(Excerpted from Chapter 19: Cruising Babylon: The Grateful Unrich…)
You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows - Bob Dylan
It’s been another ho-hum day on the corner. The banker who tried to run us off this public space choked on a turkey bone last Thanksgiving. America’s largest anarchist Saturday street festival has been coralled into a pay-per-space orderly affair, crammed into a single downtown Missoula block. We launched this street theater three years ago and refuse to be herded into sanitized hell. We boycott the sterile, juggler-less, mournful event from our corner outpost at Higgins and Broadway – open to all vendors by virtue of a unanimous decision by the Missoula city council, after the Thanksgiving casualty complained that his bank – bastion of capitalism – had seen enough of the free market out its front door.
Saturday is the busiest day of the week, as any dyed-in-the-wool street vendor will tell you. It’s when country folks come to town to peruse Main Street in search of new sizes and shapes of junk to replace that which they have gotten bored with. But this day is going just like the summer has gone. It hasn’t. Maybe the economy is fixing to head south. Maybe the people are tired of seeing us here. Maybe we’re tired of seeing them and it shows. At any rate, down one Yucatan matrimonial cotton/sisal five-thread hammock and a few pieces of Jill’s jewelry, we pack it in.
The highway home today will be much longer than the usual fifteen mile I-90 run east to Clinton, where a rundown 77’ Fleetwood has awaited us, crammed tightly between two worse-off trailers – ready to fall like dominoes in a row of rotting mobile homes. It is one of those unseen barrios where locals have taken refuge from the green green pastures of Missoula – overgrazed by dreadlocked California millionaires wearing Patagonia uniforms. We call them Trustafaris.
This time we’ll drive right past that unwelcome Clinton exit, having this week signed the dotted line authorizing the sale of said Fleetwood. We get but a thousand more than we paid for this wreck a year ago, but we unload the necessary burden and along with it – the property-tax monster, Big Brother phone company and power sucking energy grid man.
Today we fold up our table and stuff Mexican hammocks and Nepalese wool sweaters into the bags they came shipped in. We tear up our tired assortment of signs, toss out our ledger and pack the remaining necklaces into the tongue and groove wooden display cases that Jill made. We chuck the wicker basket that held Peruvian beads, pieces of black coral we found washed up on a Malaysian beach, what remains of my collection of foreign coins and other miscellaneous junk. As we pack up our gear, other vendors seem to sigh in collective relief at the sight of competition moving on. The hot dog vendor licks his lips, the hemp purveyor salivates and the Garnet Mountain crystal diggers jockey for position. We sell the latter contingent our display cases. They will be of no more use to us.
Gone is our 1989 Plymouth Colt Vista 4×4 station wagon, the poor man’s version of that icon of Missoula’s Patagonia-wrapped all day coffee shop contingent – the Subaru wagon. In its usual parking spot next to the curb where we load and unload, sits the cornflower blue 1988 Chevy 3/4 ton van that will carry us away from Zootown.
In the rear is a comfortable custom bed, sitting on the same milk crates we “borrowed” four years ago from that Arkansas convenience store to make a bed in our other van, which we’ve sold along with canoe, cross-country skis, tent and all other non-roadworthy items.
Inside the crates is everything we own – mainly clothes, photo albums and music. On top of the crates lays a thick piece of particle board, then a thick foam pad, then an egg crate-type pad, then our bedding. Behind the bed, we open the double doors and begin cramming in the burlap bags of sweaters and hammocks. In front of the bed on the passenger’s side is a sink – handy for brushing teeth, washing dishes and a late night piss in a Wal-Mart parking lot. In front of the sink we pack our vending table in the step of the sliding side door, then cram more burlap bags in front of it to hold it in place. On the opposite side, again on milk crates, is a thinner piece of plywood, holding a two-burner propane stove and two 4-gallon former Pizza Hut bulk cooking oil containers – well-rinsed and turned into lightweight, sturdy and free water jugs.
We say our last goodbyes, though the Indians have taught us that there are no last goodbyes. We say goodbye to friends, goodbye to annoying people who liked to hang out with us on the corner in search of a better outlook and a new energy field, goodbye to a way of life that has sustained us since we returned to Montana three summers ago. We pile into the loaded down rig – Jill, loyal road hounds Buck and Milo and I.
Missoula has proven the same brain drain vortex as it had been when we last abandoned it for our ridge top Ozark homestead. The same drunken talk at Charlie’s – a mafia-run bar – about changing the world, the same handful of non-profit strictly environmental and strictly on the grant money tit groups spinning their wheels at Bernice’s – where coffee runs $1.50 with no refills and where one is greeted by angry matriarchs bent on global domination of their neutered male subjects. These pathetic “activists” claim divine right to free kegs of the latest microbrew under the guise of fund-raising. They bike around town blocking traffic for kicks in their oil-based Patagonia costumes.
The city power structure claims progressiveness, but they are safe liberals who talk real soft and carry a big batch of passive aggressive angst. They forcefully regulate Mom and Pop business, while ignoring out of intense fear the likes of Plum Creek Timber, Burlington Northern Railroad and Meridian Mining – all part of the same corporate octopus owned by the Ft. Worth-based Bass Brothers and other Texas billionaires and drug lords. The self-important city council ignores Stone Container, a Chicago mafia-run box maker spewing endless sulfur dioxide and who knows what else into this allegedly environmentally aware valley without a word from the Emperor’s entourage.
Upon returning here, I had led another assault on this death cloud producer. I rolled some heads and got some death threats. Things were happening. But with each new hearing came a new grant-money sucking, gravy-train seeking, well-salaried environmental group. They commenced to water down the critique, which reached its crescendo when I donated my 4-H grand champion market swine trophy to the cause, awarding Stone Container’s head honcho with the “Golden Swine Award” at a Missoula County Commission hearing. His red face garnered a standing ovation from the crowd.
With each new front group, the struggle was further usurped in favor of capitulation. Those groups most conciliatory towards the mob got the next round of Rockefeller Family grants. That’s the way grant money works. It’s not about doing good things. It’s about trillionaire tax evasion and social engineering. And it works.
So Montana’s historic colonization marches on. The handful of outspoken revolutionaries who land here are branded “violence-prone”, “crazy” or “dangerous” by the soft-spoken anal retentive matriarchal Establishment. Increasingly marginalized from the debate, I find more common ground with the Montana Militia and others of the well-armed fringe.
I manage to sneak one radio commentary past public radio news robot, Sally Mauk – a particularly well-manipulated silent droid – and slam Stone Container hard.
I do four TV programs on Missoula Community Access Television (MCAT) with the local Baha’i group. The program titles are: (1) The Oil Mafia (2) Central America: Struggle against the New World Order (3) The Mena Cover-Up (4) Freemasonry, the Illuminati and the International Bankers. During the last show both cable and Internet feeds are suddenly cut. Later that night we are harassed by cops. The next day we have two flat tires on the wagon.
These matters are of no interest to the environmental career activist crowd. Tired of being relegated to the company of John Birchers and the Apocalypse-prone, I decide it time to unhook our well-tapped phone, swap vehicles and hit the lonely but true highway one more time.
I steer the big blue van – now known as Tubs II – east onto the Van Buren Street I-90 exit. We pause at the Clinton post office to pick up the last of our mail and say goodbye to Roger, the soft-spoken postmaster who’s obviously done tons of acid. Jill sheds a few tears as we drive away.
I keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles as we continue east. The coast is clear and I relax, rejoicing at the sight of Hellgate Canyon and Missoula – what the Salish called “the valley of dead bones” – in my rear view mirror.
My unpaid thankless job as left-flank agitator/matriarchy punching bag is terminated. I count coup over the fact that this stint in Missoula has – unlike the last, when we left broke – produced a healthy grubstake. We worked for change at every level, possibly the most important of which was the establishment of a street vendor entrepreneur class who could now safely go about their low-overhead business. The van feels tight.
Dean Henderson is the author of four books: Big Oil & Their Bankers in the Persian Gulf: Four Horsemen, Eight Families & Their Global Intelligence, Narcotics & Terror Network, The Grateful Unrich: Revolution in 50 Countries, Das Kartell der Federal Reserve & Stickin’ it to the Matrix. You can subscribe free to his weekly Left Hook column @ www.deanhenderson.wordpress.com