Floyd and his girlfriend Trixie were out in San Francisco to see the Gay NASCAR Rally on July 4th. Before the festival began she dumped his sorry ass and he showed up on my doorstep with a half gallon of cheap vodka and some anti-depressants he had gotten up the Amazon River a few weeks earlier. I hadn’t seen Floyd since Venezuela, where we enjoyed the fruits of the Chavez revolution. I am talking about the forty-cent beers. And, of course, it wasn’t my doorstep that Floyd showed up on, but Andre’s. I had to think of something fast. You should never lowbag a Lowbagger who is Lowbagging a high roller.
Fortunately, at that very moment Goat called from the Ruckus Society office and needed someone to drive a rental van full of climbing gear, easels and Sleeping Dragons to Indiana. I could drop Lloyd off at the Lazy Black Bear with K-Baum and maybe he could drive him to Alabama. Then he could have get back together with Charlie, his other girlfriend, one of his ex wives, or a new woman who couldn’t possibly know what she is getting herself into.
As anyone who still drives across country knows, it’s four lanes all the way from Berkeley to Bloomington, Indiana and every gas stop looks pretty much the same as the last one. I drive and tune in to the Outlaw Country station while Floyd conducts most of his business by phone. His business seems to be dispensing advice to the lovelorn women in his life. It’s like Dr. Phil on ecstasy, except Floyd’s advice to every woman who had a problem with the man in her life is always the same; dump your boyfriend and move in with me. Never once has this happened, but that doesn’t stop him from prescribing this peculiar treatment, as his vast amount of repeat business will attest. Why any woman would pour out their hearts to a bi-polar shaman who has three ex-wives is one of the great mysteries of life.
The drive was uneventful, except for a large thunderstorm in Denver, and four days later we arrive at the Lazy Black Bear, in Paoli, Indiana. “Welcome to Freedom From Oil Camp,” reads the first sign. Then another one a little further on advises, “keep driving.” Hard to miss the irony of driving 2,500 miles in a Dodge van from Oakland to Indiana to fight oil addiction. There are other ironies. This is my first Ruckus Camp since just before the riots in WTO and I return not as a founder or staff member but rather as a journalist. As a member of the press, I have a constitutional right to freedom from work, so this time I will attempt to maintain my objectivity by not imbedding myself in a work brigade, of which there are many.
There are too many ironies to mention, but perhaps the greatest irony is that no one here called the media, so instead of crawling with members of the press, I am now the only journalist here. The Greenpeace solar truck, Stolen Thunder, used enough fuel to power a small village for a year to get to the camp from D.C. to provide electricity to a farm already on the grid.
The menu is vegan but there are chickens everywhere that will be eaten after we leave. Methane is a Greenhouse gas yet there is plenty of TVP on the menu, which causes much flatulence. Everyone in the kitchen is wearing black, rather than your traditional whites, and the cooks have between them enough piercing to supply the metal for a medium sized cooking pot.
The purpose of the training was to bring people together to end oil addiction but on the first day I got kicked out of the staff meeting, the kitchen meeting, the climbing meeting and the only people who would let me in on their meetings were the Canadians. I had met some of them in Alberta and maybe they thought I was from Canada. Since I was the only one from the media, I met with myself, but showed early and the meeting started up late. The meeting was inconclusive and it went overtime. I left early, and complained to John Sellers about the facilitation. He said we weren’t even on the agenda.
Some of the people from northern Alberta and northern Arizona had a difficult time with the vegan menu and demanded red meat. I volunteered to obtain it and cook it, but I would not volunteer to kill it. Danny Dollinger came on with me on the hunt and we returned with much meat, which we grilled to perfection. Before you write and complain about this complicity in a slaughter we ourselves were unwilling to partake in, these were local raised, grass fed, shade grown, free trade, bird friendly cows that had volunteered to feed us.
Of course their other choice was to be raised in a windowless concrete building, given lots of drugs and unhealthy high-carbo foods, not allowed to go out side and roam around in nature, and be in crammed into a small pen with other such cows. Many of these other cows chose this rather than be feed by hippies, and died no less happy.
Well I wasn’t registered for the camp or on the staff. I didn’t even have a press pass so I laid low and hung out in back of the kitchen. The camp went well, and about fifty people received a first rate week long training by some very experienced and talented trainers as well as Steve Kretzman from Oil Chance, a co-sponsoring organization. Afterwards, we celebrated the ten-year anniversary of Ruckus, although the organization was started eleven years ago. It was a good party, but should more accurately be called the six-year reunion, because the attendance of the pre-2000 Ruckus staff was sparse.
The new Ruckus director to replace John Sellers is Adrienne Maree Brown. John has led the organization through six of the most politically dynamic years this country has experienced in the last quarter century. He has garnered almost as much media attention as me, although unlike the coverage I am used to, his is mostly positive. In the last ten years Ruckus changed the World and Ruckus changed with it. This sucks of course, because the way in which the world has changed generally sucks. But if we are to change the world for the better, we will need to confront those now in powers. Ruckus is one of the few organizations around these days that takes this mission seriously, and understands the power of direct action and civil disobedience. They are also serious about building a movement based on diversity and tolerance, which is evident in the current staff and the group of new recruits. I applaud this achievement, because I posses neither diversity nor tolerance and have yet to find an ethnic group that would claim me.
The future is bright for Ruckus. It was the first action camp in three years. The climbing scaffold is back. There is a real campaign underway that requires direct action. The staff is clearly a little rusty, but they more than compensated for that by hard perseverance, teamwork and creativity. The recruiting was good. Security was excellent until I showed up and got in, but otherwise they were pretty good with dealing with the other obnoxious asshole that came from LA (Lower Alabama).
Floyd and I drove back to Birmingham. Trixie was in LA. She operates a salvage business and drove in the demolition derby at the Dixie Racetrack just north of Snake Navel. She lives in a spacious doublewide school bus with a heady view of the junkyard. A large fierce dog of questionable ancestry protects her place. It was staked to a short heavy chain and was guarding what looked like a carcass. I dropped Floyd off at the front gate and headed back to Nashville.
MIKE ROSELLE is getting ready for the river. His irregular musings can be read at Lowbagger.