Friday, November 25, 2011

The Buy Local Kerrytown

Tomorrow is "Buy Local Saturday".

The Buy Local movement has gained a lot of ground over the past few years. The Occupy Wall Street movement speaks to a lot of the same issues (and frustrations) as the Buy Local movement. Our economic system is letting down millions of hard working Americans. It seems we have so little control over Bank of America (to name one), while Bank of America has so much control over us.

Buy Local is one way we do have control over our economy. We keep money in our local economy, allowing more money to flow into the cultural and social institutions that create quality of life for all of us.

And its personal. Let me tell you about my neighborhood:

You want something for your pet, or a dog or cat-loving friend? Stop by Dogma (catmantoo) on Fourth Avenue. Alice Liberson owns Dogma. She is passionate about animals. She also supports dozens of local charities. Duke and I love to stop in there and visit. Alice is a licensed vet, and currently practicing veterinary acupuncture.

Just across the street you could talk to Paul Tinkerhess at Fourth Avenue Birkenstock. He has footwear and also a Sleep Shop (mattresses and other items to make sure you get good sleep). He is a local activist and musician. He and his family are a part of First Amendment history. Don't ask me...stop in there and ask Paul about it.

Around the corner from both Alice and Paul is Vicki Honeyman's Heavenly Metal. Vicki had a profound influence on the growth of the Ann Arbor Film Festival some years back. She has remained active in social and artistic causes. She calls Heavenly Metal a "unique boutique". It has apparel, footwear, recycled metal art, and more.

Need a break...stop for coffee at Cafe Verde, run by the member-owned People's Food Co-op. And though it is member-owned, the "face" of the Co-op is Kevin Sharp. Kevin shares a passion for Border Collies with me. He is also the reason Sculpture Park is kept clean and the landscape is well-tended. The "People's Park" owes a big debt to this community-centered guy.

Or you might stop for your coffee in the Kerrytown Market and Shops at Sweetwater, owned by Chris Hutton. Chris serves on the Kerrytown District Association Board, and seems to always be involved in some fundraising activity.

While in Kerrytown you can visit Mary Cambruzzi on the second floor at Found, a truly unique store...part antique, part collectibles, or Jan and Sharon at Mudpuddles, or Bob at Sparrow Market, or Mike at Monahan's. And especially Mary at Everyday Wine. She is a big part of making An Ann Arbor Wine Cellar (benefit for HARC) a success.

I'm almost afraid to send this out...I don't want to forget Nina Howard at Bellanina or Deanna Relyea at Kerrytown Concert House, or Sherry Knight at Knight's Market, or Don at Kosmo's, or Gene Alloway at Motte and Bailey's

See...I have names to all these businesses. When you buy local you are supporting Alice and Vicki and Paul and more than one Mary, and so many others. And they support the community, and their employees are a part of the local community and the local economy. I feel like quoting the "Bank Run" scene from "It's A Wonderful Life".

So if you survived "Black Friday" (or "Boozy Friday" as we are calling it at the \aut\ BAR), please do not forget to BUY LOCAL.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Westboro and the Supreme Court

I have a history with the Westboro Church. They picketed me.

I was not the first. Their first pickets go back to the 1980's. They would show up at funerals of people who had died because of HIV/AIDS. Outside of the gay community no one was taking issue with this. Legislators were not passing bills limiting how far picketers had to stay away from funerals. In fact, it appeared that most of America had no problem with the Westboro Church.

They first made mainstream news when they picketed Matthew Shepard's funeral. The brutality of that murder actually brought some compassion from folks outside the gay community. And there was even a bit of outrage that this nutcase was picketing this funeral.

The Phelps family has always thrived on publicity. They were drunk with pleasure from all the publicity they got from picketing Matthew Shepard. Pissing off gays wasn't getting them what they wanted. They needed to piss off a lot more people.

Queers who paid attention understood that they pissed people off so that other people would engage them. If they engaged them physically, the family took them to court. They also sued local municipalities for not protecting their First Amendment rights.


That is VERY important to note. Let me rephrase it. If the Phelps can get you into court, they make money.

Fred Phelps holds no degree from any religious seminary or other institution. The "Reverend" title is self-proclaimed. Note that I NEVER call him Rev. Phelps. No one else should, either.

His background...he is a disbarred lawyer. He was disbarred for an enormous number of nuisance lawsuits. Several of his children are lawyers. They do the courtwork now.

If you ever go to one of his protests you will see a guy nearby videotaping everything. His job is simple. He is collecting evidence.

When those planes slammed into the twin towers, the Phelps clan put out a news release that they were happy this happened. It happened because America was being so nice to all of its gay citizens. And then they picketed the funerals of people who died in the 9/11 attacks. As America went to war in Afghanistan, and then Iraq, they started picketing military funerals. Brilliant. That really pisses people off, and they had a lot more lawsuits. If you are a member of the Phelps clan, that means business is good.

One of those funerals was for Marine Lance Cpl. Matthew Snyder.

Lance Cpl. Snyder's father sued the Phelps Clan. I feel sorry for Albert Snyder. He lost his son to war. And then he had some nutjobs show up at his son''s funeral. I know how horrible it is because Phelps has been doing that to the queer community for TWENTY-FIVE YEARS.

But I am very angry with him for engaging the Phelps family in court. What was he thinking? The Phelps clan got a lot of publicity. They LOVE bad publicity.

And they have a Supreme Court judgment in their favor, and I am sure a hefty monetary settlement is on its way, if it was not a part of this judgement.

That will keep them picketing for a LONG time to come.

And it was ENTIRELY predictable. If Mr. Snyder had asked a queer, we could have told him what was going to happen.

I actually completely agree with the Supreme Court decision. If unpopular speech is not protected...well...we wouldn't have even had an LGBT rights movement. The answer to hate speech is not to legislate against it. The answer is to use the hate speech to educate rational people of your cause.

I am proud that when Phelps picketed me we beat him at his own game. We raised money instead of him. And the message the media picked up on was our message, not the whack job's. Other folks have found clever ways of meeting him head on without giving him publicity or money.

I wish Mr Snyder had.


p.s., here is an old press release about our response to Mr. Phelps: