Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mill Avenue Nights Saturday November 8th 2008

The Thirsty Dog

There is a new venue on the Ave, which I am extremely excited about. It’s called The Thirsty Dog and it’s actually a little bit difficult to find. This is because they’re not directly off Mill like most of the other shops—instead, they’re on a side street, around the corner from the Post Office.

Mill Avenue has long suffered a dearth of stop-and-get-out style food shops that cater to the, “I want something now,” crowd in the way that gas station and convenience store stop-and-rob style locations do. For a while there certainly was the gas station on the very end of Mill at University—but that’s a CVS now (of course, we can get what we want there, but why walk all that way?)

Why indeed. The Thirsty Dog is staying open until 2am Friday and Saturday so go check them out and say hello for me.

The Drum Circle

I keep hearing from my fans that they’ve been avoiding the spot due to a change in culture. This I’ve witnessed myself—insofar that I’ve been on the Ave—but I haven’t had much time to comment on it. Indeed, for the past two weeks the number of drummers has diminished somewhat and I haven’t seen much in the way of talkative folk who actually used to come around.

The gathering still persists, however, and I do see people who I’d like out on the Ave. The problems that see extant happen to be a general apathy for the get-together itself. It is the fundamental hangout spot, but perhaps we’re suffering uncanny beginning of winter blues or something similar.

The Ave

So far Saturday, I met several of my favorite people. Starting with Mark, my favorite fan, who of course got a book! Then Ben appeared with his amazing eyes—he went as a zombie Joker from the new Batman on Halloween. And Jimmy came out as well.

One of the evangelists, Erin, also appeared and I had a good time talking to her on the street in front of Borders. She’s been up to the same stuff. I didn’t get a chance to offer her a booklet, but then again I’m never sure if any of the evangelists would want to read my things.

Jim also came out, he’s another one of the evangelists with the wheelchair of great age (I say in case anyone has forgotten him.)

The Centerpoint condos, which are essentially dead-in-the-water right now stood up behind us, blinking their eerie red lights at the sky. Driving down the freeway into Tempe proper they are the most prominent building in all of Tempe, standing in grim defiance to the single red light atop A Mountain. I still find their presence perturbing, and I know it’s going to get worse.

Met my friend Gonzo and his wife—both of whom are working on novels—and we got a chance to speak for a while. I haven’t seen him in literally years and now he’s bald (shaved) so I almost didn’t recognize him.

The rest of the Ave was fairly drab, although I did like visiting the Drum Circle and The Thirsty Dog (and proffered booklets there, although, Omni did suggest that I was being unfair, giving semi-bored clerks something to pass the time.)

The Street Preachers

I am going to start up a column on the Better Than Faith website for a friend of mine in order to give a blow-by-blow of the experience of recording and witnessing the activity of the SFTS and the evangelists who come out to Mill as part of their “Mill Avenue Resistance” project. They have become a major spectacle and event on my Ave and as much as I’d like to give them more airtime they’ve been eating up a lot of my words over here and I’m sure a lot of my readers want my anthropological analysis of Mill itself and not just the hottest of the hotspots.

However, here are still some highlights from the spectacle that is the evangelists vs. the resistance.

The night started out a little chilly with a stern breeze from the south. The smell of dust and car exhaust mixed with anticipation and chuckling chatter. Among the evangelists there were concerns about setting up in front of Urban Outfitters because there is a busker with extremely powerful amplification there who often sets up before them and then drowns them out with wild, powerful riffs on his electric guitar. So they prepared themselves for a night in front of Borders.

The Resistance rolled in like a fleet of warships on the cusp of an oncoming storm. They struck with a force unseen before on the Ave with two giant speakers and a bullhorn on the field, numerous signs, and a roiling mass of supporters. (Not to mention Lizard Man, the god incarnate of the unwashed, also arrived yet again.) To say the least—the noise levels were off the charts and made it a little bit difficult to actually take notes of the event.

To add to the fray, two longtime rivals of the opposing sides also arrived: Todd and Jeremiah. Todd with his booming, clarion voice which needs no amplification and Jeremiah with his small but extremely clear amplified-speaker. They were perhaps the true highlight of the minor skirmish. Rachel, Todd’s girlfriend and primary artillery, did take the mike a few times and managed to deal blows of her own. And Rocco also took to the mike—but largely the night belonged to Todd as it commonly does.

Even a sleepy reader at this point will notice all of the “war” allegory that I’m using here, and there’s a reason for it. Primarily because while the Resistance don’t seem to view their debates with the preachers to be battles insomuch as loud disagreements, the language that the evangelists suggests that they do. Or worse, they seem to insinuate into their everyday lives the language of war.

I’ve noticed a tradition among the evangelists that they may not realize is coloring their take on the world. A deliberate addition of hostility to their message—I know they say, “What I’m saying is offensive,” and they’re only half right: what they’re saying isn’t just offensive, it’s designed to be an offense: as if an attack or assault on other people. The supposed “other.” This hostility is steeped in a lot of their behavior, their martyr complex, and the wholesale subversion of memes used by the SFTS and others and blatant transference of their own bad behavior onto the “other.”

The worst of this is how they refer to their Bibles as swords. Jeremiah took to his metal stand, grabbed his mike, and realized he lacked a Bible—so he calls out, “I am without my sword; could someone toss me one?” And sure enough a Bible is delivered to him. The concept of “spiritual warfare” is lovely enough as an allegory to rally confidence, but when it is delivered up as if us-against-them and the most important item of the mythology is being conflated with a weapon of war and murder? Surely it speaks to the beating heart of all the wannabe alpha males in their group but it alienates everyone else who does see them as a hostile, aggressive, and invading force delivering offensive language—and apparently want to be known to be dangerous.

To the evangelists: Think about this before thou really screw up.

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