Thursday, April 26, 2007

The American Dream Book Tour #7

" So fuck the FCC. Fuck the FBI. Fuck the CIA.
I'm livin' in the motherfucking U.S.A."

     — Steve Earle, "The Revolution Starts Now"

HILLSDALE, MICHIGAN, U.S.A
— "I was either going to fucking move or fucking change this town."
That is Richard Wunsch, the owner of Volume One Books of Hillsdale, Michigan. "And I haven't done either."
But he keeps trying.
Geezuz, that means ... everything.
Wunsch has been a first and second grade teacher in Chicago. He has been a block layer, factory worker. He is a radical, a member of the intelligentsia of the United States. There definitely is such a thing. I am finding that out.

Wunsch is wearing a union jacket while he sits in his bookstore and visits with me and Aimee England — who "runs everything" at the store -- as well as visitors strolling in and out of the busy place in downtown Hillsdale, in southern Michigan.

Wunsch talks Steven into sticking around and hearing the rest of my talk. Steven is a young comic, musician, writer. He works at a grocery store right now. He is an "Army brat", raised in Hawaii, Germany, etc.He has a wife. He is concerned about the world, aware. He bought a book.

And there was this young man over in Chicago, who stopped by to listen to me at Revolution Books. He is from Florida, graduated from high school eight months ago, came to Chicago, by himself, to be an actor. He asked me what I think about global warming.

These guys have guts, creativity, heart. I'm not shitting you, it is my absolute pleasure to be able to meet people like this. Wow.

I have met a lot of people like this in the month I have been on the road.
Anthony Rayson, also in Chicago, Lou Downey, Michael Stanek, and on and on. "Chicago Jim" from Bartcop.com stopped by at Barbara's Books and gave me a care package for my journey. How great was that? That gesture is going to take me about four states just on its own. I probably won't even use any gas.

Many folks are concerned about what is going on in this country. Sometimes they are in the city, some are in the smaller towns.

They are smart, passionate, good people.

And when this war ends, when George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Karl Rove are run out of the White House with a switch, it will be these people who will have done a good share of the workload. Most of us won't never-ever know them, but they are there, they dare, and they care.

I spent Monday and Tuesday in Chicago with Mike & Audrey Stanek. Mike took me out bike riding around town. I have not been on a bicycle since, well ... a long time. We took the Blue Line downtown, too.

Mike accompanied me at my readings at New World Resource Center, the Unitarian Church in Park Forest, Revolution Books, Barbara's Books. Thank you, Mike.

When Mike and I were walking around downtown I could not help but look for Gwen. She lives in Chicago, I think. She was my first girlfriend in ninth grade in Norfolk. We would walk home together and talk and really, the rest of the world did not exist. And now you don't even know where the other one is. How does that happen?

Oh, well, that's kind of how it goes.

Kind of how it's supposed to go.    I understand.

Of course I love my wife — Ruth. She is my life.

But still I think it is not extraordinary to walk around and wonder where Gwen from 1968 is, and how she is doing.

If that's wrong, I'm sorry. No I'm not.

After the reading Tuesday night at Barbara's, Mike and a friend of his, Carey, from the housing co-op, went for beers and fries and Gouda [it's cheese!] at the Handlebar on North Avenue, an extremist biker bar.

Carey used to work for Greenpeace.

Get this, once during a Chicago peace rally, he was watching a local television station reporter, well, reporting, on the peace protest. Behind the reporter were some "drunk obnoxious protesters." After the shot, the reporter turned to "the protesters" and said, "thanks,
guys." And the "protesters" walked away, drunk no longer.

Welcome to America, let me try to explain.

Carey has met Julia Hill Butterfly person woman and also Bonnie Raitt, and that's pretty much hugetime in my book.

He had a great suggestion when the inevitable "well what do we do then" question came up at Barbara's.

Carey said we should write to Rep. John Conyers and demand that these thugs — Bush, Cheney, Rove — be prosecuted before the clock runs out. These men should be in the super-max prisons we have prepared so judiciously.

Most of the people we have in those tombs do not belong there, because this country is insane — but Bush, Cheney and Rove ... well, it was for these boys that thumb screws were ever even thunk of.

They are murderers.

Mike Stanek, who once spent six months at Indiana's hideous Terre Haute prison for protesting against the U.S. military, also let me download about two hundred new songs onto my iPod and sent me on my way with a brown bag full of Czech beer, from the home country.

What's the word for awesome in Czech?

Nope, I don't know either.

______________________________________________________________
"Piss and moan about the immigrants, but don't say nothing 'bout the
president. But democracy don't work that way. I can say anything I want
to say."
— Steve Earle, "The Revolution Starts Now"

______________________________________________________________

As we all sat inside Chicago's Revolution Books waiting to get started, someone came in and said that local law enforcement had just conducted a raid in the heart of the Hispanic community, and that local residents had responded immediately with a march in protest.

A front-page photo appeared the next morning in the Sun-Times.

And so I guess that tells us a little about why and how.

Why don't people get too excited about the war in Iraq?

And how do we mobilize people, get them in the streets, bring about a non-violent revolution, as someone in Madison, Wisconsin suggested?
I think it happens when we feel it affects us. When the city council tries to make us put in a sidewalk in front of our house, then we attend the meeting that night.

The folks in Chicago came out, into the street, immediately, without a mailing list, no matter what was on TV, no matter what plans they had for the evening.

Because the robo cops with the machine guns and the face shields were coming after them.

They had to fight. They did not have a choice to make as to whether their time was better spent going out to eat or working in the garden, or whether to fight the brown shirts on their doorstep.      There was no decision to make.

From what I have seen I think that's the only way it happens.

Hey.    I just saw that Rosie O'Donnell is off The View.

Wow. That tell you anything? It tells me that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney attacked their own country in order to start the war in Iraq and steal the oil.

Dick Gregory once said in Omaha, somewhere in the mid-1980s, that if you challenge them, "they will bring tanks on your ass." When I first heard that, in about 1984, I didn't really understand what he was saying, or believe it was that bad in the United States.

It is that bad. In fact, it's probably worse.

Hey. You ever try to find a public restroom in Chicago while you are trying to get out of the city to make it to a book reading in Michigan, and you really, really have to go?

Do you know what happens, eventually?

No, I don't want to talk about it. Would you? If you were a big-time anti-war novelist on a nationwide book tour?


Well, what should we do?

Piss our pants or piss all over the floorboard in fear of the thugs in the police uniforms and government offices? Or get out in the streets with our signs and our fists in the air?

I know what Lou Downey, Aimee England, Anthony Rayson, Chicago Jim, and Richard Wunsch would do, are doing.

— Mike


Next stops:
April 26, Indianapolis Drinking Liberally, 7 pm.;
April 27, Saginaw, MI, The Coffee Shop, 2 pm.; Barnes & Noble, 6 pm;
303 Collective, 8 pm.
April 28, Ann Arbor, The Planet Bookstore, 2 pm.;
April 28, Detroit [Oakland County] Drinking Liberally, Bo's, 6 pm.

1 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Saginaw--I lived there, in the city, for four years. In the early morning, when I'd get up and sit on my front porch drinking coffee, I could taste the iron from the foundry in the damp air.

I had some great neighbors, but it is not a happy city (someone shot at me one morning as I drove to work because I was the wrong color on that side of the river) and I was ultimately glad to leave.

4:08 PM  

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