Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Oh, my!

Shift #55

FRIDAY, JUNE 4 -- Mission/Appleton/ to Northpoint/Taylor -- $18.40


For the past couple of weeks I’ve been working my tail off to organize a “Slash Oil” event on June 26. I want a huge crowd to come to Ocean Beach to encourage our nation’s leaders to start to -- not just to talk about, but to actually take the first painful steps of required to start to -- wrench our economy and country and world off our addiction to oil.

The Park Service has verbally agreed to grant me a “First Amendment Free Speech” permit. This type of permit is a lot less hassle than the “special event” permits they issued for my Beach Imeach events in 2007. Also, and very importantly, the Free Speech permit is indeed actually free, which saves me about a thousand dollars.

In my permit application I requested approval for one thousand participants, but ever since the Park Service nodded its o.k. I have been thinking I should have specified two thousand. The Impeach-Bush-and-Cheney events were far more controversial, but still drew 1,000 to 1,500 each time, so wouldn’t it seem logical -- with millions of gallons of oil gushing into the Gulf even as I write this, and with the whole world horrified -- that there would be at least 2,000 people who’d want to come to an anti-oil, pro-renewable energy event?

But I’ve been reluctant to ask for too much. In the past the Park Service personnel have been very even with me, but they’ve also been cautious. Their job is to protect public resources, such as Ocean Beach, and I completely support that. Are two thousand people a good thing for the beach? Well, who knows? Anyway, the permit and a million other details (helicopter rental, media coverage, and How in the world do I attract a crowd?) are what’s been distracting me these past couple of weeks…

DURING THE EARLY PARTS OF THIS YEAR nearly all of my creative energy has gone into keeping this journal, into writing about and thinking about my free ride practice. But during these past couple of weeks my creative energies have shifted over to Slash Oil. My free ride per day has almost come to seem like a distraction, even an annoyance. This morning I haven’t even really thought about it.

At Mission and Appleton a young man sees me coming and throws his hand high -- he seems motivated. His English is spotty, so we immediately switch over to Spanish. He tells me he’s overslept and now needs to be at his job at a Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant by 9 a.m. Now he’ll make it on time. He has a Fast Pass that allows him to ride for “free” on any bus in the city for sixty dollars per month, but to cross town on a bus this morning would take an hour. This fare’s going to be almost twenty bucks. Expensive or not, he tells me, he needs to be on time. And I promise that he will be.

Sometimes I find talking in Spanish exhilarating, but at other times -- this time, for instance -- it can seem laborious. I learn that my fare grew up in Mexico City and has been in San Francisco for three years, and then I leave him to his thoughts and retreat into my own. These days, hanging out with my own mind is not so comforting. As we proceed down Mission, then down Guerrero, down Market, and up Franklin, a jumbled checklist of Slash Oil details scrolls through my brain. Twenty-two days to go. I think I can pull this thing off, but, my god, planning one of these events is always stressful -- capital S. My family hates the way I grow distant during the runups, and I don’t blame them…

And now, as my fare and I begin to drop down the front side of Pacific Heights, Free Ride? begins to distract me from the distractions of Slash Oil. Ever since Body took me to the woodshed a few days ago, I have surrendered to it -- not particularly cleanly, but more like a petulant teenager. Whatever, I tell it. You figure it out, let me know, I’ll be here. Big fat twenty buck fare, no problem. You the man.

As we pull up to my fare’s destination Body swivels toward the backseat and says, “Cada dia doy un viaje gratis…” Every day I give away one ride for free... Etc.

My fare has his hands up, with his money out, but now his arms go boneless and his hands drop to his lap. “Hombre...,” he says. “Seguro?” Man... are you sure?

Body: “Si, seguro.”

He: “Hombre… Come te llamas?”

Body: “Brad. Y tu?”

He: “Roya.” I’m not sure how he spells it, but he pronounces it Roy-uh.

Roya’s body language, loosely translated, tells me that I have made his day.

It’s almost nine AM now. The Park Service office is three minutes away. My contact, James Sword, doesn’t even flinch when I ask him if I can change my request from one thousand people to two thousand. “Sure,” he says, fifteen seconds after I’ve walked in his door. “We can do that.”


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