Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Shift # 56

FRIDAY, JUNE 11th -- The bus zone at Sacramento/Fillmore to Church/Market Safeway -- maybe $8.05

YESTERDAY the Park Service sent me an email to inform me that my Slash Oil permit has officially been approved. And today, with just an hour to go in my shift, I drop by the Park Service office hoping to pick it up. The door is locked, and after I knock three times, with increasing vigor each time, I retreat toward my cab. As I’m about to climb in, I hear the office door open behind me and a woman’s voice call out, “Is that Brad who I see during commercials while I’m watching my Giants games?”

I haven’t seen Noemi Margaret for three years, and back then, before she was promoted to head of the Events Department, she was the Park Service functionary who issued my Beach Impeach permits. Body says it’s very good to see Ms. Margaret. Three years ago our relationship was a bit adversarial -- in the end I always got my permit, but it always required a struggle. Back then I definitely got the clear impression that nearly all the Park Service personnel were personally rooting for the Beach Impeach events (it’s hard to find too many people in the Bay Area who would argue that Bush and Cheney and a whole roster of other Bush administration officials don’t belong in prison), but they were always cautious about letting me know.

Whenever I went down to Ocean Beach to stretch my three hundred-foot tape measure across the sand and make my pre-event calculations, I was always approached by Park Service employees who, early on, would say, “Excuse me, can you please tell me what you’re doing?” But as the months went by, and as the Beach Impeach series acquired its dignified but ballsy reputation, these approaches warmed considerably: “Oh, cool -- another Impeach deal? Great!” On the morning of Beach Impeach #Two, one ranger asked me in a conspiratiorial tone if it would be ok for him to call his wife and tell her to come and join in. “Man, we both hate this administration -- I have to keep my mouth shut, but she doesn’t!”

Officially the Park Service employees were always neutral, always proper and officious -- as they should be. They were charged with protecting the common resource, and here I was, not only wanting to bring thousands of people to that resource, but also advocating for the impeachment and imprisonment of the Park Service’s ultimate bosses: President Bush and his boss, Vice President Cheney. How could these Park Service personnel openly embrace these events? But if I jumped through all the hoops, they couldn’t very easily deny me, either. So I jumped each and every time, even if it hurt. At Beach Impeach #3, at Crissy Field, I was required to pay three thousand dollars for several acres of parking for two hours. Fewer than fifty Beach Impeach participants wound up parking there. That one still hurts.

But all of that was during a different era. Bush and Cheney are not in prison, where they belong, but at least they’ve gone back behind the curtain. Today Ms. Margaret and I talk about our kids and about my Toyota commercial but mostly we talk about the Catastrophe in the Gulf and at length about Oil. We discuss the future of renewable energy and how we hope that we can get to that future before we completely poision the planet. I tell her how proud I am of getting 45 mpg from my Prius, but she’s way ahead of me. She points to her desk, where the book-sized battery of her electric bicycle sits atop a stack of papers. The bike itself is out back. Not only does Ms. Margaret use zero gas per mile on her daily commute, but at home she has a solar panel that recharges the battery.

As I’m leaving, I thank her for approving my “First Amendment Free Speech” permit -- I know she personally is the one behind this decision, which has saved me a thousand dollars and has also made my organizing job much simpler. She responds with something that turns my insides to mush: “I’m sorry,” she says, “that it took us so long to get it right.”

IT'S TIME to head back to the yard now. I haven’t yet given away a free ride today, but in the bus zone in front of the Noah’s Bagels on Fillmore I spot a likely-looking young man (I will soon learn that his name is John) reading a copy of the Bay Guardian which he has just pulled from the free rack. He quickly understands my offer and is very happy to accept. He’s headed to the Safeway at Church and Market, and the whole way there we talk about the one thing that’s on everyone’s mind these days: The Catastrophe in the Gulf.


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