Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Article about RAD America

Friendly, Friendly World: Rad America’s Third Supper with Show Me the Pink
November 24th, 2006 [4:30PM] Posted by: JASON SIMMS | 1 COMMENT

Starlet Archibald“…there’s gonna be about 50 people there, so bring a blanket if you have one because we’re going to be dining Bohemian-style. Oh, and there’s a turkey shoot too.”

“A turkey shoot?”

“Yeah, but all that’s covered in the pageant…”

See, the thing about Zach and Noelle Archibald of Show Me the Pink is that there’s really no telling about this “turkey shoot” Noelle threw out there over the phone when I talked to her about attending Rad America’s Third Supper for Friendly Friendly World day before yesterday. The couple in their mid-to-late 20s is generally sort of peace-minded and laid-back, so it’s hard to imagine them actually shooting a turkey, but, then again, they exude enough roots-American idealism (I’m talking like 1770s shit) that for all I know, turkeys are in fact hunted in the back yards of NE Portland in Rad America. If that’s the case, then I’m sure there’ll be some sort of entertaining and surprisingly touching speech metaphorizing the event.

A little background for those of you still living in Lame America or Sucky America: Rad America is a concept/nation developed over the last few years by SMTP, the now-displaced Nightmare Collective, and various members of the bike fun/bike activist community, among others. I interviewed the ladies of SMTP last summer about how they discovered pockets of Rad America all over the place on their national tour, but to sum up my personal favorite bit of Rad American thought, here’s one thing Noelle had to say in that interview:

One of the things we focused on was making your one square foot totally tight. It’s just the idea that there are a lot of things done in the name of our country that we don’t want to be a part of, and sometimes it’s hard to be proud of being an American. But you can make the space that you personally occupy however you want it to be, no matter where you are. If each one of us makes the square foot we occupy totally tight, eventually there will be that one person that shifts the tides and all of America will be rad again.

The rest is explained in the pageant. When I rode up to a very cabin-looking house, I heard some commotion in the back yard, so I parked my bike and went to check on the bird sitch. I spotted STMP keyboardist Shannon Palermo presiding over a young woman in an orange hunting cap and vest preparing to shoot the shit out of a cardboard turkey and various other targets with a BB gun. Hilariously, the person shooting had to wear the orange, “Safety first!” said Palermo. I got to shoot next: five shots at the bells and bottles, a ding wins two points and bonk chalks up one. Only scoring four points in this first round, I had to shoot the moon on the turkey and aim for the (bulls)eye, but came up with nothin’.

“Is four the lowest score?”

“No, I got zero. Thanks for bringing it up!” said Shannon, although at the Rad America First Supper in 2004 at the old Nightmare Collective warehouse in Forest Grove, Oregon, she apparently won the creative shot award for lookin’ like a crazed sportsman with a lazy eye, a pose that made the local paper, The News-Times (although it doesn’t appear to be logged online).

On the way inside, I notice some folks in a lime green school bus parked in the driveway. Inside is Zach Archibald, deep frying a turkey. He’s been deep frying birds for six years, but this year, he had a new trick up his sleeve: A devise he’d invented and named the Intactor. Apparently his Turkeys have had a tendency to break in half on the way out of the vat of boiling oil, so he constructed a wire net with handles that keeps the bird whole, keeps it from getting burned on the bottom of the pot, and allows him to stir the oil all at once. Peter, the night’s host, was also in the bus to observe the spectacle and hear Zach tell tales of a beef jerky business he once had in Atlanta that involved drying the meat in a box with hairdryers. Peter plans to save the oil to power the engine, which he’s working on converting.

Zach’s was only one of four turkeys at the Supper (which appears to be a holiday completely unrelated to Thanksgiving that happens to fall on the same day each year). There was also a roasted bird, and a “wimpy” seitan imposter, as well as an “extreme” habanero-seasoned seitan foul, which, in a secret ballot election, came out on top (though Zach came in second).

After dinner was pageant time, and the members of Show Me the Pink cleared a small area around the piano in the large, hanging-blankets, pillows-on-the-floor, Moroccan-style dining room. They sang of their “colonization” of the freezing cold Forest Grove warehouse which occurred right after the reelection of Bush. In these dark times, all were welcomed into the warehouse, and there assembled a group of free-thinkers, environmentalists, feminists, and generally non-judgmental folk. They sang, often in hilarious baritones, of how those folks seemed to multiply and how they continued to do greater and greater things together (the gigantic Sprockettes benefit that occurred just last weekend came to mind for me), and how all indications are that America is slowly getting radder because of them. They sang of “breaking old chains” and forming “new traditions.”

At the end of the songs, Noelle was handed her daughter, 14 month-old Starlet, who throughout dinner, had walked around the dining room greeting all her pals, mostly her mother’s fellow minibike dancers, the Sprockettes. I thought about how Rad America would be a hell of a place to grow up. The whole day was very welcoming—I had come alone and only knew a few of the guests from having interviewed them previously for stories or on my old radio show—but the pageant in particular displayed the sort of sense of tradition and community surrounding a holiday that I had only previously witnessed in religious contexts. I envied those religious traditions and those personal connections because they seemed to make people feel good and help them to fulfilling lives, but they were forever unavailable to me because they came with the baggage of, you know, believing in a specified God, believing in war, believing that gay people are going to Hell, believing something crazy in any case.

Zach, Noelle, and company have done something very valuable and very rare. They’ve created what seems to be a sane and affirming social group. In an age of Bowling Alone (Bob Putnam’s great book on the demise of American social capital), and the breakdown of secular groups (not a lot of bridge clubs these days…), Rad America represents something like a family of friends, and, as SMTP discovered on tour, one that can easily integrate with friendly folks worldwide.

Of course, since by common reckoning it was Thanksgiving, and therefore someone had to do something goofy in front of others, after the pageant and before the winner of the turkey shoot was announced, Zach told a story about how he had reluctantly used the BB gun to finish off a giant rat that had invaded the Archibald home and that might have eaten Starlet if not stopped. It was sort of graphic and hilariously contrasted all the highfalutin pageantry, and I’m glad Zach was there to do it since none of our uncles were around and it wouldn’t have been Thanksgiving without something like that. I probably wasn’t the only one reminded of the Regular American holiday: Shortly after the story, a lovely woman working on a photography project with the Sprockettes declared to me, “Best Thanksgiving ever.” Well, it was certainly the raddest, but it took me a minute to agree because it suddenly occurred to me that Zach’s story was sort of a Thanksgiving swan song for me. I think I’ll be having a Rad Supper wherever I am the rest of these years, and odds are at least someone at the table will be having it with me.

Photo: Starlet Archibald for Rad President 2048.

The interview about Rad America.
My review of the Sprockettes Invite.
Show Me the Pink on Nerd Space.

1 comment:

Ian said...

maahnn.. I was already crushing on you; why did you have to tell me to check out your blog?