Archive for October, 2011

October 17, 2011

Welcome to the Occupation Part One: In hot pursuit of a live blog experience

Caught in the act: Slugworth.

I tried, I really did. I drank deep the broth of humanity that was freely given at Mission Park this weekend by regular people trying to make a difference and succeeding. From this blog, I planned to wax quixotic about the movement, the complete absence of cynicism, the surprising comfort mediocre classic rock covers supplied and the James Bondesque car chase my boyfriend Brett and I engaged in as we attempted to hunt down the man in the white Explorer who was photographing license plates of protesters.

My first trip to the park at about 3 p.m. Saturday was sans the encumbrance of technology: a slim reporter’s notebook in my back pocket, a red pen, a black pen, my eyeglasses hanging from a granny chain and a dumb phone. Armed with his Blackberry, Brett would be my cameraman. The scenario was a little far afield of my adolescent career daydreams,  but aren’t they all?

Upon arriving I immediately connected with Teri Hitt and Phil Wikel who contributed to VCReporter’s Protest Song Project in July. (I had worked on that project for about 5 months before unveiling it during Westside ArtWalk in tandem with 1,000 square feet of provocative protest art by Paul Benavidez (his Unequal Wealth Distribution “LOVE” painting was part of the show and on display at Mission Park this weekend) Sean Tully, Will Fraser, Evita Huapaya and others.

My fire for protest was stoked back then by an infuriating and, dare I say, unjust encounter with the Ventura Police Department and the pricey clusterfuck that followed.  Coupled with some other money-oriented frustrations that I will refrain from discussing here for obvious reasons, I was good and angry and wondering what the hell happened to the protest song anyway? Where are the artists when you need them to convert your vitriol into a catchy melody?

Anyway, it wasn’t long before (back at Mission Park) I was wishing I had a more sophisticated toolthan a ballpoint pen for documenting my experience. The General Assembly (G.A.) was scheduled for 6 p.m. and if I wanted to understand what was actually taking place here and how, I needed to be present for it.

The plan was to go home, get Brett’s laptop and set up shop in the media tent for some live blogging. But then I spotted Kasey Herbison (another VCReporter Protest Song Project participant) who told me he was going to perform at 5 p.m. I try to never miss an opportunity to see Kasey play so the plan changed: Watch Kasey, then book it home for the laptop and book it back in time for the G.A.

Kasey was inspiring as usual and after he finished, Brett and I headed for the parking lot. That’s when we encountered Slugworth and his camera. Two hippie kids also in the parking lot teamed up with us as we attempted to thwart his sinister plot (whatever it was). When we demanded to know why he was photographing license plates, he said it was public property and he was within his rights (paraphrasing). Like Quickdraw McGraw, Brett liberated his Blackberry from his pocket and began videotaping. The man was visibly shaken and headed toward his vehicle after failing to throw us off his trail by pretending to photo his own license plate.

We had no choice but to follow him. I mean what would Anderson Cooper do (other than laugh)?

By now it was a few minutes before the G.A., but knowing there are no accidents, we opted to hunt Slugworth down. Of course we hit every red light on Santa Clara just when it changed and watched, horrified as the white Explorer fell out of view.

“Run the red, run the red!” I cried. “We can’t lose him, damnit!” Brett being the voice of reason refused to acquiesce. It was as though our man had some sort of covert access to the traffic lights. A pocket size device he’d no doubt crafted from used batteries and chewing gum that he could use to control the signals. What an asshole. He probably had a 50-page manifesto under his bed too.

Palm, Oak, Chestnut. . . “FUCK! We lost him!”

But something told Brett to make a left on Fir, coincidentally (or not) the street where the VCReporter offices are. As we approached Main Street to make a right we spotted him travelling East on Main. There was only one vehicle between us. One vehicle driven by one terribly safe elderly man with a handicapped placard hanging from the rear view mirror–and we still needed to get Slugworth’s license plate number.  (By the way, I’m not sure why I decided to name him after the villain in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it happened only minutes after our initial encounter.)

Brett urged me to remain patient until we got to the part of Main where it mercifully turns into two lanes. He knew I was out for blood. This man was up to no good and I was hell bent on stopping him.

Finally we reached the intersection where the old Jue’s Market used to be and we had to make a choice: Roll up alongside him or stay incognito behind the minivan.  Of course I wanted to get right next to him. I wanted to look into his dark and lifeless eyes. I wanted to put the fear of God into him. That’s when it occurred to me: What if he’s carrying a gun?

This is when it began to unravel. We pulled up next to him. We tried to be cool. Brett, in his banana yellow Unequal Wealth Distribution T-Shirt (Thank you Paul), leather cowboy hat and blue tinted aviators, and I, in my paint splattered hoodie, windblown hair trying to suppress my maniacal laughter.

The light turned green and that must be when Slugworth noticed us because he slowed to about 5 mph in the middle of the road before making a quick right and pulling over on a residential street in midtown. We passed him and went around the block. Tires screeching, wheel turning in hard circles under Brett’s experienced hand, two vigilantes with dark pasts, how in the world did we manage hijack an episode of Dexter?  It was a slick strategy on Brett’s part because when we came back around to the intersection, Slugworth had flipped a bitch and was now to our immediate right.

His light changed and he took off up Catalina toward Poli. Stuck at the intersection from hell, we watched, defeated, as he got away.

By now it was 7 p.m. The good news: we got his license plate. The bad news: we missed the G.A.  We went home to bask in the afterglow of our pursuit and feed the dog.

It was dark, the campers were surely setting up and there would be no live blogging by me. Hell, Slugworth made me forget everything I wanted to write about.

Plan B: Sunday, we’d get up early, do some housework, pack up the laptop and arrive at Mission Park in time for the 11 a.m. G.A. This plan was put to bed when we awoke at 10:30 and I refused to let anything, even a historic uprising, stand between me and my microfiber dusting cloth.

When we finally got our gear stuffed into the car it was once again, nearly  3 p.m.  There would be another G.A. at 6 p.m. so I figured I’d live blog until then, take notes during the assembly and maybe file some sort of story. (Earlier that day Teri had texted me about City Manager Rick Cole visiting the protesters with news of an officer committing suicide, so I knew I’d be writing about this as well.)

We secured a good parking space (no trace of Slugworth) and headed for the media tent (after making sure to get the score to the Raiders’ game on the radio).

It was quite bright in the white easy-up that served as the media area. I opened to wordpress and began my first blog post of the day: “It’s 3 p.m. at Mission Park in Ventura.” I opened another tab, where I began writing a news brief for VCReporter about the visit from Rick Cole. The glare was blinding and though I can type with my eyes closed, proofing my work was near impossible. Add to that the absence of a spell check tool on Brett’s laptop and some weird snafu with the back end of VCReporter’s website and crankiness began to set in. Balancing my ample ass on what was basically a decorative, dwarf folding chair, staring into the shiny black abyss of a screen, I attempted to access an online spellcheck tool.

Meanwhile, Brett had decided to help with the music and the groovy Bob Marley emanating from the P.A. had turned into punk rock. Not realizing he had connected his phone to the sound system, I texted him to say WTF and “California Uber Alles” was replaced by Brett’s messaging alert: the voice of Southpark’s Stan  saying “Fuck Facebook, seriously.” I did it twice more for good measure and because it was sort of how I was feeling.

Finally by grace or magic or sheer stubbornness I managed to file the story for the Reporter about the visit from Rick Cole and associated changes to the occupation. But somehow in the process, I closed the tab to my wordpress account before it had auto saved.

And that’s when I heard the call to begin the G.A.

Technology is a lazy lover who likes to spend money, take long naps and keep secrets. I reached for my faithful notebook and my red pen and headed out.  Live blog fail, occupation in transition and eyeballs oh so red.  Goodnight.

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October 1, 2011

Why Occupy?

Read this.

Watch this.

“To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” Abraham Lincoln

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