Friday, September 26, 2008

Woah... I'm broke and jobless!

This is pretty cool...

Ever have one of those days where you feel like, damn, I am really at the heart of my generation's experiance? I mean... I was punk rock and listened to Anti-Flag when I was a teenager. I saw Marilyn Manson live on the tour for his last good album (Holywood). I protested the Iraq war before it started at the big Demos in January 2003 in DC and February 15th in NYC. I helped start antiwar groups and went to different cities to attend political conferences... I went to college and was a student activists... I protested the IMF... I lived in New Orleans for a month post-Katrina and got to learn about it... I road tripped a bit before gas prices went all to hell... Oh and I've been on my way to become a famous rock star, recording electronic music in home studios, counting my Myspace plays, and even playing a few larger and/or well known clubs around the country.

Well today I just joined the ranks of our nation's waiters who've been laid off due to the slow economy. Where I was we did a lot of theatre rushes. I got hired in May and was there for the end of the theatre season. Being able to work 4-5 days a week, get most any time off you want, wake up at 1pm, come in at 4, stay five hours and then leave with $100-$150 is pretty awesome! Anyways theatre season ended in June but I stuck around through the slow months because, number one: getting another job would mean to have the debate about whether or not I want to still be a waiter, and if I would still be one, I'd just have to learn a new menu and a new place all over again, and number two: I've had seasonal jobs before. I know how to economize during the slow months and managers usually help you out if you've been around for a while when business picks up and you get better shifts. I was figuring theatre would bring us back to life again and coworkers who had been there longer said I shouldn't quit and that money would be great again come the fall.

Well it's the fall and theatre season is going on again but business isn't really picking up so today I came in for my shift, got told the news, got my last check, and left the restaurant for probably the last time. So much for my source of free delicious olive bread...

LUCKILY, my last check, plus the refund I got for turning in my uniform (they took a deposit out of my training check in case I were to run off with it), plus the twenty dollars my loving mother stuck into an envelope along with some news clippings I got in the mail today, all worked out to *just* enough to cover rent, which is due in four days. So that's effing sweet.

So I have rent for a month... I've also got a lot of meat in the freezer what from the marmots and beef I've bought in bulk that had been randomly cheap a while back... I have about half the 20 lb bag of pinto beans left and about 3/4 of the 20 lb bag of rice... I won't starve... at least as long as the gas bill gets paid... that is at least sort of comforting!

* * *

To return to the beginning of this blog, and the broader root of my matter at hand, what really is so special about me getting laid off? People get laid off from all kinds of jobs for all kinds of reasons all the time. Why is this so special?

What's so special about this is that it isn't just me. What has happened to me is at the heart of our economic situation. When American capitalists started to offshore a lot of our economic (such as manufacturing) base, we were told not to worry, that there'd be new types of jobs created for a new economy.

A lot of these jobs were tech jobs... but that was always sort of a mirage. When I was in high school and a big computer geek (President of the Amateur radio club, a licensed Ham, in AP Computer Science, and able to program in Pascal, C++, HTML, and JavaScript, an avid reader of 2600, and a bit of a phone phreak on the side), I was already able to see that there was no future in tech and I shouldn't go to college for it. There were already so many people who knew so much about computers they'd probably get the jobs before I was out of school. Add to that the fact that the internet makes software development and technical support easier to offshore and you're looking at a very flimsy, easily and likely offshorable, economic base.

If that's not enough I was still in high school for the dot com bubble, and I saw Worldcom, Enron, and a lot of the tech market all go to hell. So that's a double whammy of a big red warning sign right there: instability, corruption, and now a lot of people better skilled than me fighting each other over the remaining jobs.

Besides... computers are just hack work! I was really drawn towards politics... reading Howard Zinn, learning about Latin America, interventions, the School of the Americas, Sanctions Against Iraq.... there were so many problems and so few people really trying to take them on.... surely it must be more socially relevant and useful to study politics!

Well I studied politics and I got that degree but I made the mistake of studying them in Washington DC. I learned a lot there about just how institutionalized and bureaucratic the world of "NGOs" and "Non-Profits" are. These groups claim to help people, either through working professionally to "fight the man", or to provide services to people after the government decided to stop providing them. Anyways seeing these groups operate for 5 years in DC taught me that most of them, up close, are really quite bureaucratic and unaccountable. They want people who will work for minimum or damn near it while the executives turn donation money into comfy salaries and nice apartments. The workers at the bottom are supposed to feel good because they're working for a "good cause"... people donating to them are able to feel better about themselves... but they're not really accountable, or even effective, organizations, in a lot of cases.

For former activists turned bureaucrats it's all about control. Idealistic college students think it's awesome they can get a job as an 'organizer' for a union... union bureaucrats think it's awesome their organizers are totally dependent on the bureaucracy for their jobs. Meanwhile they don't have to develop leadership from the grassroots, which might potentially generate support for independent rank-and-file movements and leaders.

I left DC rather jaded about the most obvious applications of a Political Science degree.

So where did I go? The same place the executive chef at my first three star restaurant went. He was also the recipient of a Political Science degree, and he also found out that, if the political world is all corrupt and horrible, at least you can make good money in restaurants!

For this chef as well as for me the restaurant industry offered a lot more than the solution to an existential crisis. According to the Bureau of Labor statics, along with health care (nurses, hospitals, EMTS, etc...) the restaurant industry, as part of the broader service economy, was one of the places that expanded the most in the 90s and 2000s, while a lot of other sectors (Flint, MI anyone?) declined. Sure the hours were long and a lot of customers are assholes but at the end of the day you can (or shall I say, could?) make good money there. Also, the restaurant industry seems to attract a lot of interesting people. I met more interesting people in restaurants than anyone else- goth nights and bars included! So at least there were always people to talk to about interesting things, cool stories or other parts of the world or other languages to learn about while on the job...

Well unfortunately like a sub prime loan the service economy's expansion, while perhaps hyperbolic to call a time bomb, had a lot of built in problems. It was designed to accommodate the rising fortunes of a middle and upper middle class. Even working class people who worked their butts off in the 90s at least had a steady source of income and once in a while would like to go out to eat and feel special. But when things get tight around the wallet the first thing to get cut is luxuries and that means eating out. Thus what the expansion of the service economy meant was really an investment in a very fragile economic sector.

The housing market and the construction boom ballooned off hype until it finally popped. That was inevitable. But what was not ineveitable, and what has made things so much worse, is The War.

Not unlike an arrogant, manipulative banker willing to sign off on and then peddle away a bad loan, the collective arrogance of the American ruling class to let George Bush gamble away stability for the crap shoot of militarily taking over mid east oil reserves has turned a cyclical recession into what mainstream pundits are calling "a 'perfect' economic storm." It's not just less new construction, or a decline in job creation- but an entire break down of infrastructure.

Some critics of the war rightly point out it was an irresponsible gamble of our standing in world, and, of course, the lives of a lot of brown people and American soldiers. But the lives of brown people and American soldiers get gambled away all the time.... Shit, you remember "Who started" the Vietnam war? Or "why" World War I happened? People seemed to be all about them when they were going on but no one can really offer a straight answer that makes sense and seems worth dying for today...

But the Iraq-Afghan wars, being as they are over the most strategic square feet of the world's most important (and dwindling) economic resource, were even more of a gamble than many other military conflicts. At stake wasn't just the lives of people in the Mid East, or the lives of soldiers... at stake was our entire infrastructure. When George Bush rolled the dice on oil he rolled the dice on your car, on your affordable house with the long commute in the suburbs, on the globalized networks of commodity production and distribution, on the mechanization and corporatization of agriculture, and most important of all (for waiters!); on the service sector. Once things got tight, and a recession met with out of control oil speculation, service workers, like a lot of people, such as yours truly, got the shaft.

Now of course there's still plenty of rich people. The government's been giving billions in bailouts to banks lately in order to keep the rich rich. Perhaps so many have deserted Bush over his many failures we can interpret these bailouts as a desperate attempt to shore up his remaining support among wall street moguls by keeping them structurally intact as a unique social class?

But even people with some money and some investments might feel the pinch a little. Perhaps instead of spending $100 on dinner for two, AND picking up theater tickets, they'll do either one or the other. Or maybe they'll eat at home first. Or heck maybe just rent a movie or watch one they already own with someone who hasn't seen it yet.

The "social contract" between employers and employees that you read about today in history books wasn't so much violently broken all along the line (as in the case of the PATCO or Hormel strikes in the 80s) as it was traded away. In the shell game of the market, ambitious smart young people were promised, at least, decent paying waiter jobs. Or hotel jobs. Or cool ski resort jobs. Or flight attendant jobs. Or computer jobs. Or, (my favorite), comfy financial sector jobs with soft chairs in offices pushing pieces of paper around desks, giving files different names and emailing them to different people.

Not unlike a zit on my chin the wall street traders, speculators, con men and assorted hangers on seemed to puff themselves up ever fatter and more grandiose with every dishonest, unhealthy, immoral, and destabilizing tidbit the economic "leaders" planned.

I'm sorry, and, as most office workers are technically proletarians, it may be against the solidarity of working people to say this- but I don't have a fucking ounce of sympathy for the stories on the radio joking about how high-powered yuppies are having to cut back on strip club visits and cocaine consumption. You know it may piss you off when the reckless pilot crashes the plane you're on into the desert.... but at least you get a tiny bit of satisfaction when you see that bastard is thirsty too!

Well the game is up. Americans are an individualistic, hard working, hardship-enduring lot. They can usually keep their chins above pretty high water. Even if we're working our asses off, if we think we're "getting ahead" at all, and the future will be better, we generally acquiesce and let politicians and businessmen do pretty much whatever they want. If you're making money and doing ok, it's pretty easy to look down on the homeless, or people poorer than you, and tell yourself how it's probably their fault for the condition they're in.

But that's not really the case any more... Not for me... not for the thousands of other young twenty somethings who worked at Benningins, or Starbucks, for a "day job" as they waited for their myspace band (or whatever else) to take off!

One obvious consequence of unemployment is that you all of a sudden have a lot more free time. That includes time to think hard about the world and why it is as messed up as it as. It can also include time to protest and/or direct action-ify yourself against those who are responsible for messing it up. And when you're 25, you're smart, your myspace band is pretty much a hole in cyber space you throw money and time into and see very little return on, and the economy you bought into and developed skills and a resume in order to succeed in goes to hell, well you're probably quite liable to start writing long blogs denouncing the economy, capitalists, and oil executives.

(Incidentally Exxon made over ELEVEN BILLION DOLLARS in the FIRST QUARTER of this year. Exclamation points are rendered pretty superfluous.)

Well it's Friday Sept 26th. I have just enough to cover rent and I have about a 2/3rds tank of gas. Like most Americans, I intend to hide from my problems as long as I can. But when that tank of gas is gone... and I run out of ammo to live off marmots with... and the electric and gas bill comes, and it's time to pay rent AGAIN, I am going to like... totally protest the fuck out of something.

On a side note... the manager was a least very cordial when she laid me off, and gave me her number as a reference and told me a few places she felt were hiring. I got my resumes printed and my nice shirts are all clean and ironed... But I have to think about this for a minute before I walk in somewhere and start filling out applications. I don't think another theatre rush job is a smart idea... And I'm pretty sick of working for people who like to eat small pieces of actual silver and/or gold on top of their chocolate deserts. In fact, at a few of my most recent waiter jobs, it literally was the very same people who ran the economy into the ground that I was at times working for... at least until not enough people could afford to eat there and I got laid off, that is!

I think having a sharp, crispy, analysis of the economy when you're unemployed and broke is kind of like shivering when you're starting to freeze. It isn't necessarily going to save you, but it helps you feel a little better. I guess if shivering is your body's way of telling your mind to do something (build up the fire and put on my layers), studying the economy is sort of like your minds way of figuring out where the heck you need to take your body to find a new job... and/or find out whoever is responsible for this and like, confront them about it in a way that gets results.

Thus... the post you have just read. Laughing fish isn't much, but it is a start, and right now a start is what we need.

The San Juan Mountains and Some Mysterious Deaths

The San Juan Mountains in South West Colorado are everything that a mountain range should be. They're pointy, pretty, tall, shaped strangely, and somewhere remote beyond deserts and small towns with good Mexican restaurants. They also have a higher proportion of abandoned mines and ghost town type stuff than many other mountain ranges.

I had planned a long weekend from some months ago with which to visit this place I had only read about along with a friend from out of town. Unfortunately, the friend had to bail on the trip but I was not going to let the weekend go to waste so I headed out anyways on Thursday night, down 285, through the Arkansas valley, and over the tall and windy Monarch pass to the town of Gunnison, which looks nothing like its portrayal in the Aliens vs Predator 2 film. From then it was another 60 miles south through the barren sagebrush and mesquite of BLM land and ranching country. Finally I got to the sleepy mountain town of Lake City, where my first impression involved seeing two nice adult buck mule deer walking across the road at 1 am to munch on someone's lawn.

Then there was a dirt road through abandoned mining stuff and a steep canyon. It was pretty awesome to be in such a remote place, but still be able to hear the the Flobot's "Handlebars" coming in across the static of the FM dial.

Anyways, the idea was to climb the Whetterhorn and Uncompahgre peaks, two notable 14ers at the North end of this range. In between the two is also something called the Matterhorn, named after a similarly shaped peak in the Alps....

I was hoping to do the Matterhorn and Whetterhorn on the first day. However, I got a late start and only had time to do the Whetterhorn before it got dark. Yet to use the word "only" here is a little awkward, because it was quite a long hike, up a lot of elevation, from my parking spot about a quarter mile up the Matterhorn Creek trailhead road. My fear of tearing out another oil pan has tended to make me rather cautious about a lot of 4WD roads.... the Subaru is great but not really jacked up for high clearance...

The approach through the valley on the Henson Road/ CO 20 was mostly pretty smooth. Several sedans and a few minivans seemed to have been able to make it through ok. Also, this road is very beautiful!

This is the ond mining camp of Henson

And the last remnants of a settlement called Capital City. Only this foundation is left:

This is someone else's picture of the Whetterhorn:

Here you see the South East face, which was the route I took up to the ledge a few hundred feet beneath the summit on the Southeast ridge. From there you walk a bit behind the face seen in this picture and go up a rather steep scramble to the very top.

My pictures of the hike:

Walking up through the treeline, the Whetterhorn is visible hear peaking out above the hill in between me and it

Above the treeline, the trail opens up into a broad alpine meadow. In this picture the Matterhorn is the high point visible... the ridge going off to the left connects to the Whetterhorn.

The Whetterhorn in view:

There are no more pictures until the summit as I was saving space for views of the top.

From the summit here is looking East to Uncompahgre:

Looking north:

Looking South West at the great mass that is the San Juans:

Due South, you can see the Valley up I took. Somewhere way down there is a car I get to walk back to!

All those pics are part of a panorama but I haven't had a chance to match it all up yet.

One thing sucked though- at the tops of all the 14ers there are little log books up there you can sign in to. They are kept in PVC pipe with twist off ends. Well some joker had squeezed the end of this pipe so tight I could not open it and sign in! So that's a drag... but at least I have photographic evidence of the success of the summitting :)

On the way down I did some hunting for the marmot. You see there is a season for such things, and the marmot meat has a very sweet and unique flavor. They recently had to outlaw marmot hunting in Mongolia because many of the species had been found to carry plague, yet this has only resulted in the emergence of a large black market for the meat, the eating of which is an important part of Mongolian tradition and culture.

In my opinion Marmot is like the sweet desert wine of the game meats. It literally smells and tastes like honey. They can be a bit messy to clean, as in the fall they build up a lot of fat to hibernate through the winter with. But it's worth it. Off a large marmot you can easily get maybe four big dinners of meaty, delicious stew, and the daily limit for marmots is two. The way I see it, if you're going to climb mountains anyway, and you bring along a small, lightweight weapon and pick up some marmot on your way down, the money you save from not having to go to the grocery store for a few days to buy meat helps to compensate for the gas you spent to drive to the mountain.

Anyways, I was using a Ruger 10/22 carbine which I felt worked great... small, lightweight, and very accurate. I don't think anything larger than the .22 caliber is really necessary for this specie...

* * *

The next day I spent relaxing and enjoying the time I had. I went down to Henson creek and fished a bit, and in general checked out the area.

Unfortunately, that night it started to rain. I had a large tarp along and was able to rig it up fine to be able to have a fire and cook in a nice dry area; but it made me nervous about doing Uncompahgre the next day.

In the morning as it made breakfast the whether was typically schizophrenic for Colorado. It was bright and sunny, yet there were dark grey clouds moving in. After waiting around to see how things would develop I decided to pack up camp and cancel the hike that day. I don't know when I'll be out that way again, and it was really a great place for mountains, but I did not think it would be safe to be on a summit with decaying weather.

As I left a significant storm came in

See the peak off in the distance? It has been eaten up by the storm- good thing I am not there!

Well I got out of there and that was that. However in the afternoon as I got out of the mountains the weather was mostly sunny, though there were a few drizzels. Instead of doing a high peak I pulled over into some BLM land and did some hiking up through the hills of desert scrub. I've always been fascinated by desert scrub. I saw some old, open mines. I went about 6 feet down into one to see if it was open all the way or not, and it was, but as it was dark and creepy and such things tend to have lots of ways to kill people in them I turned around and left.

I didn't take a picture of the high desert but it looks like this:

I saw a lot of deer... perhaps 6 or 7 deer. Unfourtunately they were not of the happy, jumping, and eating grass variety; as they were all dead and in various states of decay. I thought it rather strange to find so many dead deer in such a close area. I don't think they were hunted, unless someone went pschyo with an AR 15 or something on an entire herd, and they all kind of scattered to die... but I don't think anyone would do this. Then I thought perhaps mountain lions had eaten them, and many of the deer had bones strewn about that looked violently cracked and ripped off. Much of the back leg area seemed totally eaten and the sweet innards seemed to have been accessed as well, while a lot of the upper shoulder meat wasn't eaten...

Still, if that was the case, it was still mysterious why a lion would be able to take so many deer in such a small area. Also all of the deer seemed to be in a similar state of decomposition... none were total skeletons and none were plenty of meat with flies still on them. All were sort of in between.

So I decided perhaps this is part of a herd that might have met with death last winter. There were very heavy snows and the Department of Wildlife did do emergency feedings of thousands of deer in the Gunnison area... maybe these were the deer that no one told about the feedings... that would explain the decay level, and savagers, including savaging lions, might have been responsible for the violent menacing the carcasses seemed to have endured.

If you have any information about the mystery of the dead deer in the scrub land Southeast of Gunnison let me know.

Incidentally, my camera was full so there are no pictures of the marmots or the dead deer but if you absolutely must satiate your desire for a picture of something morbid here is someone else's picture of a dead cow being sniffed by its companion.

That's that. All in all it was a very nice trip, a very pretty and wild area, and I am very glad to have been able to check it late in the season while climbing was still feasible.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Walking Away From Dixie + You'll Perhaps Understand

Walking Away From Dixie

I am really edging toward
Forgetting my illusions...

"I must say you look lovely,"
Walking away from Dixie,
The dead body
Turning with so many
Persisting doubts,
And with decreasing

I loved those tragic events of the past,
Punishing me for their mistakes!

At the heart of the
Best questions,
Our favorite side
Accused the other-
Of conspiracy and fraud,
Particularly violent seizure,
Even stealing...

But at the same time,
The tyrannies and
Intrusions co-exist
In an ever-shifting balance,
With an often present
Sense of grievance
Or inferiority.

Choose a stress- buster.
You cannot take revenge,
It's the death image.
Wear that crown with pride.


You'll Perhaps Understand

The most deadly form of fate
Lies in thousands of men,
Looking for villains
In an explosive situation.

When in trouble
A few soldiers act strangely,
Venture in and
(by any means necessary)
Help mask a death,
You'll perhaps understand...

There is a higher price
Emerging from despair.
Look and know one
That will lead to
Irreversible mental damage.
And mocking sarcasm.

But a suicide
Was no laughing matter.

I'm the evil Anti-American.
If I confess
I actually have some sympathy.

* * *

Finally in total darkness
The chances are
Forced out,
Burned to death,
Or asphyxiated.

The country
Has blood on its hands.
Unconscious in
Its deep commitment to
The bleakest of all possible actions.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

All Savage Ideal for Free

(Savage Ideal is an ambient/industrial/experimental project that I started as a solo venture in 2006, when I still lived in DC and was focusing mostly on Bajskorv. I'm currently working on SI's third full length from the relocated Buried Electric studios in Denver. For information on Juan Monarez' post-Bajskorv project Impulse Control, go here).

After weighing the pros and cons, seeing what other bands do, and experimenting with release formats myself a bit over the years, I have decided to release all Savage Ideal for free.

I don't have the time or the energy to make Buried Electric a "real" label, with all the promotion that requires. I'd rather spend my time actually writing music, than working out distribution on a national scale. So for all BE releases from now on I'm doing two things: pressing a very limited number of hard copies with good art for all those interested in such things, and simultaneously making high quality mp3s available for free download online.

My hopes is that if the next album or two are good, and live happens well, eventually I will be approached and seduced by an actual label that feels I'm worth them investing in. If that happens I will be open to the idea of no more free releases, or taking down the mp3s of old releases... but that is so far into the intangible futuristic void as to be not worth dwelling to long on here.

I need to redesign big time... but until then you can download the entirety of Universal Failings of the Human Condition here.

The second savage ideal album, A Thousand Chapters of the World, is finished but not mastered... it may cost me a few hundred bucks to get it mastered before I can responsibly release it for free (see how this works?), and I am currently unable to afford that. As soon as that's possible though, I'll make a big announcement.

Ghosts... is about 65% done. That will be free online, or available packaged for mail order, soonish.

If you like it, go to live shows, and buy merch. Or give me a hug... or buy me some food... or just leave a nice comment saying what you thought of the tracks... that's not too much to ask, to keep me going here.


Nostalgia Drifting Through the Valley

It's November 2007 and I'm in Arizona headed east all day from Las Vegas to 40 over and on old 66 to Flagstaff then on till I drop just after the New Mexico border. Nothing but driving, through the wide open freedom. Gasing up, coffee, gassing up...

Pulled over on the side of old 66 to make some of them corn tortilla pizzas... the sun was setting by the train tracks of black rock, green yellow grass and cottonwood shrubs.

Towns no one knows or cares about. Collapsing beautiful towns. Tall mountains slowly building to a rise you can see from miles away like a hundred car train in its entirety.

Friendly people in Flagstaff getting a new headlight and motor oil at Small America just in time before NAPA Auto Parts closes I was getting a hamburger next door...

* * *

It's definitely September...

There's a bit of ice on the waterfall and these nights in the car are cold- especially with no sleeping bag (at last count it was still fighting for life from deep within in the chaos of the Little Rock Post Office). There might be a way to make this into a strength, but with how fast the seasons change here it makes me feel old, fast. I don't like it.

There is of course still a month and a half left to climb mountains... but I did the car - living - camping out + outdoors thing for so long last winter... freezing over a Kenmore stove cooking soup at altitude, with night coming along... it just isn't as appealing now!

* * *

Fairplay is pretty much the same geography as Northern Arizona. Sweeping vistas of dusty gold broken by mountains creep up the horizon... great fantastic mountains... And people... There was a near perfect day with people in it to boot.

Just a bit of nostolagia... drifting through the valley. A bit of winter coming on and some clinging to life... The drive in evening up 285 back to Denver is one of the prettiest in the country. And the Mexican restaurant built into that gas station in Conifer was damn good.

I think... I miss driving for hours over hundreds of miles of strange...

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Had it, lost it, just got it again. Sanitarium is the best Metallica song ever.

Also I saw Jeff Key's play. It was very moving- go see it this week!

That's about it fer now.

Friday, September 5, 2008

DNC Story.... Overview

More stories to come.... you can read a lot of what happened in the news, on , on, or different activists' blogs. My story can be told a few different ways... here's a few pictures...

First off, this is fucked up:

I guess that's how we fight sexism... or something...

Son of Nun raps at City of Cuervencea Park on Sunday:

There are few pics from Sunday because I spent most of my time tabling at the park, or in the march. In general the march went ok-ish in so far as it got its message out there, most people in the streets received and responded to it very positively, and well there was some media coverage of the actual messages we tried to raise and I suppose that is what a march is supposed to do, isn't it?

In inter-movement political lesson drawing out terms I may say that this march was a bit chaotic. While it is great ARD was able to organize it, we didn't have enough marshals, or enough people at the heads of the feeder marches who knew the routes and could act responsibly. As someone part of organizing this I did spend a bit of time just trying to figure out what was going on, particularly after the unannounced anarchists' splinter march took off. Things were pretty chaotic after that and it was a bit confusing, and frustrating... but whatever, some people people will always want to show up at someone else's march and split people off from it to go a different way under different banners.

The one thing that bothered me though is I felt the cops were behaving very cool all day so far... We had been told that, since Sunday was an unpermitted march through downtown, we'd be arrested if we stepped into the street when the sign said not to cross. Not only did the cops not arrest us, but they actually stopped traffic to let our marches cross streets when the lights turned.

What bothered me then about the split off march, was that it headed the wrong way up a one way street totally off route and in my opinion was basically just an attempt to say 'fuck you' to the cops... saying fuck you to the cops is all fine and good when you just show up for a protest with your friends to get your kicks, but when you've been organizing for a demo for a long time, and you know a lot of people- including people who've brought their whole families out- have showed up to a 'safe' event with a low probability of arrest, and some people are actively trying to jeopardize the prepared nature of the event by deliberately and unnecessarily antagonizing the cops, that puts people in danger, places them in a situation they did not sign up for, and if something bad like police violence or arrest of bystanders/protesters were to occur, march organizers- rather than crashers- would have been held responsible for the fracas...

That's my one criticism of Sunday... some members of unconventional denver had been working with ARD for quite a while in building the demos and I've thought- and still do- that they were great activists... but to organize a cannibalistic splintering march, that just pisses off the cops for very little marginal political gain, behind ARD's back, and never once bring up this idea, or ask anyone else in ARD about it, or how we can merge the two ideas... that really bothers me and I think it is deceitful.

At the end of the day though I didn't think this was too big off a deal... no one seemed to have gotten hurt, and no one seemed to have gotten arrested throughout the DNC protests who didn't want to get arrested. Instead from the relative disorganization of the march I'd like to draw more positive lessons, that if you're part of organizing something you have to step up and make sure leadership happens... if you don't lead, because you are afraid of responsibility, or you're turned off by how some 'leaders' crave media spotlights, or because you're afraid of what repercussions will be taken out against any leaders, you can be sure that on the day someone else will be willing to step in and fill that void- and they might be there to take things in a much different direction than you'd like to see.

Here's an article with some video of sunday.

Monday and Tuesday were some tabling, a lot of work, and meeting with some immigrant rights' protesters from LA who drove all the way up to do an action and join the immigrant rights' march on Thursday.

Tuesday night I made dinner and we watched some of those great but cheesy Spanish soap operas on univision. It was great to get to house these people, and help make their demos possible.

Wednesday was the longest day. I was woken up at 6 AM by a phone call that let me know I got to drive to Ft Collins, immediately, to pick up the Coup and bring them to the Denver Coliseum. They were pretty nice folks and it was a pleasure to meet them. They were staying in Ft Collins because all the hotels in Denver were booked. It was a really beautiful drive up there, early in the morning.

Then we got to the Coliseum. it was great to meet some more of the IVAW folks back stage. I can say a lot of things about a lot of different venue's backstage areas. But about the Denver Coliseum I can say that for a venue of its size it has the worst organized backstage rest rooms I have ever seen. There are only two stalls for guys, and no urinals. This is obnoxious and inefficient for guys. Oddly the sink was in one of the stalls, a big open one, but behind the door. That was a little weird.

So in this strange, tiny, horribly designed bathroom I meet what looks like some kind of wild west cowboy with a big hat on. We're all waiting in line chatting, commenting on the poor design of the bathroom, and it turns out this person I'm standing next to is Jeff Key.

Jeff Key is an Iraq war Veteran who wrote "The Eyes of Babylon", a one man play he stars in and is currently performing in Denver. It's about his experiances in the war, and in being an openly gay Marine. More info here.

This is its last weekend, see it while you can.

Obviously I didn't waste precious phone battery to take pictures of this funk bathroom- and besides that would have been creepy... but these were the more glamorous parts of backstage....

There were some sandwiches I got to eat.

But I was no rock star that day, it was time to get to work!

Armed with my backstage pass, tent state t shirt, and event organizer wrist band, I grabbed my water and a bucket and worked the crowd coming in asking for money. I asked the crowd for money because although it was a free show, it wasn't free to put on. It cost a lot to buy the bands plane tickets and basically just a few activists, without ever being asked, stepped forward to front this money. I was trying to get it back to them. I think I got several hundred, maybe a little over a grand, but I didn't have time to count it.

A lot of folks, some of who I had met at protests, or who had volunteered to make signs in the lead up to the demos, walked by. My landlord even walked by! That was cool to see. He threw in a few bucks.

From what I hear the Rage Against the Machine show went great, and the other bands did well too. The coliseum was full (it seats 10,000), and at least 4,000 of those people made it all way downtown with the IVAW march against the war. Without those bands bringing people out we'd have a lot smaller protests, all week. I think this was a great model of how political bands can use their influence to get people involved with grass roots organizing.

Here's some clips of Rage:

Here's the Coup Performing!

That Badass- riling all those people up, was in the back seat of my old beat up Subaru Forester just a few hours earlier. I'm not saying that in a star struck way, or in a "I'm cool for chilling with bands" way, but I'm saying it in a human way. I feed myself by waiting tables on rich assholes who fuck up the economy and bribe politicans. That is the truth. That's my life. We all gotta do stuff we don't like, stuff that makes us depressed, or degrades who we are, in order to survive.

But on Wednesday that's not all I was. I was on that stage on Wednesday, I helped to make THAT happen. That is way more fucking powerful than just being some drone in a tie with a tray full of grey goose or two hands of good wine making sure no glass goes dry... I wasn't there to see all those people get riled up and inspired by the coup, but I was there with them long enough to make it possible, and just as important- they were there with me, that night, on the other side of the guest lists and the secret service... They were keeping me going, and making me proud of who I can be, and letting me know what kind of power I can have.

You can't quantify that in any way... but that's the power and the confidence that protest gives people, and it's why mass protests- though they need to be part of a movement that also includes direct actions, strikes, etc...- will never be "ineffective", or "insufficient"... they're incredibly physiologically and politically valuable- as much for their effect on our side as for the fear or embarrassment they can strike into the powerful.

Then it was off to work to set up for a big party. Sadly my backstage pass went to waste and I didn't get to see any bands! Oh well... business has been slow for months and here's a party I have to work which is a nice guaranteed check so hey, we do what we can.

We set everything up pretty and we got some flat screen tvs so the DNC folks could watch MSNBC. There were two parties and several floor shifts I worked that week, but I saw Obama, Hillary, and Obama's wife's speeches all at work.

Cops in riot gear wandered through our hotel and hung out in the basement... they must have been hidden re-enforcements or something.

More cops lined up outside our Patio:

As Iraq Veterans Against the War led a few thousand activists from the Rage show in a march to the Pepsi center, where the DNC was meeting. They were calling out the Dems for hypocrisy in continuing to fund the war, and were asking to meet with them.

There go the Veterans

Followed by their supporters

The back of the March, headed west

These are Phil W's photos.

It was too bad to have to work, but it was kind of neat to be part of the observing public for a change, rather than always the activist in the demo who is wondering how other people are observing things. It was also neat to watch everything alongside all my coworkers, and to see their reactions to things. It was kind of great to see all that, something that, in my own small way, I did help to make possible, and to be able to point out to the people around me that 1) I do stuff with my ideas , and 2) other people also don't like the democrats funding the war and are ready to do stuff about it.

It was really great the veterans led this march. When I refer to "my work", I refer to a hotel, and two restaurants inside of it... this all means there are a lot of people I work along side but who aren't necessarily in my department... there are also many managers, but they aren't necessarily "my" managers. Anyways, one such manager in the building is a rather right wing person, who is a veteran of the first gulf war. This person did have some snide comments to say about some of the people marching, but he couldn't really say anything about the veterans themselves. For my coworkers for whom this one manager is the primary veteran's voice they ever hear, it was very good for them to hear he doesn't speak for all veterans, many of whom like anyone else don't like the war.

I have many interesting stories from my perspective of being an organizer and also working in a fancy restaurant during these DNC parties. For example, did you know that it's not a violation of political ethics for the very banks whose irresponsible lending is responsible for the recession to spend $33,000-$40,000 on one party for 150 or so Democratic governors and congressmen? The reason is that because they were eating raw oysters and Alaskan king crab with their hands off a buffet table, rather than with a fork and knife, this one party wasn't technically a 'dinner'- so it was ok for corporate lobbyists to pick up the tab. I'm not kidding. The ending of this story is more fucked up. I wrote it down with pen and pad and it will be its own blog next.

Thursday was the immigrant rights protest. The turn out for it, like all the events that week, was a little smaller than many had feared, or hoped; but it was still a good event to have. I met some great folks there, and peddled "no one is illegal" buttons and got a few copies of Mike Davis and Just Akers' book of the same name into people's hands.

Here's the march as it ended in the park:

And that was about it. After the march folks started leaving. I said my goodbyes to William from LA, Kevin/ Son of Nun from Bmore, and Sarah from LA. I gassed up, munched on some free burritos (thanks food not bombs!), and headed off to work.

That night at work Obama's speech was on the flat screen TV. When he talked about defending Israel, or getting out of Iraq "responsibly", or about parental responsibility it was a big turn off. You'll notice that guy never says a word about how maybe its bad so many parents are locked up in prisons, or how there's racial profiling, segreated education still, or anything else that might scare white democrats with money...

But when he talked about the economy it was actually pretty inspiring. The "ordinary Americans" who spoke before him seemed to just be reading off a page but what they said was very moving- usually the kind of life is hard in America stories you'd read somewhere like Socialist Worker- not from the front of a Democratic Party convention!

That speech was showing at my job on one of the flat screen tv's and all the staff as well as diners were watching. There are a lot of problems with Obama... but to see some of my right wing, pro war managers and coworkers watch his speech was awesome... they definitely felt intimidated by it, sort of like a kid whose done something wrong and gets a 'talking to' by a responsible adult. That's probably the first time in my life I've ever seen a major political figure on TV say something that makes a manager of mine a little scared. In 2004 John Kerry was going to "hunt down and kill the terrorists", had zero populism in his platform, and my manager at tower records was cursing at the employees while she was driving that business into the ground and eventually costing us all our jobs. Times sure are different...

Anyways, someone else said this and I'll appropriate it here... I don't believe in Obama, but I do believe in the people who believe in Obama... who don't drink the cool-aid, and who are hurting from the war and the economy and who are willing to do something about it. I met a lot of these people this past week.

Hell, I helped fill THIS ENTIRE PLACE

full of people like that, provide them with an opportunity to march with antiwar veterans to call out politicians (such as obama) who say one thing and do another (Obama just voted for more war funding and endorsed government spying on people), and to get them some radical politics. I personally put a lot of radical books in people's hands this past week, got some left newspapers and other info distributed...

So at the end of the day.... things could have been a little bigger, and better organized, but we were up against enormous difficulties from the beginning. I'd say for what we had to work with we pulled off a successful week, and helped to lay some more of that ground work for what will be a very long political process- to change the direction in which the US is headed.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


It's been a while since there was an update here. The DNC came and went. I have some stories, some of which is jotted down, and I'll put on here soon. The totally corporate bought out nature of the thing was on full display, which was gross, and my ethusiasm for Obama's inspiring speech was definitely tempered by the amount of setting and cleaning up for lobbyists' parties I had to do. Anyways, at least I did get paid, which was nice for a change!

The past few days I've been just vegging out... there's more political things to do, and a post or two about the DNC to put up. I finally have also finished the gaels review and interview so that should be on the WOTE site soon.

Then there's less than two months before the snow comes. It already snowed once in August, though it was a little fluke storm in the mountains... Anyways, I'd like to get out doors as much as I can before that's no longer an option, and I won't have anything to do BUT music and local denver cultural stuff.

So that is that- I am alive, the DNC came and went, and finally the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain news will have to find something else to talk about! I'm super excited.