25 June 2005

Early Memories-Arizona and Montana

For lack of anything interesting to post, I thought I'd put to use some old family photos I had scanned and reflect on some early memories.

I was born in Tucson, Arizona at Davis-Monthan AFB. I only have vague memories of Arizona, and they all pretty much look like this:

These were the hills across from our apartment, and on the back of the picture my Dad wrote that this was his first climb.

Here are my parents in 1968, shortly after their wedding and newly arrived in Tucson.

My Dad was an Air Force mechanic who had been training at Sheppard AFB when he met my mother at a Pioneer restaurant in Wichita Falls. She was a waitress there and also worked at a day care center.

They had not been married long before Dad went overseas to Korea and Vietnam, and he was largely absent until the time we moved to Montana. Mom spent a lot of time back at my grandfather's dairy ranch in Windthorst.

My grandfather retired and sold the old farmhouse in 1975, so my memories are only slightly less vague. It was built in 1913 by my great-grandfather, Lukas Zihlman, according to his own design. This house was quite possibly responsible for my interest in history, being a tangible link with a sense of place and family. It was home to three generations of our family, and I was one of the last children to grow up there.

Same as it ever was . . .

. . . same as it ever was!

My Dad was assigned to a rescue unit in Great Falls, Montana when I was four, and we stayed there for five years. Our first home was crummy looking trailer in Black Eagle. I remember very little about it. I considered all the other houses on the street to be mansions because they had two or three stories, but I now realize they were just typical frame-vernacular buildings. I can't find a picture of the actual trailer, but this picture was taken in the front yard after one of Dad's fishing trips.

To the right of us lived on old lady who bought coloured bread, and in all this time she is the only one I have ever heard of who did that. On the left was the entire Little Bear tribe, a group of thirty Indians crammed into a three story house. I was never allowed to associate with them because Dad suspected they stole his tool chest.
Later we moved to a better trailer at the Missouri Meadows Trailer Park, located right next to the Missouri River, so every year we were chased out by the flood. When I think of home in Montana, this is the place that comes to mind. Probably because we stayed put for two whole years, but also because this is where I started school and this is where I met my first friend. The friend was Robert Phelps, who was a Jehovah's Witness, so I developed an aversion to religion at an early age. The school was Mountain View Elementary, which I attended from kindergarten to 2nd grade. Mountain View was pretty modern for 1974, red-brick buildings, brightly coloured plastic chairs, and most importantly, a mountain view.

Ramblings to be continued at random

21 June 2005

Green Party Organizing

When I first joined Xanga and signed up for the Greens ring, I was disappointed that there was no discussion of organizing theory. Most are typical blogs, a few provide good political commentary, but nothing about the actual process of party building. I have been asked by the new chairs of our local Greens for advice on reviving the Tallahassee Greens (I think they are down to two members). I am still aggravated from my experience as chair, and just the thought of starting over and rebuilding again is very draining. Presented here, however, is the advice I intend to give, with hopes that it may benefit other organizations. Should any other Green party members stumble upon this, your thoughts and criticism would be appreciated. Let us know what worked for you group.

My first rule is stick to a weekly meeting schedule and keep it in the same place. On campus we had the benefit of having the House of KAOS, which was large enough to hold meetings in, and there was easy access to Mike's Beer Barn. When the Greens in 2000 got too large to meet at KAOS, I insisted that we meet at the Warehouse, a local bar. Beer has always been a necessary part of our organizing style, plus a bar is a good atmosphere for revolutionary discussion. In Colonial America, the local tavern was always the central gathering place for political action. Some traditional values demand respect. The new group is encouraged to use the Progressive Center, because 1.- that is why we have a Center, and 2.- it provides the same atmosphere as KAOS (but without the frat boys hanging off the roof.)

A weekly schedule cannot be overemphasized, as groups need a sense of continuity and routine. It seems to me that most groups tend to break up when meeting times are continually changed and moved. When there were complaints that we did not have enough business to justify meeting weekly, I asked "Why not?" and tried to develop a plan that would keep us busy.

The plan is more tricky, and there were always two competing mind sets. One group wanted to have more educational, informational meetings, which was fine if we needed filler for a week. Another group wanted to take more direct actions. My take is that informational meetings are fine as a means of recruiting. Once people are in, however, you need to give them something to do or you'll lose them again. It is easy to get sidetracked by too many ideas, however. I know there are a lot of issues that crop up, but your time and resources are going to be severely limited. Therefore you are going to have decide which issues you can reasonably address so the group is not spread too thin trying to do too much.

The ideal plan would be to start in the January after an election, and decide what issues to work on the next two years (the election cycle). The Spring and Summer could be spent recruiting and researching viable issues. Put flyers up around campus and other progressive areas advertising your meeting times. Once a core group is assembled the Fall can start with a General Interest Meeting, to which the community is invited in order to showcase your upcoming campaigns, whether they be running a candidate or a ballot initiative. The actual election year can be spent gathering petitions, raising awareness, or shoring up support for a candidate with various media and fundraising events. After election day, repeat.

If no candidates are willing to run, I recommend ballot initiatives as a campaign focus. They have definite goals and a definite end. It is easier to get people fired up about a plan if they know it's not going to drag on year after year. People tend to get involved based on the quality of the campaign, so the issues you choose will be a factor in party building.

17 June 2005

Update of an old Nixon joke:

President Bush is approached by a little old lady after one of his speeches:

"Is it true that you were born in a log cabin?"

"No, perhaps you were thinking of Abraham Lincoln. I was born in a manger."

15 June 2005

Still have not provided the promised update on Dan's wedding. I have not been in a writing mood for some time, but I think I will wait until I get the pictures back so I can post some of them as well. If the pictures came out . . . If I got the right camera . . . Did I mention there was drinking?

Just got off the phone with Adam in Houston. He is coming into town for one of Rich's world famous 4th of July parties. The big question is where to put him. He wants to stay with me or Rob so he can be close to campus and the Warehouse and not have to rent a car. Rob never likes having people over, and there is barely room for me in my place. Everyone else lives on the adult side of town, now, so that is where all the action will be anyway. The Progressive Center is the best possibility. I mentioned that Medea Benjamin had stayed there, and Adam all but insisted that he had to as well.