Friday, July 16, 2010

Cold & Hard: Spending the night in Arnieville

Mark Twain's autobiography is finally getting published -- almost one hundred years to the day after he wrote it. And from what I can tell after reading the book's advance reviews, Twain was also one hundred years ahead of his time, having apparently come back from the grave just in time to give us a much-needed warning about being wary of America's oligarchs and to nail today's corporatists for what they are -- greedy bastards.

And I think that it was also Mark Twain who said, "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco."

Me and my daughter Ashley stopped by Arnieville last night,
where disabled people are camping out in protest of Governor Schwarzenegger's callous cuts to their home-care workers' salaries. Arnieville has been set up on a traffic island on Adeline Street near Russell in Berkeley, right down the street from my apartment. "How's it going?" I asked some folks in wheelchairs who were sitting in front of the campsite eating dinner and chatting about stuff.

"It's going okay, considering the horrible mess that our state's finances are in," replied a blind woman. "And we've going to try to stay here until the State of California actually manages to come up with a budget." Yikes! That could take for-EVAH.

"It's not so bad here during the day," said another woman in a wheelchair, "but at night it gets a bit heavy-duty." I can imagine -- you can't just take a hot bath, turn off the lights and pop into bed here. No pre-bed glass of warm milk and bedtime stories either. Plus you can't even turn off the street lights -- although the City of Berkeley has been kind enough to not run the sprinklers at 4 am. And the automobile, truck and bus traffic on Adeline Street goes on all night long, just five feet from your head.

"We do have a security team that takes turns keeping watch so it's fairly safe here, but sometimes I'm the only woman at night and it gets a bit gender-heavy on the masculine side. I wish that we had more women camping out," looking directly at me as she said this, hint hint. She also wished that the campers had more monetary donations so that they could pay for their wheelchair-accessible PortaPotty. That's probably not covered in the state budget either.

Then I went home and got to thinking. I gots bad knees.
I'm 21% disabled. Those people are doing this for my sake too. I should be out there camping with them! So I went back this evening and asked if I could stay too. "You can borrow my tent," said my daughter Ashley who used to be a Girl Scout.

And I could wear my warm flannel nightgown and my bunny slippers!

But then, as we sat there chatting with the protesters, fog started rolling in from across the bay, the temperature dropped 20 degrees and I started to chicken out. "And besides, Big Brother 12 is on TV tonight," I whined. So much for roughing it for a good cause.

So. Will I spend the night in Arnieville tonight? Or will I let people who are even physically weaker than me end up doing the heavy-lifting for all of us? Will I protest the injustice of having so much of California's tax money go to large corporations and rich people but not to the people who actually need and deserve it -- or will I just stay home snug in my bed and turn a blind eye to injustice like most other Californians seem to be doing?

Or will I bite the bullet, haul my sleeping bag out of the closet, be brave like the disabled people down at Arnieville (and Mark Twain), and nail these corporatists for what they really are -- greedy bastards.

PS: Yes, I finally did get up enough nerve to actually go camp out. Remember those baby chickens that I got at the county fair last week? Well, last night I looked at them and they looked at me and I swear I actually heard one of them saying, "And you're the one that's calling ME a chicken?" So I figured that I'd better put my money where my mouth is.

"You can sleep in that yellow tent over there, said a member of the security team when I arrived (chickenless) at 1:00 am in the morning last night, pillow and blanket in hand.

"And how's progress on the state budget coming along?" I asked. Not so good. And camping out didn't go so well either. The ground, like the Governator, was cold and hard too. Plus I'd forgotten my flannel nightgown and bunny slippers. I don't see how these disabled people do it.

Last night I slept in a yellow tent next to an empty wheelchair, some crutches and an artificial leg.

PPS: Country Joe McDonald is giving a free concert at Arnieville on Saturday July 17, 2010 at 3:00 pm. Please come to the concert. Please support Arnieville. Please donate air mattresses!

PPPS: You can also donate $$$$ to keep Arnieville alive (and representing other Californians besides just the oligarchs) by going to their website at

PPPPS: Does anybody out there want to adopt any baby chickens? Ones that I (almost) promise won't talk back?