May first was a week away. The planned May Day 2000 rally was to support the Powells Book workers, ILWU Local 5. The ILWU, International Longshore and Warehouse Union convention would be in Portland, at the Hilton next week when the convention attendees, several hundred, and local community members were invited to the May day rally.
My boss Peter and I arranged a lunch with the Portland Police, the First Precinct Commander Mike Reese. Our goal was to let the Portland Police know our plans for May day. Our belief was that if informed of our plans, with no surprises, the police would cooperate and the rally would go smoothly.
The lunch was at a Thai restaurant. The police commander and two other officers joined us upstairs at the restaurant. It was a humid afternoon, Thai spices wafted upstairs. I don’t remember what we ate or much of the conversation that afternoon. I remember looking at the men and studying them as artifacts. The three officers were well fed, solid, muscular and husky. They had equipment hanging like charms from their belts and big holstered guns.
My silent study was interrupted when one asked. “What about that tall guy wearing all black, a Powells employee, an anarchist?” I knew he was talking about Charles the gay, vegan who took in abandoned cats. “Wouldn’t hurt a fly,” came to mind but I didn’t say it.
Then the conversation quickly moved to a place I seldom visit, paranoia. For these big, strong well fed guys the world was a very dangerous place, it evoked in me, a scary alternative reality.
My mind set off wandering now, I saw myself, thirty years younger, hair to my shoulders, a red beard, dirty blue jeans. Then I saw these cops shedding years and thinning as the young tough guys, the “others” from my high school with bulging muscles from the gym, with slicked back hair, leaning over the hoods, tinkering with their cars. Then, I was snapped back upstairs at the hot humid Thai restaurant. Those “other” guys from high school, now thirty years later, are in blue uniforms carrying guns.
I wondered, was I as threatening as Charles to an earlier generation of cops? My boss, Peter picked up the narrative and told the commander that the rally would probably block Burnside for a short while, we wanted no surprises. We paid for the lunch, and shook hands with firm grips. As the officers moved down the stairs my high school image lingered. I wiped the sweat from my forehead.