Well, I’ll wrap up that story before catching you up with more recent stuff.
continued from the prior journal entry:
At this time, we traditionally met around the steel fire pit in the brick-paved center of the park. On this day, while we discussed some point probably about equal in importance to the compost question, three men entered our camp.
They walked oddly, in comparison with most people. Normally, three men in a group walk abreast, if they have the room. They talk. Or if they do not talk, they communicate with body language. They have some shared sense of their objective, and they steer each other as they go along. They dither: those constant little moments of uncertainty born of courtesy. They tend to focus more on where they are headed than where they are.
These men walked single-file. The first was a big man perhaps in his fifties. The other two were younger. I later guessed they were his sons. The first man, Mack, appeared to walk as a man lost in thought, without especially considering where he was going, but only where he was in that moment. He had his hands in his pockets. They walked very evenly, with no dithering. All together, it was entirely unclear whether they were walking into the park, or into our group.
They stopped and stood a little off from our circle, and after looking us over a moment walked on. I thought they continued to the library, but a good couple minutes later Lawrence spoke to me. “Do you want to take care of your customers?” he asked, pointing behind me.
The three men were standing at the food tent, in a line, still not talking. They had their backs to the food table and were surveying our group.
I walked up to these three men and put my hand out. “I’m Conrad. Conrad Cook.” The man introduced himself as Mack Page.
The young man at his side was ready to shake hands too, but he held off, and I had an intuition and held off, and Mack did not introduce us. The other young man was standing behind him, almost ignoring us, almost at attention. After a moment, Mack seemed satisfied, as if I had passed a test. I would go through their chain of command.
Mack looked over the Occupy Bangor meeting in paved center of the park. “Who’s the leader?” he asked.
“Ideologically, we don’t have a leader,” I replied. “In fact, of course, we do have leaders. They would be the officers, what we call point people, who run the committees. What we call working groups. But there’s no one leader overall.”
“Who’s that man that’s speaking?” Mack asked.
“That’s Lawrence,” I replied.
“What does he do?”
“He’s the head of security.”
Captain Kirk had an evil twin. Several heroes have. If you imagine George Bush Sr. having a good twin, someone who vaguely reminds you of the ex-President, but is a thoroughly decent human being, that’s Lawrence.
Mack nodded. “Who’s that man who’s standing?”
Larry was facilitating the meeting. “That’s Larry. He’s the head of finance.”
Mack asked after a few other people. Every person he asked about was the head of a committee or one of the primary organizers, out of a moderately good crowd.
With a few answers about the structure of the group, he just looked over the meeting quietly. “These people have no idea,” he said. “They have no idea what’s going to happen.”
Privately, I agreed. We were primarily organized by white-collar, indoor people who get their image of how society works from media and not direct experience.
Mack eyed me. “Now what about you? What do you do?”
“I have no real position in the group,” I told them. “I’m a hobo. I’m staying here and I just make myself useful around camp. Organizing the supply tent and such.”
“You’re a hobo. You mean you’re homeless?”
“Yes, sir. I have been for about two years. A year and a half.”
“Where are you from?”
“I grew up in Connecticut. Boston most recently.”
“You’ve dealt with police?”
“Yes, sir.” And I told him about my method of dealing with police, just as I’ve told you, starting with my trick of saying, “Yes, sir. You’re the boss,” all the way through to the fact that I’ve been able to keep my record clean by this means.
By the end, Mack was nodding. “So in other words, you’ve dealt with police.”
“Yes, sir. I have.”
“These people have no idea what’s going to happen. They’re either going to lay siege to you, pass an ordinance against you, or come in and raid you.”
“Well, if they did that, we would just be arrested,” I told him. “We do peaceful protest.”
Mack handed me some fliers that said Meet Your Maine Militia. “This is us,” he told me. “We’re the Maine Militia. Do you know why the British fought the battle of Lexington and Concord?”
I did not. The only thing I could think of on short notice was that I’d lived in Waltham, a suburb of Boston, which was next door to Lexington, for a few years. That didn’t seem a useful contribution, so I said, “No, sir.”
“To take their guns. They wanted to disarm them. The second amendment reads, ‘A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.’ That’s us.”
We were more about the first amendment at Occupy Bangor. Actually, my favorite amendment from the Bill of Rights is the 9th, and it briefly occurred to me to wonder about forming a group based on it.
“I live in —, over an hour’s ride. But I have an organizer here in Bangor who lives within two blocks of you. That’s my number on the back there. If they lay siege to you, you give us a call and we can have men here within minutes. Then the rest of us would follow up as soon as possible.”
The camp was comprised by tents scattered around the grounds of the Bangor Public Library, next door to the small park. I couldn’t conceive any kind of siege because there were no physical barriers between ourselves and the street, and no possibility of them, as far as I could see. The tents were entirely open. Undefendable.
I am a no-risks hobo. I do not get on moving trains. I do not take drugs or drink, or do anything that would prevent me from having a completely clear mind on the street. I do not get baited into stupid conflicts, not when irritated, not when sworn at, not when spit on, not when kicked awake. I do not retaliate. I play a purely defensive, outcome-oriented game.
Certainly, I do not engage in any conflict with police. Not anything more than a polite quarrel. In my view, you cannot win a conflict with police. The best you can possibly do is not lose, and this is my single-minded goal whenever I come to a cop’s attention.
It seems to me the same logic applies to Occupy Bangor.
Even so, I thought it was nice of him to offer some help. I had expected him to tell us to get a job or something.
“The Tea Party was going pretty good for a little while,” Mack told me as I pocketed his fliers, “but then they got political. We’ll see where this goes. But they won’t get anywhere like that.”
I considered my loyalties, and decided on honesty. “I agree,” I told him. “They don’t live in the real world.”
We shook hands, and they left as they had entered, single-file. On the one hand, I had no interest in any kind of action that involved guns. On the other hand, they undoubtedly lived in the real world.
And that’s not nothing.