Thursday, October 18, 2001

Duck Trouble

The latest news on the homeless front, besides the fundamental legalization of Tent City, is Anitra Freeman's turn to crime.

Anitra has been sort of sucked into sort of a life of crime by such repeat offenders as Michele "Give'm Hell with One L" Marchand of SHARE/WHEEL and Scott "the Facilitator" Morrow of SHARE. Actually more like a minute of crime. But she still should be able to look forward to a rewarding career playing parts in John Waters films, if she can bring herself to relocate to Baltimore three months of every year.

For those of you who just boarded this train at the last station, that's Anitra Freeman, alias Anitra of Many Associations Freeman, aka The Duck on the Italian Menu, aka Net Mama, aka Wes's Main Squeeze, on Whose Kitchen Floor I Have Sometimes Slept.

It went down like this. King County Executive Ron Sims got a bug up his butt this year about SHARE, nobody can say why, where, how, or when the bug came from or what it was doing there, but an unidentified source has reportedly said that "maybe he doesn't get the way grassroots organizations like SHARE operate."

The upshot of Sims' dissatisfaction with SHARE was that he wouldn't let them run the Winter Response Shelter at the King County Administration Building this year, even though they ran it for something like eight years without anyone complaining about it at the time. Getting new management for the shelter took time, he said, so the shelter wouldn't open until October 15, he said, instead of the 1st of October, when it usually has been.

So SHARE said, OK, but there is (was, this is all history now) still a need for a shelter Oct. 1 through Oct. 14, because the cold weather won't wait for the County to get its act together, and it's not safe out there even in good weather. Therefore SHARE offered to run the shelter those days. But the bug in Ron Sim's butt made him say no to that. "Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin," he might have said, but he evidently didn't, forcing me to make it up.

I'm not making this part up: Each night of Oct. 2 through Oct. 14 the County put up "no trespassing" tape to keep people out from under the overhang at the entrance way to the Administration Building. SHARE then went ahead and ran a sidewalk shelter in front of the Admin. Building every one of those nights, vowing each night to cross the tape if it should happen to be raining at the beginning of the night.

The office of Ron Sims referred to SHARE's sleep-out as a political stunt, without explaining why politics is bad for SHARE but OK for Ron Sims and his office. The unofficial SHARE position is that it was NOT a political stunt, they needed the shelter for survival, etc., but nobody at SHARE has explained to me why SHARE continues to let Ron Sims and others characterize politics as a bad thing when homeless people engage in it, but all part of a civic duty when anyone else does it. Politics are the means by which Americans set about choosing what's right, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Finally it rained on the beginning of the night of Oct. 12.

Six people were arrested -- Anitra, Michele, Scott, Claude "Cowboy" Nalls, Ted "Tex" Shirey, and Richard "No Fancy Nickname That I Know Of" West. The two women of the gang were cuffed and locked together alone for more than an hour in the SPD holding tank. There, Michele was forced to listen as Anitra, now hyper, theorized extemporaneously on the sociological origins of warfare. Eventually bail was set at $190 for everybody, and all but Scott got out by the next day on their personal recognizance.

I'm going to go out on a limb here, risking domestic turmoil and tumult, to say that I think both sides overreacted in this incident. But in the words of my unidentified source, "The county overreacted FIRST, so there."

Also, on a stupidity scale from 1 to 10, what the County did was a big fat 9, and what SHARE did in response was at most a 5, only slightly more than half as stupid.

To put those numbers in perspective, using scales from 1 to 10 (and how many of us haven't, be honest) is itself an 8 already.

Thursday, October 4, 2001

No Rest from 9-11

When I think of terror I think of Hitchcock's Birds landing on the jungle gym behind what's-her-name, Tippi Hedren. Terrorism is supposed to invoke terror, right? As I remember it, it was Mao Tse Tung himself who once said, "Effective terror is targeted terror which uses fear to immobilize the enemy. Boy, that Hitchcock Bird movie was scary, wasn't it? Know what else? The bourgeoisie suck." Not that Mao Tse Tung was into that sort of thing. He was mostly into American jazz.

So, anyway, here I am, three weeks after September 11, looking back on it, assessing how scared I have been.

Immediately after the attack I began to avoid skyscrapers. My newest insight: "Skyscrapers bad." No more Sunday picnics at the top of the Washington Mutual Building enjoying the bright, idyllic, scenes of falcon chicks as they happily feast upon predigested squab. By contrast, the Space Needle suddenly looked safe to me for the first time since 1962. Now I welcome massive 7.0 earthquakes in old "human-scaled" four-story buildings.

I started freaking out at the sight of turbans, excuse my sixty-ism, because Osama bin Laden wears a turban according to the only photo anyone seems to have of him. (What's up with that? It's been three weeks and nobody can find his high school album?) Of course, as you know, this meant I couldn't ride cabs. If someone could please find a picture of bin Laden wearing a homburg, that would improve matters a bit. I still wouldn't take cabs though (no money.)

I began running from Stans. I knew Osama bin Laden himself wasn't a Stan, but he was friends with some Stan. I couldn't be too safe -- I had to stay away from all Stans. Fortunately Stanley isn't a very common name in the circles I travel, which consist primarily of communists, former elected officials, historians, streetwalkers, and circus performers, so that only meant being afraid of one guy.

I can no longer stand to have airplanes in the house, nor can I pet them. I used to love airplanes, but now I am afraid that the big ones will turn on me and bite me, and that the little ones will dump messes on my head.

I am now terrified of box-cutters and razor blades, especially in the hands of swarthy men. Strangely, I have at the same time lost all my fear of carving knives, hatchets, bayonets, pistols, grenades, assault rifles, tanks, cruise missiles, tactical nuclear weapons capable of fitting in a suitcase, and postal carriers.

Arabic writing, or anything that looks like arabic writing, like two smiley faces next to each other, one upside-down, or a small flock of worms escaping a hot sidewalk, makes me scream like a little girl.

When I watch the Flintstones, or even just think about the Flintstones, I shudder at the very name of Barney Rubble. CNN has the same effect. Dan Rather makes the blood drain from my face and my spine tingle. No change there.

Worse than being afraid of CNN, I can't watch disaster movies on the VCR anymore. No more Towering Inferno, Titanic, Earthquake, Twister, Volcano, Dry Spell, Bees, Andromeda Strain, Asteroid-Hits-Earth (any), Backdraft, Updraft, Downdraft, Independence Day, Independence Day (worth mentioning twice), or Waterworld (not really a disaster flick, but disaster enough in itself.)

OK, I'm ready to admit now that I have been lying throughout this column. "Irony is dead," indeed. It'll take a lot more than what bin Laden's got to kill the irony around here. I am not at all as scared as all that.

Still, I suspect that some of the above may describe a lot of Americans. If so, then my one and only big fear may be realized: that Osama and his obedient terrorism-fodder have successfully bombed us back to the Fifties.