Friday, September 13, 2013


So I lost my camera at Hempfest...meaning you'll have to use your imagination (gasp!) for these next couple of blog entries.

If you don't know, Seattle Hempfest is the largest pro-cannabis rally in the country; they have vendors and speakers and music and it's right on the waterfront.  Some of us from the tour worked during the event, manning the booth for Dr. Bronner's and Vote Hemp or hanging out by the fishy cars that we brought inside. I had a great time talking to everyone about Yes on 522, the GMO labeling initiative in Washington State.  If you want to know more, check out my interview in the first tour blog entry, or watch David Bronner and his family talk about the initiative on their website.  And, if you want to make a contribution to the campaign, please click here.  If we can pass the initiative in Washington State it will be a great example for the rest of the country so please tell all your friends there to get out and vote!

I also worked in the Dr. Bronner's booth talking about the soap and other products.  As a burner who exists in a land of decommodification, it felt pretty weird at first to be repping a product.  But, given that I both use and love the soap and that the company does so many great things with their profits, I'm cool with it.  Actually a meme came out of my conversations about this:

In addition to working, I also got to hang out with friends and colleagues in the drug policy movement.  (If you ever run into trouble or have a cannabusiness in Portland, check out my best friend from law school at  It was pretty strange seeing lawyers that I know from the NORML Legal Committee conferences, now that I've left my career as a criminal defense lawyer to take a sabbatical as a homeless backpacker (with dredlocks).

I even had a friend who was speaking at the event, so I got to be on stage for one of the 4:20 celebrations, which was pretty wild.  It felt more like being in Amsterdam than the United States.  But hey, recreational use is now legal in Washington State, and things really are changing for the better.  It's so wonderful to see, and I now believe we really will see the end of cannabis prohibition nationwide - and soon.

After Hempfest, I find out that I can get into Burning Man early - the night before we leave. EEP!  It's a bit of a scramble to get ready but we are back on the road on Tuesday, August 20th.

Heading West...

Next stop: Cheyenne, Wyoming!  Here's the artist, Caesar, talking to a reporter, and a shot of the cars front of the statehouse.

The event was quite a success!  We even talked to the mayor, who happened by during the event.  Here we are back on the road again.  The landscape starts to get really interesting - first it's plains, then it gets really arid and mountainous, like nothing I've ever seen before.

Onward! To Salt Lake City for our last event before the epic push to Seattle.  Here's some shots of the cars in front of city hall:

This was a great event, and generated some very positive press coverage that inspired us on the long haul that followed- check it out!

I also got some nice shots from the OCD van as the cars came by - it's amazing that we've been on tour so long, and the appeal of seeing these cars cruising down the road still hasn't worn off:

After Salt Lake City, we have a LOOOONG push all the way to Seattle so that we can arrive in time for a protest outside the Grocery Manufacturers Association Meeting - at which GMOs were not to be mentioned, despite a focus on sustainability.  We had to rotate drivers, we stopped for a few hours sleep in a hotel, we had a lovely group dinner at a Mexican restaurant, and finally: WE HAVE ARRIVED!!!! 
Here is Rica atop the soybean in downtown Seattle, where we parked across the street from the Yes on 522 protest/rally.
So, after four breakdowns, a few meltdowns, many delicious meals, beautiful sunsets, and not enough sleep - WE DID IT!!

Swimming high in Denver, CO

As we approach Denver, we drive through the most intense lightening storm I've ever seen!  While it's impossible to capture how crazy it really was, here's a shot of the sky; you can really see the rain coming down.

Our event in Denver was another potluck with local activists.  They've been meeting every week for about six years and just got their own space, which is quite impressive.  We went to a wine tasting first, which was great, although they really weren't sure what to make of Shireese.  We were all really excited because we had a day off scheduled for the next day.
Here's Adam with the fishy corn right after we all arrived in Denver:

And yes, that's a llama - Dolly the llama, in fact - her owner takes her our to attract attention so he can talk to strangers about GMOs (a technique with which we are quite familiar by now!):

It's true! When we got to Denver, there was a double rainbow (actually, it turned out to be a triple rainbow, because the bottom rainbow was actually two right on top of each other). Again, like the video, the camera can't capture how awesome it was. Between the fishy cars, the llama and goat, Shireese and the rainbows, this was one of the most surreal and beautiful moments of my life.

Here's a shot of our press person, Jazmin, as she's being interviewed by our videographer, Robin:

Some more rainbow shots!

And if things couldn't get any better, we got a SUPRISE! visit from my (formerly) east coast friends Fenton and Jimmy!!

On my day off I got to spend some (much needed) time alone out in nature on a stunningly beautiful hike:

It was actually a pretty intense hike!  Afterward we had a nice dinner at Rica's brother's home - thanks Patrick for hosting us!  It was sooo nice to have a moment to relax and recharge.  And here we go:

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Into the Maw of the Beast

Well, St. Louis goes by in a blur,
but I have always wanted to see this:

But we have to get to the main event at Monsanto!  Talk about going into the Maw of the Beast!  I think we are all a little nervous about it.  It feels like we have driven by nothing but cornfields for MILES and now we are going to the headquarters of one of the most evil of companies (these are the folks who brought you Agent Orange, in addition to being the biggest profiter from GMOs), and in the back of my mind I'm wondering if we are going to end up getting arrested. Our evening event is a success and we get to have dinner and watch videos from the trip thus far.  Although the police won't let us camp, we come back in the morning to do our press conference and protest.

Here's Ben and Adam, our fearless leader (note the unusual adopt a highway sign): We were also joined by some "Moms Against Monsanto, who brought their daughters, too:

(Look! Actual photo allignment! Thanks Homeland)

The big news at the press conference was Adam announcing, for the first time ever, his shareholder resolution!  Because he owns enough stock in Monsanto, he can propose a resolution and the Board has to address it (and give their reason if they reject it), by law.  Really cool right?  (You know you're a law nerd when shareholder resolutions get you all hot and bothered lol).  Anyway, the resolution basically throws the company's transparency claims and the fact that they are supposed to be proud of their products back at them, and says that the company will support labeling efforts. You can read the full text here.

Here I am in one of my favorite pictures of the tour, with the Bananas (Shanna Banana and Shannon Banana):

The only really negative reaction I got the whole tour is when some suit guy in a huge black SUV flips me off as we're holding signs.  We get a lot of friendly and supportive honks and waves though, apparently even here there are a lot of people who support our cause.

As we drive off into the sunset, the cars silhouettes create a striking image, especially the apple, which I try and capture from the front seat of the OCD van (which, incidentally, is a lovely place to watch the sunset from).  I must admit, however, that Grahambot took a far superior picture, one that is really the iconic picture of the trip, to which I will have to link on instagram.

Indianapolis Dance Party and Chicago Soyride

So the fishy tour stop Indianapolis, where we managed to get to the event early! and have an impromptu dance party (that's Shanna Bananna, Dan Rabbitt, and Damien you see there, Shannon is hiding behind Dan in this picture):

We had a really nice potluck event with TONS of delicious non-GMO food, and there was:
Live Music:
Hooping,and Dancing in the Rain.
(you can see I've been playing with the html code here! yay multiple pictures in one line)

As we left Indianapolis, some hilarity (get your hot box then step next door from some wild beaver!)

Then we had to find our campground and got lost on this spooky haunted bridge:

Our event in the southside of Chicago was the site of my major meltdown of the trip: "oh, we don't need to stop, we're almost there!"; followed by not being able to find our event; followed by the gas station attendant telling me they don't have a bathroom ("WHAT THE F*&K DO YOU MEAN YOU DON'T HAVE A BATHROOM!?"), leads to a very unhappy Monster. As I walked away, toward the McDonalds six blocks away (they definitely have a bathroom), my friend insisted that we shouldn't be walking around in this particular neighborhood.  I felt like we were conspicuous enough that no one would bother us (can you imagine the testimony? "as we walked away from the giant tomato...."), and having been a criminal defense attorney in Baltimore City, I've been in far worse neighborhoods.  Luckily a very nice man who lived across the street from the gas station came to the rescue and let us use the facilities in his home. Of course, if the worst thing that happens on the tour is that I have to piss, I really don't have much to complain about, eh? 

The event itself was lovely, we were in an old industrial waste site that has been re-purposed to serve as a community garden.

Here is one of our drivers, Grahambot, hanging out in one of the unwanted boats that they are converting into planters: 

And here are all the other cars, as seen from on top of the soybean, "swimming" around the garden:

Here's a group shot of all the cars and (almost) the whole team!  From the left: Mason, four local activists (sorry I don't have the names), Isabelle, Ben, two local activists, Felix, Nicholas, Sarah, Dan, Grahambot, Rica, Damien, Shanna, Adam, Shireese and I, a local activist, Caesar (the artist), Shannon, and Chris.

We also took the cars out around the neighborhood and visited another community garden and met some local kids who were celebrating Ramadan.  The apple was their favorite car.  It was great to bring these cars out to support their efforts to grow healthy, natural foods in a neighborhood that is a food desert. 

Shireese and I even got to ride on the fishy soybean (hopefully i'll be able to post a video of this soon):
Thanks to our embedded reporter, Daisy Alioto, for this photo.

Speaking of Shireese, she was very helpful on the tour, from manning the walkie talkie we used to communicate between cars, to helping drive the OCD van.  She even spoke at some of our events!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fishy Food Tour

I had the opportunity to go on an amazing cross-country art-ivism tour asking the question: Are We Eating Fishy Food? The tour (generously sponsored by Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap) raised awareness about Genetically Modified Food and demanded GMO labeling.

I actually did an interview with videographer Jack Olmsted in which I talk about the tour, which you can also find on the Seattle PI blog here:

We did our kickoff event in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, DC on August 5th, and you can see how pumped Dan Rabbitt and I are about the tour! (photo credit: Brian Melrose).  We are in front of K'Sup, the fishy tomato, whom you can follow on his twitter page! Although I spent most of my time in the support van, as I took charge of the loading and unloading of our camping gear and food every night, consistent with my compulsion to start organizing people everywhere I go, I did assist with driving the tomato.

In fact, I was driving the tomato when the power steering went out!  Err, I'm no expert on cars, but i think something is wrong here! Luckily we were in Pittsburgh, where we had mechanically-inclined friends of the tour to help us out, and we were back on the road that night, even though a second car also broke down. In fact, I learned a lot about cars on this tour - who knew they could break in so many ways? (I was also driving the support van at the moment the muffler decided to break, which sounds like something is going to explode.)

It was a lot of fun watching the other cars driving down the road; here's the oft-misunderstood sugar beet (no, it's not a radish) behind us.  Unfortunately, much of the sugar we eat comes not from sugar cane but from the sugar beet, and nearly all of the sugar beet crop is GMO. Apparently some activists in Oregon recently destroyed a crop of sugar beets, although there hasn't been much coverage of it.

Our first event was in Pittsburgh, tailgating at the Pirates game, and we were visited by my lovely friend Janice and her dog; here they are in front of fishy corn, which is my personal favorite car (and also the first car that was created).

Pittsburgh is gorgeous at night, with all the hills around it and bridges over the rivers. I took this from inside the fishy apple on the way to the campground:

Up next was Columbus, Ohio where we did a photo-op event in front of the statehouse. A uniformed officer guarding the capitol came out and when I went to intercept and give him a flyer he told me he liked my dreds, and apparently saw "my hairdo" (which my brilliant artist friend skubz has successfully dubbed "my pineapple") from all the way inside the building.

Across the street was a beautiful old theater (they don't make them like this anymore) know you're a burner/event organizer/ex-ravekid when you look at every building as a potential venue:

And here is an in-car shot of my friend Damien, who wrote a beautiful commentary on the tour:

     "Whether we knew it or not we began to answer the question 'What happens when a groups of burners with shared missions take the spirit of the playa and the 10 principles, cross it with a flash mob, and drive it across the country?'
     The answer is AMAZING THINGS HAPPEN! . . . 
     I'm still processing everything that happened on the tour and where to go from here, but the one thing I'm sure of so far is this: the intersection of art and activism is where Burning Man meets default world. I can only hope this is the direction the burner community starts moving as we wonder if the whole thing has grown too big for its britches or lost its heart."

Thanks Damien, I couldn't have said it better myself!  Stay tuned for more on the fishy tour!