Oh my gosh, I had a fun weekend. Anna had free rooms and tickets to the Eric Church concert inside the Buffalo Bills Casino at Primm, Nevada. We’ve been married for going on thirty years now and country music along with slot machines is her idea of a fun time. And as I know what’s good for me, anything that is fun for her is fun for me too.
Unfortunately for her, this was the same Saturday a few of my fellow bleeding heart liberals had plans to participate in an Occupy Barstow march from City Hall to the local newspaper in solidarity with the young people who started the Occupy movement in New York last September with their call to occupy Wall Street. So Anna drove to Primm in her car on Friday while I stayed behind with the intent to follow her up in my white pickup truck following the Occupy Barstow march Saturday morning.
I hurriedly drew up a WE ARE THE 99% and an OCCUPY BARSTOW sign before the event. I’m so glad I attended the solidarity march for several reasons. One was I was unexpectedly awarded a cash prize for the best letter to the editor published on the Mojave Free Press website – and I had no idea there was a contest, much less than I was in the running. So that was a serendipitous moment.
Speaking of moments, we also had a Kodak moment in front of the Barstow BofA. We did some chants for the video camera and moved on before the bank manager was alerted by the security guard to come out and see what the ruckus was all about. When he did appear, we were all but departed. I asked him if he wanted to join our march to which he respectfully declined with a friendly smile and relief in his expression as he realized we were no real threat to his day after all.
We even had a police escort during the march just to make sure we were not accosted by anyone and that we avoided accosting anyone ourselves, I suppose. All in all it was a peaceful protest march from which all participants felt a great sense of satisfaction. It was also fun to walk and talk with Congressional candidate Jackie Conaway about the movement and the CBO report proving the growing disparity between the 1% and the 99%. With any luck, she’s going to be our next representative in congress thanks to the redistricting of California. Jackie agreed that while some perceive our Occupy Barstow march didn’t add a drop to the bucket, it’s important to grasp the idea that no drop of water thinks it is at fault for the flood.
Our march was done before noon and we parted ways. I filled the tank and headed off toward Las Vegas. An hour later I was at the IHOP in Baker ordering the Rooty-Tooty with a cup of coffee. It was my first meal of the day. Anna was meeting up with Maryann in Las Vegas for lunch at 2:00 and as there was no way I could make it in time, I decided to take a side trip to Death Valley before meeting up with her for the concert later that night.
You may have seen the picture of the lady holding an “OCCUPY the Tundra” sign that went viral on the Internet recently. That gave me the idea of taking a picture of me holding my “99%” sign in front of a Death Valley National Park sign. I mean if she can occupy the tundra, I can occupy the desert – right? How fun is that!
Death Valley 99%
While heading up the 127, just a few miles north of Baker, I happened to see a SUV parked alongside Silver (dry) Lake. A young lady was taking a picture of her husband with the lakebed and mountains in the background. I had taken pictures of Silver Lake last February when it had water in it and it is a gorgeous site for photos in the early morning light. But it’s also impressive dry and as I wanted to have a picture of me in the Mojave with my sign, I figured this would be a great chance to knock that off my list. So I pulled over and asked the man if he’d like me to take a picture of the two of them together. He gladly accepted and I turned off the engine as he explained to his wife in Italian what was going on. They stepped off in the desert with the lake behind them and I took a few shots of them before asking them to return the favor. They agreed and took a shot of me holding my sign. The lady looked confused as she apparently couldn’t read the sign in English, (which is fair enough as I can’t read Italian) but she dutifully took the shot with my camera. Her husband laughed approvingly at my “WE ARE THE 99%” sign and insisted we take a picture together. Of course I complied and then said “ciao” as I hopped into my pickup to hurry on down the road.
Had I realized it was about a 100-mile drive (one-way) to get to the Death Valley sign from Baker, I probably would have passed on the idea given the time constraints. But once I passed Dumont Dunes and the town of Shoshone, I was committed. Just passed the Armargosa Opera House and Hotel is highway 190 off to the left. Then just 12 miles to the sign.
While passing the Funeral Mountains off to my right (on the north side of the 190), I saw another SUV parked on the shoulder with their back hatch open, so I pulled over to see if they were alright. Turned out they were a group of four hikers just returning to their vehicle and all were fine. We struck up a conversation and before long they were holding my “WE ARE THE 99%” sign as I took their picture with their cameras. Then I was off again to my primary destination.
The word "Occupy" was photoshoped in to the sign.
I made it to the sign around 3:45 PM. I set up the tripod and took a few shots. Then I headed down the road to the kiosk just to find out they want $20 for a park fee. So I headed back toward the Armargosa Opera House and Hotel.
As I approached the Death Valley National Park sign again, I noticed a SUV was pulling up to a stop. Sure enough it was the same couple from Italy! So I pulled over and took a couple more shots of them, and they even had me take one of them holding the “99%” sign. We exchanged email addresses and facebook contacts before I said “arrivederci” which brought a huge smile from the lady who repeated it followed with “ciao.” And I was off again.
I stopped at the Amaragosa Opera House and Hotel to ask what was the quickest way to Primm from there. Turns out it was back through Baker. Before leaving I took a picture of the nice lady at the Hotel along with her friends and coworkers while holding the “WE ARE THE 99%” sign so she could post it to facebook, or whatever she wanted. Just the offer brought a smile to her face. After that it was on through Shoshone and past Dumont Dunes again to Baker.
I made it to Whiskey Pete’s Casino by 7:00 PM. As I pulled into the parking lot, I figured it would be a good idea to park where traffic could see my windshield and put the “99%” sign in the window, sort of like a sun visor, so everyone could see it.
We drove Anna’s car over to the back parking lot of Buffalo Bills and to attend the concert. I brought my camera to take some stills. Everybody was screaming and clapping and partying hearty. Almost everyone was drinking a beer (which was $5.00 each at the concession stand). It was very loud and rowdy. Cowboys tend to be patriotic Americans who respect their parents, Jesus, and especially those who wore the uniform to protect our Constitution, and would never mess with another man’s truck because that’s just pure sacrilege – but they sure know how to let loose and dance in the aisles. It was a real lively and fun concert.
Afterwards we drove back to Whisky Pete’s and parked. Anna went inside but I headed to my pickup truck to get something. Two guys in cowboy hats and boots were in front of me headed to the nice black BMW sedan parked next to my pickup, when I heard the driver say to his slightly inebriated partner “There’s a 99%’er.” I was glad to see someone noticed the sign and even smiled a bit.
“Hu?” asked his passenger as he reached for the passenger door handle.
“Look in the window.” Responded the driver as he pointed to my windshield.
The passenger stopped. He paused for just a moment to verify his balance before he backed up a few steps to read the sign. Then he sort of stumbled forward again, past the passenger door of both my truck and the Beemer, and stopped at the rear wheel of my pickup where he proceeded to unzip his jeans and relieve himself!
I know it’s hard to believe but public intoxication is really not all that uncommon following these types of God-bless-rednecks-concerts.
By the time the guy unzipped, his partner was already in the driver seat of the nice shiny Beemer. I walked a bit past the driver’s door on the opposite side of my truck and looked at the guy as I asked him in a somewhat incredulous tone “Are you pissing on my tire?”
He continued to pee as he turned his head confidently toward me and said rather matter-of-factly, “Well, you are a ninety-nine percenter.” As if such observation in and of itself is self-evident justification for him desecrating my tire with his urine.
Then I tapped on the large white vinyl Eagle-Globe-and-Anchor decal on the dark tinted back window of my truck and said “Yup, and I’m also a former U.S. Marine who served his country with honor.”
The poor guy looked at the decal and then at me. He lost his confidence. His expression turned to one of shame and with puppy dog eyes (while still pissing on my truck mind you) he said in the most sheepish voice “I luv you man.”
I almost busted up laughing on the spot. I mean what could I do? The poor guy looked like he just got caught by his pastor zipping up after getting done with the pastor’s daughter.
Then he looked down at his handy work and muttered, “I’m not really pissing on your tire so much as just sort of around it on the ground …” He quickly finished and zipped up. As he got in the Beemer I heard him say to the driver; “Now I feel bad.” The driver asked why but the door closed before I could be privy to the rest of the conversation. They drove off toward Los Angeles.
In all fairness to real cowboys, these Beemer boys have the right to freedom of speech, and if desecrating Old Glory is a form of free speech, then arguably so too is pissing on a tire. But dogs piss on tires – not men. And while I don’t question whether someone who never wore the uniform should enjoy freedom of speech; I’m quite certain those of us who did serve have truly earned the right. From there I went to our room and shared the story with my wife, whose dad retired from the Corps. She laughed so hard she almost peed herself. We had a wonderful weekend.
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I’m a 21 year Barstow resident, with 35 years of Broadcast experience at various radio and TV stations in L.A., Ventura, Bakersfield, Las Vegas, Palmdale/Lancaster, and the Victor Valley, finally landing for 12 years in Barstow at Highway Radio.
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