April 30, 2003
Written From That Same Internet Cafe Ducking Out of the Rain

because itīs raining, and I want out of that, among other things. Itīs May Day, which didnīt know started in April, and which you may not know started in America, the only simpsons-watching country that doesnīt celebrate it.

Posters have been emerging the last few days, lots of antifa (anti-fascist) and lots of anticapitalismus. Only the Germans have a regularly scheduled riot. Well, not only the Germans, ok. Iīve sort of been looking forward to it, the idea of any expressive and passionate ideology is so welcome, speaking as an American.

But I just went out for a walk and kind of stumbled into the thing as it shapes up this evening. Skinheads, punks, even goths, all the contemporary tribes are represented, even mullets, which are called vokuhilas. And they are drunk, but not really upset about anything except the rain.

Except some of them. I photographed a bunch of blackflagged anarchists, standing by the biggest damn police Iīve ever seen, they are wearing some kind of body armor, both sides are. It makes the cops look like the troops in the movie Brazil; the anarchists look like they were paratrooped in from Avenue C with a time warp.

About a minute after I photographed them, one of the anarchists came over to me, and in deep street-german asked if I had photographed any faces. I wasnīt scared, because of all the police, but I wanted to keep it on my turf, so I played like I only spoke English. He parsed photograph and face, and asked to see what was on my camera.

I showed him, one shot of anarchists, two of the police. No face, he explained. No faces. I said, ok, Iīll delete it, and did. He didnīt trust me, and I donīt blame him, so he asked to see the other pictures. As I scrolled back, I got to the pictures from Jaredīs party last night. The party was kind of poorly lit and everyone was rowdy and drunk, so it was not clearly distinguishable from May Day. He pointed to someone in the party and said, my face, there.

I said, no, thatīs Jared. Jared. Jared, I said, and then launched into details from Jaredīs monologue for the piece. When he was seven, I explaned, his brother came at him with a butchers knife? Actually, his half-brother, being raised in california by his fatherīs first lesbian wife? And so on. Really, quite so on, because Iīve been working with Jared on this monologue for a week. The anarchist said, wait, and brought over a translator.

I launched into other stories from Jaredīs monologue, explaining he was 9 when he dropped acid for the first time and so on. All of this with a stadiumīs worth of riot cops staring at me, waiting to do something about something. Thatīs Jared, I went on. He sings Shot Through The Heart, wore Converse All-Stars all through high school?

In the end, I kept my pictures of the party, and the guy kept whatever it is heīs keeping. But bottles broke over by the antifa trailer, blasting propaganda, and the crowd swelled and the cops moved through it, and they looked like firemen wading through a kindergarden assembly.

But in fact, nothing political about it, and the kindergarden assembly is not far away from the reality of the thing. Because really, all of it reminds me of nothing so much as what school is like on a substitute-teacher day. Yes, there are Nazis marching tomorrow, and yes, the cops are serious, but overall itīs much more Quadrophenia than it is Battleship Potemkin. Much more October 31st than 18 Oktober.

Basically, itīs like any other holiday, with its origins played out as pure ritual and mythology. Next to the anticapitalismus soapbox is an acapella boy band, and itīs unclear whatīs the signal and whatīs the noise.

Posted by kevin slavin at April 30, 2003 05:04 PM
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