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Mon

02

Apr

2007

The American Dream - A Road Trip with Mike Palecek 3
Monday, 02 April 2007 12:06
by Mike Palecek

EDITOR: Mike Palecek is currently on a road trip around the United States to read from his books and fight the Bush government... while tuning a cranky radio, steering a brown '91 Honda, and reading his MapQuest printouts. He's writing a column for Atlantic Free Press along the way. Palecek lives with his family in northwest Iowa. He is a former federal prisoner for peace, former seminarian and former small-town newspaper reporter. In the 2000 election, he was the Iowa Democratic Party nominee to represent the Fifth District in the U. S. Congress.

OMAHA – It's incredible the number of times I have to pull over to pee. Hello from the road, The American Dream Book Tour & Protest Across the USA has arrived in Omaha.

This past week I left my home in Sheldon, Iowa and traveled south to Kansas City, then Newton, Kansas, Lawrence, then back to Kansas City, and now Omaha.

I am so lucky to have this chance to see all this, to meet these people, to try to fight the murderous Bush government, the killer of Paul Wellstone, the perpetrator of  9-11, torturers, thieves, killers of young people, men, women, babies.

All thanks to Ruth for her support and letting me have this unbelievable opportunity.

I'm staying this week with Kevin and Laura McGuire. Ruth and I lived with the McGuires, and others during the 1980s in a resistance community in Omaha called Greenfields, which Kevin named after an anti-war song, The Greenfields of France.

Wednesday night I met with the Kansas City Drinking Liberally group in downtown K.C. at Harlings bar, and stayed with someone who writes greeting cards for Hallmark. Then Thursday, it was on to the Mennonite community of  Newton, where I stayed with Don and Eleanor Kaufman. Don is from Ruth's hometown of Freeman, South Dakota. Eleanor is on the board of A Thousand Villages and Don is a tireless, lifelong peacemaker and war tax resister.

I spoke to a group of six at Peace Connections on Main Street in Newton, then down the street to Faith & Life bookstore where I sat through my first-ever book signing, just me and the table. I did manage to sell one book.

In Lawrence I spoke at the public library on Friday evening, then Saturday joined the weekly anti-war vigil at the courthouse then across the street to the Solidarity bookstore to introduce myself. Met some great people, notably Marvin, who has just gone through prostate cancer surgery and still makes it to the vigils and also works at the local soup kitchen.

It was very cool to have Greg and Michelle Albrecht in Lawrence shooting a documentary of my book tour. They also met me in Omaha the week before to film at the Pottawattamie County Jail, the Douglas County Jail, St. Cecilia's Cathedral and Offutt Air Force Base.

In Lawrence I stayed with Char and Joe Grant. Joe's biography one of the amazing American resistance stories waiting to be told. He has tales to tell of the Cuban revolution, Leavenworth penitentiary and independent publishing. He once had his paper in Cedar Rapids burned down because he was doing his job too well. Nobody burned down Dan Rather's building. There would be no need.

In Kansas City, on Saturday night, I spoke to four people at the Crossroads Infoshop on Troost Avenue. Before the talk I drove around the neighborhood and looked at the murals of Martin Luther King Jr. and sat in the parking lot at McDonald's, catching up on my writing, and wondering why the blacks live here, looking down those streets into those neighborhood and wondering what goes on there, what stories are there that need to be told. And why is it that black people live in neighborhoods like this. How did that happen and why do we tolerate it? Jason Miller, the internet journalist, and Chuck Monson, longtime radical writer and publisher, were there to hear me, and I appreciated very much having them.

On the way out of Kansas City that night the highway passed the downtown area and I could see the big building and the lights out of the corner of my eye while I clutched the paper with Chuck's directions in both hands on the steering wheel. I remembered coming to Kansas City once in the '80s from Omaha on a bus, walking the streets, "becoming a homeless person on purpose." I took the bus back to Omaha later that night. I couldn't be a homeless person. I had a place to go to. I couldn't go where I did not belong.

So many smart people I'm meeting. It reminds me of my first experiences as a peacenik in Saint Paul, Washington, New York, Omaha – everyone so smart. I shouldn't be here. I hang around anyway.

I am way outside my comfort zone as I drive around these cities and meet and speak to these people. It's good for me, as my comfort zone is sitting on the sofa with a yellow and red afghan pulled over my head.

I did a phone interview on the way to Newton with a reporter from Sioux Falls who agreed with me that Bush and Co. did 9-11 themselves. That night I was suffering from iPod withdrawal as somehow I lost all 259 songs. I was going down the road without Natalie Maines, John Prine, Guy Clark, Jerry Jeff Walker, Jackson Browne. I turned on the radio and heard the usual clutter, turned it off and enjoyed being away from America for a while.

When I drive I gawk. I'm always looking for Bigfoot, not in the metaphorical sense of one of my books, but it da flesh. I think I saw one once near Spearfish, South Dakota in the early '80s and once on a rainy night on the interstate in southern Minnesota in the early '90s.

I also like to look at old, lonesome dirt roads that I pass. The ones that roll, wind, are rocky or muddy or just go on forever to nowhere to everywhere. I like to imagine the mystery of where those roads lead and the interesting people at the end.

I remember when Ruth and I moved to the Sandhills of Nebraska in 1990 so that I could work as a reporter on the Ainsworth Star-Journal. I loved the idea that there was so much land and so few people. I had just gone crazy, insane, clinically depressed during six months in the Council Bluffs county jail for civil disobedience at Offutt AFB and the farther away I was from people the better. Then the first Gulf war came and I wrote in the newspaper that I did not support the troops. We got threats, my column was cancelled. I quit the paper and we found our own tiny paper to run in southeast Minnesota.

Being in Kansas made me recall the night I arrived at Leavenworth Penitentiary on a prison bus. It was a dark and stormy night all right. The lighting cracked and the front steps looked like a thousand steps straight up to hell.

Later I would walk up those steps as a reporter to interview Leonard Peltier and the steps did not seem so steep.

Roads, streets, steps, to nowhere, everywhere, dead ends, new beginnings.

I recommend it.

Next stops on The American Dream Book Tour:

Monday, April 2, A Novel Idea Bookstore, Lincoln, Nebraska, book signing, 1 pm.
Tuesday, April 3, Soul Desires Bookstore, Omaha, 6 pm.
Wednesday, April 4, The Reading Grounds, Omaha, 7 pm.
Thursday, April 5, Wayne State, College, Wayne, Nebr., 330 pm.
Friday, April 6, Zandbroz Variety Bookstore, Sioux Falls, S.D., 7 pm.

Palecek books available at:

cwgpress.com [The American Dream]
howlingdogpress.com [Looking For Bigfoot]
badgerbooks.com [Twin/Joe Coffee's Revolution]
mainstaypress.com [Terror Nation]


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