Statistics and crime map…
Mar 22 Published in Untagged by member178486
The efficiency of the police is based on much practice with UCSC protesters and soon Kelly is being ushered into a holding cell. It has been years since he was last arrested but you couldn't tell by the large drab room, painted in peeling certainly-not-soothing vomit green and furnished with an exposed toilet in one corner and a built-in concrete bench on the other two walls. Twenty or so male prisoners mill and sprawl inside. The vast majority protesters but along one wall several drunks look on morosely.
"Hear that?" Zack asks as he walks up. Kelly notices the chanting for the first time. "El Pueblo, unido, jemas sera vencido" came clearly through the walls. "There are supposed to be over a thousand people out there. Mainly from town. I saw the Brown Berets when I was brought in."
"Cool" Kelly admits. He talks briefly to Zack, who is growing bored. Zack flips his thick blond hair toward the front of the cell where a half dozen people are talking excitedly. "My pops is talking meta-revolution with the UCSC theory heads.... You know him, they called him professor in the 4th grade. He'll give you a lecture if you say hello... Where's Abe?"
Kelly shrugs. "He's getting nihilistic these days." Doesn't believe in protests anymore."
"I was a nihilist for a while," admits Zack.
"And how was that for you in the long run?"
"Nothing there," Zack says deadpan. They laugh.
Then Kelly asks, "How did you get busted?
"Some SAW people...."
"Students Against War... you know, a few years ago they blocked the Marine recruiters, got listed as a national terrorist threat..."
"I heard about that, but didn't go to the demo."
"Me either, I was in Montana seeing my grandson, but anyway, one cop had tried to give a ticket and got blocked out by the crowd. Cops didn't like it. So this time I guess they were ready... UC police SWAT team.... like their bust of Tent City 2005 or so. Big mistake. They should have copied 2012, just let us shut it down. Instead, we have cops swatting cute students and nicely dressed secretaries, aka AFSCME militants. My lawyer friend Katya was here right before you. She says it is all over TV and the web."
Kelly is impressed despite himself, feeling somehow the story reverberate through the electronic world, part of that "on-line" effect, floating a few feet in front of the body, straining forward from the chair, the consciousness "out there" talking to a friend or watching the Wollongong surf cam or even "in there" fixing a problem with email routing or drawing up from this ever expanding virtual universe he is imagining the life and then music of Rachid Taha into his mind and he hums Taha's version of "Rocking the Casbah" until he hears a group of prisoners start singing a Decembrist ballad about a sad soldier and Zack perks up. Leaving he tells Kelly, "I gotta go do this!"
Glancing around, Kelly recognizes Prof. Alexander Shevek, of UCSC's notorious (for its politics, its use of French theory, and its extreme, if often indecipherable, selectiveness) History of Consciousness Board of Studies. He is the oldest and newest of Histcon's half-dozen radical professors, replacing the retired Donna Haraway. Kelly had always thought that had he wanted a doctorate he'd try to get into the program. Once in you could do almost anything you wanted, as long as you did it very well. Histcon's former faculty included Gregory Bateson, Norman O. Brown, Hayden White, Jim Clifford and Angela Davis. Currently there were a number of not-yet-famous activist philosophers and media critics. Kelly looks at Shevek closely. He is tall, courtly, totally bald, a self-described "Black Russian", son of a South African communist worker and the "diplomat" from the Soviet Union who fell in love with him. Born in South Africa and raised in Moscow, he has only recently come to the US after many years in Africa as an ANC comrade and in Europe as an academic. Kelly had been wanting to meet him. Shevek looks up and smiles. Then he walks over.
"Kelly O'Flaherty?" the professor blinks at him.
"Oh how nice. I've wanted to meet you. I love your book."
"You've read it? I've never met anyone I didn't know who's read it."
"Well, I am honored to be the first of many strangers you meet who admire your book."
"How did you even get my book?"
"I bought it at Logos. Only $1! What a deal!"
"I wonder how it got there. I only made 50 or so for friends."
"There might be more. Samizdat has a way of spreading."
"Unpublished is more like it."
"And why the distinction? Samizdat. You Americans, you do not even notice the workings of your own repressions... even you, so perceptive in other ways. This is a very good book." He looked mischievous. "Magical Realism in the Punk '80s. Magical Punk!"
Kelly smiles. "Could be worse. The aesthetic might be early Punk, but it is too optimistic for real punk. More new wavy, ironic. Socratic."
The old professor nodded. "Ah, Irony. The trope of postmodernity. Ironic oppression. Just today, at the manifestation, I was debating with a student whether Americans can be considered oppressed...revolutionary actors you know... Kirsten something... something from the 60s..."
"Yes, that is her name."
"You know my daughter?"
"A militant's militant."
"Was she rude to you?"
"She is young, she cares. It could be so much worse."
"That's very kind of you."
"Kind has nothing to do with it. You must put it into perspective. I am an old man. I could die anytime. Soon in any case. Anytime is more likely. To be disdained by a young radical, it is almost a complement. Most people she does not even dain to disdain. And she does care about people. I have met so many who did not, even self-professed revolutionaries. Often revolutionaries. Some of them like the idea of people...the people, yes...but individuals they cannot bear. They trust no one, love no one. Only the many, the multitudes. And themselves."
Kelly shakes his head uncertainly. "I hope so. She just doesn't seem that happy most of the time."
"Maybe that also is to her credit." He pauses a moment and then tilts his head like a bird of prey. He blinks. An owl. "No, no, you are right. We should be happy if we can. I try and surround myself with happy people. Happiness is infectious, clearly. So, Kelly, if I may, a question?"
"Of course, of course."
"I was wondering.... why did you name the main character Kelly, and use the nom de plume Crystal?"
Kelly laughs..."Oh, yah...everyone who has read it before you knows all this. I was jerking his chain. Crystal's... he's an old friend. And part of the joke is I used his friend, Rabbit, as the basis for Kelly-in-the-book, as I call him.
"We all have other names."
"Of course, nombres de calle, street names."
"Action names, sometimes life names. Anyway, we all met doing anti-Apartheid stuff, back in the day..." he trails off, suddenly shy. You...you were in the ANC? I quite admire the ANC."
"Yes, thank you. We did some great things but that is a story for another time." He smiles. "Perhaps we can meet later and talk more about your writing?"
"My writing? Writing angry letters to the Good Times about the hipourgeoisie that runs Santa Cruz…."
"Hippies who have sold out and gone bourgeoisie…lately it is their children, the hipsterourgeoisie who are taking over."
Shevek remains interested "Yes, pseudo-radicals, I know something of this... Maybe I will write about it in my next column, "The Outsider". Have you seen my column? My students call it a blog but it is just a little essay now and again that happens to be on the web. I don't really blog, or even like the sound of the word." He pauses. "Blog" he says slowly and carefully. Then shakes his head. "No, not a good word....ugly, excreted...but no, not your letters. Your novel."
"Of course," Kelly mumbles, flattered beyond articulateness. To change the subject, Kelly admits that he hasn't heard of "The Outsider".
"You can find it easily enough on the net. I write about what it is like to live in the 21st century United Sates from my, shall we say, unusual perspective."
"Yes, and Jewish and Dutch and San! And Russian, Gay, 20th Century Revolutionary, atheist, old."
"Sounds like something everyone should read."
"Now that is a frightening idea. Just those with interest. That is the great thing about the internet. One choses. So tell me about yourself."
"Well, I'm an 10th generation Californian on my father's side, Irish and Spanish. And about 10 other things on my Mom's."
"Ten generations? Is that possible?"
"The Spanish came in 1776. My ancestor Connor O’Flaherty came to Monterrey from Taum, above Galway town, fleeing the famine in 1848 and married into the Sanchez family. Typical dumb shit Irish thing to do, marrying into the ruling class just as they lose everything. The Californianos were pretty much fucked over when California became a state. The head of the Sanchez clan disappeared Christmas Eve 1850 with a bag of gold from selling horses while crossing the Pajaro River, just south of here. Killed by 49ers we think. But we've done all right. We have survived. I grew up in San Diego where my dad was an engineer and my mom learned Californiano cooking from Ma, my dad's great grandmother, when she visited."
"There really is a California cuisine?"
"Californiano, yes, I think so. Ma's enchilada recipe, for example, was milder than you'd find in Baja, and featured avocados and even a little rosemary. She was from King City, just a bit south of here, and all her cooking had this California twist. And it was lighter than tropical versions of the same dishes."
"It makes sense to me. I have long thought that the food of a place is profoundly shaped by the climate, and California is a Mediterranean climate after all."
They talk about food until they are hungry and soon they are a bit grumpy. Then Shevek groans. "I must try to sleep. I am an old man. But we will do coffee, correct? That is how you say it...do coffee? I like it. Like doing a drug together."
Kelly laughs out loud at this and promises to "do coffee" together soon, and he admits he should try and sleep as well. All the benches are taken so they find a place in a row of horizontal inmates on the floor and lay next to them. Shevek is asleep within seconds. Kelly lies there watching the old man, filled with a sense of history, his back starting to stiffen up. He ponders his own life and so eventually his thoughts drift to Calliope. Much to his own surprise he decides to break up with her.