24 January 2005

Rich's Birthday

This weekend was Rich's birthday, which meant drinking. Lots of drinking. Every year we go to Kai Osaka, a Japanese hibachi restaurant. Grace didn't particularly care for the chef calling her "Lovebucket," especially when he was calling Lucy "Gorgeous." I think she was also put out that Rich would not dance with her the night before at the Warehouse, but he did dance with Wayland. I tend to agree with her, but for another reason--people can get hurt when Rich and Wayland dance.

Following dinner we went to a party at Kim's house, who was also celebrating her birthday. Kim's best friend was Nicole, who used to organize with us during out Student Government days. Nicole moved to Chicago last August, and is trying to get Kim to join her up there. I am opposed to any more people leaving Tallahassee, but they just don't listen to me.

On the way over, Allen and Cindy showed me the house they were interested in buying. Once I saw the picnic table in the back yard, I liked it immediately. When Allen and I lived at KAOS, he could always be relied upon to get drunk and dance on the picnic table he had stolen from a Hardee's that went out of business. Table surfing, he called it. The picnic table is another KAOS relic that was destroyed a few years ago. It finally collapsed under the weight of seven or eight sorority girls. We tried rebuilding it, but ten years of table surfing with nothing but dried beer to keep it together was too much. It did not last long at the hands of the frat boys, and the landlord told me he had bought a new one a few months after we left.

It's odd, but hearing that someone actually bought furniture for KAOS seems to insult the spirit of the place. Allen lives what Cindy calls a depression era lifestyle, and got what furniture he needed off of curbsides. One of our later roommates bought a couch, even though I tried to explain how sacrilegious it was. Although I don't get my furniture off the road, I have accumulated a collection by helping friends move and relieving them of articles they no longer need or could not take with them. I have John's old futon, Allen's desk and bookshelves, Jeanne's TV stand, Susan's chair and love seat, and a chest of drawers that had belonged to Joe Traina. Total expenditure for fifteen years in Tallahassee--$5. I like to think my grandfather would be proud of that.

16 January 2005

Greens v. Dems

I received the following comment the other day, which I believe needs a main posting to answer:

How do you believe the Democrats have "sold out," their progressive values? Do you agree with me, that the Dems and the Greens have virtually the same values, it's just the Dems don't articulate it as they should, or, do you believe the Dems are equally rules by corporate greed, and if so, in what ways? Do you believe that the Democrats are willing or capable of moving towards a Green platform, or do you believe only a 3rd party Green candidate can accomplish that, in which case, how alive do you believe the Green movement to be, especially in a society that seems so unlikely to ever take a 3rd party seriously?

Dan, I think you are making assumptions based on my Green party affiliation. I am currently disgusted with both Democrats and Greens, but I'll try to answer this fairly. I don't believe the Democrats sold out their Progressive values, those who are actually progressive I am willing to support. However, this is the same party that contains both Dennis Kucinich and Zell Miller. If I knew what it actually meant to be a Democrat I might be more supportive. In short, some Democrats do support Green policies, but many do not, especially in the South. Some southern Democrats are more conservative than northern Republicans; southern Republicans are just plain scary. The coming fight for the DNC is going to be a showdown between reform Democrats and those who believe the party should move to the right.

What the Greens need to realize is they cannot leap from a crawl. They need to build up support by running in smaller, local races, and win more seats in state legislatures before they can even think about running statewide or nationwide. Also, no third party has ever gained major party status without doing some coalition work with other parties, major or minor. One thing that turned me off about some Green party members is their holier-than-though attitude. As the chair of our county organization, I advocated endorsing progressive Democrats (but not all Democrats). We did not have the means to run anyone ourselves, so I thought it should be our responsibility to local liberals to identify candidates that share their values. This provoked a big fight. Even those who supported endorsement were against the idea of doing so in the primaries, when we had our best shot at boosting a liberal over a conservative. They wanted nothing whatsoever to do with "that other" party. I don't believe you can build a party by alienating potential members. I have not been active in the Greens lately, so the question of my excommunication has not yet come up.

For the present, I am a believer in ballot initiatives, which is why the non-partisan redistricting issue I mentioned earlier is going to mark my reentry into activism. If we get this thing off the ground, watch the reactions of both parties and see who is more interested in necessary electoral reform. I hope I am wrong, but I'm not expecting the Democrats to show much leadership on this issue, and if they do the reactionary Greens will want no part of it. My friend Rich likes to point out that some of the major political reforms in America came from citizen support (such as Women's suffrage and MLK's civil rights victory), and not from partisan action. I am starting to come to that way of thinking myself, but usually I have to learn things the hard way. A few years ago we were having dinner with a Democratic member of the Florida legislature, and we were discussing electoral reform. The legislator said he doubted much would be done, as he and his fellow reps. did not see the need for reform. It was then I realized it's not supposed to be their decision, it's supposed to our decision.

14 January 2005

Jed Silverstar

It's a small world. Recently, Jed, the brother of a woman I know from the local Green party passed away. I've just now become aware that I used to know that Jed. I had not seen him in ages, so the name did not strike me at first. He was more of a friend of a friend, we never had much to say to each other. He had a remarkably creative mind, so I think his passing is much more than a loss for friends and family. In memory of Jed, here is his Elephant Song (set to a calypso beat):

(by Jed O'Connor/Jed Silverstar, copyright 1995)

O the el-e-phant is an an-e-mal
He got feet as big as a tree-ee,
But the el-e-phant, he can be my friend
As long as he don't step on me.

Don't step on me el-e-phant!
Don't snap at me crocodile!
I'll bring me a snack, I'll
feed every jackal
so we can laugh awhile.
Don't spit at me adder, mon!
Say what is the madder, mon?
There's plenty of merit to make like a parrot
Let's talk and be friends!
There's plenty of merit to make like a parrot
Let's talk and be friends!

O the ocelot, she can't change her spot,
And the tiger can't change his stri-ipe.
But they both will purr if you smooth their fur
When the lion sleeps tonight!

Don't growl at me lionness,
There's no need to spy on us!
We come here to play or maybe parlay
So why not get high on us?
O unfold your furry ears,
We don't need no worri-ers!
Bring your pal the cheetah, we'd all like to meet-'er
Let's talk and be friends!
Bring your pal the cheetah, we'd all like to meet-'er
Let's talk and be friends!

The piranha fish is a little vish-iz
At times as so are we a-all,
But when she's feeling sweet
With her t'ousand teet(h),
She can smile ten feet tall.

Don't eat me piranha fish!
No, no, that is not my wish!
No I'm not a blintz, not made out of mince
Not under no covered dish.
Don't see no men or women here.
I don't wanna go swimmin here!
But if you wanna chat, well I'm all for that,
Let's talk and be friends.
If you wanna chat, well I'm all for that,
Let's talk and be friends.

The tarantula is a raunchy fella
He bite if he got the chance.
But he's really swell at a tarantella--
Why not take him to the dance?

Don't fang me tarantula!
My legs are essentula!
I only got two, not eight legs like you,
So lighten up, cantula?
There's more use for mandibles
Than acting like candibles!
It's no voodoo curse to wanna converse,
Let's talk and be friends.
It's no voodoo curse to wanna converse,
Let's talk and be friends.

(Repeat Elephant verse #1)


There has been some discussion amongst reform Democrats of doing away with the early primaries for Iowa and New Hampshire. I would go further and attempt a nationwide one day primary, and hold it the day before the Convention. That way the totals would come in just as the nominating process starts. I like to think this would be a purer representation of the will of the people. The drawback is if there is no clear winner, and three or four candidates are viable. At this point it is out of the hands of the people, and up to the delegates, and there could be some nasty fights as deals are made. Overall, I admire the British elections. They are short and to the point, whereas ours drag on forever. There is already speculation over who will run in 2008, and campaign headquarters will probably be formed as soon as the 2006 elections are over.

12 January 2005

I read in Dailykos over the holidays that a new ballot initiative was being proposed in Florida-- non-partisan redistricting. Having been absent from the activist scene for some time, I think this is an issue that will get me involved again. I talked with Rich, who works for the AFL-CIO, and he says they will probably take the lead in organizing this. I got the impression that they would be pleasantly surprised if the Democrats supported with any enthusiasm, even though it is supposed to be the centerpiece of their 2006 campaign.

I think the crux of any progressive reform is going to have come from revamping the electoral process. I work best when advocating reform of a broader issue, from which, if successful, specific reforms can be attempted. I think my failure as chair of the local Greens came from the fact that I wanted to work on something far-reaching instead of another NIMBY or bike-path campaign. Oh well, . . . Rich has promised to send some information sometime this week.

Coming up this weekend will be another work party at the Progressive Center. I missed an art show there last Friday, so this will be my first visit this year to see how things are going. The session is due to start soon, and Allen wants the place to be ready to act as a response base for local activists.

07 January 2005

New Orleans

Back to reality, but feeling pretty wrung out. I arrived in Tallahassee on Monday, but did not go back to work until Wednesday because of a cold I had picked up in New Orleans. Hopefully I'll get to see some people this weekend and feel more at home.

Adam and I had a pleasant, but otherwise uneventful trip to New Orleans. We took the scenic route from Houston on New Year's Eve, driving along the coast of Louisiana's Highway 82. We stopped for a beer in Cameron, the went up to Intercoastal City, just to see what Intercoastal City looked like and maybe have another beer there. We saw a Halliburton sign and got the hell out. We thought about having a beer in Abbeville, but decided to crack on for New Orleans, as I seemed to recall they had beer there.

We had dinner at the Brewhouse, then went to check on our friend, John Burris, who works as a Lucky Dog vendor. Burris was an FSU student that Adam had taken to Mardi Gras about ten years ago. Burris wound up packing his bags and moving there, working any odd job he could find and staying in damp cellars and drafty attics, or trashed apartments that combine both features. I was pleased when he started working for Lucky Dog, as it gave him a more stable job with some cultural significance. It fits well for his chosen lifestyle, which is to work long hours for days and weeks at a time until he saves up enough for a vacation. He'll spend a month or two in Europe or South America until his money runs out, then comes back and repeats the whole process.

In the novel A Confederacy of Dunces, the main character, Ignatius, works for a time as a hot dog vendor. In 1998, the Lucky Dog manager, Jerry Strahan, wrote a book called Managing Ignatius, and told about the various burn-outs and transients that he has employed over the years. This year Adam and I got our own peek behind the magic of Lucky Dog. New Year's Eve is one of John's busier nights, and when we dropped by to see him, he asked if we could run by and get some supplies for him. I thought we were just dropping off a request, and someone would deliver them later, but we were put to work. Unfortunately, the lady working at Lucky Dog did not realize we were gentlemen volunteers, and did not have any patience for anyone who did not know the system. We left with a shopping cart filled with hot dogs and condiments, and a large box of buns precariously balanced on top. We then had to navigate through the crowded French Quarter. Adam pushed from behind, and I was in front guiding us around potholes and people while Adam made constant demands that we go faster and keep the cart level. It's amazing how people who see you coming and know what you are trying to do will still not get out of the way. We arrived without any serious mishap, but John was amused that the box of buns had ripped and wondered how we managed to do that. "We don't know what we're doing!" was our reply.

We hung out with John for awhile, then went to the Cathedral for the countdown. There were supposed to be some fireworks, but it was too foggy to see anything. The vampires were insufferable. More bar hopping. I am more than happy to just relax in some place like Jean LaFitte's, but Adam likes to go from place to place as quickly as possible.

The days were spent in Adam's car as we cruised through neighbourhoods looking for something to buy or rent when he moves here later this year. I have learned quite a bit about New Orleans and its various neighbourhoods, but it will all be forgotten if it takes me another three years to get back. I had hoped to pick up a few souvenirs for the babies at O'Flaherty's, but we never made it back in time. We started out the next night at Molly's at the Market, where they were raising money for the tsunami victims. We checked in with Burris again after eating. Fortunately, it was a slow night for him and he didn't need anything. The New Years crowd was giving way to the Auburn-Virginia Tech. crowd, and Bourbon street was getting really obnoxious. We went into another Molly's, supposedly a locals hang-out, but it was flooded with Longhorns. For some reason, I expected better from the Texans . . . oh well. One obnoxious crowd was exchanged for another when we went next door to the Dungeon, a goth hangout. My patience was severely tested by the blaring death metal and necrophiliac artwork. Then four extremely large goths came onto the dance floor and did this wild flailing dance designed to look like they were ripping each other apart. Across from me was an otherwise perfectly normal looking grandmotherly type watching the entire proceedings with a very unnerving grin.

We finished the night at O'Flaherty's and went back to the hotel. We had given Burris our spare key so he could come in and crash after work. I awoke sometime in the early morning to hear Adam in the other room complaining about Burris' snoring. The snoring did not disturb me, but Adam's complaining did, then they both started giggling about it. We did manage to get up in time for check out, then spent another day touring the city. I liked the Algiers district best, and would probably settle there if I had the means, and were willing to move to New Orleans. Adam dropped me at the train station, and headed off back to Houston.

So that was my big trip for the year. I'll probably be in Houston again in March to meet some relatives from California who were interested in the family research I had done. I imagine I will be snapping at any opportunity to get out of Tallahassee for awhile.

03 January 2005

I am blogging from the Amtrak station, waiting to board the train. Had a great time in New Orleans, but I am ready to get home. I've been gone for almost two weeks, quite a lot for me. I'll post more about the weekend when I'm in a more comfortable location.