!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0 Transitional//EN"> Hamsterland - because people who live in Bellingham used to call themselves Hamsters

I spent the weekend in Bellingham

Sunday, October 15, 2000 6:03 PM

I spent the weekend in Bellingham w/ Robert Force - ostensibly we went up there to play music at a 30th reunion party for the Northwest Passage which used to be an "underground" newspaper.  Robert called me at about 11:00 AM noting that although I had not been invited, it was an oversight and that I was needed, and that many of our old friends would surely be there.  So I rode my bike to the ferry and tossed it into the back of his pickup and off we went.

I had to explain to Doug what an "underground newspaper" was, since he missed that phenomenon by growing up in a part of the world where there were few if any people hipper than him to learn from, and then got to Seattle after is was all "over", so I will remind you, too, that it was barely 25 years ago when the straight press in Amerika simply did not report links between pesticides or packaging materials and cancers in humans, or between foreign wars or foreign policy and corporate profits, or the heroin trade and CIA activites in SE Asia, or between Firestone and Goodyear rubber tires and the end of rail-based public tranportation in Amerika's cities; so for a few thousand dedicated young and not quite so young people around the country it was considered an unavoidable destiny to devote some huge chunk of their lives to exposing the complicity of the press, and shining the light of their own printing presses on these issues.

All the Bellingham "old guard" hip-intelligencia were there. The people who started the pea patches and the Food Coop, and oranized the anti-war protests and anti-ARCO boycots and cleaned up the oil-spilled sea-birds, and lead the slow migration to organic food and the farmers' market and opened the  bookstores and rediscovered Bluegrass music and on and on ... the speakers were inspired and the conversations were phenomenal, although I have to admit that I was captured inside the music for a lot of the party.

Still, it was an amazing networking event, a never to be repeated gathering of these people. At first I imagined that I really did not have much need to network there, because I never really wanted to live in Bellingham.

Then I realized that each of us held pieces of the history that needed to be reassembled if the portrait of the past was to be true. A student was there collecting stories of the earliest days of the Food Coop, and discussing whether it actually had a place in the future of food distribution once organic food reaches the mainstream.  I was able to describe how Carter and I had once tried to transport a "Utopian" but still totally entreprenuerial 100% organic produce store there from Seattle. It was called Anna Ruth Henry's and it had been running just fine, although totally underground out of a house on the edge of the University district, while she spear-headed the anti-flouridation movement in the Northwest. I actually remembered her as an object of ridicule when I was in high-school.

Anna Ruth was a 78 year old nudist and old pals with Dr Bronner. She would vacation on his ranch where we presumed the fruit was harvested by naked people, and return with crates of dates and avocados of unbelievable quality. All of her farmers were disciples of Rudolph Steiner and dedicated practicianers of biodynamics. Some were Reichians and had Orgone boxes.  When we discovered her she was mostly selling to little old ladies who had been pulled from the jaws of death by Naturopath John Bastyr. She provided them with food and water that they cold eat w/o fear of pesticide residues and she also supplied some lunatic fringe paramilitary types with "pure food for their bomb shelters.  Some of them actually got arrested robbing a bank in Redmond to buy weapons. And yet we all made our own change in the cash register, knowing that our personal survival was in some very real way linked to our honesty in the till.

We had successfully "converted" her store into a meeting ground for the growing macrobiotic and organic food community, selling her on the integrity of these strange young people with long hair and bicycles, and she had observed that the phenomenon we were manifesting was spreading to other urban areas and so her customer-base was ready to grow. This was fully 2 years before the Bellingham Coop had any food on its shelves, but the Coop's board, idiologs all, decided that they would rather maintain total control over the Coop's destiny than accomplish its mission ... which was part of why I never really wanted to live in Bellingham.

After the event we went to Bob's wife's folks' place in Ferndale to crash (the "he" of that couple is in convalescent care recovering from a trip to the hospital and the "she" is in P.T. at Force's while he is incarcerated) and then this morning, on our way out of town we played for old folks at St Francis old folks rehab center. Since the person we had gone to serenade was engaged in rather painful colonic therapy when we arrived, we serenaded the neighbors instead and then took a break and "shopped" at Value Village and Ross Dress-for-Less.  After finding a winter coat for a 3 year old we returned and played for the grandfather, and for two rooms of his next-door neighbors.

Very intense to play for these people compared to playing for graying hippies, and yet there was an amazing continuity to the experience - beginning with the old hippies whose nostalgia indicated that for many of them, their sense of having productive lives that will change the future is past, then "pow" we were almost teleported into this strange incredibly noisy brand new house belonging to two rapidly aging people who have had to relocate from the family home of probably over 40 years into a tiny box-house in a brand new retirement village, a box filled almost to overflowing with photos and momentos of people and times and events long-since past, and then finally "poof" we were whished into the custodial care facility filled with people who can not walk, or urinate, or in some cases not even defecate w/o the assistance of several trained people.

Then, on the ferry, my hat with ears was the object of great fascination for numerous 5 - 7 year olds, and our plinkity plunkity music and my tiny Brazilian guitar delighted oldsters.

What a loop.

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