Monday, November 19, 2007

Mill Avenue Nights, Saturday November 17th

Tonight, tonight… Things went a little differently. Our first order of business—with Kazz at the helm of the red SUV he and his lovely kaywng drive—we bopped on down to my favorite drag after making a brief stop off to collect another companion in these escapades: Omni. The thought was, at least on Kazz’s part, that if Omni didn’t awaken by 9p.m. and we did not arrive to collect him in person, he would be standing us up again as he did the last two times.

That ended up working out extremely well and sadly doesn’t make a good story especially during a bleary-eyed morning after hitting the Ave.

Kazz has been showing his atheist streak and has been agitating for some anti-tracts to be able to pass out to combat the tracts that the preachers pass out. Talk about the development of an ever more complex immune-system metaphor. So, in plying my own efforts, I tried to hunt down some cultural criticism that pokes directly at the arguments they use and the pamphlets that they themselves print. It was difficult to find anything on short notice but I did grab some things and we printed out some forty of them. However, I didn’t find the discussing in them altogether socially compelling (you could read it here) and while Kazz agreed he carried them anyway.

However, he inevitably balked at handing any of them out.

Jeremiah and Todd

The real fun arrived because a very familiar face joined the preachers: Jeremiah. He usually comes with an easel and a series of laminated posters proclaiming the same wrong, tired arguments year after year. One of my favorite is still the poster proclaiming how Kent Hovind is offering $250,000 for someone who can provide empirical evidence supporting the theory of evolution. The argument goes that, in spite of mounting evidence supporting the scientific theory, nobody has yet been able to claim the money. Thus: evolution is obviously wrong. Else someone would be two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars richer. Right? Well, if that logic follows, then I’d like to point out that Cory Doctorow, et al. are offering one million dollars to anyone who can provide empirical evidence that Jesus is not the son of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (the deity of Pastafarianism.) In spite of this gigantic amount of money dangling tantalizingly, nobody has stepped forward to claim it. Thus: Jesus must obviously be the son of the Flying Spaghetti monster. (Which I figure most people who want to wield the previous challenge would say is preposterous.)

Why exactly the street preachers feel that entering into the ID vs. evolution debate actually does their positions on other things any actual credit, I’m not sure. Jeremiah could at least use a more honest approach.

Never fear! Todd is here! Shortly after Jeremiah took to the stand (and I got my moment to actually greet him), Todd materialized from the Mill Ave crowds. Todd is another highly charged atheist fellow who lends his bellowing lungs and encompassing arm motions to take over Jeremiah’s forum. In fact, when first noticing that Jeremiah had returned to the Ave, people wondered aloud how far behind Todd could be.

Once all that got into full swing, I left the preachers, Todd, and Kazz to their own devices. Since I don’t really hit Mill to be a mouthpiece for either philosophy. I’m down here to hand out Vexations, observe the culture, and actually get to meet people. While the abrasion against the arterial flow of the Ave is a good place for this—they provide a narrowing of the stream that slows down traffic and puts likely people within my range of observation—places like the drum circle, the various spray painters, and other entertainers make equally good fishing spots.


Out of the various characters that I made acquaintance with that night, I saw a face I haven’t seen in a while: Dawn.

She’s an old Mill rat who used to sell hand-made hemp necklaces out of the brick planter near to the Urban Outfitters (where the preachers set up.) I like her because she has a calm, hippy chick chic comportment and embodies a nature I’d like to see more of on the Ave. She brought me harrowing news of greater harassment from the police towards people who sell their wares (such as hers) on the Ave. Over the summer of my absence, she had been threatened with arrest if she continued. I am hoping to gather more stories from her about this behavior (dates, times) and compare notes with other activists to see what the City has been up to. Other interesting things of note is that the City has gone out of its way to make it more difficult for people to actually be on the Ave by removing places to sit and those very planters that I was referring to above.


The night culminated in a walk through the Hayden’s Ferry Lakeside multipurpose projects…or whatever they’re called. It’s that region of condominiums and office buildings immediately abutting the fake lake. It may not have the same draw as Mill for people, but we discovered a constant clutter of individuals moving in and out. Some on foot, some on bikes, and the odd police car prowling the dark without headlight crunching in the gravel.

The Saga of the Lost Cell Phone

One particular event played itself out in that we discovered a cell phone, fallen in the gutter, with some jewelry out near Monti’s. Kazz plucked it up as we went along while we tried to determine exactly what to do with it (it’s not like the Ave exactly has a Lost & Found.)

So, I suggested that he check the address book, perhaps it would garner some clues on how to contact the person. While he was doing this the phone began to ring and he answered, it seemed the people who had dropped it realized that it was missing. I heard Kazz talking on it and noticed a pair of people—a boy and a girl—racing quickly down the sidewalk across the street, one of them had a cell phone in hand.

“Where are you at?” Kazz asks.

“I think, I found them,” I said. “They’re right across the street. Tell them that I’m holding my cane up. Everyone turn back, they’re over by Monti’s.”

“Hey, maybe now you can go and have your moment!” Kazz said, dripping sarcasm. He’s trying to make a joke about a comment about Michael Monti once being quoted as saying that nobody had told him, “I had a personally changing moment leaning against your adobe wall.”

Well, it wasn’t exactly that moving, but we returned an important personal item to a young lady leaning against that adobe wall. I’m not going to pretend it was anything more than good citizenship, I’m just glad it worked out so well. The prospect of actually calling entries in someone else’s cell phone is a little daunting. What do you say to “Dad” when you call him? “I found your son/daughter’s cell phone and I’m trying to return it.” Talk about a little awkward.

Between Todd, Jeremiah, the street preachers, seeing some fans of Vexations, and the saga of the cell phone, this Saturday turned out to be a good day indeed.


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