TWO AND A HALF CATS
The first cat appeared even before I got to LA and the Occupy May 1st General Strike. In doing research for the article Why Poor Folks Are Worth More Than Rich People I have been doing volunteer work out of town for an organization that helps poor people. This ain’t no soup kitchen or sappy self-help group. Being California also means the people involved here are more in line with what you would expect to see in a TV series; a focused ‘Sister Mary’ type who seems to juggle six things at once, her ‘right hand’ Irishman US Navy vet, a loyal kitchen staff, a soon-to-graduate poly-sci major, and the story’s first cat. They are all housed at various times of the day in (or around) a large house that is converted into a multi-use office. In early August, this motley crew’s self-help organization will celebrate its 36th year of operation with collector bottles of private label hot sauce. How kickass is that?
You will get their full skinny in the other story so back to the cat. This is an outdoor cat but he is part of the crew. Jim, the Irishman, tells me how this cat just loves this one guy who strokes his fur back hard. Jim says the cat practically wraps his arms around the porch railing so this guy can stroke him like Nelson Muntz [The Simpsons] would. Then Jim introduces me to the cat, sort of, and of course I converse with him (duh, my ex-wife is a witch, that’s not a typo). The cat sizes me up and we are cool.
This is a hang-around-the-house, sleep-on-the-car-hood like Garfield, city neighborhood ‘outside’ kind of cat, so the riddle of the hard stroking the fur thing was solved as soon as I petted his head. Though not matted, the cat of the house had the fur of an outside cat. The hard stroking was a dry cleaning for mister shrewd ‘Top Cat’s fur. I had solved a mystery but I wasn’t at the worker house for that. The good folk were my ride back to the Revolution. Truly it had been a long time. And so my latest Occupy/Activist adventures begin with a planned ‘general strike’ at cities around the country and the world. My beat to cover was LA for the Calendar.
If you have read the lead-in story to this Occupy event, you know that four semi-spontaneous caravans or ‘winds’ were to start at approximately the same morning hour, marching through sections of the city each group was familiar with [a march across their own tuffs] to converse at 6th and Main Streets. My little group is going up to gather signatures for a petition to stop So Cal Electric from being granted a rate increase across the board.
After making good time and finding parking at an under budget rate, we walked to the appointed block, rounding the corner before moving to cross the street. A block up at Seventh Street and Main stood LAPD, the boys in blue. Our map info showed a corridor sanctioned off so the four directions of caravans could make their way to the meeting point. With nine (4 police, 5 media) helicopters hovering and buzzing overhead against the skyscraper backdrop, it truly looked like we were waiting for The Transformers. Into this hullaballoo on both sides of the streets were groups of groups, and old faces from the OLA camp. Before I knew it we were eating red velvet mini cupcakes “without the stuff that gives you cancer”. The gypsy carnival feeling of Occupy LA was back, fueled by the air of anticipation at the meeting of the ‘winds’ which hadn’t arrived yet. The sound of percussion bands echoed off the urban office buildings in our block.
After a group strategy at the food tent run by another familiar face from OLA, I quietly disappeared into the crowd with my clipboard petitions. Only in Russia does story find you. Heading back to Sixth from midway to Fifth, it was perfect timing to see the first wind ‘blow in’; not that it was a race. Suddenly just behind the racket overlaid on the city din came the East wind; a wall of Occupiers, activists, anons, students, x-homeowners, artist tribes, romantics, kids and parents in a parade, with a small convoy of flashing red lights riding drag.
A chill swept across my being as a rousing cheer reverberated off the buildings on Main Street between 5th & 6th upon this sight. Thinking back on that moment makes my eyes rain, to quote Simple Jack. I suspect that was the feeling people had when seeing flag bearer, fife piper, and little drummer boy in colonial artwork when people were going against another empire. My neighbor Mama-Se saw me leaving home and said, “Have fun.” I turned and say, “I’m not going to the circus. This isn’t ‘fun’. I paused. “It’s exhilarating”.
The day had become overcast after Lake Elsinore as if the unseen world is undecided on the actions of the other 1%, mistakenly called the 99%. This ‘revolution’ is really a battle between the 1% who comprise the Occupy/anti-globalization forces and the 0ne Percent who support/are 15,000 of the world’s ‘elite’ families. In the middle are the unknowing/unbelieving 98% Sheeple who remain apathetic for reasons of their own accord. The reality that this event/awakening is happening along a timeline as seems stated in the Bible just adds the right amount of kanabosem to the mix.
The square block arena created between 5th and 6th streets soon filled up with all the cheering winds, noise, and music as each ‘wind’ caravan rounded the corner, marched in singing, dancing, and chanting, pausing to stop and bask in the adulation of their brethren, like a platoon stopping for review. The feeling and atmosphere was maybe akin to high school sports pride times ten since this was both political and historic. A moment that could have been from Glee happened as the Occupy LA Queer Affinity Group slowly putted in via a renovated school bus with ‘Rainbow Rise-Up’ and ‘Pro-Fabulous’ signage amid entourage escort.
After perhaps 30, 40 minutes since time seemed to suspend, the whole mass of caravans turned, reversed course and turned west onto sixth at the corner heading for Pershing Square and a police presence of around 300 officers. The crowd at the square swelled to over four thousand though ‘official estimates’ put the number down at a thousand. Only two incidents of trouble were reported and one of those was at the airport where another strike was taking place. Fifty additional flashing squad cars in sets of three by three or two abreast rolled toward the square in a backup maneuver similar to the Occupy LA bank plaza event reported here, see archives.
Before the three of us, Jim, Lisa, the captain of our ship, and I headed back to Orange County we took a short side trip to see Skid Row, which begins on the east side of Main Street. Walking down sidewalks past lumps of discarded people stretched from building base outward in single file, wafting through the smell of stale urine, it’s easy to see where the reported description of Occupy LA as given from the mayor’s people came from. What I didn’t have the heart to tell my little group though it would have hardly surprised them I’m sure, is that over a million dollars in federal aid to Skid Row district was redirected to Bunker Hill, or the financial district, which starts on the west side of Main Street. Imagine that! To be continued…