Curbside at the WTO

What Warren, Tracy, and Owen saw at the trade festival.

FOR THE PAST SEVERAL YEARS, a triumvirate of homeless folks—Warren, Tracy, and Owen—has proudly squatted together throughout Seattle under the acronym "WTO." Best of friends, WTO counted a cozy corner of cement (if such a thing exists) underneath the Washington State Trade and Convention Center just off Pine Street among their favorite spots o' shelter.

So imagine how disappointed this happy-go-lucky crew was to learn that another group, the World Trade Organization, had not only stolen their acronym but was planning on taking over their city and their favorite spot for a few of the Emerald City's shittiest, rainiest days as November flips to December.

An ex-Deadhead, Warren's deft curbside banjo-picking sometimes yielded the three musketeers enough dough for discount beds at one of Aurora Avenue's ramshackle motels, arranged for them by a local agency. But during the other WTO's hoity-toity conference, there wasn't a bed to be had in the city for anyone, much less homeless people.

A skilled camper from his days as one of Kesey's Merry Pranksters, Warren was usually able to rally the others for SHARE/WHEEL Tent City vacations. They didn't quite measure up to the Dead shows (no veggie burritos or grilled cheese sandies), but there were always mellow people with cool road stories there, albeit not the most moneyed bunch. So imagine the threesome's reaction to news that the city was denying SHARE/WHEEL's request to set up a centrally located tent city for the dates impacted by the acronym-stealing trade behemoth.

Long past the initial shock of being newly homeless, the veteran triumvirate chalked this one up as another case of "we don't want to show our warts to diplomats" paranoia—another case of Seattle masquerading as Kirkland for a temporary period of time deemed necessary by city royalty.

For his part, Owen keeps a hunting knife most often found slicing liverwurst for him and his companions. As the other WTO convenes its big-ass global meeting, Owen's sitting on the bench outside Rudy's on the Hill with the other two, widdling his knife and waxing awestruck at the slew of angry people blocking the arterial to his immediate west.

"What'd we do, Warren—reenter 'Nam?" wondered Owen.

Tracy pipes in, correcting her forgetful friend. "Owen, wake up—those people are there because the name thieves are in town. Y'know, the trade organization, the new world order. Those blokes and birds are protesters—but for what, I can't really recall."

Warren: "Oh yeah, now I remember—those rabble-rousers down the street are all worked up because of the way workers are treated in other countries. They say that the poser WTO is too focused on the bottom line to pay any mind to workers' wages and rights."

Owen: "That's pretty astute there, Mr. Rhodes Scholar—sometimes I wonder what you're doing out here in the streets with me 'n' Mrs. T."

Warren: "Always a kidder, aren't ya, O-dog—guess that's why we keep you around. Anyway, back to my social studies lesson—these folks' main gripe is that multinational companies are hiring laborers where the labor's cheap and unregulated. In other words, some sorry chap in Indonesia's rakin' in like five dollars a day busting his ass for the man—whoever 'the man' may be in Indonesia."

Tracy: "'Make good money, five dollars a day'—wait a minute, that's a Dead song, ain't it, Warren?!"

Warren: "Yeah, 'Cumberland Blues,' performed so eloquently by Mr. Jerry Garcia and the boys. May he rest in peace. My life has indeed lacked direction since."

Owen: "Five dollars a day don't sound so bad to me. If I could peel off even a third of them protesters to walk up to the bank and demand that they give me a five dollar bill every day, I'd be in business."

Tracy: "Yeah, but you'd still be stuck with us two leeches."

Owen: "Well, like Warren says, 'We can share the women, we can share the wine.' Five extra bucks would buy us a bit more wine, though."

Warren: "Yep, that communal spirit—wish it rubbed off on some of our neighbors down the road. Here they are pissin' and moanin' about some guy who has a job in another country, and the three of us can't score no fuckin' beds most of the time."

Tracy: "You've got a point, but Pat Buchanan says that if this group didn't exist, we'd be put to work."

Warren: "As a Jew, if it was anyone but Pat Buchanan saying that, I'd take it seriously."

Owen: "Enough about fucking Buchanan, you guys. Warren's right—we sleep on goddamn wet cement every night and I don't see no protesters at City Hall but for a couple times a year."

Warren: "To actually say we 'sleep' is a stretch at that, O-dog. It'd be more accurate to say we close our eyes for a couple nights a week before the cops wake us up and tell us to move along. Move to where, exactly? If I had an endless supply of psychedelics, like in the old days, wandering around all night might be tolerable—hell, it'd be fun—but food takes priority over drugs these days."

Tracy: "Maybe all this trade stuff is so easy for people to protest 'cause they don't have to look at it every day. Maybe if they shipped all us homeless people to Iceland, then these folks would come out in droves to demand that the Icelandic government build us igloos."

Warren: " Don't hold your breath, T.—they'd probably try and tell us that the igloos would lose their whiteness if we moved our grimy asses in."

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