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#16 The American Dream Book Tour & Protest Across the USA

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Message Mike Palecek

Cold Type is a Canadian Magazine.

Dude. Check out the front cover.

#16 The American Dream Book Tour & Protest Across the USA

SWALESVILLE, PA - "I don't like today's world."

"There's going to be two kinds of people - rich people and poor people."

I was sitting in the Joseph-Beth bookstore in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, scanning through John Updike's book "The Terrorist," cozied up in a soft chair, kind of listening to these three older people. Older than me? I'd sure like to think so.

I then went and put some more quarters into the meter so the Pittsburgh police don't hide my car.

Then I walk over and sit next to the fountain out in the little plaza outside The Cheesecake Factory in this square on Cinema Drive. I watch some kids get wet and then walk over to Claddagh Irish pub.

It's not like the Irish pub in Kansas City, more like the one in Cleveland, trendy, lots of shiny wood, brass. I'd rather be in the K.C. bar, which was a dive, maybe the ultimate dive bar. You could picture Irish revolutionaries, fighters, drinking in that bar. Not here.

That's just me.

At Claddagh's I meet with Dave and John and Halley.

Dave is from Boston. He says caah and baah. I have never heard anyone say caah and baah in person. I have never been anywhere. I think it is pretty cool. I try to get him to say more things.

What's in the sky at night?
Peanut butter comes in a ...?

He tires of my game.

Halley drove One Hundred Miles to see me. I shake her hand, maybe three or four times before the night is over. She is a carpenter. She has Band Aids on at least four of her fingers, robins-egg blue maybe.

Dave and John talk about politics, presidential candidates.

Dave went to CMU, Carnegie Melon University, studied engineering. He admits to being a geek.

They - we - talk about the various Democratic candidates. I don't have much to offer. The subject doesn't excite me.

I would be for any candidate who would get us out of Iraq yesterday, initiate a brand new investigation of 9-11, and investigate the present administration as regards to possible war crimes: lying to start a war, torture, secret prisons.

Investigate the death of Paul Wellstone.

Point me toward the candidate who will do that.

Otherwise, the whole thing is pretty boring, more interesting to watch the Cubs and Pirates on the TV above the expensive bar counter. 5-2, Cubs.


On the way to Pittsburgh from Indianapolis, I came through Wheeling, West Virginia.

Tell me if you know - wasn't Wheeling the hometown of Chris Stevens of Chris in the Morning on KBHR radio of Cicily, Alaska on "Northern Exposure."

Well, there was a detour on I-70 that took us right through downtown.

Wheeling is a Wow-Town, at least for me - the old buildings, the trees, the hills, the history that I can only imagine quickly in my mind as I try to keep up with the maroon car that I think knows where we are going.

It reminds me of Lead and Deadwood, South Dakota, built into the hills.

Well, I did make it to Pittsburgh and that is another Wow-Town.

Maybe it's because I just haven't been anywhere, but I think you would also agree, that coming out of the Fortt Pitt Tunnel and then boom! there is a big bridge, a big river and boom! the skyline of Pittsburgh, all right there. Like plowing into an I-Max Theatre.

You want to come back and do it again and again, just to see that view, but you can't, there are one million maroon cars behind you that don't care about your Iowa license to drive slow. You have to keep going.

Or die.

And so I keep going and, of course, I miss my MapQuest directions by one turn, but that is enough to put me smack-dab into rush hour traffic, then try to find a place to turn around in Monroeville [the shocks?], then I go past the immigrants' rights rally, and then I pass it again and again ... and again, and I am starting to get to know these people ... and finally pull over and ask this British guy and this Hispanic-looking woman for help who are very intent on finding a parking place and get to the rally, but they do find time to tell me where to go.

I find Hot Metal Street.

Turn right, miss my next turn, and I go up and up and up.

Pittsburgh is hilly. Did you know that? And the streets where I am are very tight.

I am panicking, as I do when I think I am lost in rush hour in a big city that I have never been in and I might die soon because I cannot find a fancy Irish bar.

My brakes feel squishy. Does that mean my brakes are going out? My clutch? Pittsburgh is the end of the line. I am dead. Oh, geezuz-god, my brakes are squishy. I will die.

I am again in the black neighborhood. In almost every city I visit I either miss my turn and go to the black neighborhood, or my reading is in the black neighborhood.

I like it here. I calm down. I wish I had some excuse to walk up to someone and listen to them talk about their day.

I ask directions once, from a guy walking down a hill.

... I almost make it.

I seek directions again, from a woman in front of what I would guess is a project. She is very kind, she turns and points, tells me to go to Josephine Street, then to 26th, down the hill, "you can't miss ..."

No, no, don't say that!


I later try to ask directions from a white young man walking intently down the narrow sidewalk.

"f*ck you."

From the truck turning the corner: "Wake up, buddy!"

Dude. I'm doing the best I ... f*ck you, too!

I find the rich Irish bar and a parking spot and put in dozens of quarters even though the police don't check meters this late in the day. If I don't put dozens of quarters in, I will die.

And so now I can relax. I know where I need to be. I have time. I go to the bookstore to look around, relax, find a restroom. Rest.

There are escalators in Joseph-Beth, just like in the Rochester, Minnesota Barnes & Noble, very cool.

I look around. I can't really afford any of the books, but I look.

And it seems like they don't mind, so I grab "The Terrorist," and go find a nice place to rest for just awhile. There is a restroom up the escalator. I'm good.

I know it's just me, and I'm not well-read enough, but I don't see what is so special about Updike's book.

And I read one called "Absurdistan" somewhere else and on the back cover they have blurbs from the Washington Post Book World and ten other newspapers that I could not get to look at my books if I included a staah in a jaah.

"The Terrorist" is okay, but it's not one of my books.

Sorry. I really believe that.

My books should be in these places.

They are just as good, better.

Why they aren't here, I can only say has to do with the structure of the book industry, which I probably don't fully understand.

I'm as good as Updike, as anyone, but no agent or major publishing company would give me directions out of town.

Of course I would say that, right? What it really has to do with is story and characters and pacing and lots of stuff, right?

Okay, if it does, fine. But I really don't get it. Maybe smart guys get it. I do not.

Okay, I don't die.

I park. I live. I put hundreds of quarters into the meter.

And I go talk to the Democrats.

They are gracious. They have allowed me to meet with them.

Of course I am grateful.

But I don't see any hope in the Democratic Party.

I ran for Congress in Iowa in 2000 as a Democrat. I won the primary and received 67,000 votes in the general election on an anti-military, anti-prison, pro-Hispanic immigration, in a very conservative district.

But that's not what Democrats generally do.

Usually they stick their finger into the air, judge the wind, and run thataway.

Rather than looking into their hearts and then walking confidently out the front door, no matter which way the wind is blowing.


And then they die.

- Mike

Next stops on The American Dream Book Tour & Protest Across the USA

May 3, Rochester, NY, Drinking Liberally. Monty's Korner, 8 pm.
May 4, New York City, Bluestockings book store, 7 pm. [172 Allen Street, Lower East Side]
May 5, Staten Island, ETG Cafe, 3 pm.
May 6, Providence, Rhode island, AS220 Performance Space, 8 pm.

Palecek books:

www.amazon.com (search: Mike Palecek)

Contact Mike: mpalecek@rconnect.com
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Author, former peace prisoner, journalist, candidate.
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