By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The 101 buzzes with peace-rally fervor. Someone walks through selling Bush T-shirts with a swastika where the "s" should be. I'm told he's a neighborhood film editor of some repute. The great Blackie Onassis of Urge Overkill fame sits down across from our table with Bobby, a screenwriter friend, and his sister, a budding film producer.
"Where's your sign?" someone from our table shouts over to Bobby.
"I've got something even more powerful." He holds up his video camera.
"Get a close-up of me shedding a single tear," comes the reply. "It'll be potent, because nobody's seen me cry."
Writer/director Don Ward (The Suburbans, My Life Is in Turnaround) and his girlfriend meet up with us. He wears blue jeans and a blue-jean jacket.
"My protest clothes," he says.
Cynthia asks if that was Dave Eggers who just walked by.
"That was Dave Eggers," someone says. Nobody looks up because that would be both bad form and a telltale display of interest.
"Should I read his book?" asks Cynthia.
"Not the second one," somebody answers.
"Yeah, he may have only had the one great tragic tale to tell but You Shall Know Us by Our Velocity is still one of the great titles," says El Mejor Que No Tiene Trabajo (as M.I.'s known in Spanish). It occurs to me that if this peace rally were to be held in the middle of the week, few in the crowd here would have many scheduling conflicts.
The march is supposed to start in 15. The out-of-towners, Bill and Cynthia, debate whether to join in or tend to their laundry, which is in limbo down the road at the Laundromat next to Vic's, the place we used to meet when we met.
It's one of those days when Hollywood feels like a small town again, when everyone seems to know your name. Bill and Cynthia are swayed by the groundswell for peace spreading across the 101, infecting every booth no matter how jaded the attendant diners are during less dangerous times.
"Give us five minutes to run down there and put our stuff in the dryer," says Bill.
People start filing out of the 101 Coffee Shop and head for Vine and Hollywood. As we walk toward the demonstration we discuss the signs we should have made.
"Hollywood Trash Against the War?"
The Most Important Man in Hollywood Without a Job nods approval.
MEMOIRS OF A STREET-FIGHTER: Peace, Batman
"THIS IS THE AMERICA I LOVE," DECLARED my comrade and current house pest John Sinclair during Saturday's march. Sinclair was founder and chieftain of the infamous White Panther Party in the 1960s, manager of the incendiary MC5, and a victim of a state frame-up in which he got up to 10 years for giving a narc two measly joints.
Now the hardest-working poet in show biz, he and I were limping west on Hollywood Boulevard with thousands of other patriots to stop Dubya's Folly. With us were Rex Weiner, former Yippie/Zippie/White Panther, underground-press hawk and current media maven, and Rex's 14-year-old son Carlos. And me, the junior-league Yippie kid who used to knock over NYPD sawhorses in the '60s and then run like hell to create strategic street diversion.
Two brothers from the Black Bloc buzzed by, noted Carlos' youth and handed him a flier announcing a breakaway march at a ä certain location. So, three middle-aged revolutionaries and one sprite. Rex had given each of us a toy walkie-talkie courtesy of his son so we could communicate in case of riot.
With my prosthetic hips and a cane, I'm lucky if I can crawl like hell. Sinclair's bones were creaking, and Rex, while the sturdiest of the three, was showing the effects of decades of pills, powders and potions befitting a founding editor of High Times. When we passed Grauman's Chinese Theater, the actors dressed as Superman and Batman were grinning and giving the peace sign to the marchers. Suddenly, some red-faced, humor-free sergeant from the Los Angeles Porcine Department ran up to America's superheroes and screamed, "CUT THAT OUT OR JOIN THE PARADE!"
"That fuckin' does it!" I grunted. "Fuckin' un-American tellin' our nation's superheroes what to do!" I whipped out my pad and pen, 3-year-old press pass and headed over to ask the cop why he did that and get his name and badge number. Two large hands enveloped me from behind, and a baritone belonging to Sinclair implored, "Please don't do that, Mike. For me." The cat spent 29 months in prison and years fighting with cops, so I refrained, even though the momentary flash of righteous rage was invigorating.
In sleepy L.A. town there's just no place for a street-fightin' man. At least not one with prosthetic hips.
At last, a show for peace(Photo by Dave Shulman)
I LIKE MY POLITICS CONFRONTATIONAL. I want action, direct engagement. But I discover a different sensibility at Peace on the Beach. No sense of menace, just a blissed-out feeling, as if we have all the time in the world. Orange cones mark the plot of sand where, later in the day, 5,000 or so protesters will come together in a piece of human artwork, based on Pablo Picasso's "The Face of Peace" — a woman's face melding into a dove. For the moment, though, it's tie-dyed hippies touching their heart chakras and raising their hands in supplication to the sky. On the drive to Santa Monica, my wife, Rae, and I reminded our children, Noah and Sophie, about the importance of voicing our opposition to the Bush administration's Iraq policy, the significance of being heard. What we haven't prepared for is this hushed Om of chanting.
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