Monday, May 30, 2005

CodePink and the Resistol Resistance

On Monday Night we were blessed with the CodePink crew…..Medea Benjamin and Rae Abileah were trooping through the West on Medea’s book tour (“Stop The Next War Now”, published by Inner Ocean, forward by Alice Walker; ), dragged out to Cachagua after a signing at the Thunderbird. We named the place ‘CodePink Café' in their honor….and had a passel of pink menu items: pink peppercorns, pink pasta, pink salads, pink desserts…..the Pinkies are royalty for us, you see. I mean, really: a pink battle tank; crashing the Haliburton meeting with Cheney in pink Chuck Taylor All-Stars and pink bikinis with rubber pig noses and snuffling through piles of dollar bills…..My kind of politics.

We assembled the local lefties, which is everyone: Ben and Cate, Peyton and Pauline (Joan Baez’ sister), my environmental lawyer buddies, etc. However, for some ungodly reason, a fat crew of rich Republicans chose THAT night to party at the Cachagua Store: Mr. Brinton, of Brinton’s store, a quiver of surgeons from Salinas, actual Texans, Betsy Bling of the Cali Arts Council, the nice lady that built the new MPC library with her own $20 million, the Blue Dog artist (??!!), Miles Williams of the New (sic) Christy Minstrels….all wearing Resistol cowboy hats…..all drunk as lords, all ordering off the menu (even our menu!!)….all with weird diets. We did 90 dinners somehow….and Ollie and I were cooked ourselves by nine o’clock. The heat was so intense in the kitchen that the stove burst into flames. It was Little Big Horn….it was Rourke’s Drift… was Thermopylae…but those fucking Medes always get through.

Miles sang ‘Ghost Riders’ and for once in his life hit every ringing note like a fucking bell. Ollie and I were sautéeing side by side, belting it out along with Miles….trying to ignore the grease fire: Ghost riders in…..the Sky!!!! We just shut off the burners and used the flames, and hoped they didn’t hit the flue….(at least we didn’t need pilots!) Then Miles sang ‘Rawhide’…..”Head ‘em on, shape ‘em up, move ‘em out…..Rawhide!!!” Exactly…..

Medea and Rae pulled in at 9:30……They had been in Arizona on Saturday, Santa Cruz on Sunday, Carmel at 7pm that night….and all the way out to Cachagua by 9:30. And Medea was ill, to boot...and they had to drive on to San Francisco. I introduced them……the real Cachagua folks had already mostly faded under the weight of actual work, our up-with-the-chickens ethic, and the power of unlabeled 14% Zinfandel…..only the Republicans remained…..(well, except the crew…and the musicians, of course). The Republicans actually booed. She asked them: ‘Don’t you want to stop the next war now?’ More boos. She turned to Mr. Brinton…..Sir, what is your name? Uh, Rich. Medea: is that your name or a description? Uh, both, I am Rich….and I am RICH!! … went on from there. Then Rae had her moment. I was back in the kitchen, and couldn’t hear much…….just ‘1-2-3-4…we don’t want your FUCKING war….’

The Texans were viscerally offended. Outraged that there meal was tinged with Pinky Politics. There was actual hatred in their eyes. Outraged it seemed at the EXISTENCE of Medea Benjamin. They went looking for authority, and ironically picked Duncan. Good choice: Duncan dislikes Bush for being too liberal and wishy washy. Duncan still is mad that we quailed at the opportunity of nuking China in 1952. He was unmoved by their anger, and amused by the Pinkies.

Still, that someone of Medea’s quality could arouse that kind of deadly emotion stirred memories for me:

In late 1972 I was lost in Yugoslavia. I had run out of funds weeks before: I had two months left till ski season and my job in Kitzbuhel, and I was living on stale black bread and rancid chocolate. I was trying to hitchhike my way down the Balkan Peninsula to Athens, where dollars awaited… theory. Even the chocolate ran out in Rijeka, and I fell back on the generosity of alcoholic truck drivers. Eventually, in the pouring rain in Split, I was picked up by a giant bus……the Dubrovnik City Orchaestra. I was a starving, drowned rat, and my condition fully amused the crew. They adopted me, and I made myself as useful as possible. I became the roadie. We traveled all through Slovenia, Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Serbia….hitting all the hot spots: Kotor, Titograd, Budva, Pec, Skopke. There was rarely indoor plumbing, but there was always an Opera House. The musicians were a peacock’s tail of diversity: all the provinces, Jews, Muslims, Protestant Serbs, Catholic Croatians, Orthodox Albanians and Greeks, bitter communist atheist everybodies. No one gave a rat’s ass about religion, or politics….it hardly came up, except in jokes. It was all about the performance. The only difference between the groups was that the Jews didn’t go to temple on Friday or Saturday, the Muslims rarely prayed at all and had only the vaguest idea which way Mecca was, and the Catholics, Orthodox and Serbs never went to church on Sunday. They all ate sausages and drank slivovitz and blasphemed all gods and all authority with color and originality. Dubrovnik was the most beautiful city I had ever seen…..or will ever see.

Of course, that world is all gone. Dubrovnik was shelled for six months, and the Opera House destroyed. All the concert halls in all the towns were destroyed. Every one of the musicians is now dead at the hands of the other musicians' co-religionists. Political entities arose that found and exploited racial, religious, ethnic and geographical differences that were barely noticeable at first, and twisted them to matters of absolute good and evil, and eventually into life and death. That visceral death look was what I saw under those Resistol hats. Thank you, Mr. President. It is a slippery slope, buddy.

And here’s to Mark Felt, while we are at it. Lift a glass……Thirty years ago his wisdom and courage helped unman another absolutist regime just as it was gathering deadly power. Let us pray that our era is still capable of men and women such as he……and that we find one!



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