Archive for November, 2008
I’ve only been to Chicago once. It was in 1972. I was there for a meeting and after the meeting I went to the Art Institute for the first time. I had no idea. I had grown up with my grandmother’s collection of books about great art but until I walked into the room, room after room, I had had no idea of the majesty and the power and the magic of the paintings themselves. I was stunned. I called home and said, I’ll be gone another three days. I have to have 3 days to see this.
And I went everyday from the time they opened until they closed and soaked it all in through my pores. One day after revelling in art I had the good luck to meet Studs Terkel quite by accident. I was looking for a pizza place and got lost and walked down his street and happened to ask him, of all people, where was a good place to get Chicago pizza. We got in a conversation. I was just starting out my career as a radical writer and journalist.
I got a lot of help in those days from my elders. I heard the stories of the Wobblies, the early unions, the socialists and the back to the land and communities movements of the early 20th century. The students in Paris, the anarchists in Spain, the Prague spring. The people who were there shared their stories with me, their hard-earned lessons, their wisdom gained. I never forgot it. When things got really difficult and I thought we couldn’t go on, I would remember them and how they kept the faith and perservered when dark times came upon them and I vowed that I wouldn’t bend either.
Studs lived into his nineties. He was alert and rascally till the end. He had met Obama and talked with him. He skipped out right before the election. He was one of a kind. I’m glad the next president of this country is a man who met Studs. I hope he listened well.
I went out this morning, down in my courtyard, chatting with my neighbors and then next door to Maudie’s Cafe for breakfast. The winds of change were blowing – low dark clouds up from the gulf, not dropping their rain on this drought-starved city, yellow leaves from the dying trees, dirt from the bare lots where the grass has croaked, gas fumes from the heavy traffic because the bus drivers are on strike – the winds were a-blowing. I bought a newspaper for the first time in ages and put it on my table. I wanted to be out around people and check out the vibe.
Austin is like the San Francisco of Texas. Inside Maudie’s, out of the wind, everyone was smiling and the people I talked to were all happy. Not boisterous, rowdy, stomp on the ground, victory dance happy. Just quietly happy, a very sane, grounded happy. It felt like it does at a birth, a little amazed and truly pleased.
It felt like we had been given a chance to do better now. Will we? It’s up to us. I think we have a good wind at our back, I think we can.