Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Hell, No, We Won't...What was it Again?-May 1, 2005

I once heard it said that when somebody tells you “it’s not about the money,” you can be 100% certain it’s about the money. I don’t remember who said those wise words, unfortunately. In fact, I briefly considered taking credit for it, but in an age when anything in print or on the net can be fact-checked mercilessly by jobless geeks with expensive degrees and nothing but time on their hands, I decided against it. Maybe it was Mark Twain who said it or possibly Puff Daddy. Anyway, whoever it was, thanks a lot. Don’t expect a royalty check anytime soon.

Twain and Diddy aren’t the only ones not collecting any dough this week, though. In a story reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, way up north in Humboldt County, seven protesters who chained themselves to the office of a logging company to protest, well, logging were each awarded $1 in damages from the Police. Back in ’97, the police couldn’t get this group of latter-day hippies to leave, and knowing that these broke stoners probably had no life in particular to go back to and could therefore stay for quite a while, the police decided that a little pepper-spray in the eyes might change their minds. Being latter-day hippies, though, the seven didn’t just pack up the Mystery Machine and head out of town. Instead, they filmed the whole episode and took the cops to court, asking for $10,000 to $100,000 each. That buys a lot of Scooby Snacks.

The police in that part of the state say the standard procedure for getting rid of hippies who are chained to something is to cut the chain. In this case, they claim it would have been dangerous to them and the hippies, thus the pepper-spray, which was a lot safer, especially for the police. I just think it’s funny that hippies chain themselves to things often enough for the cops to have a standard procedure, but this is Humboldt County, a perfect place for the chronically out of touch with reality. In fact, the word “Humboldt” is practically a synonym for a certain spacey plant that hippies like these are partial to. Some uses of this meaning of “Humboldt” include: “I just got some Humboldt. Want to come over to my apartment and order a pizza?” Or, “Let’s take that Humboldt left over from the weekend and go chain ourselves to something.”

So perhaps Spring Lundberg, 17 at the time of the incident, and his friends didn’t think their little protest all the way through. (Yes, his name is Spring. He never stood a chance in life, did he?) They saw themselves as the one courageous man standing in front of the tanks in Tienanmen Square, but in reality were more like the weirdo who stands on a busy street corner wearing a fake gas mask, warning people that the CIA has infiltrated K-Mart. In fact, nowhere in the news reports does it even mention whether their protest was successful in any way, which goes to show you how extra-losery this group comes off. Not even the Chronicle, a paper that is sure to sympathize with the futile and boring point these geniuses were trying to make, entertains for a moment the concept that the seven could achieve anything.

Reportedly, the protesters jumped from their seats with joy and began hugging each other when the verdict and the award was read. “Righteous bucks!” one of them said. “$1…each?” said another. It slowly dawned on the group that if they pooled their windfall, they could almost get that pizza they had been talking about. Meanwhile, their lawyer sobbed quietly in the corner. Breaking from normal practice for paying penalties of this kind, the lawyer defending the police took a $10 bill out of his pocket, balled it up and skyhooked it across the room at the plaintiffs, saying “dive for it, long hairs!” At least, that’s how it should have happened.

And that’s when Spring said, “it’s never been about the money. It’s always been about the principle.” This is especially true now that he’s not going to be getting any money, of course, but let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. What’s the principle, exactly? If you feel like shutting down a private business and resisting arrest, the police should let you stay there as long as you want. Yep, that’s practically written in the constitution. The hippies’ lawyer told the Chronicle that this whole thing is a “profound experience that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.” Of course, he was giggling at the time, knowing that not only was this whole silly tale miles from profound but that most of his clients routinely mistake episodes of Seinfeld for things that actually happened to them and their chance of even remembering the trial past next week are barely 50/50.

So maybe I was wrong. Maybe it wasn’t about the money, but the principle, and the principle is just a different one than I originally thought. Maybe the principle in question is more like this:

Dude, as long as we get enough dough out of this to get pizza on the way home, I’m cool with it.

Now that’s profound.


  • At May 5, 2005 at 9:17 PM, Anonymous Lana said…


    Reading the Carnival of Comedy this week, I can truly say that this post was one of the very few that actually made me chuckle.

    Good job, man!


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