Friday, September 05, 2008


We go to the student walkout and march. Mostly high-schoolers, enthusiastic and charming. It's still early in the day, cool and misty. Ska with very bad lyrics, to be reperformed tonight at the high-profile, basically pointless Nader rally. Songs that say "We say." Careerism in leftist culture. When syntax runs into corners, the voice of the collective of non-individuals speaks in readily available phrases. Then he remembers counter-recruitment, of vital importance. Pronounces "Clean Water" as "Clean War Act." "The more out of tune, the better," claims Shannon from Riot Folk. "The Christian icon is not stars and stripes, but a slaughtered lamb." Joe Hill as odd but good soundtrack for transgender Make-In. This ragtag bunch is the group that should be listened to by older activists and moralizing liberals. This song is about accepting your own criminality. "If the fetus you save turns out to be gay, will you still fight for its rights?" A handful of actual Republican delegates for peace (who then say stupid things about immigration). "This is what a jumble of thoughts & observations looks like!" Ensure safety by having everyone repeat, "I have an announcement. Cheney, Big Oil Bob, and General Betrayus are goint to try to escape arrest by boarding a boat at the Harriet Island Yacht Club. We're going to camp out here on the hay for about half an hour, then march down to the park to surprise them. While we're here, we'll eat some kick-ass food provided by Seeds of Peace--but we're going to stay out of the middle of the street, because the police... uh, there's no diplomatic way I can say this... you know." The last part, repeated en masse, is particularly funny, and the whole idea has a theatrical sense far superior to that I associate with the usual things we're asked to repeat as groups. Rick and I walk down to the island a half-hour before the students get there. The three arrestees, well-made big puppet heads on smaller bodies, are there, with little to do, so while Tao Rodriguez-Seeger sings "Guantanamera" Dick Cheney holds a mic and gently boogies, as if performing the song in a hotel lounge. It's hilarious; all movement songs should include some such odd juxtaposition. Then the puppets are placed on trial.

We find the bigger march stalled on a bridge just a block from the Capitol, flanked on two sides by battalions of riot cops on horses, bikes, trucks, standing with batons, bulldozers behind them. Apparently the well-advertised 4 p.m. march was only given a permit that lasted until 5--an idiotic idea, the police only asking for trouble. It's obvious to me that the best way to keep the situation "under control" would've been to let the march proceed to the Xcel Center without harrassment. Instead, the cops pepper-sprayed the crowd at the Captiol before the permit was even up, ordering them to disperse. They've already been on this bridge to downtown for at least an hour by the time we arrive, folks on bikes endlessly circling in the middle of an intersection, a moving wall between the cops on its east side and the many hundreds of people still on the bridge to the north. We run into Roy Zimmerman as we walk up, and the three of us explore and join the crowd for a while. A nice example of solidarity: a woman on the bridge has to pee, so friends form a dense circle with their backs to her on the grassy median. As the three of us start to leave for the evening's performance at the Bedlam, the cops rush the crowd, trying to get them off the bridge, routing them back toward the Capitol. Instead, the crowd suddenly turns on the Captiol lawn and rushes to the next street over, trying to get across that bridge. The cops block them off again. This could go on for a long time (and, I find out later, does, with another 200 or so arrests).

The performance goes well, the Myshkins and Roy with the WYXY News Team followed by another performance of Wallace Shawn's The Fever, even better than Tuesday's, leaving me thoroughly exhausted. But there's more to do. We swap songs with David Rovics and Jim Page for a couple of hours. I've never met Jim before; he's a great performer and songwriter, a lovely person onstage and off. As with Bryan's performance of Shawn's play, Jim starts off very softly, only gradually arriving at a moment of normal audibility, charged with intense attention, everything that happens in it opened up. He gives a great intro to a song about the 1999 WTO protests, in which he says "People tend to feel morally superior to those young folks who break windows and such. What did those windows ever do to them? Well, I've lived in Seattle for 27 years, and I know what was there before those windows were: low-income housing. When that housing was knocked down for Planet Hollywood and Nike Town, people who'd lived there for ten years had nowhere to go, and had to turn to government aid. Now, the first symptoms of being forced out of a place you've lived for ten years are migraines and dental problems. Those are the first symptoms. A lot of people die within five or six years. So I don't think those windows are innocent." He made a similar point about the Caterpillar tractors used to knock down houses in Palestine. They're not built for road construction; the company knows exactly what they're for. I'd like to write a poem of objects, seen as resonating not only with their history, but with the histories they're intended to create.

Today is Ryan's birthday, so we're going out on the town before our penultimate 10 p.m. performance as the Nonsense Company.


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