I wish I could stand right next to you on a bridge. We'll hold the lighted letters together, chat amiably about politics, gardens, schools, neighborhoods, as traffic roars through the dark warm narcotic night, moving goods and people from west of here to east of here, from north of here to south of here. We'll gesture like school kids from bygone summers for the big-riggers to blast past in Doppler drop tuned to our existential theater: we are here, we are here, we are here. Madison is the world within a world where everyone on the bridge is an anticipatory and participatory activist. We don't need no introduction. Everyone comes out, word of mouth amplified through router packet captures, released, sent and received for a merry evening of proscenium action.
The People's Paparazzi line the frontage road, dozens of cameras click click clicking towards the bridge. Funny optics - we look bigger than we are from down below. Don't tell anyone. Bigger than we are. We dance, jump, yell into the night air, our voices grabbed by the isthmus wind, merge with democrabeeps and road hiss. Up here on the bridge, on the bridge, someone bought and brought LED toys off of eBay. The Glowstick Girls pass out the fun. Another dimension of light in the darkness. We mix metaphors in real time, the glowsticks like rainbow metronomes bouncing arrhythmically across bridge-space.
Odysseus arrives in his Romulan Cruiser van. It is the joke-mobile of Scooby Doo, but has a sinister bad-guy look to it. Is he here to beat us up? He's the sweetest guy you have met. He sets up a laptop and starts projecting chyron under the girder that holds us up. Another ring in the circus: Animal Nuz in grand scale, picked up on the sides of trucks as they form a solid wall in front of us for brief projected instant and dissolve where light meets speed.
And the drive home, exhausted, arriving at 2:00 a.m. How can we keep doing this? How could we ever stop? Was there ever a bridge action like this one? Pure theater. Street theater. Fluxus meets a block party. No kidding, I wish we could stand together on a bridge and could talk about the next message out, the urgency of the day, the buzz of the lazy flies of Facebook needing fixity in the dark.
And then last night, an action of intensity and purpose. A scant 200 Palermo's Pizza workers in their third month of striking. Do people notice? Does anyone care? This is the front line of the struggle: young Hispanic workers with families in need of support, striking not to take down their employers, but to have their concerns about health and safety and the body-damage of repetitive labor understood, respected, heard. Ten minutes in, on a bridge in Milwaukee, Overpass Light Brigade's wonderful volunteers met by Mexican Americans: all Holders of the Light together. The message burned bright into the night over near Ring Street, an African American neighborhood that has hosted us countless times, with never a police intervention.
The Palermo's workers melted into the night. Some things are allowed more substance than others. Striking workers are like ninjas and magicians and semi-trucks in projected beams. Disappearance is the smart side of the next appearance. A kind policeman came up and gave us his card. "Call this number if you want our help so this doesn't happen again." It was sincere. I am tempted to call, but feel stubborn about my rights to exist without permission.
"Ya'll can go back up on the bridge," another officer added. We went back up, like getting back on the horse that just threw you. We had enough to hold the letters P•E•A•C•E.
That was it. Today there are actions all over the midwest in support of these scant 200 workers. I think I can feel you on the bridge right next to me, right by my side, as we look down on the passing trucks. We've had some fun up here, but right next to us are workers who are striking right now, who are fighting for their rights for a good life. Right next to them are the ghosts of Joe Hill. They can hear the air horns blow into the dark warm American night. If you listen, you'll hear them too.