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Truth to Power

Island Life

Perhaps like you, I have been having various levels of internally roiling turmoil surge through my assorted thought channels and portals as to how I might contribute to the Occupy movement, as well as personal queries as to whether such an endeavor was even a valid use of my time, even though my time these days seems to be of mostly no value to anyone but me. Having received a blanket request to participate in a street action by the folks at our Backbone Campaign, with the option of using my video skills in the process, the thought came to me almost instantaneously- "Why Not?" So, on a crisp and sunny day after Solstice I packed what I deemed to be the maximum of the minimalist essentials I would need to record an event on the go. These were modern tools of relatively high sophistication, even though this grouping included a point and shoot still camera from the Nikon Corporation and the lowest end of the "professional" HD video camera line from Canon. There is, of course, a quandary inherent in fighting the corporate fight with tools coming from the corporate stronghold, but there is also the inherent irony which sometimes trumps all else.

I dressed for cold weather cycling and strapped my padded and compartmentalized camera bag on my back. The black, stealth frame of my bike hides the local origins of this aluminum steed of choice. But if Jeff, our local bike shop guru, had not rescued this goody from the dumpsters as K2 was being cleaned out, this prototype that was barren of company logo or ID would have become landfill, as well as a part of a fading memory of a briefly noble line of two-wheeled transport. I sped to the dock, noting the comfort of the pack, and boarded the ferry to once again be a part of the yearly semi-ritualistic consumption of 2.2 million or so gallons of diesel fuel so that we of the Island can come and go almost as we please. On the other shore I set my compass- sort of- for the largest black obelisk in Seattle and a 4 o’clock meeting on the steps next door at 600 4th Avenue, otherwise known as City Hall. As the red-garbed carolers grew in number I began to roll virtual film. It is odd that as motion once begat motion through silver coated celluloid or magnetic tape, one now can capture hours of movement and noise on a slip of plastic and silicon and bits of metal no larger in width and height than a slightly thinner postage stamp, and with no moving parts at all. It is also strange to think that after inventing the first digital camera in 1975, Kodak is on the edge of bankruptcy at least in part because corporate think maintained that Kodachrome seemed like it should always give us nice bright colors.

I had noted while filming (can’t say shooting in this context) that there was a well dressed but discreet presence slowly walking back and forth and occasionally speaking into a not too terribly inconspicuous walkie-talkie. This made me think about our eventual walk next door to what has gone from Columbia Center to Columbia Seafirst Center to Bank of America Tower to BOAT- an acronymical designation I hadn’t heard of before googling for info. What seemed interesting from the brief history described was that there had been deals developer Martin Selig cut with the city by including both retail and public space in order to gain his precious height and biggest west of the Mississippi acclaim. It is there also that the ideas of Occupy Anywhere and this urban caroling retreat converge, in that where the singing was to take place fell into the now more heavily debated concept of public/private space, and who has the right to use it and for how long and in what capacity. I had brought my least conspicuous and least expensive camera because, well, you figure it out. In looking back, being inconspicuous in a Pakistani peasant hat, a bright blue biking windbreaker, baggy bike shorts and blue suede bike shoes was perhaps too much to ask for.

As it turned out, there were no confrontations at the Tower. It wasn’t until we crossed the street and went into the bank that, unlike a certain photo supply company, has had no problem in transitioning from the days of the stage coach to the days of the Nissan Leaf- which some might argue could have started (and did- start, anyway) not long after the iron rails finally linked the two coasts, but that gets into a discussion about electricity and oil that we don’t have space for here. Instead, we will say that it was in this bank that I encountered an imaginary line that indicated open or closed as well as a classification that determined whether one was a welcome customer or a trespasser. As neither of the two people that confronted me were holders of any real power, it seemed a waste of time to confront them with what I saw as the truth. The only real hard truth of the day was the realization as I reached close to the top of one of the climbs up Cherry St. on my bike, that clipping out of one’s pedals on a steep incline can sometimes be difficult. Fortunately, this truth did not hurt as I lost balance and fell away from the street to a relatively soft landing. What did kind of hurt was the humiliation of continuing to be clipped in to my pedals, sideways on the sidewalk, as a passerby in a car asked if I was all right. "Yes" , I said. I’ll get over it.

The video for the caroling, not my falling over, can be seen here:

Happy New Year