up the down escalator

In our circle of slackers who hang out at the Diedrich Coffeehouse in Costa Mesa there is a guy I’ll call TA. TA is a stereotypically pugnacious Irish-American and a stereotypically romantic artist, far too self-conscious about both of those things, and much older and shorter than he’d like to be. I get along with him ok although I don’t care for his art, and although he and I aren’t really made to inhabit the same planet. We have a “nod and smile” arrangement and some friends in common but we’d never be friends and could end up enemies easily.

Lately TA has been decorating the bricks at Diedrich’s with chalked statements of various kinds, mostly blather and cliches. Not harmful or obscene, but not in my taste. An example: “The infinite is possible because it exists”.

The manager of the coffeehouse apparently didn’t care for TA’s chalked statements on her bricks, and washed them off. He replaced them, she washed. She told him not to do it any more; he refused. This has been going on for a bit.

Today, she called the police on him. They arrived, spoke to her, and then to him. And then it got ugly, uglier, and ugliest. TA doesn’t care much for cops, nor they for him: there’s a long history there. Whatever he did or said or refused to do wasn’t ok with them, and things got louder and louder. Eventually they arrested him, and considerable violence occurred with screaming, three cops sitting on him, blood on the asphalt, his friends yelling at the cops, and a big dollop of anxiety for everyone on the patio. The paramedics arrived and he was taken to the hospital on his way to jail.

There aren’t any good guys in this story. Manager lady was a huge flaming bitch for calling the cops; none of this would have happened if she’d found a better solution to her problem. TA was an idiot for fighting the cops, and for provoking the situation in the first place by standing his ground for the rights of chalk poets. And the cops lost it and injured him, showing why people are afraid of cops.

But mostly I blame manager lady. The corporate office is getting a nasty gram from me about her, and I already bitched her out before leaving, pointing out that no-one’s enjoyment of the coffee house patio lifestyle is enhanced by a police beating administered for the crime of chalking poetry on some bricks.

The whole thing rests as a two-hour lesson in Escalation, or what Society Does to You when you Stand your Ground against the Law. I wish he’d done it for something I cared more about. Civil disobedience for bad art on someone else’s property is missing several elements that would make me campaign harder for his rights.

13 thoughts on “up the down escalator

  1. I miss the good days
    I’m sure I don’t have the entire story and I am not one of “TA’s” fans, but if the manager had asked him not to do it only once then I would have to believe that she was within her rights to call the fuzz. From the sound of it TA was on his high horse and started thinking that D’s was his again. Fuck that. Take him away (although I don’t want anyone physically hurt in the process). Experience tells me that TA will become a martyr for this or at least he will let everyone know he is.

    1. Re: I miss the good days
      Yeah, I agree with your assessment of him. I just think Shelly was SUPERBITCH, also based on her previous behavior, and decided it would be cool to use the cops to hurt Tommy. It didn’t enhance anyone’s enjoyment of the day. Not the last time he’ll have a day like that, though – he seems to like life this way.

  2. the letter i sent them
    Dear Mr. Hollman:
    Today at the 17th Street Coffeehouse, an incident occurred which should
    be brought to the attention of Diedrichs Corporate management.
    A longtime denizen of the coffeehouse, a DELETED, is an
    artist. He has recently been scribbling poetic messages from time to
    time on the bricks. This apparently annoyed the manager, Shelly, who
    asked him not to.
    Today she chose to call the Costa Mesa Police and have him arrested for
    Like many artists, poets, and other frequent visitors to coffee houses,
    DELETED is an individualist and a bit of a rebel. His relationship to
    authority is poor.
    As a result, his encounter with the police was loud, long, very
    wrenching for everyone on the patio to experience, and resulted in four
    or five police officers and an equal number of paramedics arriving, a
    possibly serious injury to Mr. DELETED himself, a lot of screaming and
    crying among sensitive people, and a large expense to the City. At last
    notice it appears he was in Hoag Hospital in transition to jail.
    Although it is certainly true that Diedrich Coffee has no particular
    obligation to allow artists to graffiti your bricks, Shelly’s solution
    to the problem was the worst I can think of. Instead of some chalked up
    bricks we now had 20-30 traumatized patrons, blood on the asphalt, a set
    of crime reports, and a very bad taste in our mouths along with the
    Please prevail upon Shelly to try cleaning up the constantly buzzing
    flies, the infrequently cleaned tables, the sometimes disgusting
    bathroom, and the occasionally dull and rude service before the next
    time she has a customer beaten and dragged away for a bit of artistic
    chalk. Your constant customers and your bottom line will both thank you.
    As a seven year constant customer I rely on you to respond
    Conrad Heiney

    1. Re: the letter i sent them
      Niiiiiice! Someone is going to be getting free coffee vouchers pretty soon!
      Personally, I am not so sure I would blame the manager so much and shift the majority of that blame over to the artist who was “Molested By The Roses.” This is probably a little biased, as I really do not care for him at all, do not know much of the history of the manager in question, and was not there for the incident. Still, it would seem that any resonable person, given a couple of warnings, would stop before things got escallated that far.
      I love the idea of the little bits of chalk poetry (although the specific content I feel a little differently about). The execution was just all wrong. If you are going to do something like that, do it discreetly–in the middle of the night or while nobody is looking. If you “get caught” and they dislike what you did, quit. Find another coffee shop. Find another method of distributing your bad poetry.
      Really, I cannot feel so bad for “TA” and as angry at the manager. In the same situation, I would have probably called the cops, too (although I have never been trained to be a manager at Diedrich’s).
      As an epilogue, Mister “TA” returned a couple of hours after you left. He looked just as fine as ever–no scratches or bruises or bandages. I was told he was looking for the manager. (Hopefully this was to apologize. It did not look like he had a baseball bat or grudge or anything.)

      1. Re: the letter i sent them
        Yeah, maybe I didn’t make it clear enough that I think he was pushing it really hard, and that I don’t like his art.
        I just think manager lady needed to find a smart way to fix this, and instead she chose the maximum stupid way. Everything else just derived from it in a nice mechanical way like a windup doll. And she’s the one who called the cops over some chalk. I mean come on. Chalk?

      2. Re: the letter i sent them
        Well, I don’t know. The kids in the house a few doors down (that shares the same driveway/alleyway as Meta_Kate and I) tend to draw a bunch of hopscotches and space monsters on the driveway that I have to drive over every day. There have been dozens of times over the past week that I have considered calling the cops on them! 😉

  3. I didn’t realize that it was he that was doing it. I always thought it was one of the “new generation”. I guess I never imagined an “adult” would write such meaningless platitudes…

  4. Wow, major fuckup from all angles. I agree with you that yeah, maybe he is an asshole and was being a wank about this issue, that the lack of management of the situation on everyone’s part is just O_o. Sure, write on bricks, but shit, dude, if you get caught, shut up, rub it out, and do it again later. Not seeing the big deal from her perspective or his. And yeah, civil disobedience for being allowed to write platitudes is lame. Sigh. I miss the Salt Marches.
    I hope they do something useful about it. =/

  5. Diedrich Artist Saga
    Interesting component to the controversial Diedrich artist saga…TA allegedly had permission from the owner of that Diedrich to post his [harmless and encouraging, yet sometimes slightly tacky] writings. The general manager, who was said to be in a mood prior to the incident, claimed that the owner did not have the authority to give permission and ordered the writings be washed away. The whole event was an unnecessary result of powertripping, both on the parts of Diedrich management and law enforcement, and some, in my opinion, justified resistance from TA. Just my point of view. Had TA not had permission, this would be an entirely different issue.

    1. Re: Diedrich Artist Saga
      I hear that. And I do blame the manager more than anyone. She’s an evil control freak, so it wouldn’t surprise me if what you said is 100% true.

  6. You were down on yourself for not emphasizing that TA was pushing it. But I think you hit the right balance. If you’re serving the public, you should know how to gracefully deal with assholes.
    I bet Shelly is the sort who lies in bed fantasizing/hoping that someone fucks with her, just so she can fuck with them even more.

  7. i’m sure shelly will be pulled from that location soon, as she is having the same powertripping problems with her empoyees, yelling at them in front of customers and the like…i do feel bad for TA; although i haven’t spoken to him in a long time, he always encouraged me to write and i have a soft spot for him, even if that was 10 years ago or so…and a little chalk shouldn’t be a big deal, especially if he had permission…shelly can fuck off, as far as i’m concerned…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.