In the second part of my heroic battle against government corruption, corporate interests (who do you think is supplying the tree-sitters with all this food? Big Oak, that's who! also, local grandmothers). and DiRs, I attended the public comment session at the Berkeley City Council last Thursday. Far from the rational, soothing voice of Laurie Capitelli, I was greeted by raucous, primal cheers as I approached the steps of Old City Hall. I knew the tree folk would be out in full force; it was no hippie music festival, but sanctimonious speech making is pretty high on the list of hippie turn-ons (others hippie aphrodisiacs? hummus, patchouli, fucking up the 2000 election, and bark - I heard a rumor this weekend that DumpyMuff came down because she had a bun in the oven. Twist, your boys can swim!). I had to fight back.
CBKWit pleads with the COB
I joined the speakers' line, which stretched out the door and well into the hallway. The first person I heard was the president of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. He informed the City Council that the CoC voted unanimously against any appeal. Naturally, the hippies voiced their displeasure. The next twenty speakers discussed the legally irrelevant oak grove to affirmative cheers from the crowd. None of these speakers added anything of value or legal merit, but when you hear the same points regurgitated over and over, it has an impact. Of course, some people take it a little too far. Enter Doug Buckwald.
As self-appointed leader of Save the Oaks (Ayr is my favorite self-appointed Save the Oaks leader personally, though I see the argument for Runnie Dub), Mr. Buckwald convinced two non-egomaniacs to yield their time, allowing him 3 minutes to speak instead of 1. This provided enough time for the dramatic pauses required in the following excerpt, ode to the oaks: "Breathe in...we are here...only because of you..." Forget that you could write the same thing for essentially any noun (look through the microscope...at the bacteria...that aid us in digesting carbohydrates in our large intestines); Mr. Buckwald gets an A in 5th grade poetry!
Still, this was only my second favorite moment of the evening. Ayr took the stand later and, like Buckwald, received an extra two minutes of speaking time from subservient hippies. He slowed down around the minute forty-five mark but put his head down and powered through, to reasonable applause. He left the podium and sauntered to the back of the room like a basketball player after hitting a winning shot, smugly pounding fists and bumping chests with others along the way. As he's strutting away, Cal student and devout disciple Matthew Taylor jumps to his feet and eagerly begins shouting "Stand up! Stand up!" while raising the roof with his arms. Half a dozen hippies reluctantly stood.
I did not have a cheering section, forced or otherwise, for my minute at the podium. I made the relatively simple point that the City of Berkeley had already spent more than $300,000, which could have gone to very important and useful programs, on a failed cause. I then made an analogy to the Bush administration, citing its tendency to continue pursuing failed policies instead of admitting a mistake and changing course. I implored the City Council to be better than the Bush administration by recognizing the case for what it is (lost), and by using their money on more important issues. I heard some startled murmurs (UC is the Bush regime, not the City!) and an elder hippie directly behind me called me "a confused young man." To borrow from Moe Szyslak, I may be confused, and I may be young, but I'm not a...wait, what was the third thing you said? I think Jimmy Stewart would have been proud. 1939 movie>
After the council retreated for the closed session, Spazzy Mcgee and I ventured back outside. It was then that I saw them:
A bamboo forest is sacrificed for the sacred grove
I'm still holding out hope that Martial Artist Mask Maker will organize an army of long bo ninjas, but seeing them laid nobly on the steps was pretty thrilling. It takes creativity to utilize these sticks in ever more useless ways; I'm just excited to see how they're used next!
Spazzy and I then witnessed some hippie infighting, presumably caused by the tension and stakes of the meeting, or by someone actually listening to what Runnie Dub says.
I believe the woman on the steps called him "obnoxious" or something in that vein. I thought it was just Runnie being Runnie. And even though he got called out on the steps of city hall, don't shed any tears for RW. He still has his fans.
So what did I learn from my trip to Berkeley? I learned that certain City Council Members are eminently reasonable, while Douchebags in Red can sometimes act like total douchebags. I learned that beautiful poetry can make you seem sensitive and culture, while terrible poetry can make you look like an asshole. And I learned that, by taking action and participating in democracy, you really can make a difference, or at least pretend that you did when your side prevails.