Saturday, April 1, 2000


In these times of uncertainty and stress, nothing makes us feel more stable and secure than being annoyed the same way day after day.

First there was WTO. I won’t even get started on that. Then there was the cancelled New Year’s gathering on the Seattle Center grounds.

Now they implode the King Dome two blocks from where I live and I have to stay indoors because I might be struck by flying dust motes.

All of this reminds me that I haven’t ever discussed here what StreetWrites does to justify it’s existence to me.

Oh, sure, there have been articles in the Real Change for years now about StreetWrites, our writing workshop and support group for homeless and low income writers that spawns a good deal of the poetry in these pages and more and more of the prose. But I haven’t written any of those articles, so my unique perspective hasn’t been
perspected. Let’s rectify that.

My favorite StreetWrites activity, in line with what I’ve been discussing, as regards stability and security, is the topical writing exercise. This is a practice begun by our founder, Freeman, “who needs no first name.”

Freeman, who should be called Freewoman, began by just asking the collected group to write when they met on workshop nights. They said, “What about?” So she said, “I don’t know.” And then she threw out a subject like, “What’s the meaning of life?” And they liked it. There is no explaining human nature. Each workshop I could barely contain my dread, waiting for the next announced topic.

Freeman, in workshop, Feb.29: “What are your symbols?”

Me: Symbols are very interesting, and I'm very glad you have decided to ask me about them. Everything about symbols is symbolic, and that's what makes them so great.

First let me answer the question, "What is a symbol?"

The word symbol comes from the ancient Greek, syn bolein, a verb
phrase meaning to toss together. Therefore, the mother of all symbols is the tossed salad. Other popular symbols of symbols have been the three bean salad, and more recently, the Caesar salad.

Symbols do not have to be vegetarian however. Nor do they have to be
tossed, although it helps. Take pigs, for example. Pigs are symbols.
If you toss a pig, that is a better symbol. If it flies through the
air by itself that's even better. Now imagine a whole herd of pigs
flying through the air. Now you have one fine symbol. Gosh, what are
you going to do with it?

Freeman, in workshop, March 14: “Three questions. First, what is justice?”

Me: Justice is what you have got when you got what was coming to you.

“What is social justice?”

Me: Suppose it was a bunch of people that was coming to you. That would be social justice.

“What is economic justice?”

Me: Suppose it was a bunch of money that was coming to you. That would be economic justice.

Other examples.

It might be a lot of tickling that was coming to you. Don't look now,
but here comes the tickle monster. That would be tickle justice.

Or maybe a truckload of ice cream was coming to you. If you step aside at the last minute, and they let you have the ice cream, that would be ice cream justice. If you don't step aside at the last minute, that would be truck justice.

Freeman, in workshop, March 7, “What is love?

Me: Thanks once again for asking such a wonderful thought-provoking

Needless to say, some of my thoughts are getting very irritated at
being provoked all the time, and a couple of them are in the woods
right now looking for sticks to poke you with.

But all in all we love being provoked, because it reminds us that we
are still here putting up with it. Instead of making boring new
friends in a pine box. Thank you, thank you.

So we have thought of one meaning of the word "love". I love it when
you motivate me to get out more. I love it when you remind me that my true purpose in life must
be something else. I love the good things that you do to me, unwittingly.

So much that I'll be back for more, next time. Ooh, Baby!