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9/25/2004
Amazing Night
Just got home a bit ago and am really looking forward to writing about the amazing night I just had.

The last Friday of every month is Critical Mass, a bike ride where we act as if the world we want to live in already exists. We gather. We ride. For one night a month, the car is not in charge, there are enough of us on bikes that we can make the rules, at least for the 5 or 10 minutes it takes us to all roll through any given intersection.

Anyway, tonight's ride meandered around the loop (Chicago's downtown) interacting with tons of pedestrians and then headed west and the south, going through the ABLA public housing projects where dozens and perhaps hundreds of children lined the streets to give us high 5s. From there we took over Western Avenue and were greeted by a chorus of semi-truck airhorns. I'm not partial to loud noises, but since they were in our honor, they made me happy tonight. From there we headed east and ended up in Chinatown.

I rode the whole way next to my friend Stephanie tonight. It's rare for me to ever stay connected with one person for the whole ride because it's so chaotic and so much is always happening with so many people to talk with, but in spite of all that, we really connected tonight. We'd been swapping email and phone messages recently trying to reconnect after quite an absence, and the ride did that for us tonight. When it was all over, we ran into 3 of Stephanie's friends from various activist gatherings and protests. The 5 of us locked up our bikes and found a restaurant and I was introduced to the two I hadn't met before (Lucky & T) and became reacquainted with the one I do know (A).

A told us about how he hasn't used a social security number in over 15 years. He's been hitchhiking and riding freight trains to get around to all kinds of protests and support for activists as well as what he calls Food for Body, Mind and Spirit. He finds, and makes available to others, free food to eat. He spends time reflecting and time singing and connecting with the divine (I can't remember his eloquence and for that I apologize). I asked if anyone had documented this gift economy in action and was not surprised to hear that no one had.

Lucky told us about living and working in community (St. Francis Catholic Worker) with people that are down and out. Her organization manages to take care of all the needs for about 15 people for less than $20,000 per year. Granted, the house is paid for, but still, we're talking property taxes, electricity, water, transportation, food, everthing. It helps that all of their food is donated from organic farms or restaurants or food pantries, but they're not a 501(c)3 because they don't want to interface very much with the government. They don't take corporate or church funding either. Amazing.

After dinner we went back to our bicycles and A brought out his mandolin. We all sat on a the ground and listened as he sang protest songs of the modern movement for something new in the world. I felt my heart open to this small circle and to circles of human beings everywhere as well as all the connections that exist in the universe. Early on in the singing we were joined by some Spanish-speaking men. They so enjoyed the music that one of them dropped $5 in A's case before he left. I felt as if I was experiencing a small piece of how the universe provides for A and how he doesn't need a system job the way the rest of us do (of course he's as dependent as the rest of us on the system as his dumpster dinners wouldn't be there without the system, nor would his friends' apartments for which they pay rent and where they allow him to sleep on the floor).

The evenings experience all around felt very whole and very connected with the future of the human being that so many of us are engaged in building.