Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Occupy Bourbon Street

       Gordon grew up destined to protest something.  I guess you could say it was in his genes.  His daddy’d come down to Mississippi from Ohio in the summer of 1966 to help register the blacks to vote.  His name wasn’t Middleman though.  It was Lowenstein.  Middleman was Gordon’s momma’s family name.  Anyway, Gordon’s daddy’d run off to Canada to avoid the draft about the same time his momma, Bettie Lee, found out she was pregnant. He said he was going to send for her when he got settled, but I don't guess they ever heard from him again. 

Gordon was effected by that too I guess.  He never could stay with a job for too long.  Some said it was because he’d never had a daddy around to show him what work was.  Others said it was having to take care of his momma his whole life, after she came off of that motorcycle, that’d done it. 

Bettie Lee’d run head on into a pick-up truck and right through the windshield she went.  She never talked again.  They called what happened to her “organic brain syndrome” but everybody around town just shortened it to OBS.  Gordon was five at the time.

I don’t really know all that much about it.  Everything I know is only second hand ‘cause I wasn’t around back then.  Gordon’s my cousin.  He’s old enough to be my uncle.  He’s only three years younger than my dad. 

Gordon’s been teaching me how to drive all summer.  He did a great job.  I just got my license last week.  I passed the driving test the first time through.

They closed the battery reprocessing plant where Gordon worked the same day.  I guess they can get a better deal getting them made over in China where they don’t have to worry so much about lead poisoning.  So Gordon was at loose ends when he heard about the protests that had started up north in New York City. 

From what he explained, ninety-nine percent of the people in the United States were being held up by one percent of some greedy hogs that were living there in New York on Wall Street. 

“They might as well have a gun,” he said.

Gordon logged on to the Occupy Wall Street web site to have a look.  He gave them some money and watched a little video somebody posted about how to start a protest in your own community.  I watched it with him, but I swear, it was about the most boring thing I ever saw on You Tube.  I thought it was stupid.  A protest in Soso, Mississippi wasn’t going to accomplish much of anything.  What was he going to occupy anyway, the post office?

Gordon saw it different though.  He thought New Orleans was just about perfect for a protest.  Besides, it was the only city anywhere near big enough that was close to Soso.  I thought, maybe he could catch a Saints game while he was down there. 

He said he could get a couple of his buddies, catch the Amtrack, and go down there on Wednesday if he could get me and his neighbor, Mrs. Clanton, to keep an eye on his momma for a few days while he was gone.  I said sure.  Getting away for a little’d do him good. He didn’t have a job to go to right now anyway.  Maybe they could occupy Jackson Square.

He thought about it all day and by that night he was sure that this was a thing that needed doing.  So he went back to the OWS website to let them know what he was intending to do.  OWS thought that that was a fine idea, and gave him some hints about drums, and collections boxes and what to write on the protest signs and all sorts of things like that.

He went out to the garage to paint some protest signs.  He had a lot of paint left from painting the short bus for the Mardi Gras parade back in February.  He made the first sign purple and gold.  He wrote OWS in big letters.  Then stood back to get a good look to see how it seemed at a distance.   OWS looked a lot like the thing his momma had, the OBS.  Maybe it was a sign.  Something was trying to show him what it was that he was supposed to do.  Gordon P. Middleman was going to be a real leader.  He was the founding father of his own protest.  Gordon was going down there and Occupy Bourbon Street to raise money for his momma.  So that’s what he wrote on the rest of the signs. 

 Support your momma

He caught the train on Tuesday.  Nobody else went with him.  I couldn’t go ‘cause I had school.  All our friends had jobs except Wilson, we call him Boo, and Boo wasn’t getting out of jail for three weeks.  Gordon wasn’t waiting.  So there wasn’t any of us that could go with him.  I drove him to the station.  He had a lot of extra signs.  I watched as he put them on the rack above him, then he sat down with that big drum he got from the attic on his lap, like it was a lunch box or something.  That’s the last I saw of Gordon for a while.  I heard from him though.  He sent me texts almost every day.

Day One
Well, my OBS protest isn’t working worth a damn. At first nobody else on Bourbon Street even noticed I was there. I was just standing there by myself with my signs, beating on the drum.  A few people gave me money. Some others spit on me.  Folks stuck Saints stickers on my signs. Tomorrow I’ve got to get some help.

Day Two
a.m. – Slept behind some garbage cans, a guy peed on me. Threw my clothes away and washed off with a hose.

Day Three
Ohhhhh…my head is killing me.  Started on Canal.  I was beating on my drum and a kid with a trumpet and a girl with a violin started playing along.  Next thing I know a seven-foot tall giant in a green tutu, torn fishnet stockings, high heels, and a Tulane football jersey took my green sign and tore it so it only said “Support you Momma” and gave it to a chubby girl in a clear plastic raincoat and nothing else. A boy took a marker and changed OBS on one of the signs to Oh Baby Show me, and off we went, marching along.  All kinds of folk were following us, throwing beads and stuff, girls up on the balconies were pulling up their shirts.  We were sure doing some protesting now.  Police on horses even rode along beside us.  We spent the donation money on some of those tall hurricanes.  I slept on the girl with the raincoat’s couch.

 Day Five
Somebody stole my drum last night.  The girl I’m staying with is a stripper at the JoyLuck Club.  I hope she didn’t give me something.  I only have one sign left and it’s all covered with stickers so you can’t tell what it says.

I didn’t hear anything else for a week or so then Gordon showed up at home.  He said he felt bad about leaving his momma alone for so long but he wasn’t getting enough donations and the raincoat girl threw him out.   After that, he didn’t have enough money to buy a ticket home, but it was worth it.

Gordon and I are both pretty sure he taught those greedy hogs up there in New York a thing or two.