Does this sound familiar? It’s from early 1971, Malvina writing about a local gig.
Next night I sang for the mental care social service staff of Highland Hospital. They had been having regular meetings but they were at their wits’ end and that is an appropriate place, I guess, for mental health workers to be. Reagan has cut back so sharply on finances for their departments, that they are having to turn out into the streets patients being held together only by their attention....
The social workers are not only being cut back on the funds for their work. Some of them will be fired.
So they called me, since they didn’t know what to do at their meetings any more. Any governor who would do the like of this is way beyond letters and appeals. A broken-down home for mental cripples caught fire about a week ago, and some of the inmates were burned to death. The place had been condemned as unsafe, but there was no money to move the patients to a better place. In the press reports, the blame was laid on the governor, but it would seem that he doesn't care....
They called on me from Highland to give them a lift.
I told them of Bud’s experience with the Depression. I described him as a true proletarian, a worker all his life, son of a poor family of ten that always managed somehow. The depression was a happy time for some people. They discovered that they did not have to be alone in poverty. They did not have to blame themselves for their condition. And they worked together then and helped one another.
Bud had run for governor [of Michigan] on the slogan: You furnish the evictions and we’ll furnish the riots.
He tells of his first experience in putting an evicted family back in their house.
The sheriff’s deputies had come and taken their things out into the street. An angry crowd was standing, watching. When the deputies left, somebody said, “Let’s put them back in!”
The sheriff’s office had only given the men orders to effect the eviction. The people lifted the furniture and put it back in the house. They turned on the gas and lights by bypassing the meters. 
This way of handling evictions became very common after that.
I told them stories about my travels, about Vancouver and the Japanese tour, and sang for them. They were happy and together for a while.
People call for me to give them a lift.
I need a lift myself.
But digging into what resources I have for their sakes, to give them a sense of hope somewhere, I am lifted up myself. For one thing, I am with people, my own. I am doing my work, and doing it well. There is truth in what I say; it convinces me, too. There is truth in me somewhere. I have a song called “Despair Is a Liar.” It’s not much of a song, but the title is for true.
These days, a group called Acorn Housing is fighting evictions less dramatically, but quite effectively. And here’s a lovely piece about direct action from Grist:
Now They've Gone and Gordon It
Greenpeace protesters acquitted in coal-activism case
In a decision that anti-coal activists say is a game-changer, six Greenpeace protesters have been acquitted of nearly $53,000 in criminal-damage charges for painting "Gordon" on a British coal plant. The activists climbed a 650-foot coal-plant chimney last year with the intent to paint "Gordon bin it" in huge letters, aiming to pressure Prime Minister Gordon Brown to disallow new coal plants. They only got to "Gordon" before being served with a high court injunction. In court, the six used a "lawful excuse" defense, arguing that burning coal exacerbates climate change, thus putting property around the world "in immediate need of protection." Climate scientist James Hansen testified on their behalf, and the jury found in their favor. "This verdict marks a tipping point for the climate change movement," says chimney-scaler Ben Stewart. "If jurors from the heart of Middle England say it's legitimate for a direct action group to shut down a coal-fired power station because of the harm it does to our planet, then where does that leave government energy policy?"
In an earlier post, I refer to the Ku Klux Klan raid on my grandparents’ house in Long Beach. Here’s quite another Klan story, forwarded by my daughter. Old news, but fun.
I found myself recommending The Secret Knowledge of Water again the other day—to Karen, a member of the memoir writers group who had just rafted down the Grand Canyon—and realized I still hadn’t reviewed it on my blog. So. The Secret Knowledge of Water: discovering the essence of the American desert, by Craig Childs (Sasquatch Books, c2000). Judy Fjell handed it to me a couple of years ago when I was staying at her place in Big Timber and looking for something to read. She hadn’t read it, but a friend had given it to her. It turned out to be just the kind of non-fiction I like, personal, well-written and full of little odd tidbits of knowledge. The author looks for water in the deserts of the southwestern states. Water holes, secret springs, rivers. Tidbit: he describes a river that’s underground by day and aboveground by night, complete with fish. Why? Because the trees along the banks suck up all the water by day as they photosynthesize, and let it flow by when there’s no sun and they’re not using it. The above link takes you to a review that quotes that passage. And here’s Malvina’s song about the desert (lyrics site)

Malvina sings “The Desert”  on MALVINA REYNOLDS, reissued on Omni Recordings, Australia.
  “The Desert” sung by Vanessa Marshall, backed by Nina Gerber.                                 Order Sun Sun Shine here. 

©2009  by Nancy Schimmel
The fine print on this book cover says “There are two easy ways to die in the desert: thirst and drowning.”
Saturday, June 13, 2009