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.