Last Saturday, as part of my weekend adventure with The Crescat, I also visited Occupy Asheville. Once again, my persona of the visitingEnglish tourist worked and got people talking.
A note about Asheville, NC. I expected it to be "artsy" and touristy, much as, say, Sedona, Arizona or Carmel, California. It was more like Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with an overwhelming presence of hipsters and hippies. I began to believe there had to be a municipal code that required restaurants and cafes to have on staff at least one, pale White girl with dreadlocks and a nose piercing, wearing hemp clothing. The park featured what was likely a permanent drum circle (at all times we were in the area, I could hear drumming) with the amateur, middle-aged White woman doing a sloppy belly dance whilst imagining herself to be Salome. Assuming she even knew who was Salome. Probably more likely to see herself as Shiva than a Biblical figure.
But Occupy Asheville . . . basically, a half of a city block strung out along the sidewalk on the side of the federal court house. Mostly a line of tarps which had, I noticed, sign up sheets so one could make a reservation.
A few souls were seated around a table, with a few boxes of groceries surrounding them. As one fellow noted, "This is it, this is all I own!" and stretched wide his arms. I asked again, and was told that the groceries were donations and "stuff people just bring," mostly boxes of cereal from what I could see. I suspect that unlike Occupy Charlotte, Occupy Asheville does not have a bank account with $26,000 in it.
I got into conversation with one lad, all of 18-years-old. Both The Crescat and I were amazed at his ignorance. "We need change, because, like, the United States has military and sweatshops in every country in the world!" Huh? Oh yeah, and, "The government is holding back money for the people!" He told me it was unfair that he could not go to college because "it costs, like, $100,000" and then he would have to spend the rest of his life paying back his student loans. But, as The Crescat learned, this boy had a goal: to bring "awareness" for the Occupy Asheville movement and which would be accomplished by him standing on that patch of city sidewalk. In fact, he said that it would take "five or sex generations" to enact the needed change in society and he was willing to camp "even if it takes 100 years." Please note, he has his expectations set low, but by God, he can meet them - in fact, I think he is to be applauded for being the first person to identify his mission ("let people know we 're here") and how to accomplish it ("stand here for as long as it takes").
An older fellow told me how much abuse they receive from passing motorists. "They honk and yell, 'Get a job!' and I yell back 'So give me one!'", he said, chuckling at his own cleverness. "One time, they even threw a Slushee at me!" I did not suggest that perhaps the Slushee was the nearest thing to a shower he has seen in weeks, so instead strengthened my cover by responding, "Cor, really? What's a Slushee, then, mate?" and allowed him to explain to this ignorant Brit the finer cuisine found in 7-11's. He also told us that one elderly gentlemen - "obviously a businessman" - asked him if he wanted a job, but it became clear the businessman was propositioning him for sex. Really? With all those dreadlocked chicks receiving poor tips in the coffee houses? Surely, you jest.
On our way out I noticed a condom package lying on the sidewalk near one of the tarp piles. I asked one of the guys, "Is this a condom?" and he smiled smugly. "Yeah, gotta keep warm somehow, you know." I asked him if he was afraid of STDs and he laughed, "That's what the condom's for!" He assured me, there was "plenty of sex" going on at the encampment. However, this gave fruition to one of the best comments I heard that day, coming from The Crescat: "Drum circles and STDs go together like peanut butter and chocolate." That needs a t-shirt.
Later a small march took place to protest police brutality. Or maybe it was more philosophical, since there was a banner reading, "Life is a beautiful struggle." I noted two things. First, there was a bum with what appeared to be a bleeding head, looking dazed. One of the marchers - hippie with long, blond hair and tea saucers in his earlobes - asked him if he would march in front of their parade because it would look good to protest police brutality and have a "victim" present. The bum said no in impolite terms, thus causing Blondie to start yelling at the bum, "Then fuck you, man!" and the two parted after a few more exchanges of epithets and profanities. I guess some people have enough personal pride not to allow themselves to be exploited by liberals, who in turn become nasty when said exploitation is stymied.
And second - the face scarves and masks. I really wanted to go up and let them know . . . no one cares that you're there. You are not important enough to be identified and tracked by the authorities, although you may fancy yourself the new Che Guevara of this age. In fact, this gesture of anonymity - hiding one's face - seems to me to be more narcissistic in nature, a self-delusion of importance. Or, at its most benign, nothing more than a trend because all the cool kids are doing it.