In the quiet, non-toxic climes of the Morning Times on Hargett Street, I lingered over a dang good dollar cup of coffee. Outside, Eugene Taylor and Gerald Alexander softened the bustle of the urban afternoon with smooth jazz vibes of a Djembe drum and a tenor sax. Professional street musicians in dear dumpy Raleigh? Whoazee, whoazee! I tippity-tapped away, in a milieu mindful of my old digs uptown in Seinfeld land, 112th and Broadway, Morningside Heights.
A police cruiser pulled up, blue lights on. After a bit, the music was replaced by strident voices. I flew down the stairs and outside as the Crown Vic pulled away.
"What the hell is going on here?"
"Police came up and told us to stop. Said someone complained."
"Complained? About what?" I went off like a bomb. "So the imperial wishes of some jelly-belly dork behind the mirrored glass trumps your livelihood and First Amendment rights. Nice."
"I'm trying to make a livin'. I ain't panhandling or robbing. I came all the way from the West Coast. I got a mind to go on back. We ain't breaking any law. There ain't nothing illegal about what we doing."
"And city leaders claim they want to unite Raleigh? What a load of utter horseshit." I yammered on about vibrant, alive Charlottesville mall where there are actually things to do. "Oh, I so saw this happening. These fools would fuck up a wet dream. Pity the plight of the selfish class."
"The mayor gave us five dollars. He loves us."
"Unlike the invisible shmoo in the clouds."
A week later, Michael Overstreet told me how he set up a tiny amp and began picking away on a Les Paul guitar one evening, unknowingly making the mistake of setting up in front of Legends. The management freaked about one lonely guy with a guitar siphoning business from the boomp boomp boomp, and they sicced RPD on them. Gotcha. Y'all want acceptance for the gay lifestyle, but that is as far as it goes. Nice.
The only thing that matters to the privileged class of this town is that their lives are just so. RPD is there to help, assuming you have climbed above the masses. Burning fuel seems to help as well. Take the infernal leaf blower. I once called about some inconsiderate boob who cranked his at 6:45 a.m.
The cop laughed at me.
Then there're the mothers of all leaf blowers: airborne billboards called news choppers. Those hogs are free to launch whenever the news director wishes, especially during sweeps week, no questions asked. I was recently awakened by one of these mine's-bigger-than-yours at 5:30 a.m.; it flew lazy loops around downtown for longer than I had left to lie and sleep. Concerned that I was going to die breathing some burning goo from a train wreck in Boylan yard, I called 911.
"If something was happening, we'd know."
The acceptance, expectation of pre-dawn leaf blowers and helicopter clatter is burned in. There is no explanation that will suffice. Your tidy yard, crushing of expression and WTVD's killer shot of a picturesque sunrise transcends human need for creation and sleep. It doesn't matter if and what you don't like. You don't make enough money. Shut up.
Raleigh hosted tens of thousands of straight-pipe Harley Davidsons recently. No one raised a peep except for some friends turned away because they were on bicycles. But a man playing a saxophone on the street? He must be crushed! God bless America! I won't even gripe about the KLAAAAG, KLAAAAAG of the Bloomsbury Estates condo project cranking up at five in the morning.
Anyone with a shoe on this soil—from Dumbya to an insourced Latino laborer, I must remind y'all—is "American." But it takes money and a pronounced sense of entitlement to be what I have taken to calling a Yewessian, an unquestioning, obsequious vassal to New York and Washington's murderous politiconomic monkey-puck. Novitiates must also pledge fealty to the U.S. dollar, filthy snot rags backed only by the full faith and credit of the United States, which ain't looking so good. In God We Trust. All others, cash.
Riiiiiip, next. Since it is the holy buy buy time, Christmas, it is time to examine how the Yewessians of this city, state and nation display their selfishness not just in their petroleum that fouls our air and water, but where ex-fuel ends up. Freedom of choice is Target or Wal-Mart, democracy, the landfill. Clattering down an alley in oh-so-liberal lefty Cameron Park one day, I spied, stuffed in a can, several soccer balls as well as a hockey set with carrying bag, hiding behind lofty antiwar sentiments stuck in the lawn. Mr. and Mrs. Save the Earth were too bone idle to try and find a home for the hockey stuff after Caniac Fever abated. "Environmental consciousness" amounts to a Subaru instead of a Suburban.
Listen up, y'all. Discarding serviceable, undamaged items, squandering the energy it took to manufacture and ship it halfway around the globe, is as irresponsible and selfish as commuting in a Hummer in reverse as your ex-stuff degrades and percolates into the water table. I watched Raleigh murder Rocky Branch creek after the city put the landfill on the Dix property, verdant and basically unchanged since before Sherman's army camped there in 1865. Tossing good stuff likewise devalues the life of the person who made it. "Al Gore will save us!" Nope. You will save yourself, starting with what you do with your orphaned, sorry crap. I hear a lot of talk, but that is it.
Being responsible means more than the false palliative of recycling, shopping at Whole Foods and having the right bumper stickers. To be ethical, good to the earth, takes consciousness, every second. While external reality, stupid municipal ordinances, helicopters, leaf blowers and cars cars cars may be as unchangeable as rain, as individuals, we can act. Have some fun. Sell the television. Use bicycles as more than toys. Forget the leaf blower and make raking leaves a family adventure. You will be amazed at how quickly it will go and how much fun you and the kids can have.
Since Raleigh is so pathetic it has to steal $40 from street musicians who make maybe $20 a day, let's up the ante and go after the real bucks. Charge everyone with a leaf blower $40 dollars per season, per machine—a license to operate the damnable contraptions within the city limits. Give breaks on taxes to those who decrease their waste stream. WTVD? A clear million should be a good starting point. Oh, I can hear the howls.***
In my Oct. 11 column (www.indyweek.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A38557), I suggested moving the Nash Square statue of Josephus Daniels to N&O property across the street because of his virulently racist role in the Wilmington assault of 1898. Later, I had a better idea: Add a statue of John Chavis, a slave who fought against the British, bought his way to freedom, and educated the children of Raleigh in the late 1780s regardless of the color of their skin. Attach plaques, résumés of sorts, describing what the two men accomplished during their lives, good and bad.
I ran into old Joe's great-granddaughter, a dear old friend, at the recent Art Walk and described my new plan. We hugged and bade farewell. Tuesday, I presented that idea to the cameras and council with what I hoped was a healing, positive and educational solution. Afterward, an older black man approached me, a former firefighter. "I want to shake your hand. I've been waiting for someone to say that before City Council."
Yet TV reported only my earlier suggestion, making it sound like Council dreamed up the second statue and I was Mr. Destroyer of History. The blow-dried, misrepresenting bastards hammered to get the quote they wanted, then left out the rest. For what?
Polarize. Fracture. Split. That is all those people know to do.