G.A. Minutes 10-2-18
The weather people were correct this time; it has rained every day except one since our meeting last Tuesday. The precipitation was not of flood-like proportions, however everything in Duluth is very wet. The weather folks promised us a full day of no rain just for today and evening; then it goes back to raining forever. The sky is gray, the temperature is in the mid-50s and there’s not much of a breeze. So far, they’ve kept their promise.
Anyway, as usually happens, the Food Bringing Occupier and the Fire Magician are the very first people to arrive for our Tuesday fire circle at Peoples Plaza. The space looks completely empty so they walk up the stairs and onto the Plaza in order to check things out. Yup, it is completely empty; there are not even any street people sitting on the benches or lying under the trees. The Food Bringing Occupier looks confused and says, “WTF? Oh wait, I almost forgot, it’s the first week of the month. Many of the street folks receive monthly, small, government checks; they can afford to treat themselves to whatever floats their boat for a few days at least. I’m used to a reduction in street peeps every first of the month but this makes it look like EVERYBODY got paid”.
An empty Plaza means the first Occupiers are gonna have to set up the fire circle themselves. The Fire Magician starts hauling out the fire pit, firewood and related items; the Food Bringing Occupier slowly pulls out a couple of chairs, drags them up the stairs and begins setting up a circle. She’ll continue doing this until someone else shows up and relieves her of the job. After about fifteen minutes or so, another Occupier, some regular peeps from the Anonymous crew and some occasional Anon peeps arrive. They finish the job while the Fire Magician gets a big fire going and the Occupier with the mild case of OCD sets up the food table.
Oh, and Fireproof Man is here too; he’s wearing a neon-lime green hijab. We think it might be his own personal version of rain gear or something but it certainly does look like a hijab. Whatever…. we’re grateful that he doesn’t offer to help with the set up.
The city official rolls in; he passes out fliers for his event Soles to the Poles. It will be sort of a primer for people who have never voted before or haven’t voted in a long while. Soles to the Poles will take place on Saturday, October 13th 1p-5p at the Duluth NAACP Branch in the Washington Center (310 W 1st Ave W).
We all take fliers and put some out on the table with our other literature. Unfortunately, we don’t expect many of our street visitors to take one; most homeless and/or street folks don’t see any value in voting. After many years of abuse, neglect or what have you, a sizable amount of them have internalized deep feelings of low self-esteem and/or little sense that what they think or desire is of any value. We think if every single street and/or homeless person (including felons) in the Central Hillside and West End were to vote we’d have a different sort of City government with a very different set of priorities. That would be nice.
A Water Protector/Anon has made a delicious hamburger, noodle and cheese casserole; she sets it on the table just as the OCD Occupier finishes getting all the usual things put out. The Occupier takes a seat in the circle and seemingly out of nowhere, three or four small groups of young people appear. They are ravenously hungry, each filling several bowls of everything that is offered. We don’t believe the young ones can possibly eat all the food they are taking; perhaps they’re going to bring some of it to other hungry folks? As the neighborhood street youngsters load up their dishes they keep repeating, “Oh, thank you, thank you! This is so wonderful etc.” Once these teenagers have taken as much as they can feasibly carry they vanish back to wherever they came from. We notice the casserole has pretty much vanished too. Hopefully there will be lots of young ones able to sleep well tonight because their bellies are happy and full.
The Occupier who is a single parent remarks to the city official, “I’m told that my son, who is a freshman at UWS, will be interning at the campus radio station where your weekly show is broadcast”. The official man responds, “That’s good to know, I’ll be sure to pay extra attention to him”.
A big pot of homemade tomato-rice soup with other vegetables has been heating up on the small charcoal grill. There’s also a big loaf of homemade whole grain bread to go with it. Those of us who missed the casserole will just have to fill up on soup and bread. That’ll work.
The Occupier who lives in Superior tells us, “I see that OSHA fined Husky Oil $83,000 for the safety violations that led to those fires and the explosion last April. $83,000?!? That’s almost nothing to Husky; it’s about the same as one dollar would be to one of us. Just think of all the citizens in Superior who could have been killed! If the wind hadn’t switched, tens of thousands of people across the bay would have been evacuated. As usual, the fossil fuel industry gets a pass. The mayors of both Duluth and Superior demanded that Husky remove that super deadly tank of hydrogen fluoride from the refinery in Superior and replace it with something safer; Husky said, ‘Nope, not gonna do it. It would cost us too much money to replace it’. So far, they’ve gotten away with it. Apparently, not spending extra money is more important than the lives of the 100,000+ people who live in the path of the refinery. What a crock of shit!”
Another Occupier changes the subject, “It sounds like there’s gonna be some action around the Duluth Police Department’s request (read demand) for riot gear next week. I don’t know all the particulars but I’ve heard there will be a Riot Gear rally next Wednesday, October 10th at Denfeld H.S. That’s all I know right now but I’ll investigate and let everyone know asap. I think this is something we need to be involved in”. We all think so too.
An Occupier comments to the city man, “I’ll be coming and bringing a few others with me to your Duluth Transit Authority board of directors meeting on the last Wednesday of this month in order to talk about the possibility of you all helping out with warming stations for all the homeless folks who can’t go to CHUM when the winter weather gets too dangerous for them to be outdoors”. The official man replies, “Wait a minute…. I think the date has been changed”. He looks at his phone then continues, “The BOD meeting has been rescheduled for the fourth Wednesday, October 24th 5:30 pm at 2402 W Michigan St in the boardroom. I’ll be happy to see you all there”.
An Occupier asks an FDL Water Protector, “So how are you all coming along with signatures for the referendum?” She responds, “Not bad, we’re over halfway there”. Another Occupier quires, “Referendum?” The Water Protector explains, “If we can get three hundred signatures from Fond du Lac band members who actually live on the rez then we can put a referendum on the ballot to override the Tribal Council’s decision to allow Enbridge to build their Line 3 Pipeline on our land”. The Occupier exclaims, “Really?!? That is so wonderful! I would love to help you but I’m just an old Chimookikwe (white woman) who lives in Duluth”. The Water Protector tells her, “No worries, there will be plenty of things that you can do”.
The Anons gather up their signs and music and get ready to go out to the protest corner. It’s warm here next to the fire but out on the corner…..not so much. As they leave, someone comments, “There are more female Anons than usual tonight”. We all think that is a good thing.
Fireproof Man has been bopping in and out of the circle all evening; he’s still talking his “word salad” but we’re beginning to notice that if we listen closely, we can make out entire sentences that he says. Now it seems like he’s trying to make some kind of bed out of the chairs in the circle. It doesn’t work very well and he falls on his ass. He seems a little embarrassed and tries to cover this up by arranging all the chairs in kind of a square with three chairs pushed very close together, a big space then three more chairs etc. etc. When he goes to lie on a back bench, an Occupier puts all the chairs back into a circle; she sighs, “That guy is so weird!” A middle-aged street woman who has become a regular at our fire circle this year reports, “Oh, he’s always like that. Every once in a while he gets sent to Miller Dwan; when he gets out he talks and acts normal for a few weeks then he goes back to being like he is now”.
A guitar player who lived in our homeless camp over the summer about six years ago and who has remained a friend ever since drops in. He states, “I’m on my way to somewhere but I thought I’d stop by to see how you guys are doing”. We all exchange info about what’s been going on in our lives since we last saw each other (probably about a year ago). The guitar player opines, “You know that all this crap with He Who Shall Not Be Named is just meant to distract citizens from what is going on behind the scenes like trying to steal our social security, taking over the Supreme Court, militarizing the police forces, more wars and stuff like that. Now there’s all these questions about how HWSNBN got elected; I think that’s because the “shadow government”, or whatever it’s called, was bound and determined to get him placed in the president position. Citizens who are easily entertained will spend their time watching and listening to HWSNBN’s antics while the 1%ers steal the few rights and freedoms that we still have.
“Also, I think I know the real reason why the cops get bent out of shape when people protest while wearing masks or bandannas. It has nothing to do with identity, they don’t want you all to wear masks because the masks make it difficult for them to effectively gas you. Your eyes, mouth and nose are covered so you won’t absorb the gas adequately. Anyway, I’d better be on my way; I just wanted to stop in and see how you were doing. It looks to me like you’re doing really well. Keep it up, my friends”. The guitar player used to live in Duluth but he doesn’t live here anymore, that’s why we so seldomly see him.
A guy with dark hair and eyes, who we haven’t met in the past, appears in our circle. He tells us that he is a college student in some type of science related field. Some science-minded Occupiers get into a conversation about time and energy or something like that. The rest of us sit and listen. It sounds like the dark haired guy is trying to impress the science Occupiers with his massive knowledge and brilliance; when he realizes that that’s not working very well, he gets up to leave. As he walks away, he calls over his shoulder, “By the way, I do stand up comedy every Friday night, 8pm at the Dublin Inn”. Go figure.
Suddenly, a strong, cold wind launches an attack on the Plaza. Brrrr!….. Everyone zips up their jackets etc. We push all the chairs up close to the fire. The Anons return from the corner; the wind is just too cold.
A veteran, tall, slender street woman, who we have known for many years, steps out of the shadows. She asks if we still have coffee and we say, “Yah, for sure, just help yourself”. The tall woman reaches for the coffee carafe; Fireproof Man leaps out from the Nether World (or wherever it is that he goes) jumps in front of her, grabs the carafe and ceremoniously pours himself a full cup of coffee. The woman exclaims, “Hey, weird dude! Whatdaya think you’re tryin’ to do?” Fireproof Man then attempts to pour hot coffee down the woman’s arm. She jumps back and Fireproof Man runs away. The slender woman yells, “Do you want to get your head bashed in?!?” Fortunately, there is still a little coffee left so she is able to get some at least.
On that note, we figure it’s time to pack up. The Anons scurry around and get things packed up quickly; they’re getting to be experts at this. We don’t know if the veteran street woman will beat up Fireproof Man or not but if she does, we’re not gonna stick around to defend him. Come to think of it though, we’ve not known her to be particularly crazy. She just hangs out with a couple of her brothers; her brothers are also very tall. They’re generally a pretty peaceful family; as long as you don’t mess with them, that is. The veteran woman is known to pack a really hard punch but all she really wants is for people to give her the respect that she and all women deserve.
If it doesn’t rain, we’ll be back at Peoples Plaza next Tuesday.