quietly disappear.
The food bringing Occupier has made another summer salad; this one consists of organic whole grain noodles, fresh peas, onions and mayonnaise. When she describes what she has brought, many of the people say, “No thanks, I’ll pass on that”. When she hands bowls of the salad to the few who have asked for some, the others look at the filled bowls and say, “Hmm… I guess I’ll try some after all”. Pretty soon people exclaim, “Wow, this is really good!”. Most ask for seconds, some even have thirds.
A local community activist, retired public school teacher and good friend of the Occupiers joins the circle. She brings grapes, crackers, butter and cheese and sets them on the table. We are all pleasantly surprised to see her as she’s been spending a lot of time living in the Cities over the last several years. The activist takes a seat next to the Fire Magician; they become immersed in conversation about an event she is helping to organize. The event will take place in August and will be centered around the issues of a guaranteed annual income and a $15 minimum wage. A member of the German parliament will be explaining how Germany is handling these issues. We hope to be able to attend.
The middle-aged, brain injured, alcoholic guy who lives at the Wet House bumbles in. He’s attended many of our fire circles over the years; the Wet House guy is a good hearted person but he has a habit of talking very loud and repeating himself a lot. We don’t dislike him but we’ve heard all his stories many times already; his loud voice pretty much takes over any other discussion that may be trying to happen. We find him to be a little annoying however, the Anons and others haven’t met Wet House Man or heard his stories yet. They are speechless with laughter; some are laughing so hard that they fall off their chairs. So majority rules; the Occupiers just sit back and let Wet House Man roll.
A tall, very tattooed Occasional Anon and his small female partner arrive. The Occasional Anon has one of those cylinder shaped music playing things hanging from his belt. He has it playing some kind of pop classical music, after a while it switches to some good hip-hop. The sound is very clear and can be heard throughout the Plaza and the street. It even silences Wet House Man; everyone stops whatever they are doing in order to get their groove on.
Once the Anon and his partner have eaten, they bid us good night and go off to their sleeping place. The music goes with them. A 30 something man, who we have not previously met, stands just outside the circle then goes to sit next to the Fire Magician. Once the man is seated, the big Native Anon tells him, “Hey, I don’t appreciate the way you were rubbing my back. I don’t like anyone touching me without my permission”. The unknown man stands up and screams, “You better shut the fuck up! YOU FUCKING FAGGOT!!!” Then he storms off. We say, “WTF?” The big Anon answers, “Hey, no kidding guys, that dude, who I’ve never seen before in my life, comes, stands behind me and starts rubbing my back the way my girlfriend or other loved one would. I was really shocked and it took me a minute to find my words. The Fire Magician reports, “When the guy came and sat next to me, I casually asked, ‘So how’s it going?’ He started swearing at me and trying to pick a fight”. Another Occupier comments, “Over the course of my life I have occasionally run across a person who really wants some strangers to beat up and humiliate them. I have no idea what that’s about but it is….. soooo weird”. We all say, “For real.”
Several Occupiers volunteered to work at Honor the Earth’s “Water Is Life” Festival last Sunday at Bayfront Park. They recount for everyone the very nice time they had. Someone opines, “There were a lot of people there; I was told that over one thousand tickets were sold. I was working the medical tent but nobody needed any medical attention though I did give out one bandaid. Mostly I was just hanging out, talking to lots of friendly people and rocking with the music. I’m guessing that HTE was able to make a few bucks to aid in the fight against Line 3 and fossil fuels in general”.
Suddenly, we hear and see the young chronically homeless man, who recently had to cut off his dreadlocks, yelling and walking quickly away from the east side of the Plaza. He throws his hands in the air and hollers, “Why can’t you just stop talking?!?!” He stomps around outside the circle for awhile then returns to one of the trees that grow on the ground next to the Plaza’s eastern ledge. We figure that’s the end of that but no…….. flying stuff comes crashing down on the floor outside the circle. We turn to see the formerly dread locked dude pulling everything he owns out of his big pack and throwing it as hard as he can across the Plaza.
We find this to be surprising because every time, over the past several years, that we have interacted with this veteran homeless young man, he’s been friendly, cheerful and content. An Occupier remarks, “So what the hell is up with that?” A 20 something, white appearing, shirtless man with two different hair styles tells us, “Oh, don’t worry, he’s just coming down from a run on meth or something like that. Have you ever been so tired and unable to sleep that even the slightest thing will piss you off?” We say, “Oh, that makes sense”. We know that the angry guy’s street name is a slang term having to do with some of the body language commonly seen in meth head behavior. We never use that name though because the guy’s mother asked us not to.
Eventually the angry guy calms down, picks up his stuff and walks over to Lake Place Park hoping to find a place under a tree over there where he can get some sleep. We empathize with the dude because we are acquainted with the other chronically homeless guy who was sitting on the eastern Plaza ledge yakking away with no consideration for others. The yakking guy has no shut off valve on his mouth; he’s been kicked out of just about everywhere because of this. Unfortunately, Yakking Guy doesn’t have any problem but he thinks the entire rest of the world does.
The young man with the two different hairstyles has been sitting in the circle for a while; this is the first time he has spoken. Now that the ice has been broken, he becomes talkative and tells an interesting story. He tells us that he was abandoned by his birth parents but adopted by a couple who treated him well. He says, “I know who my birth parents are; they live here in Duluth. If I died tomorrow neither one of them would attend my funeral or acknowledge my death in any way. My adoptive father died about a year ago; he was the best man that ever lived. He was always there for me, no matter what. I really miss him”.
The man goes on to describe how he was raised in a small town in MN. Both his parents were very good to him but they were extremely active in a church that, over the years, just scared the shit out of him. He confides, “I have always had some pretty severe anxiety issues and all those commandments and demands from God created extreme stress in me. I mean, Christianity requires that a person be absolutely perfect; if one makes a mistake they must be punished. I just could not take it. Then one day I came across Buddhist philosophy; it really rang true for me. Since I began practicing Buddhism I feel so much more at peace.
The Buddhist man goes on to explain the real meaning of karma and a few other things. He changes the subject by saying, “Being homeless, like I am right now, really sucks. If you guys get that Homeless Persons Bill of Rights thing, I hope you get us a place to shower. I haven’t taken a shower in three days and I feel really grungy. When I try to go into the bathroom any place around here just to wash up a bit, they tell me, ‘If you don’t buy anything you can’t use our bathroom”. I tried to use the shower at CHUM but that was pretty much impossible. Have you ever tried to keep an eye on your stuff so it doesn’t get stolen and take a shower at the same time?”
An Occupier replies, “Oh, we are definitely going to get places to shower, it’s just going to take a long time. But you know what?….. You can take a shower at Dorothy Day House, just knock on the door during the weekday and ask to use their shower”. The man with opposing hairstyles exclaims, “OH, RIGHT! Dorothy Day, I forgot about that. I stayed there for a while a few years ago. I had to leave though because my anxiety was keeping me up all night. They all thought I was taking drugs”. The Occupier laughs, “That won’t matter; when I go there I see all kinds of people coming to take showers. As long as you don’t appear to be planning to kill them, they will let you take a shower. They serve dinner for everyone who shows up at 6pm too”.
The big clock up the hill lets us know that it’s after 10pm. Most of the homeless or street folks have gone off to sleep. The only ones left around the fire are some of the Occupiers, one Anon, Wet House Man, the Buddhist, the local activist and Chicago Man. The Activist and Chicago Man have been chatting for a while; they discover that they both live in the same East Duluth neighborhood. She offers him a ride home and he accepts; off they go. The others do too, so the Occupiers begin the task of cleaning up and putting everything away. Wet House Man offers to help. The Occupiers think to themselves, “Oh no, he will make a mess and everything will take longer”. It didn’t happen that way; Wet House Man is very purposeful and efficient. He makes our job quicker and easier. Once we are finished, the Fire Magician offers to drive Wet House Man back to the Wet House. Everyone else drives off to their homes in order to get some sleep and live to Resist The Man another day.
We expect to be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.