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Vol. 1, No. 3

The Anarchist Convention
by Tom Paine

 

~

The next day there are ten bands set to play at the X-Ray Café. It's like the high point of the Anarchist Convention. The first band is like setting up their huge speakers when suddenly there are a hundred cops outside. The cops are all in full combat gear, with the flak jackets and shields and helmets and nightsticks. Inside the X-Ray Café we are all silent and looking at each other, and then for no reason the cops teargas the place. There are a lot of people inside who know what to do about tear gas from their anarchist training, and everyone works together and we have a line from the bathroom wetting down T-shirts so we can put them over our nose and mouth, but it doesn't really work that well, and they shoot in another canister of tear gas, and we all have to stumble outside coughing.
      There are like more than a hundred of us punks, and more than a hundred cops. We are standing there in front of the X-Ray Café, and nothing is happening except for a lot of coughing from the tear gas, and then a couple of our people raise a banner that says NO WAR BUT THE PEOPLE'S WAR and that sort of gets things going, and we all link arms in four rows and we all start to chant one love. That was totally cool, standing there with the other freaks all chanting one love at the cops, but then Nosebone and some of the other punks started breaking off chunks of concrete from the sidewalk and passing them out. The owner of the X-Ray Café is like freaking out, I guess thinking his place was about to be trashed, and then I saw the girl with no name climbing up a tree off to one side of the scene. She must not have been there earlier, but now she was climbing up this skinny tree. She saw me and gave me the power-to-the-people sign, and I gave it back.
      It was then that the local TV news cameras showed up and the weird theater part of that afternoon started up. The older people among us started singing all these anarchist songs from the 1960s, and the rest of us sang along when we caught on, or when the lyrics were obvious. The girl with no name seemed to know all the songs, you could hear her little voice up in the tree. She sang up there like a bird. When most people dropped out of a song, she would still be singing up there in the tree. The cops started to take notice of her then, they started pointing their nightsticks at her. She came down from the tree and walked over and led all of us in singing the punk version of the national anthem, with lyrics like land of the slaves, home of the hypocrites. The cops started to do some dumb and childish shit as she sang, like stroking their nightsticks in a sexual manner.
      The scene was pretty chilled out now, except the cops were still standing there in full combat gear. There was a big crowd of civilians now behind the cops, and they start yelling at the cops that we didn't do anything wrong and that we're not real anarchists at all but just fucked-up kids so to leave us alone. Then someone started to yell, let's show the people of Portland what we're all about, and then it happened, everyone started to run for this road. We're like stampeding cattle, and the cops only grab a few of us. I saw one punk down on the ground getting clubbed. I remember I saw the girl with no name ahead of me running down the road. We're all just running down the street in this crazy mob, and I see Nosebone run up the front of a Mercedes, and he whonked on the front windshield with his boot, and ran over and whonked on the back windshield and broke that too, and there were these people inside the Mercedes screaming. Other punks started throwing bricks and rocks through the windows of these four-star restaurants where people were eating by like romantic candlelight.

 

~

I must have run a couple of miles. Then I hid for a couple of hours in a drainage pipe. Then I started to think about the girl with no name, and I kept thinking about her, and then my feet did this crazy thing, they started to walk back toward downtown Portland. It turns out Portland is like under martial law at this point, but I didn't know that yet, so I walked into the street where the whole scene went down at the X-Ray Café, and right away these two cops on horses come galloping up, and one grabs me by the arm, and then the other gets my other arm, and they drag me into a side street. I am like screaming at the top of my lungs and then something more important came over their police radio and one of them whacked me on the head with his nightstick and they galloped off.
      So I was like sitting in this alley holding my head. And it was dark and I just sat there thinking about the girl with no name. It was like when the cop hit me with the nightstick he knocked everything else right out. It was like I couldn't even remember my childhood life in Albany, or my life with the skateboarders in Albany, or the trip across America, or even the castle. I remember I started to laugh right there in the alley while holding my head, because I was now sort of like that Irish dude Ian who came here from Amsterdam because of a girl and couldn't stop thinking about her no matter that she dumped him. So then I hear someone coming down the street, and it is that weird old woman in black leather with the staff and the blue eyes who was sort of like a witch. She like reminds me she told me to slay the dragon back at the X-Ray that night it was almost raided, but I'm not really in the mood for any of that weird stuff at this point. Before she goes I ask her if she knew what happened to the girl up in the tree, and she says you mean the princess? and I think she's like living in this alternative reality, but then she snaps out of it and says she saw her arrested and taken away by the police.
      For a couple of hours I just sat there in the alley, then I got up and went in search of some scissors or a knife. I am clued in to the fact now that it is martial law in Portland, so I have to move with care, but I make my way successfully back up to the castle. Only Frank the old juicer is there, but he has a pair of scissors in his pack, and I tell him to cut off all my dreads. He asks me if I want to be a skinhead, and I say, no, I want just a regular suburban haircut. I have to tell him everything before he will agree to do this, and then I see all my dreads fall off me. He once cut hair, so he gives me a pretty decent haircut. Then I go around and look for some half-decent clothes. The castle is a mess from when the cops trashed it, but sure enough I find one half-decent pair of pants and a decent shirt. Then Frank looks at me and starts to stroke his chin, and I remember my goatee, and with a couple of snips he takes it right off.
      Since now I look pretty straight I am free to walk right through downtown Portland without any hassle. And I go to the police station and they tell me they have a girl who won't give her name, and I tell them that's my sister. I sit there and wait to see what happens, and the cops are eventually pretty nice to me, because without the dreads and the goatee I look like just another boring suburban kid. And it was while I was sitting there staring at the wall of the police station that I get this weird new vibe, so then I ask the cops and they tell me her bail is set at like a hundred dollars. I like hit the streets. Because of the martial law, there are like no other punks spare changing, so I have like the whole marketplace to myself. Also I looked like a totally straight suburban kid now, so I was able to go with the quarter for a phone call? and the people of Portland were totally cool. The suburban kid thing worked so well that I found these schoolbooks, put them under my arm, and hit the people up for bus fare. It took like two days of total commitment, but I like raised the bail. And it was after spare changing all day, while spending nights at the police station drinking their coffee, that I started to write some poems for the girl with no name, and most of them were pretty stupid, but some were pretty cool.
      So I paid the bail, and I was heavily into writing this one poem late one night, when I see the girl with no name walk out from behind the police desk. She's like standing there looking at me like I'm totally crazy, and then she runs over and starts feeling my dread-less head. She finds out that I raised her bail, and that I cut my dreads for her, and I show her the poems I wrote for her, and she's like I've never had a friend like you. I remember the silver bracelet on my wrist, and I give it to her and tell her that as long as she wears it, I will always keep her safe. I don't know what got me talking like that, it just happened. It was like I was suddenly totally transformed into Ian the Irish dude, if that makes any sense.
      And then we went up to the castle, and Frank the juicer was gone along with all the other anarchists, and we stayed up there all night and looked down at the lights of Portland. I told her at one point about the upside-down lightning we saw in South Dakota, and how Nosebone floored it and how we were like flying through all this upside-down lightning and it was like nothing could ever get us or hurt us. I told her I had the same vibe sitting next to her there at the castle. We talked a lot about the various strange forces at work in the world, and then at dawn she turns to me and tells me to name her, and I picture her up in the tree singing anarchist songs and I say, Bird. And then as the morning sun is like in our eyes blinding us we start talking about sex and I tell her about my opinion that sex is boring and just a slam, and she didn't laugh at me but changed my mind on that score like totally that morning up at the castle, and that new like energy that came with the sex with Bird led directly to some other things.

 

~

Like that morning we decided to head for Mexico. But first at Bird's suggestion I left the stolen Toyota outside the Portland police station with a note on the windshield that said, very sorry I stole this car. We didn't want that negative karma following us to Mexico.
      It turns out that Bird had some operating cash as well as a guitar, and on the bus I like strummed the guitar and tried to turn some of the poems I wrote about her in the police station into songs. I knew like some chords, and I made up these songs. So like a week later we are in this restaurant in Tijuana, and this old Mexican lady saw the guitar in my hand and asked me to play a song. There were these punks with us that we met in Tijuana, and they heard me start to play and strum this song all about Bird, and being into head-banging music they're all like what the fuck with the acoustic shit, man. But the old Mexican lady was into the song, and she bought me and Bird our dinner that night, and that was definitely cool, and got me to thinking pretty hard.
      What happened next was I bought this harmonica, and I sort of learned how to play it. And then one day instead of busking for change with the other punks, I like went to another street with Bird, and I played my guitar and my harmonica, and I was like suddenly this carnival, man, this walking carnival. And I like put out this silly hat that I had been wearing on my head, and started making like eighty to a hundred pesos an hour. And Bird learned how to play spoons so we called ourselves The Spoon Children. And when I looked out at the street crowd when I played I was surprised to see all these touristos were totally getting their heads around our music.
      So things for Bird and I have been generally pretty righteous ever since, but at least twice a day I wonder what happened to Nosebone.

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