Serendipity -- Our Day With Diamond Dave and the Anarchists

So this morning I had gone early to the Saint Paul Farmer's Market to take some pictures. The light wasn't quite right, but I got to chat with a very nice woman about organic baby food, ran into someone who knew several colleagues at Trinity School and sampled Thai eggplant.

On the way home I stopped on Smith Avenue to take some pictures of the RNC Welcoming Committee's headquarters, which were raided last night.

The local FOX affiliate was taping a brief morning update so I stayed to watch.

Then this older tie-dyed fellow came riding up on a bicycle and said he was with the Seeds of Peace, a group who were in town for the convention as well, feeding protesters and supporting non-violence.

He spoke a little ramblingly of his days in Dinkytown before he left for San Francisco and of his close association with the young Bob Dylan. He introduced himself as "Diamond Dave." Hmmm ... I thought. Riiiiiiiggghhht.

As the FOX 9 News reporter was leaving she asked Diamond Dave if he was going to be at the news conference on Harriet Island. He really wanted to go, so I told him I could give him a ride but that I needed to run home first. When I got home, I googled him ... just in case. Here's what I found.

San Francisco Bay Guardian, "2007 Local Heroes"

The Haight-Ashbury Beat, "Diamond Dave Still Sparkling"

From the SFB Guardian piece:

"Whitaker's initial involvement entailed witnessing the scene and spreading it; one of his claims to fame was passing along a copy of Woody Guthrie's Bound for Glory to a young Bob Dylan during a brief return to Minneapolis in 1961."

The guy was legit!!!

So of course when I told Dietrich that I met the guy who gave Bob Dylan a copy of Woodie Guthrie's biography, Dietrich wanted to come along and meet him. The Seeds of Peace are set up about a block and half from us on Smith and Wyoming! So I swung over to their camp, a little three bus set-up in a vacant lot, to pick up Dave and take him to the press conference on Harriet Island.

Because we were with Dave, I became a part of some 'inner circle' conversation about houses being raided, code names, etc. -- real black-ops stuff. At one point, one woman turned to me, eyed my camera and said, "Are you press?" I said, "No. I'm Dave's driver." Then she was cool. We stayed for the news conference, which was very interesting because the media were extremely hostile -- not at all what I expected. And when the RNC Welcoming Committee people spoke they used names other than those they had been using in the inner circle meeting I had been a part of! I shot a lot of photos and someone from Twin Cities Indymedia asked me for my contact information.

Here's a mini-slide show.

At the press conference, Dave found out that there was going to be an anarchist rally in Powerderhorn Park (South Minneapolis) at 11:30. He asked if I was going to that and I said, "Sure!" So I swung home, downloaded the pictures off my camera and took Anna and Dietrich over to the Seeds of Peace camp to pick up Diamond Dave for round two.

When we got there they were putting lunch together for the rally, so Dietrich and Anna ended up helping out. Washing lettuce and picking off the bad parts with some other woman from the neighborhood.

While we were there some panic ensued when a reporter showed up, having heard a a report that they were going to be raided next. It turned out it was much ado about nothing and actually stemmed from Diamond Dave's word in someone's ear (I was there when he said it) that the police would try to shut down the food supply next.

But it did turn out that they didn't have anyone to take the food to Powderhorn Park and were going to have to call a driver back, but since I was going anyway I said I could take some stuff. We loaded up the Toyota with a rag-tag fleet of makeshift soup tureens, salad bowls and bread, then Steve and Sarah from Moab, Utah hopped in with Diamond Dave, myself, Dietrich and Anna and off we went to Powderhorn Park. We were one seat short so Sarah rode on a bucket of soup while Steve read the Star Wars Universe book we had checked out of the library.

Dave (who had never seen one) and Sarah (who has apparently spent most of her life, saving a brief stint in Missoula, in the sheltered red-rock naturalism of Moab) were pretty amazed at our GPS navigator, Neville. Dave even broke into some spontaneous spoken word poetry.

When we arrived a group of around 300 people had assembled to get updates on the status of the protest movements in light of the arrests and raids. While we were there, word came that the headquarters of the RNC Welcoming Committee on Smith Avenue had been reopened (only they don't call it a headquarters, they call it a convergence center).

When they were all done with their meetings and ready to break out into various groupings (child care, health care, food, strategy, etc.), someone announced that lunch would be served and my kids wanted to help so they jumped right in! The Seeds of Peace group had brought all manner of second hand bowls, mugs, and cups in which to serve soup, salad, bread and coffee. Steve from Moab served the soup, Dietrich serve the salad (and later corn) and Anna dispensed the bread while Sarah tried to remind people to wash their hands and recycle their bowls.

Dave took a walk to have a smoke (tobacco). He was very careful not to smoke around the kids.

Here's a slide show:

Midway through it was clear we didn't have enough containers to go around, so some decided to pile their plates and bowls high and pass them around while I left the kids with Steve and Sarah to go to the dollar store to pick up some plastic plates.

When it was all over, we cleaned the stuff up, took the leftover scrapings for composting, took all the plasticware to wash and reuse and headed home to St. Paul. Steve and Sarah got a ride back to Seeds of Peace with someone named 'Garlic' and we picked up one other person who had been 'detained' the night before in the raid and needed a ride back to St. Paul.

On the ride home, Diamond Dave and I talked about theological aesthetics, Socratic education, Basho, Rumi, Dave's 10 year sobriety, coffee shop poetry readings, his son's career as a musician, hurricane Katrina and the future we see for our children.

All in all ... this is a day I will not soon forget.

Now it's off to a Lord's Day celebration with friends from South Summit.

More reflections on the implications of this day to follow, I'm sure. (Lest you all fear ... I am not becoming an anarchist).

In the meantime, as Diamond Dave says (and said to me at least three times today):

Cast a wide net
Find a common thread.
Let life flourish.
Don't panic, just keep it organic.


The Six of Us said...

No way! What a day! What an experience for your kids. I hope they never forget it either!

Janine the Bean said...

Wow. Diamond Dave sounds like quite the guy. I'm a bit jealous. Sounds like an awesome day. I would have loved to have joined you. Wow.

And all this started from just being willing to give an old hippie a ride home.

Andy said...

I googled Diamond Dave and it sounds like Diamond Dave was also the lead singer for Van Halen...? Look at Google Images, maybe you'll find true confirmation there.

JPB said...

Diamond Dave was Diamond Dave before David Lee Roth was Diamond Dave :-)

If you google Diamond Dave Whitaker you'll get better results!

TJ Ryan said...

I wish I could experience that as a kid! What a great time.
Diamond Dave sounds like a hoot.
From the second article:
"It was just that handful of people who were brought together to change history, herstory and hipstory"
"Beatnik plus LSD equals hippie"
Hilarious, youll have to introduce me.

J.J. said...

My favorite part of the story...

"Are you press?"

"No, I'm Dave's driver."

earth faerie said...

guess what! I MET Diamond Dave today!!!

JPB said...

Earth Fairy -- look for him on an upcoming post of the slideshow from the March on the RNC. :-)

Did you meet him at Mac, or at the march?

Anonymous said...

Neat story:)