Sunday, October 23, 2005

Mill Avenue Nights: Drum Circle

So, I had quite the romp last night. Mill Avenue was all-a-bustle with every sort.

Of the people that I saw tonight, whom deserve some credit here: Josh, the ever-focused culinary artist; Ashley, the radiant gazelle sweeping up all in her path; Scum, our favorite prowling-cat; Sparky, my favorite drum-master; and a few others whose names I am forgetting but are still in my heart.

In my haste to reach the Mill Avenue Drum Circle, I neglected to visit Graffiti Shop to see if Lawrence had read (and enjoyed) the Mill Avenue Vexations booklet that I signed and gave to him. Naetheless, it was a highly rambunctious and fun-filled evening.

Omni dropped me off on the edges of the Ave at about 8:30 p.m. where we passed some of the street preachers foisting their pamphlets and wares onto passersby. All the hopeful intrigue of voices in the darkness, the auguries of innocence, and the impassioned blood of those who would stop, listen, and offer their own secrets in return for those strange glimpses into the psyches of the type of person who would step out onto the street simply to proselytize to a complete stranger.

The Street Preachers: Grade B

Among them I met Joyce, an older lady with a sweet composure, ice-on-blue eyes framed by round spectacles, and shoulder-length hair burnished by the nighttime lights. She approached me wondering at my notebook and my carriage; and asked as to why I wore a pentacle. To which I replied that it was a seven-pointed star and not five-pointed such as a pentacle would be—and in attempting to tell her what that would be, perhaps a septacle or a heptacle. Although, neither word is at all pleasing to the ear. I simply reneged that and explained that it was an Elven Star. Something she didn’t choose to question too far.

She went through the usual barrage of message-speak (less mirror-speak than I’m used to from one such as these.) She gave me the “good person” test such that it was designed for Christians because it uses the Ten Commandments (which I am amused by because I am most familiar with Catholicism and their commandments are slightly different than the Protestant ones—I will not go into this because I am Irish and Catholicism and Protestantism have caused my people some issues over the years.) Needless to say I am somewhat skeptical of a series of questions based in a religion that I do not follow, some of which involve “do you take the Lord’s name in vain,” which is most amusing because not following their religion I can hardly blaspheme them. I had to explain that since I do not follow their traditions nor religion nor really care for it as a background the gods that I swear to (or complain to as it were) bear different names. Also, I question the validity of “taking he Lord’s name in vain” to the context of even another strain of their religion who believe in a distinctly separate entity from them and whilst they might say “God!” they may be referring to someone else.

There was some discussion about the law as it is, and the Ten Commandments as God’s Law, and how their deity as a Just Judge would judge people on those laws and that lawbreakers had a particular penalty. And if I would have to be found guilty and thus face the penalties. Of course, examining those laws as they were: of course I am. I have broken one or two of those commandments over my time and live (probably a few of them before the age of five…several times.) So I have to say yes, by those rules given as graven and absolute: I would be condemned. However, I forgot something extremely important about Just and Good Judges… As a judge the person who would be judging me on the absolute of those laws (the Ten Commandments) could not truly serve justice: those laws are not just.

A judge with her hands bound by those laws and forced to allay guilt or innocence based in totality by adherence to them could not dispense justice.

This discussion continued for another young man—whose name now escapes me—who asked me to speak in front of a camera. We had something of a long discourse about the nature of morality, my own examinations of morality and religion, and a few of the other rhetorical philosophical discussions that come out of having differing worldviews. I have a good feeling that my friend Charlie would have enjoyed it immensely as the young man that I spoke with was quite intelligent and up to the task; however the questions that he was asking were all novicework and designed to ignite a response rather than actual discussion. I have a feeling I surprised him by attempting to discuss them.

I did receive two interesting pamphlets from them. One of them is made up in the visage of a million dollar bill, including the lovely statement, “THIS NOTE IS NOT LEGAL TENDER FOR ALL DEBTS PUBLIC AND PRIVATE.” It looks like a bill, has President Cleveland’s bust on the front, and on the back it has the ordinary bill back with some writing around the edges. And after glancing at this I discover the origins of the “good person test” which Joyce asked me: it’s on the back of this bill-pamphlet.

If this is the new tactics that they are using to hook and discuss these things with people I think perhaps the preachers might need to review their tactics a little. However, unlike Mr. Shouty-Shouty-Amplifier they actually talk to the people walking past and therefore become a worthwhile part of the Mill Experience.

In conclusion: I give these street preachers a B. They have some flaws to their approach, but at heart they are pretty good.

The Mill Avenue Drum Circle

The Drum Circle was glorious. It always has been. When I arrived there at around 10:30 p.m. they only had a few drummers and were frolicking around in their usual sprightly natures. I have always enjoyed finding that place as it is a focus of many worthwhile people and coalesces the very spirit and numina that is Mill Avenue into one place, at one time, and with one hopeful breath.

The Mill Avenue Drum Circle is a landmark to Mill culture as sure as the Old Hayden Flour Mill is a landmark to Mill geography. Without it the street would be lessened.

A few elderly women were sitting on the round pedestal for the flat-statue of metal placed there—it is the place where everyone congregates to become one with the social mishmash and listen to the drumming. They didn’t seem very pleased about what they saw, but I suppose I could have gone over to discover why they had chosen to sit amongst us. They certainly didn’t look like they were there for their health, strange as that may sound, usually the people who sit around and arrive during the drumming are there to socialize; these two women seemed to just want to glare.

I made certain to hand out booklets to everyone that I met who seemed worthy of receiving them, which in reality is pretty much everyone there. To the most extent I chose people I knew would enjoy them the most this time around and even handed a few copies out to a couple tourists who stopped to ask me about my outfit or my notebook.

Seems that Rocky Horror Picture Show is also coming back to Mill! At least close to Mill, and on the street, but not quite Mill Proper (as the Valley Art is too stuffy to accept their kind anymore.) The Rocky Horror goths are the originals that I always loved to mingle with, those who went to Valley Art. So for everyone who wonders about Rocky: The Sets. It’s a $10 ticket for anyone 21 and over, taking place October 29th—a Saturday—at 2am.

Sparky told me that the City in its infinite blundering blindness has designed to eliminate the drum circle and its inhabitants and has been reaching out to smite them even as we stood. This irritates me as much as having a venomous snake under my bed. I am annoyed that any ne'er-do-well sycophant politician not worth their salt might look down on Tempe, down into the Old Hayden’s Ferry area, see Mill Avenue, and then overlook the one cultural power of the entire place.
Well, we have snubbed them with our noses before; people make the culture of Mill, not the new buildings, developments, or even the outsiders who are rushed like so many droves of consumerism led chattel.

Meanwhile, as the bronze statute stands tall, the Drum Circle still remains, and I wish it many happy returns.

No comments: