Thursday, March 13, 2014

A brief musical history of "free trade"

You can also listen to this in audio form.  I recorded the live internet broadcast of me reading the words and playing the songs -- with some embellishments!

For the past few millennia, much of the world has been gripped in the throes of bloody conflict between the haves and the have-nots. For the past few centuries, the haves have primarily been represented by national governments and massive corporations, and have sold themselves as believers in democracy and free trade -- individual freedom and economic freedom is how they sell it. In the real world, this is all just a line, and the ruling classes have supported democracy or dictatorship, free trade or protectionism, randomly, depending on whether it was advantageous to them at the time.

These days they're trying to pass the biggest, baddest international agreements ever -- the TPP and the TTIP -- which will, if passed, further destroy local democracy, and will result in a huge transfer of wealth from the bottom to the top, in the guise of supporting "free trade," like usual in recent years. I thought I'd give you a little musical history of trade, "free" or otherwise -- its promoters and its opponents.

During the early 18th century, Great Britain was a very dominant military and economic power. Part of Britain's success lay in imposing severe restrictions on which countries the British colonies were allowed to trade with -- namely, you could only trade with them, and anyone else was liable to get their ship sunk by the British Navy. So the pirates of the Golden Age of Piracy, mostly British subjects of African descent, sank the ships of British merchants, as well as their French and Spanish competitors.
Black Flag Flying

Taxation without representation and British restrictions on colonial trade were two of the main reasons that spurred on the American Revolution. But promises by extremely wealthy slaveholders like George Washington that things would improve under the new government didn't pan out. Tenant farmers made the revolution and then came back to the same greedy landlords that they had before they went out to fight, kill and die for the cause. Their 3-year revolt led directly to the Bill of Rights being passed. (Though as with so many other laws, these ten constitutional amendments have always been only very selectively enforced.)
Berkshire Hills

Half a century later, life still had not improved significantly under the revolutionary government. Despite the supposed advantages of sovereignty and fewer trade restrictions, the rich still owned most everything, while the poor majority in the USA led short and difficult lives. The tenant farmers of upstate New York revolted, and for nine years they refused to pay the rent to the oligarchs of Dutch descent who had inherited the land they lived on over the generations, since the Dutch crown had first granted it to themselves. It was in reaction to the Rent Strike Wars of upstate New York that the US Congress passed the Homestead Act of 1862, which is largely responsible for creating the phenomenon of small farmers and small businesspeople which came to be known as "the middle class."

The Opium Wars were two of many examples of the enforcement of trade policy through the barrel of a gun. There was a great thirst for Chinese products in Britain -- especially tea -- but British industry had little to offer that the Chinese wanted. So Britain -- with help from France, the United States, and Russia -- attacked China, burned cities, killed tens of thousands of civilians, and forced the Emperor to sign a treaty giving British merchants the right to sell massive quantities of heretofore illegal and highly addictive opium to the Chinese people.
Trade War

The American Revolution was led in part by slave-owners who wanted freedom from trade restrictions imposed by Britain. The southern states' secession that led to the American Civil War was led by slave-owners who wanted freedom from trade restrictions imposed by the Northern-dominated federal government. This was far from the only blatant instance of slavery and "free trade" being bedfellows.
John Brown

During the period that became known as the Coal Mine Wars, the freer the trade was, the worst things were for the miners of West Virginia. Without any government protections in place, the many coal mine operators in West Virginia had to compete on the open market with coal from Illinois and elsewhere, which was much cheaper to produce and get to market, since Illinois is flat and West Virginia is (or at least was) completely mountainous. In order to compete on the open market, they kept wages lower in West Virginia than anywhere where. Problem was, that meant starvation for the miners. So they rebelled, organized strikes, fought, and did all the other things that workers have to do in order to survive when the purveyors of "free trade" rule the land.
Battle of Blair Mountain

After the unregulated US economic system bounced along for decades and then collapsed almost entirely with the stock market crash of 1929 and subsequent period known as the Great Depression, the only thing that helped mollify the extremely stratifying effect of these conditions were things like taxation and government spending on social programs. And other things that today would be called "non-tariff barriers to trade" such as labor unions.
Union Makes Us Strong

One of the longstanding problems with the advocates of "free trade" is that the biggest and most influential among them have no allegiance to any particular government or people, so they tend to play governments off against each other for their own benefit. A prime example of this was Ford, which hedged their bets during World War 2, and built tanks for both the US and Nazi Germany, making sure that the more people who got killed and the longer the war took, the more money they'd make, regardless of who came out on top.
Henry Ford Was A Fascist

Since long before the First Opium War, "free trade" has been used as a fig leaf for naked imperialism. Claiming it was unfair for the taxpayers of Chile to buy and own their own country's finite resources from the foreign corporations that previously controlled them, the US undermined and ultimately arranged to overthrow the democratically-elected socialist government of Salvador Allende, putting into power a "free trade"-friendly dictatorship that tortured and killed thousands of people and ran Chile's economy into the ground all at the same time. The foreign corporations made lots of money, though.

While Allende was in power in Chile, the US was busy making the Chilean economy scream, to quote Henry Kissinger.  The US has been trying for over half a century to do the same thing to Cuba, but the project to isolate Cuba economically and politically ran into more snags, such as countries like the Soviet Union, Canada, Mexico and most of Europe refusing to go along with the US's program to overthrow the Cuban government because they don't embrace "free trade," and had the audacity to nationalize some of their own resources after overthrowing the odiously corrupt and brutal Batista dictatorship in 1959.
Trading With The Enemy

Once the US labor movement had largely been wiped out, and the transnational "free trade" corporations were firmly in control in the US and elsewhere, the new norm became a massive trade deficit between the US and China, with Chinese sweatshops producing 70% of the products sold on the shelves of the world's biggest corporation, Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart became iconic in the new economy, a physical representation of the race to the bottom that "free trade" sets into motion, with some of the world's lowest-paid workers producing the products, in countries with very bad standards for labor or civil rights, with very lax environmental regulations, while the lowest of the low-paid workers in the consuming countries sell these outsourced, imported products.

The flip side of outsourcing manufacturing jobs has been to try hard to force workers inside the US into a "race to the bottom," competing for ever-scarcer jobs that pay ever-lower wages.  A big part of that process has always involved a vibrant "black economy" of millions of undocumented workers, which the ruling class makes sure to keep in a state of fear at all times, so that they keep working, but don't organize, and so that they are always available to be used against those who do try to organize, always available as a scapegoat for everything -- crime, poverty, the availability of illegal drugs, you name it.
No One Is Illegal

With the rise of the concept of privatizing resources that had long been publicly managed and the rise of the concept of intellectual property and copyright, all sorts of new battlefronts emerged in the struggle between the haves and the have-nots. The land once held in common among the peasantry in places like England and Scotland had long ago been enclosed and claimed by the ruling classes. In recent decades the new emphasis has been on privatizing the water that falls from the sky, the seeds farmers plant, our genes, and our culture.
The Commons

One of the many negative aspects of privatizing and deregulating everything in the image of some twisted idea of freedom is that not only does the whole process dramatically intensity both the extremes of poverty as well as wealth and gut the so-called "middle class," but it causes the atomization of society in other ways.  For example, if it's more profitable for the big corporations for everybody to drive a private automobile rather than to take mass transit, and it's more profitable to have all the stores located in a big mall outside of town, rather than to fix up Main Street, then so be it.  The result of all of this has been what has come to be known as "urban decay," which the ruling class of course likes to blame on some combination of African-Americans and immigration.  Of course, it's the "free traders" who created the mess, not the victims of "free trade."
Used To Be A City

The last few years of the 20th century saw the rise globally of a movement against world domination by transnational corporations and their bought-off governments. There were many large and militant protests as well as lots of community organizing throughout North America and Europe, and in Latin America, one government after another was freed from the shackles of the International Monetary Fund by leftwing governments coming to power, most notably in oil-rich Venezuela. Four years after his landslide electoral victory, Hugo Chavez was overthrown by a coup with US assistance. Millions of people poured into the streets, however, and blockaded the entrances of all the military bases, the coup plotters relented, and Chavez came back, and continued implementing the social programs that have made such a difference to the lives of so many people in Venezuela and throughout Latin America.
Song for Chavez

War-torn Colombia became one of the last remaining countries in South America to be suffering under US "free trade" tutelage.  In Colombia, they do what the corporate leaders like to do best with community leaders and union organizers -- they shoot them.
Drink of the Death Squads

The movement in the US against the "free trade"-pushing corporate elite and their Democratic and Republican servants was put on the map with the protests outside the World Trade Organization meetings in Seattle in 1999, and faced a crossroads during the protests against the Free Trade Area of the Americas meetings in Miami in 2003, with wanton and extreme police brutality as well as many underhanded police tactics, and outrageously biased media reporting, combined with the psychological aftermath of 9/11, since after 9/11 the lines in the eyes of the corporate media between peaceful protesters and Al-Qaeda suicide bombers became blurred.

When the purveyors of "free trade" make plans to have a big meeting of the elites, they like to have them in places where protests aren't allowed, like Qatar and Russia.  If they have them in the US, they like to have John Timoney running the police department.  They like him because he's an anti-democratic thug with a well-deserved reputation of undermining the rule of law and violating civil rights on a massive scale.  Now he's training the cops in Bahrain.
Butcher for Hire

Another "free trade" advocate who has worked lots in both the US and the Middle East is Paul Wolfowitz.  He went from being one of the main people in charge of privatizing the Iraqi economy at the point of a gun, to running the World Bank and trying to implement those kinds of draconian policies on a more global scale.
Paul Wolfowitz

On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Union continued to embrace more and more "free trade"-style reforms -- deregulating banking, privatizing trains, prisons, formerly public utilities like water, etc. Going in the opposite direction of much of South America, and becoming more and more like the USA.
Welcome to the European Union

And then came another financial meltdown.  Many countries around the world went into a spiraling economic tailspin, requiring massive bailouts, with no hope of paying off the loans without selling most of their country's assets to the IMF.  Massive banks were bailed out at taxpayer expense, while millions of people lost their homes and their savings.
Crashing Down

In different parts of the world, people dealt with the economic crisis in different ways.  In many South American countries, they further rejected the "free trade" model of perpetual underdevelopment, strengthening a political and economic block that very purposefully excluded the US.  In Somalia, the economy had been in a shambles for quite some time.  And in addition to the legacy of colonialism and the corrupt puppet governments that had long ago run the country into the ground, foreign corporations had taken advantage of the lack of a functioning government to dump nuclear waste off the Somali coast for years, helping to destroy the once-vibrant fisheries there.  So many people in Somalia did what desperate people have done for centuries -- they raided the ships belonging to those transnational corporations who were mainly responsible for creating and maintaining the tremendous global inequities in the first place.
Pirates of Somalia

In Greece, huge numbers of people and canines alike protested against their government's complicity in the global financial collapse, and their leaders' collective inability to stand up to the institutions who had created the problem.  Massive protests often turned into riots, and the financial district of Athens was torched repeatedly.
Riot Dog

Far less well-known than the pirates in Somalia or the riots of Greece were the peaceful protests in Iceland, and the elections which brought to power a government that rejected the bank bailouts on offer, and started procedures to protect underwater homeowners, and jail bankers.  After taking these actions, although in many ways still economically isolated from the rest of the world, Iceland is doing a hell of a lot better than Greece.
Iceland, 2008

As a result of the financial collapse and the policies of deregulation and privatization for decades that led to it, stratification of wealth in the US reached a new high -- it was now the worst it had been since 1929.  Although taxes in the US are higher for the average person than they are in Japan, the US has so much less to show for them, because half of those federal taxes are spent on the military and other worse-than-useless things.  But the idea of doing the obvious, such as cutting military spending or significantly raising taxes on the rich, are not even acceptable topics for discussion in Congress.
Tax the Rich

Deregulation and privatization over the decades have been Republican-led initiatives, but, contrary to popular mythology, the Democratic leadership has long been supportive of these policies as well.  If only the things the Republicans say about the Democrats were true, there might be some hope within the electoral system to take on these advocates of "free trade."  But a recent study pretty much sums up the problem:  the average Democrat in Congress is actually wealthier than the average Republican.
If Only It Were True

The US Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, too.  And of course presidential candidate Mitt Romney famously agreed with that assessment.  In a way, this ruling sort of legally completed the process of moving from a government that at least pretended to understand itself as a democratic one, representing the human population of the country, to one that was now openly representing the corporations.  No more backroom bribery -- just perfectly legal lobbying, with unlimited funds now, to even further promote the "free trade" agenda that led to the financial collapse and so much more destruction.
Corporations Are People, Too

For an awfully long time, a lot of people were wondering if there was ever going to be a popular response in the US to the corruption, to the vastly expanding inequality, to the use of taxpayer money to bail out some of the world's richest corporations, while they turned around and took the bailout money in order to give their executives multi-million-dollar bonuses.  Then came Occupy Wall Street.  And then came 7,000 arrests, large helpings of police brutality, as well as police infiltration and spying on a large scale, as recent revelations have shown.
Occupy Wall Street

Pharmaceutical companies, Hollywood, and the music industry teamed up to try to pass legislation in the US, Europe and elsewhere that would cause drug prices to skyrocket, and have people imprisoned for downloading music and movies, among other bad things.  The idea was to further protect these industries, using the threat of imprisonment and lots of government regulation, all in the name of "free trade" and intellectual property rights.  So government regulation is good when it comes to protecting corporations, but bad when it comes to protecting real people.  Large numbers of people responded, particularly in eastern Europe, with protests and other forms of organizing campaigns, and SOPA, PIPA and ACTA were all defeated, for the time being.
Steal This MP3

"Free trade" is not only bad for humans because of the tendency of the "free traders" to try to profit off of every possible intellectual idea or piece of research anyone has ever done, to the point where they make it impossible for anyone to use a lot of available research without paying for patents they can't afford to pay for.  "Free trade" has also been absolutely devastating in the world of culture.  Since it's most profitable just to promote a small number of well-known musicians and ignore all the rest of them, regardless of talent or potential appeal, the "free traders" have created a sort of mono-culture, doing the same thing to music that they do to agriculture.  The influence of the "free traders" is so far-reaching that even much of the ostensibly independent media unwittingly play right along.  (Count how many of the music breaks on Pacifica radio programs are major label artists and you'll see what I mean.)
Why Don't They Play You On The Radio

One way that the "free trade" propagandists have tried to deal with the mass poverty they've created is to redefine notions of class.  So people who formerly would have thought of themselves as poor or working class are now meant to think of themselves as "middle class" or "lower middle class."  No one tries to define what "middle" means, since it's not in the middle of anything that anyone cares to acknowledge.  But if everybody who's barely scraping by but is, at least, employed somewhere, thinks of themselves as "middle class," maybe the belief that they're doing OK will keep them pacified, even if in actuality they're not doing OK at all?
Welcome to the Working Class

The same politicians and corporate spokespeople who promote "free trade" also claim to be environmentalists.  This, however, is impossible.  Those who promote "free trade" are promoting the outsourcing of manufacturing jobs to countries that have no environmental standards to speak of.  Thus, they are encouraging massive polluting and a massive rise in carbon emissions globally.  And then, on top of that, they have the gall to talk about "energy independence," as if more oil drilling and fracking and the inevitable spills and leaks resulting from it will do anything other than exacerbate the problem.  Real energy independence would mean massive government investment in windmills and solar panels, not offshore oil drilling, fracking, mining tar sands, creating more wastelands, and shipping the dirty stuff through aquifers in pipelines.  And opposing such development or supporting other development are both considered to be "non-tariff barriers to trade" -- which is very bad, apparently.

And now the elites in the US and many other countries have decided that the WTO and other "free trade" agreements are not enough.  There's still too much power in the hands of elected officials, and not enough power in unelected corporate boardrooms, and they want to fix that problem once and for all, with an unprecedentedly huge trade deal -- or two unprecedentedly huge trade deals, one between the US and Asia, and one between the US and Europe.  If passed, the TPP and the TTIP would even further restrict the ability of national government's to impose regulations on things like pollution, workplace safety standards, food standards, wages and much more.  These agreements also sneak ACTA in through the back door, with all the negotiations being kept secret, conducted by corporate representatives.  The intention then is to get the Congress to pass it as one big trade agreement, without being able to make any adjustments, "Fast Track" style -- preferably without reading what's inside it.  The question remains, whose world is this, and how are we going to stop the "free traders" from completely destroying it?
TPP 101

Friday, March 7, 2014

Reflections: the subscription model, one year on

A year ago this week, things were not looking up for me on the financial front.  I mean, it's all relative -- I wasn't living in a war zone or anything.  But financially, there was a slow-motion implosion going on -- the business model I had established for making a living as a DIY musician wasn't quite working out as well as it had before.  It worked before because I was able and willing to tour 10 months a year.  But since I had a kid, I haven't been able to or wanted to do that, so I was trying to find other ways of making this thing work.  And, a bit to my surprise, I did!  Or, to put it another way, 273 people (and counting) who signed up to my scheme did...

I have always embraced the idea -- partly out of a lack of viable alternatives -- that a good musician can make a living as a performer, without the support of the music industry, by actively giving away their music online, and relying on people who find it and like it to organize gigs for them, and to pay to attend those gigs.  I embraced the concept on principle, more or less, before I knew whether it was practical, and then found out that it was, at least for me.  I put up all my music, and doing this created a buzz, I think because of some combination of the quality of the music itself, but importantly, because of the quantity of it that I was putting up for free download (all of it, at once), and the attitude that accompanied that act (take it and share it, please).

People from all over the world found it.  MP3's were downloaded millions of times over the years, and videos viewed millions of times, altogether (though in the very low end of the 7 digits, nothing like the hundreds of millions of views that the pop stars get).  My theory was (and is) that for every thousand people who like an artists, one of them might be willing to organize a gig.  With luck, skill and guidance, it might even be a good gig!  I figured 100,000 songs downloaded in a given year, 100 gigs around the world each year, voila, it's a living.

But, I found, there seem to be limits.  It may be that the limitation is the quality of my music, and its limited appeal -- I don't know, but there doesn't seem to be a big enough pool of DIY musicians using the same model to compare myself with.  But it seems that without music industry support, lots of airplay, etc., there are only so many really good, well-attended, well-paying gigs that are going to come together in a given year.  It's kind of like running a small farm -- you till the soil, plant the seeds, etc., but then how good your crop that year is going to be depends on the weather and other factors.  In my case, it depends on the economy, the health of social movements in a given year, which ends up being my main employer, you could say, and factors like whether I get denied entry to Canada or New Zealand or have a $6,000 dentist bill (all of which happened to me in 2013).

It occurred to me then, a year ago (with the help of my accountant), that if there were a thousand people willing to subscribe to me -- to sign up to send me $50 a year, and receive CDs and a free-admission-to-my-concerts card in the mail in exchange -- I could crowdsource my career, and be completely insulated from the vicissitudes of the weather.  If there was a protest happening somewhere -- and social movements often get suddenly significant with very little notice -- I could just go there, without having to spend months lining up paying gigs first in order to cover the expense.  When I'm ready to record a new CD I could just hire the studio and the musicians and do it, with no Kickstarter campaign necessary.  If I were denied entry to a country?  No problem, I'd have a backup plan.

Subscriptions have come from people in 18 countries (especially the US, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and Germany), including 32 US states (especially the states I lived in the longest, as an adult -- California, Washington, Oregon and Massachusetts).  The initial hundred or so subscribers during the first few months of my campaign allowed me to keep touring, but not accrue credit card debt while doing so.  The next hundred subscribers were instrumental in turning what could have been a personal financial disaster -- the cancellation of my tour in New Zealand last August -- into a situation where I essentially lost nothing.  (Though I still feel bad for all those gig organizers whose efforts were ultimately for naught...)

Over the course of the year, though, the numbers of new people signing up have slowed down a lot.  Perhaps my goal of a thousand subscribers is unrealistic, I don't know, the jury's still out.  But recently it occurred to me, while participating in a fund drive at my local community radio station, KBOO, that perhaps what I need to do is emulate the community radio model here in the US, and create a multi-tiered approach, with different "rewards" for different levels of support.  Although what I propose to offer are services much more labor-intensive than a signed copy of a book or a tote bag (not to malign signed books or tote bags).

So, on the one-year anniversary of my effort to crowdsource my career, especially for those of you are part of organizations, or who fall into the "gainfully employed" category, I hereby offer to you three more Circles of support in addition to what we could call the Subscribers Circle.  You can read about them on my Subscribe link, or go directly to the new page for Subscription Campaign -- Family, Concert, and Song Circles.

And whether you're able to subscribe to me in any of those ways, thanks for sharing my music, which is how it all begins...  (And thanks for coming to my gigs, and especially to those of you who have taken or will take it upon yourself to organize one of them...!)

Subscription Campaign -- Family, Concert and Song Circles

A year after starting this CSA campaign, it occurred to me while participating in a fund drive at my local community radio station, that I should really incorporate different levels of support into the scheme.  Below are different options.  Click on a button and you will be led through the process of signing up for automatic annual billing through Paypal.  You're also welcome to sign up by sending a check in the mail.

Family Circle -- $100
You get everything standard subscribers get, plus up to three additional "come to any show for free" cards which you can use to bring family and/or friends to one or more shows, and one new "I'm A Better Anarchist Than You" t-shirt each year upon request.

Concert Circle -- $250
The idea of the Concert Circle is especially for those of you who might like to host a house concert (click on the link to read more about what that is).  House concerts are a popular thing in the folk music scene in parts of the US, Canada and elsewhere.  You basically host an intimate concert in your living room, which you can use as a fundraiser for a cause, or just invite your friends to a free event in your home.  So, Concert Circle subscribers would get everything Family Circle subscribers get, plus up to one house concert per year, anytime I'm doing a tour that takes me within 100 miles of your town.

Song Circle -- $500
Normally I figure writing and recording a song is worth $1,000.  (And if you're recording in a good studio with a band, that really only covers the cost of recording it.)  But if you or your organization is able to join the Song Circle, I will write up to one song per year on a subject of your choosing, for you to use in whatever way(s) you see fit.  Plus you get everything the Concert Circle subscribers get.


If you want to subscribe via a check or money order in the mail, just email me or write me a note that includes your mailing address and email address and what you're signing up for, and send a check to:

David Rovics
P.O. Box 86805
Portland, Oregon  97286

If you sign up by check, I'll remind you when it's been a year, in the hopes that you might do it again.  (If you subscribe via Paypal, you'll be set up with automatic billing each year.)

House Concerts

Whether you're a member of my Concert Circle or not, I encourage people everywhere to consider the idea of organizing a house concert.  I'll tell you about it...

House concerts are a longstanding tradition in the folk music scene in the US, Canada and elsewhere.  It's especially popular outside of the big cities, especially in suburban or rural areas where a more typical concert venue or folk club may not exist.  Even when such venues do exist, sometimes it's a choice between putting on a show in a music club where maybe 25 people will show up and it will feel empty, or putting on a house concert, and packing your living room completely with the same number of folks!

The usual procedure goes like this...  You set a date with the artist (in this case, me).  You tell all your friends about it, and maybe ask them to let you know for sure if they're coming or not, if you're worried about having too many people to fit in your living room.  If you don't mind, I will also list the house concert on my website -- typically this would just be a "contact so-and-so if you want to attend," and when someone emails you for more information, you'd then give them your address and any other info they might need.  (Rather than listing your street address publicly -- though you're welcome to do that if you want to.)

It's common that people would host a pot luck dinner before the house concert, or provide some kind of refreshments, but both of those things are optional.  If you're a member of my Concert Circle, you could hold a free event if you want to, or you can make the show a benefit for a cause of your choice.  If you're not a member of my Concert Circle, the typical thing with house concerts would be to ask each person who comes in the door for a suggested donation of $10-20, which would usually go to the artist.

Even though audiences are often a bit smaller at house concerts than they might be at a music club, artists like me are often really enthusiastic about the idea of doing house concerts, because our experience is that the audiences are often a high-quality bunch, often including good friends of the hosts, who are usually exceptionally generous in terms of their donations at the door, and their CD purchases.  Perhaps that's because of the inherent intimacy involved with doing a concert in someone's living room.

My only other word of advice on hosting a house concert is that you really want to bill it as a concert, rather than a party.  If you call it a house party, people tend to imagine chatting and having music in the background, whereas a concert sets the tone properly, since what we're talking about here is an audience sitting and listening to a performer.

Typically, if I'm on tour, I'd probably also like to spend the night at your place if you have a guest room, after doing the concert in your living room (or your backyard or wherever you think is the best place for the show).  But we can talk about that and any other details.  This entry here is just to familiarize you with the concept, and lay out the basics of what's involved.  I hope you want to do it!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Tour of California

Well, also a bit of southern Oregon, but mostly California...  I thought I'd paint a picture of the past couple weeks, travelogue style, for anyone interested.

"I love it when we tour in California," Reiko said, midway through our visit to the Golden State, "because we get to see so many of our friends."

Friends from many visits to the state, where I lived on and off in the late 80's and early 90's.  Cities that seem to be made of gunpowder.  And some of the most beautiful countryside imaginable.

When I looked at my daughter's school calendar a few months ago and saw she had a week off at the end of February, I started making plans for our little family to do a tour together in California that more or less fit with the constraints.  (She had to miss three days of school, but she didn't mind too much.)  My daughter, Leila, and I used to tour together more often, but school gets in the way of that a bit now.  She has summers free of course, but summer isn't the best time to do a concert tour, actually.  (It's great if you got gigs at festivals, but otherwise people don't go inside to hear a show if the weather is nice.  And it's the most expensive time of the year for plane tickets.  And the second-longest vacation happens around Christmas, when everyone else is on vacation, too.)

But then, balancing the time constraints in terms of the length of her vacation with my desire to make it an enjoyable trip, while still being a profitable one, is tough.  Ideally it'd be longer, and more leisurely that way.  But in the end, I think it worked out OK.  Leila would certainly say we spent too much time in the car.  Though as long as we were listening to audiobooks it was good.  (We listened to the first two books in Madeleine L'Engle's A Wrinkle In Time trilogy.)

The only reason I was a bit bummed about the timing of the tour was that I was looking forward to the teacher's strike in Portland.  (I mean, you know, I wish they didn't have reason to strike, but if they're gonna strike, I'm gonna enjoy singing for striking teachers.)  But the strike didn't happen, and I wasn't asked to sing at their rally, anyway, which was scheduled to happen on the day of our departure.  Though we didn't end up getting out of town until around the time the rally was supposed to happen, so we could have attended it anyway...

By the time we got into southern Oregon, it was dark.  The first gig on the tour was to be in Mendocino, so I planned in advance to break that drive into two parts.  There are other folks we could have stayed with in the area that I actually knew, but I had met a great documentary filmmaker online somehow or other who offered to put us up at her cabin in the woods, right along our route, and, generally preferring the more adventurous route, I happily took her up on the offer.

For much of rural Oregon, as well as the more rural areas of the other two West Coast states of the US, since colonial settlement took place there have been three main industries -- gold mining, logging, and pot farming.  (Correct me if I'm wrong -- I haven't studied this subject exhaustively or anything, but this is my impression, anyway.)

So when we got to the area, and there appeared to be some question as to where the house was, particularly in the dark, I got a little nervous.  Not an area where you want to drive a half a mile down the wrong driveway.  Some folks defend their pot farms around there with guns, and if you consider the amount of meth also being produced around the general area, some people subscribe to the "shoot first, ask questions later" approach.

But we found the right place, and in the morning looked out the window to a stunning view of the mountain range on the other side of the valley, and the sound of the swiftly-running creek a couple hundred feet below us.  Soon we met our neighbor, who was also looking after the property we were visiting, and was, not surprisingly, a pot farmer, and a long-time environmental and social justice activist.  He gave us a tour of that little corner of the valley, highlighting the restoration work folks had been doing on the creek, to use logs to mimic the work of the beavers who used to populate the area.  Turns out the way the beavers fell logs creates pools in the creeks, which are essential for the salmon as they do their migration up the rivers.  Without the logs, the creek is underground much of the time.  With them, it's above ground.

After humbly receiving gifts for the road consisting of chocolate-coated ginger pieces, a bag of gorgeous, very locally-grown marijuana, and a home-made jar of organic coconut oil and pot bud cream, we set off for points south.  Leila enjoyed the chocolate, I enjoyed the pot, and the day after we set out, Reiko burned her hand pouring very hot soup, and unfortunately then had a chance to see how well the cream worked on her burn, and it worked wonders.

I did a terrible job estimating how long it would take to get us from the Applegate Valley to Mendocino.  Should have consulted my GPS earlier.  We got in the car and realized we were just barely going to make it to the gig on time if we stopped at all along the way.  Oops.  Drove through the most beautiful old-growth forests on the planet that I know of, without having time to get out of the car.  And it was winding, mountain roads the whole way, as anyone who's been to the coast of northern California can attest.

But we did make it to the first gig, in the tiny little town of Mendocino.

I first met Peter Sears when the march from Boston to New York City in 2004, known as the DNC to RNC, was happening.  Most of the marchers were young punks, so Peter stood out, as he does anyway, being very tall, endowed with long, wavy white hair and a long white beard, and sharply gleaming eyes.  He's an active member of Veterans for Peace, and for years, without fail except when he was in prison, every time I'm coming through Mendocino he has organized a gig, sometimes roping in other VFP members to participate in the organizing, sometimes not.  This was one of the "not" occasions, but the 19 people who showed up to the gig were a quality 19 people, for sure, and I'm not just saying that.

There was Laurel Krause, whose sister was shot to death by the National Guard during antiwar protests at Kent State University in Ohio in 1970.  She was just about to head to Geneva to talk at the United Nations about that day, and the campaign for justice for the victims of the massacre there.  There was Barry Vogel, an excellent radio host who interviewed me for his show on my last visit to Ukiah.  On that visit I also met his dynamic little mother, who has turned 104 since the last time I saw her.

We were staying with Jim and Judy right on the coast nearby.  We followed them home.  Jim plugged in their car.  I noticed the solar panels on the roof of their house.  He informed me that their electricity bill for the entire previous year was $13.  Amazing, I thought, that solar panels and plug-in cars aren't the norm yet, here in this climate crisis.  Why aren't there government programs to make sure every homeowner can afford solar panels?  Why does capitalism have to suck this much -- that we have to destroy the whole planet in order to feed the beast?  Don't the rich also have to breath the air?  Shit...

I had complained during my set at the Mendocino Community Center that there wasn't enough organizing going on inside the US against the TPP, and the following morning Jim handed me some copies of the magazine that the Alliance for Democracy puts out.  His name -- Jim Tarbell -- was in there in multiple places, writing articles exposing the TPP for the anti-democratic, corporate scam that it is.  Glad to see that someone's trying to get the word out about this.

No gig the next day, so the three of us and various members of Jim and Judy's extended family who happened to be visiting spent much of the day playing on the beach, much to Leila's delight.  We were glad she brought along so much extra clothing, because everything she was wearing got covered in sand and salt water.

We stopped for a fine meal at a Japanese restaurant in Santa Rosa before going the rest of the way to Berkeley that night.

We arrived at the home of our hosts there at around 10 pm.  Luckily not sooner, because they had forgotten we were coming, and had only just gotten home themselves.  But it was all good, and we made ourselves at home in their spacious home just on the edge of the rolling hills beyond, which are owned by Lawrence Livermore labs I believe.  If you overlook the radiation, it's very beautiful.  I guess I have a tendency to accumulate not only really cool friends, but really cool friends who live in beautiful places and have guest rooms, which are especially useful for travelers such as us.

Before I proceed, a tangent.  When Reiko first came to the US to attend graduate school in Boston, she had lined up housing for herself online.  It's a very expensive place to live these days, and she did her best to find an affordable option.  It turned out to be a room in a large Victorian house in Somerville, and her landlady turned out to be Sheila Hoffman, the first wife of Abbie Hoffman.  (And if you don't know who Abbie Hoffman is, consult your local internet.)  So Reiko got a crash course in US counterculture, along with a variety of other renters, mostly other students from East Asia.

Sheila's daughter-in-law, Tomoko, works for an NGO, I believe, and flies quite a bit, as do the rest of the family.  For years they lived in Indonesia together.  But it was still a fairly unusual event that Reiko and I ran into Tomoko during one of our every-other-year visits to Japan, at Narita airport.  And then, spending the afternoon wandering around Berkeley before my gig there that evening, walking down Telegraph Avenue looking for a place to eat lunch, there was Tomoko, Sheila's son, Andrew, Andrew and Tomoko's two children, as well as Andrew's brother, America.  As at Narita, it was Reiko who spotted them (from behind, even!).

For those of you familiar with Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, it was an iconic countercultural location to run into the Hoffman family, and the kids really hit it off, too.  We spent much of the next day in the Berkeley hills, kids zipping up and down on scooters, avoiding getting hit by the cars on those steep, winding, narrow roads that seem like they were designed for just such an accident.  Andrew and Tomoko's home was a construction site, but a glorious one, with the promise of the place easy to imagine.  When it's done it looks set to resemble a Pacific Island village, with a pool in the middle.

I was hoping to visit my former boss at the word processing place on Bancroft Way where I worked at the age of 19, but we got sidetracked and had to head to the Art House Gallery and Cultural Center on Shattuck Avenue, just a couple blocks from where I once lived, at the Lighthouse Collective on Ashby and Shattuck.

One wall of the funky, colorful gallery was covered in great photos of Allen Ginsberg that had been taken by the gallery's owner, Harold Adler.  The evening's plan included a long set by the great New York artist, now living in Berkeley, Eric Drooker, a long-time friend and collaborator with Ginsberg, and his performance included part of his groundbreaking poem, Howl, which he had animated, along with a team of animators, for the recent, wonderful film production that focused on Ginsberg's early life, the publication of Howl, and its many consequences.

The night began with a slide show of pictures from El Salvador, narrated by Tristan Anderson, who spent many years in El Salvador in the 90's.  Tristan's speech was still halting as a result of massive brain injury caused by the high-velocity tear gas canister that was fired directly at his face during a protest against the Apartheid Wall in Occupied Palestine several years ago, but he spoke much more easily than at any time since that near-death experience, and with a great sense of humor as well.  One of the members of the audience was a young Israeli woman, an active member of Anarchists Against the Wall, who was in town for a conference on polyamory.  When organizers found out who she was, they made her give a little impromptu speech, which she pulled off very well.

There were several dozen people who packed into the gallery that night, but there was plenty of food left over, as is generally the case when Ed Biow is feeding people.  He always makes food for the vegans, too, but his passion is massive amounts of red meat, which he cooks to perfection, cuts up haphazardly, and serves to the masses.  In recent years the beneficiaries of his culinary generosity have been involved with Occupy Oakland, which probably wouldn't have lasted as long as it did without Ed maintaining the protein levels in the blood of all those folks who kept on losing that blood on a regular basis at the hands of Oakland's Finest.  Ed's dog, Einstein, is also getting increasingly politicized, and is currently involved with a run for Oakland mayor.  He has learned to bark at the mention of the current mayor's name, and most of the third party candidates have already sought his endorsement if he ends up getting out of the race early.

Einstein wasn't at the gig, but somebody brought a bunny rabbit named Slingshot Hiphop Palestine Bunny or something like that.  The bunny naturally spent most of the evening in Leila's loving arms, so she was well entertained.  Plus she really liked Eric's artwork.  At the end of the evening another Israeli present started showing her capoeira and samba moves.

These gatherings in Berkeley that have in recent years become an annual thing, organized by friends of Tristan's, are like a coming together of an extended family.  There's also always an undertone of mourning involved, particularly for the increasing number of mutual friends of many in the room who died much too young.  A few of those in the room were close friends of both David "Gypsy" Chain and Brad Will, who both lived in California and were involved with Earth First!, among other groups.  Undoubtedly one of the best organizers who's been doing it consistently for the longest time period, Karen Pickett, was working the door.

The next morning we had to check out Cafe Leila on San Pablo, one of the many new places in the Bay Area since I lived there.  Great place, with a huge backyard.  We met my old friend Jonathan Smucker for breakfast.  I met him under a different name, when he was one of the central organizers of the road occupation known as the Minnehaha Free State in Minneapolis back in '97.  I had probably first heard about the encampment in the Earth First! Journal (which is still going strong, now based in Florida), and went out to visit soon thereafter.  Now he is getting a PhD at UC Berkeley, basically on the academic version of my song, "I'm A Better Anarchist Than You" -- how cliquishness happens in social movements, why it's important that a social movement develop a culture, but one that is inclusive in nature.  Fascinating stuff!

The main organizer of the next evening's concert, or at least my contact for it, was in Florida at another Earth First! gathering, hanging out with friends of mine.  It took place in a conference room at the headquarters of Global Exchange, in the class war zone still known as San Francisco's Mission District.

The Mission District, where my dear friend and housemate, Eric Mark, was killed one night in 1993, where I first learned to see the grief in the face of the refugees from Central America that used to populate the neighborhood.  Now less so, displaced by young white people, primarily, working for tech companies and start-ups (whatever that is).  The yuppies are like an invading army, but clueless victims all the same.  They want to live among the hipness of San Francisco, rather than Palo Alto, the boring suburb where many of them work.  But in moving to the city, because of the nature of the capitalist beast and the unforgivable lack of rent control in the most expensive city in the United States, they wreak havoc on the place.  Anyone who's known San Francisco in years past can see it as soon as you walk off the BART or drive into the city.  The poor have become homeless, the working class have moved to Oakland or Richmond or somewhere else.  There are still Mexican and Salvadoran restaurants, but many of them have been replaced by sushi bars and wine bars, and all of them are filled with young white couples.

The place feels like a powder keg.  If you're not sure what a powder keg feels like, go to the Mission District.  That's what it feels like.  I don't know what's going to set it off, or how it will burn once it catches fire, but it will burn, no question about that.  As it is it's just a hot simmer.  And true to form, the Bay Area continues to be the political hotbed that it's been for a century or more.  Where in most of the country, the Occupy Wall Street movement trickled into little more than a whisper, in San Francisco the weekly Occupy Forum seems to be fairly thriving, which is where I sang, there in the Global Exchange building, only days before one of Global Exchange's founders, my friend Medea Benjamin, was beaten by police and deported from Egypt.

Another drive through more mountains to Santa Cruz, and another night only a couple hundred feet from the Pacific Ocean, at our friend Bob's humble abode.  Bob and I have both watched too much Al-Jazeera since they started their English service, but when they started only making Al-Jazeera America available in the US, and only with cable, we parted ways on Al-Jazeera.  Bob bit the bullet and got cable, but I just stopped watching.  I have to agree with Bob that even this new Al-Jazeera America is better than any other mainstream news source available, but it's a shadow of its former self, pandering to the kind of banter and slapstick humor the management there thinks will impress the average American viewer.

An avid consumer of alternative media as well as a participant in the sorts of events often covered by such media, Bob first heard my music on Democracy Now!.  As I travel through California and anywhere else in the US, I meet so many people the same way as first met Bob over a decade ago, through them having heard me first on that show.  (It is not in spite of that fact, but because of it, that I recently started up a blog dedicated to critiquing and hopefully improving Democracy Now!'s music breaks.)

The next day, a long drive down the coast, and another audiobook.  Somewhat less mountainous, more brown, or golden, as they say.  More like what California means in the popular imagination among regular people in other countries, as well as in much of the US -- southern California.  We stopped for lunch at the very hip Kreuzberger Cafe in San Luis Obispo (great burgers, great coffee, free wifi, and cool stuff on the walls, including a bust of Karl Marx).

Bucking the trend, since even the corporate book stores have closed their doors, an independent place called Granada Books has opened up in downtown Santa Barbara, and that's where that night's gig was happening.  It was organized by long-time UCSB professor Dick Flacks.  I think I initially came into contact with him in his role as a music programmer at the local community radio station, but he's probably more well-known locally as Ronald Reagan's professorial nemesis when he was hired in 1969.  We stayed at his place, and the infamous quote was framed on his wall, where Governor Reagan compared hiring Dick to teach with hiring an arsonist to work in a fireworks factory.  Along with a number of other people who have become luminaries of the progressive scene -- historian Jeremy Brecher, Congressman Tom Hayden and others -- Dick was a founding member of SDS in 1960 or thereabouts.

I was happily surprised to find a few weeks before we headed to California that studying with Dick was my old friend Ben Manski.  Ben had moved with his wife, Sara, to Santa Barbara, where Ben began a PhD program, and Sara promptly had a baby, Lev, who was a scant two months old when we met him, and looking especially jowly, as small babies often do (but stunningly adorable of course).  I believe I first met Ben when he was a student activist in the 90's, and knew him over the years in many incarnations, as he frequently organized great gigs for me when I was touring in the midwest, as an organizer with Earth First!, and later as Ralph Nader's campaign manager, national Green Party president, and founder of a couple different nonprofit activist groups.  A local Madison cartoonist long ago dubbed Ben "the Manski with the Planski."

Ben was in Madison for the winter 2011 uprising against the neoconservative new governor, during which time I was much annoyed by the fact that I couldn't afford to just buy a plane ticket to Madison and join the festivities, like some somewhat better-off musicians, authors, filmmakers and many others were doing then.  (This was one of the many experiences that led me to start seeking subscribers, so I might have some kind of income stream in addition to gigs, that could allow me to up and go to last-minute protests in some random place, where normally I'd need to plan way in advance and line up paying gigs there first in order to afford the travel expenses at least.)

Ben told us about his recent trip to Japan.  Ben moved to Wisconsin from Israel at the age of 13 -- he was born in Israel because his grandfather, Samuil Manski, found his way there, to what was then known as Palestine, via China, Japan, Russia, and Lithuania, from his home in Poland, after the Nazis invaded.  Samuil and thousands of other Polish and Lithuanian Jews were able to get out of Lithuania because of the Japanese diplomat, Chiune Sugihara, and his wife, taking big risks in disobeying direct orders from the Japanese Empire to issue thousands of visas to them.  Ben went to a village in Japan to represent the Sugihara Survivors, as the descendents of those whose lives the diplomat saved are known.  He also introduced folks there to my song about the man, the lyrics for which are now apparently on display in the museum there in Tsuruga, near where the great man grew up.

While on the road in California I got the news from London, England that Pete Crook had died, very suddenly, by falling and hitting his head.  Traveling through California I was constantly reminded of the two weeks he and I and the great English songwriter, Robb Johnson, spent together there.  It was a packed two weeks, including gigs on the east coast, the west coast, and the southwest, involving lots of flying and lots of driving.  Everywhere we went, Pete and Robb were taking pictures of a teddy bear belonging to one of Robb's kids, mostly in situations that wouldn't be likely back home in England, like in a massive parking lot, on top of a snowbank, or on a fire hydrant.

I was even more reminded of Pete because the town we were heading to -- Upland -- was a town where Robb and I performed, where he and I and Pete stayed, with the very woman whose house we were heading to from Santa Barbara, Marjorie Mikels.  But this time Marjorie was in a different house in Upland, since her last one burned down.

Neither Marjorie nor anyone else has made any accusations of foul play, but anything like that happening to Marjorie is always automatically suspicious to me.  San Bernardino County is a huge county, known for having more prisons than just about anywhere else on Earth, lots of meth labs, and terrible political corruption involving things like nuclear waste dumps and attempts to build condos on top of them.  Marjorie is a lawyer and an activist, and has long been opposed to condos on nuke dumps and that sort of thing, so she's made herself a lot of powerful enemies.  One day she found her van in the driveway had no brakes.  She pushed it into the garage for safekeeping, and it immediately caught on fire.  The fire department was two blocks away, but it took them 45 minutes to show up, by which time her van and house were burned to a crisp.  They said it was an electrical fire caused by rats.  But she had good rodent-killing cats in her house, and rat traps in the garage.

If it was an effort to run her out of town, it didn't work.  She moved to a nice place, and had me list the address on my website when she made the plan to have me do a house concert (just saying the name of the town with a note to RSVP the host is more typical for house concerts).  All sorts of folks showed up, including lots of friends and fans of Marjorie's, and a nice crew of younger (under 40), black-clad punk rockers came from somewhere or other.  At least one of them came because he heard me open for Tom Morello in LA a year or two ago.  With the others I don't know, but one of them was telling me about the story she had heard of, when I got protested in DC by vegans for wearing leather pants to a gig ten years ago, which was a fond recollection for me, anyway...

The next day was the one Leila had been most looking forward to -- Disneyland.  I know it's terribly overpriced, the workers are underpaid, and the whole thing is basically one big advertisement, but, well, rollercoasters are fun.  I think we rode all of them, at least of the ones that were open.  Big Thunder Mountain and Splash Mountain were both closed for repairs...  It was the first visit to Disneyland where Leila was tall enough for any of the rides, and she especially enjoyed Space Mountain.  Riding Space Mountain just after eating ice cream was a bad idea for me, but I managed not to puke.

The rain held off while we were at Disneyland, but the next day it really came down.  Everybody was saying that we brought it with us from the Northwest, and they were all very happy about it, as California is having its worst drought in centuries lately.  We drove through the rain from Upland to Santa Cruz.  Our right windshield wiper stopped working again.  But the left one is the one you really need...  The next day, another rollercoaster, this time on the quaint Santa Cruz boardwalk.  There was only one ride open, but it was a good one -- an old, wooden rollercoaster, better than any of the ones at Disneyland in my opinion.

After riding the Giant Dipper, we headed up to San Francisco, back to the Mission District, for what turned out to be the most well-attended gig on the little tour, and the only one in a proper theater setting, which I always especially enjoy (both well-attended gigs, and gigs in theaters -- especially the combination).  It was organized by the San Francisco Living Wage Coalition, folks at the forefront of the class war in that scenic class war-ravaged metropolis.  It took place in the historic Redstone Labor Temple, a lovely old building.  (More than a century old -- that's old by west coast US standards, for all you Europeans reading this.  The Native people of the region generally built their longhouses out of wood, if I'm not mistaken, so for that and many other reasons, those older buildings are no longer with us on this part of the continent.)  The Redstone was abuzz with activity, full of offices and conferences rooms being well-utilized by all sorts of different activist groups, before, during and after my concert in the theater, and it's been like that for a while -- I was told that much of the San Francisco General Strike of 1934 was organized from within that building.

Some folks at the gig were telling me about David Solnit and other folks who were involved with the many organizing efforts going on in Richmond, the poor, cancer-ridden city on the East Bay where Chevron's oil facilities are located.  Until recently, the town was generally controlled by Democrats being paid off by Big Oil, but the Green Party has taken the lead in the city council, and on the ground, there have been lots of protests against Chevron's pollution and plans to run more trains full of explosive materials through the city center, the same kind of stuff that killed 47 people in a massive explosion in Quebec last summer.

Other folks were talking about the recent police murder of 13-year-old Santa Rosa resident, Andy Lopez.  His name is becoming as well-known as that of Oscar Grant for folks in the Bay Area, for the same reasons.  There from the East Bay, tabling in the hallway outside the theater, was none other than Ramsey Kanaan.  If you were first meeting this unassuming Scotsman of Lebanese descent, you might not guess that you were meeting the founder of two of the most influential anarchist publishing houses the US or Britain had ever known -- AK as well as PM Press.

While Leila and Reiko spent much of the next day in the Berkeley hills with the very same crew we ran into on Telegraph a few days earlier, I spent several hours at the home of my old friend Chris Chandler, in front of a green screen, lip-syncing for music videos I've roped Chris into working on.  Chris is a man of many talents, including very creative and captivating music videos.  ("Last Lincoln Vet" and "John Brown" being two examples.)  What he's most known is something that's hard to describe, and is best experienced live.  He mixes poetry, storytelling and music in a way that no one else does.  I'm familiar with the intricacies of the whole thing, because I played guitar and sang in what became his band, the Convenience Store Troubadours, in 1997, along with the wildly versatile Oliver Steck, and Sammy Parton, who went on to achieve infamy as one-third of the three-woman Canadian band, the Be Good Tanyas.

When I got to his place he was working on another pot of coffee, saying that his car had broken down late last night, and it had taken two hours for a tow truck to arrive.  I was awash with fond memories of spending time in the parking lots of auto parts stores throughout North America during our travels together in 90's.  And way too much coffee consumption back then, too.  And some fantastic gigs, especially the festivals -- Kerrville, High Sierra, the Oregon Country Fair -- along with a couple gigs in between the festivals where the people in the band outnumbered the audience members.  Chris and I first met around 1990.  I think I had heard him busking on the sidewalks of Harvard Square before then, but 1990 was probably when we first hung out, and he took me in his beat-up old car to my first gathering of the People's Music Network, where I first met Pete Seeger, Charlie King, Robert Hoyt, Pat Humphries and other folks who would, along with Chris himself, have a huge impact on my life and work, such as it is.

Leila had finally grown tired of the movies I had downloaded onto my iPad a long time ago -- Up and Finding Nemo.  She had eventually become tired enough of the two familiar movies she loved so much that she was ready to try something new.  After months of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang ready to view, but unwatched, she watched it, and loved it, as we drove north of the Bay Area.  We weren't needing to make any stops in coastal places like Mendocino this time, so we took the faster, inland route -- i-5.

Driving through those barren, brown hills on the inland route makes me think of many things.  For one, how it's such a small strip of land right on the coast that is full of trees and water and everything green, but wherever you are on the coast, you don't need to go far to the east before you're in the desert, and it's desert for a thousand miles after that, at least if you have a fairly flexible notion of what "desert" is.

And seared in my mind forever, it seems, every time I pass through the bleak little city of Redding, is the memory of the day around 25 years ago when I hitch-hiked from Arcata to Redding, which took all day and involved six different rides in pickup trucks driven by evangelical Christians, and one ride with a bunch of folks in yet another pickup truck who were headed to a UFO convention.  Which I went to, since I hadn't made any plans for not reaching my destination (Seattle) in one day, and didn't have with me a sleeping bag, tent or any of that.  I stayed with the nice man who was running the little convention, in a trailer next to a landing pad for an expected visit from a UFO.  The next morning he kindly drove me to the highway onramp, after his dog jumped up and ate the donut he had given me.  Then I got a ride all the way to Seattle, right to the front door of the cafe where I was supposed to meet my friend John...

Reiko, Leila and I made it to the Applegate Valley in southern Oregon by just after midnight.  Spent much of the next day playing in the creek again, and then we were homeward bound.  The next day was a school day, and Leila was especially excited about it, because they were going to have a field trip to a food bank.