Notes from the Underground - Volume 1 Number 1 - Why Seattle didn't happen for me
Okay, so Marla and John thought it'd be a good idea for me to write a column for Vegan Street, and I was, like, "Cool". I'm a vegan who dabbles in anti-globalization activism and anarchy, so I'm thinking that I'm perfect for the job. Not that they're paying me. Not that I'd ask for money anyway, because if we're going to advance our cause at all, we've got to stand in a united effort to crush the dominant capitalist paradigm. If they want to throw a few bills my way though (hint, hint!), I won't turn it down. (This is the longest I've ever gone without electricity and water - usually I have at least one or the other working - so I'm a little more willing to palm a greenback or two these days. It's no big deal, though.)
So, a little background on me...The name's Crazy Pete, but some people know me as other names, like #4772828 - that was my most recent i.d. at Cook County Jail in Chicago (or was that Detroit?) - or Mad Dog (I don't really remember how this name came about - there may have been some peyote involved - but now it's my walky-talky handle). Most people just know me as Crazy Pete, though, the guy willing to do almost anything that subverts the government or gets me on the 5:30 news - hopefully both.
Whether you know it or not, you've probably seen me before at demonstrations, rallies, actions, and vigils. I'm known all around the country, plus Canada (Free the Ottawa 5!) and England, although I wasn't there during the fur farm raid in April '98, because - despite what you FBI parasites reading this coulmn think- I was taking care of my sick great-aunt in Florida. I know it sounds dubious, but once in a while great-aunts really do get sick and require one's care. Unfortunately for the Feds, Aunt Gertie thinks she is living in Vienna circa 1903, so she really isn't of any help to them. Too bad.
So, okay, my inaugural column is going to be about why I wasn't at the WTO protest in Seattle last week. For those of you who me, the Seattle protest was shaping up to be the kind of stuff my dreams are made of, and there'd have to be a natural disaster or at least a pretty serious FBI inquiry to keep ol' Crazy Pete from getting on the road. As you learned earlier, the funds have been running a little dry these days, but that's not why I wasn't there. I would have bummed a ride with someone, since I can't drive my '73 Cutlass anymore after the duct tape stopped being able to hold the bottom to the top. Also, the coppers still have my license in Minneapolis due to a bit of misunderstanding that happened way back in July - a bit of advice: never, ever attempt to climb a weeping willow that the Parks Department is trying to tear down: they're not as strong as they look, and if you should fall and accidently land on someone below, you could be charged wih assault. So since my license is currently in The Man's possession, I really didn't feel safe driving the ol' Cutlass.
So I got on the horn at the Citgo around the corner (did I mention no phone?) and started making a few calls. Who could I hitch a ride with? Owl couldn't go 'cause his regression therapist thought spending the week in a car with me would be impede his progress, since he has finally made it about a quarter of the way down the birth canal. Rainbow wouldn't go because she was still in post-traumatic shock after Thanksgiving. Bill K. had some bad Nayonnaise. Freedom would've gone but she had a batik intensive she had to teach. Spence has gone underground, so I couldn't reach him (literally, he's started living in a barricaded underground bunker). Last but not least, Glory was up in a redwood last time anyone saw her, I think because of Pacific Lumber, but she's been known to live in trees before without any specific reason. So anyway, I was left to my own devises. Greyhound? No dinero (plus they're union busters). Bike? My preferred mode of transportation, but too far in such a short notice. A plane was out of the question. Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Then it hit me: Ma and Dad.
Out in the wilds of suburbia, there's a '97 Dodge Neon sitting in an attached garage, just dying to escort yours truly to Seattle in style and comfort. So I go out there, thinking I could soft soap the family roadster out of them for a week. Of course, Ma's all," You only come over when you want something out of us," and my old man's still steamed because he claims that the last time I borrowed the car, it ended up smelling like cat pee (where else were me, Rubin, Hayden, Hoffman, and Seale - the cats - supposed to sleep while the landlord scraped asbestos from our walls?) Finally, finally, finally, I manage to extract the keys from them, though I had to listen to Ma complain that her roses didn't bloom well this year about an hour, then I had to go over paint samples for the living room and I still don't see what the big difference is between Eggshell and Antique White.
So I go out into the garage, happy as a clam, but then, suddenly, the smell washes over me. As much as I tried to deny it, it was definitely there, faint but unmistakable. I walk a little farther into the garage, past the piled up copies of Reader's Digest and the bright blue jugs of anti-freeze, and it's unavoidable...It's coconut! Where was that demon smell coming from?!? I peer into the car, covering my mouth as the smell becomes more and more wretchedly obvious and there it is, plain as day, a Re-Nu-Zit® COCONUT AIR FRESHENER hanging from the mirror!
(For those new to the topsy-turvy world of Crazy Pete, coconut is my kryptonite. It never bothered me until about 15 years ago when I was in a lockdown for 16 hours with a group of activists in San Francisco, and this woman was wearing coconut essential oil. Over the course of hours, it became like torture to smell coconut mixed with sweat and dirty socks and God knows what else. I don't know what it was - maybe it's psychosomatic or Freudian or something - but I've had a deep aversion to the smell of coconut ever since that day. Somehow it reminds me of the Reagan era. It seriously messes with me, like my head starts to spin and I could hurl at any moment. When I have nighmares, giant coconuts usually factor in.)
So there I am, looking at my chariot to Seattle, and there's the stank of coconut in the seats, the carpets, everything. Uggh! No time to lose, I open all the windows, grab my Mom's gardening gloves, toss the demonic air freshener in the garbage, and run inside to bum 20 bucks to get the car cleaned out. Of course, my old man's got to tell me that the reason the air freshener's in the car in the first place was because I let my cats pee in his car (no one can prove that my cats were the ones who did it, by the way, or even that it was cat pee) and he's got to hassle me about the money, saying that if I can't afford 20 bucks, I should quit my job at the tofu factory (I wasn't about to tell him that I already had).
Anyway, I get the money, jump in the car, nauseated because I can still totally smell the coconut. I get to the Effie's Car Wash and tell them I want the whole package - carpet shampoo, vacuum, everything. Meanwhile, I sit and am waiting by the cashier for like a half hour, and then finally they're done. I get in the car, put the key in the ignition, and guess what? They used COCONUT-SCENTED CARPET SHAMPOO!!! It's everywhere, totally surrounding me, choking me. The last thing I saw was Reagan drinking out of a coconut on Gilligan's Island with Nancy putting lotion on his back, wearing a bikini. That's about when everything went black.
The next thing I know, I'm lying on the floor of the waiting room, Mom's kneeling at my side, slapping my face, saying, "Peter, Peter wake up." My Dad's talking to the car wash guy, going, "He's probably anemic. He doesn't eat any meat." Some kid's playing with a toy car, totally ramming into my leg with it. I have no idea who he was. I'm still kind of out of it, trying to explain to them about the whole coconut thing, and they're all cocking their heads to the side, frowning, looking at each other. Clearly, they didn't get it.
Anyway, I had to spend the rest of the week at home, resting. I got to watch some of the coverage on my black and white TV until my landlord cut out access to the common electricity socket in the hallway. Anyway, that's why I wasn't there.