Planning a party for our Republican friends

It isn’t enough to merely possess a gas mask. Gas mask training is essential.

John Hoff

Maybe it was all the wine my buddy salvaged from some trash containers after a high-class tasting party, and then served up at his own festive blow-out gathering of assorted radicals on Friday night, but I’m really starting to have hope.

Yes, I’m starting to believe certain vague, visionary plans to throw our Republican friends a street party in St. Paul in 2008 are really, truly going to happen.

Look away, you fun-loving Republicans, we’re planning a big surprise party for little ol’ you during your special convention in 2008. Hopefully, it will be more fun than the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Yup, we know you Republicans are still jealous about all the attention Democrats enjoyed in Chicago back in the days of the hippies, but just think: 40 years, my pinstriped, conservative friends.

Yes, it will be 40 years exactly since our parents and even grandparents put their lives on the line in the streets of Chicago to stop the Vietnam War, four decades since the so-called “nomination” of a swine named Pigasus for president, and chants of “Hey, hey, LBJ / How many kids did you kill today?”

Nobody in this column except me has a real name, of course, and even I have been known to become “John Hoffman,” in homage to Abbie Hoffman of the Chicago 7.

My friend “Carlton” knows everybody, and everybody knows Carlton. All the people at Friday’s party were FOC, Friends of Carlton. All the food and most of the liquor for FOC came from Dumpster diving.

A little sign with a cartoon Dumpster advertised the origin of the eats, because it’s bad manners to serve Dumpster-dived goodies and not tell your guests, even if lots of them are divers, also. Carlton picked up the sign, waved it around and said, in a high-pitched voice, “I’m Dumpie. Eat me.”

I spoke with a lovely anarchist woman, “Stella.” Stella wore a subverted pinstripe coat accentuated with colorful neckties serving as scarves.

Looking at a wide assortment of half-full wine bottles, we discussed which vintage would be perfect with salvaged potato chips and chocolate candies. Finally, I found one that was 14.5 percent alcohol by volume, which was the most.

We talked about gas masks. I mentioned how difficult it was, during the Battle of Seattle, to procure a gas mask at the last minute. But it isn’t enough to merely possess a gas mask, oh no. I know from my time in the army that gas-mask training is essential, so you will trust your equipment even when you’re exhausted from running, fighting for breath, and it’s tough to suck air through the filters.

In the Army, a drill sergeant rips off your mask in a room full of CS gas, and you have to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” as long as possible, until you gag, choke and puke.

Of course, training doesn’t have to involve any particular song. “Solidarity Forever” will work just fine. But the point is that, after such an exercise, you believe in your mask to give you air, like you believe in a mother to give you milk, and the mad urge to rip off the mask to keep from suffocating goes away.

Stella told me activists have been planning and coordinating for a few months, traveling to the Twin Cities and quietly familiarizing themselves with routes and landmarks. A meeting between a major group of “anti-authoritarians” and a large liberal Christian organization was scheduled to take place Ö um, well, no sense mentioning the day or the location.

Oh, the food at the party was excellent. Carlton had told me the legend of the chocolate Dumpster, the location of which is semiclassified even among veteran divers, singing the praises of the slightly imperfect but delicious chocolate candies like a pothead talks about potent, sticky weed.

Green Party members were there. A union organizer was there. Latino immigrant organizers were there, so sometimes conversations with the non-Latino FOC became courageous attempts to practice Spanish learned at the University.

Carlton’s house was so crowded with partiers that if you hung out and conversed near the bathroom, somebody would ask, “Is this the line?”

I begged Carlton for some salsa to go with my chips, and he put me to work making guacamole from some extra-ripe avocados. I asked him where the compost bucket was for the avocado skins and pits, and he pointed under the sink. It’s pretty cool when you know your friends well enough to guess, correctly, they have a compost bucket.

Maybe the wine makes that night seem rosy, but how glad I was for these beautiful, frugal and artistic FOC, who had such heart, such hope, such hospitality they would actually dream of throwing a deluxe party for our richy-rich, bloated Republican friends.

Well, and then some people were at Carlton’s party just because of all the free food and booze, kind of like some people show up at demonstrations just hoping for excitement. But, hey, that’s cool.

Will enough people come to the street demonstrations in 2008? Will it be a gas? Will demonstrators have enough sense to focus on a target of opportunity outside the main security perimeter, like a luxury hotel where delegates will be staying with their laptops and revealing documents, instead of going up against massive security surrounding the convention center? It would be good to apply the hard-earned lessons of Seattle in 1999.

Now is the time for all good people to come to the aid of the party-planning.

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected]