May 08, 2007

The American Dream Book Tour & Protest Across the USA - Dispatch 19

... by Mike Palecek

STATEN ISLAND, NY "He's been compared to Kurt Vonnegut in his writing."

That's Steve of ETG Books & Cafe in/on Staten Island trying to entice a woman and her daughter to sit the eff down and listen to me talk.

I am up on the stage, planting my butt on the bar stool, figuring out how to put my papers on the podium, messing with the microphone, wondering which way is home.

The woman smiles and heads back out the door to the sidewalk.

There is just no denying it, this book tour is a loser.

There have been some great moment, and I always-always meet great people everywhere, by one's and by two's.

But there are many times when nobody shows up. On a great day, on a bad day, would you go out of your way to listen to somebody talk about a book? It would have to be Kurt Vonnegut, right?

And, well, now you might as well stay home.

Well, I sit up on the stage and give my talk. I speak loud into the microphone, hoping my words: Impeach George Bush; Investigate the Bush administration's involvement in 9-11, get out onto the street where there are lots of people.

Afterward, I sit down on the edge of the stage and mingle with the crowd: co-manager Steve, Dennis, while other co-manager Katie goes to do some work.

We talk. Dennis asks about my sanctuary thing with the bishop and the cathedral and the federal government in Omaha in the 1980s.

Dennis is tallish, thin, wearing a black ballcap with a red "L", dark sunglasses to the middle of his nose. He used to be a teacher in New York City. He's wearing a big class ring from somewhere. His jeans are worn. He wears tennis shoes with no socks.

Steve wonders whether it would be more productive to be "for peace" rather than "against war."

Somehow we start talking about 9-11. Dennis says he was watching it all from Skyline Park in Staten Island. His wife was on a plane from Newark, and at the time he was not sure if hers was one of the planes that had hit the towers.

Dennis and Steve doubt the government's story about 9-11. Dennis talks about how the buildings came down, that if the heat truly melted the steel it would have come down twisting and irregular, like hot taffy, not straight down.

They say that New Yorkers are divided in their views on what the truth is about 9-11.

Then they talk about the honey bees. Where did the honey bees go and did I hear about that?


Maybe something about Monsanto products and killing the bees and now lots of stuff doesn't get pollinated and grow, and where did the honey bees go?

I really don't know.

Dennis says it has to do with lack of truth and love in human thought.

I go for a walk after my talk, carrying a plain bagel with humus [wtf?] and cream cheese, made by Steve, over toward the Staten Island Ferry.

I find a mailbox to send a letter to Ruth. I kiss the envelope before dropping it in, seems appropriate, but I still look around to see if anyone saw me.

Somebody at a light leans over to the open passenger window.

"Where'd you get that shirt?"

It says, "No, Seriously, Why Did We Invade Iraq?"

I say, "Online."

The black man smiles, nods, gives me the thumbs-up.

"Nice shirt."

I smile wide inside.

This T-shirt is a winner.

Then I go find a bench to eat my bagel, drink the rest of my warm Diet Mountain Dew and listen to a black family next to me argue, then laugh, banter, play. I look out at the water and Manhattan, and barges.

Then I go buy some rice at a "Spanish Restaurant."

Loser. Quixotic. Long Shot.

You know, when I ran for Congress in 2000 as a Democrat I asked a good friend to help me with the campaign. I thought it would be fun, and was a hell of a good opportunity to say something strong to the Democrats and Republicans. The friend said, no, it sounded like a quixotic venture.


I thought that was kind of the point.

Going to prison to stop the United States military is kind of quixotic, too. But we still did it, because it's good and right and just and strong.

And it's worthwhile. Even if your whole life is "just a good try," that is still pretty good. I think.

I'd like to be a winner. Who wouldn't?

You would not choose to be a loser, but really, that's where the interesting people are.

But you kind of have to be forced to meet them, to have those experiences. It's like when you take a wrong turn, or run out of gas, or have a flat tire, and later, it's not so bad, you met so and so, did this and that.

If it were up to you, to me, the only folks you would meet would be on the first tee, the first row at the ballpark, the front row of the theater.

When it's the people selling the popcorn you really need to get to know.

A loser doesn't mean not worthwhile. Losers are not worthless, they just don't win very often.

They still play, right? They still come to the ballpark.

They sit on the park bench, likely alone, wondering where the honey bees have gone.

And sometimes, sometimes, they turn out to be the rejected stone that becomes the cornerstone.

So, tomorrow I go to Rhode Island.


*FYI: About my books, from a Jason Miller interview on Tom Paine's Corner.

He asked me which book of mine I liked the best.

I like KGB because it tells the story of prisoners and conspiracy theorists and people slaughtered by Bush Sr. in Panama and women and children in jail visiting rooms and other stuff.

I like Joe Coffee because it tells the truth about the Democratic Party and about farmer revolutionaries and farm kitchen tables.

I like Twins because it talks about a prison burning and about the Twin Cities, which I love, and about robbing Twin Cities banks to give the money to the poor on Hennepin Ave.

I like Outlaw because it talks about a reporter in a small town doing what a reporter in a small town should do, pay attention to the commas and oppose the construction of the prison near town.

I like The Truth because it was written in the run-up to the current war and was written in a rage against pre-war stupidity in Iowa.

I like Bigfoot because I think there is a Bigfoot and I think Bush did 9/11 and I think the CIA killed the Kennedy's, and I like baseball, a lot.

I like Terror Nation because I think it would be cool to be a small town sports reporter who was put into the local mental institution for writing anti-Bush letters to the editor. And a dream of mine would be to cover Iowa sports or coach baseball and have that be good enough.

I like The American Dream because it's like punching America in the nose, it's like punching George W. Bush in the nose and Karl Rove in the nose. And I think those two pussies need to be punched in the nose.

Next stops on The American Dream Book Tour & Protest Across the USA:

May 7, Monday: AS220 Performance Space, 115 Empire Street, Providence, Rhode Island, 8 pm.
May 8, The Book Cellar, Brattleboro, Vermont, 120 Main St.
May 10, Lucy Parsons Center, Columbus Avenue, Boston, 7 pm.
May 11, Elizabeth, New Jersey Catholic Worker, 7 pm.
May 12, Richmond, Virginia [To Be Determined]
May 14, Robin's Books, Philadelphia, 7 pm.
May 16, McIntyre's Books, Pittsboro, North Carolina, 7 pm.
May 17, Internationalist Books, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 7 pm.
May 19, Bound To Be Read Books, Atlanta, 7 pm.
May 20, Koinonia Community, Americus, Georgia, 7 pm.
May 21, The Iron Rail Bookstore, New Orleans, 6 pm.
May 22, That Bookstore in Blytheville, Blytheville, Arkansas, 7 pm.
May 23, Monkeywrench Books, Austin, Texas, 8 pm.

Palecek books: (search: Mike Palecek)

Contact Mike:

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in Guest Op-ed submissions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this website. Writers are solely responsible for content.

Posted by PV Guest at May 8, 2007 12:24 AM | Guest Writings | Technorati links |