Thursday, May 3, 2012

Faces From The Past

Oggy as a young pup
 My attempts to get a national park guide job failed because my claims of 4 years experience as a naturalist and field guide were not accepted (right, I'm hardly qualified to lead tour groups through a cave!) and I never included my college transcripts of my geology classes. So, I had to hunt down my transcripts and in the process came upon these two artifacts from an era that is gone. Here is an infant - and the handwriting of my grandfather indicates it is baby Oggy, but wait...

...the stamp is from May 1972. And that kid has blond hair...and doesn't look like me and my Birthday is in March...and my brother's birthday is in May. So, we have a historic discrepancy because I don't think that's me. Wait, is that baby 1 year old, or 3 years old? I can't tell. He looks closer to 1 than 3. The nurse said it's 1 so it must either be me or someone who was invited to my birthday party.
Robert F. in peaceful repose

The pregnant robot recently asked about homeless heroes and I think he had in mind this man seated in front of the Santa Cruz police (park ranger) car. Robert F. was one of the pillars of the Santa Cruz Food Not Bombs collective in the early 1990s. It follows that he is the model for one of the main characters in my Crystal Circus book that lays dormant in the hypothalamus of my memory. I had this picture in a hero collage of Gandhi and Jesus and Martin Luther King way back in college so it ended up in a dusty folder of college material along with inspirational quotes I now find naive and my transcripts and a baby picture of my brother. Without a leader who is righteous then you get murderous monsters like Baby Bush as president. But with righteous leaders like Robert we all end up on the sidewalk as the police sergeants lean their knees heavily on our necks. It's very strange how that works. The lesson is that either you get to fuck someone up or you are going to get fucked up but someone is going to get fucked up. You choose who.
Pictures like this are rare because all of us refrained from using technology (film was developed with unacceptable chemicals and it promoted vanity. The internet didn't exist and cell phones and personal computers were rare) except as a means to subvert the dominant paradigm. Endless debates about whether you can subvert the dominant paradigm by using tools invented by the dominant paradigm kept us all awake and mentally agile. This extended to the use of the word "Bombs" in the group's name. The argument was that the use of that word minutely contributed to the existence of bombs. I was living on expired peanut butter and wilted carrots while writing Haiku poetry by moonlight in the forest and I still wondered if I was destroying the planet. I still lose sleep to this debate but I'm a disgusting hypocrite who now lives in an 8 cylinder van so I can easily be dismissed as a contradictory commie. I think the conclusion was that no, you can't morally kill a dragon by using the weapons of a dragon, but there was nothing else to do but admit defeat since the city council would happily use tear gas and handcuffs and high tech surveillance equipment to beat us down. Those big mouth anarchists in Cleveland were infiltrated by undercover moles. Among the Santa Cruz purists, tape recorders and bicycles and coffee were permitted. Nothing else. The Just and Passionate Argument made as the police twisted our arms behind our backs was supposed to rally the people around our cause. Hahahaha. Realistically, the activist is going to lose anyway so there's a strong case for ethical purity, on principle, rather than pretending some different watered-down, compromised strategy is going to be victorious over 200 years of solidified consumer culture building up like Twinkie shit in the colon of America. Sometimes the diagnosis is terminal and no amount of homeopathic crystals will heal the sick. But Chemotherapy also won't work, so the patient is fucked. There's a funny war anecdote told about four soldiers walking down a path and a grenade drops in front of them. They don't have time to run so one guy jumps on it. But this is a strong grenade and it still kills all four soldiers. They meet up in Heaven and the guy who jumped on it says, "Story of my life." Maybe Robert is that soldier.

Robert was living in a three wheeled 196? VW van that he bequeathed to me and Bella.

The van only had one speed (2nd) and if you think my Econoline is an eyesore then you never saw that split windshield antique monster and the 6 dogs and two straggling hippies who crawled out of it every morning to piss on your lawn. hahaha. It literally caught on fire one chilly night while we were sleeping in electrical fire caused by sweaty sex-produced condensation dripping onto the cable harness and shorting out the hot wire to the frame of the van leading to total naked, barking mad chaos.
Oggy, in his Santa Cruz Era

Robert was a hero of the homeless even if they didn't recognize him as such. Food Not Bombs reclaimed vegetables from grocery stores and cooked it and served it to publicly demonstrate against the wasteful military expenditures and the lacking social services that treated homeless people worse than dogs. And also to feed people who were starving to death. At that time Santa Cruz had a ridiculous rate of 20% homeless population, mostly transients adrift in a commercialized broker/dealer world. Robert had high ideals: yogic poses, mental fitness, chess, reduced resource use, justice were all part of his daily homeless regime. He was a modest man and did not want to lead by any more than example. He felt that only internal changes, rising from within like a wellspring of morality, would change opinion and protocol. He is pictured here probably listening to city council transcripts and taking notes on how to best present the case against the criminalization of poverty that was so prevalent in Santa Cruz. Robert's sense of justice dominated his actions and should've been contagious but was basically ignored by everyone except the police who repeatedly arrested him and abused him and harassed him. I compare his vision of Santa Cruz (community gardens) and the actual reality of Santa Cruz (Walmarts and police brutality) and I truly weep for humanity. I think this picture was taken in 1994 so it's coming on 20 years. I was there 1994 and 1995 living exclusively in a stick hut I built in the forest except for the short time Bella and I lived in the three wheeled van with her dog and 6 puppies. There was also a period where I was living with the chronically destitute at the insane "shelter" and the dreaded armory. Sometimes I wake up at 4:30am in a cold sweat expecting the meth junkies to stumble out of the port-o-potties to start heating the oatmeal water in a manic rage. (I'm really trying to piece together the results of my research but it's so bleak that I'm stumped. Like writing about your own death.)

My feeling was that to fix the problem I had to understand the problem and to understand the problem takes more than a single night spent like Prince William sitting in a London alley with the press surrounding him. What is the nature of homelessness? I've got an original answer and it took years to formulate it but it will take years to write it down and since I'm an undesirable asshole no one will care anyway. It'll be dedicated to Robert, my hero, for reasons that probably wouldn't make sense to most people. I'd like to have a reunion of anyone who was in Santa Cruz during that strange and wonderful time. I'm still sorting out the details for my homeless manifesto. Contact me. I'm not on fakebook because it's a despicable corporate tool.
Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.