Welcome to Monte Rio: A Bay Area Occu-Venture

by Ryan Bartek

The yellow brick road doesn’t end in glory, but rather the fatal remains of rust belt sacrifice. I have traversed Gary (Indiana), Cuba (Missouri), the rottenest urban decay of three dozen postmodern metropolises. As a taxi driver, I scoured every inch of war-zone Detroit. But despite these disjointed manifestations of grimness, it takes a final puzzle piece to recognize the hydra in full. That loosened jigsaw, vague to its brother pieces, comes in the shape of a hamlet deep in the mountainous Redwoods.

Monte Rio, California is the creepiest city I’ve ever been to. Even the obscure depths of the Deep South fail to compare, because at least there is a familiarity with poverty and expected disappointment. That invisible lasso of economic distress holding these realms in place is the byproduct of many a “smoke-filled room” behind the curtain of Oz, so to speak.

When you overhear that leathery 50+ year old woman at the Shell Station counter explaining her rampant medical bills to the trucker that’s buying $2 pipe tobacco because that’s all he can afford, close your eyes and drift away to that movie scene where two dozen politi-scum converge about a round table. Every man looks like Dick Cheney or Newt Gingrich–fat, balding, shameless and white-haired.

Imagine that these clandestine puppet-masters are scheming over a vast system of control which has since ancient Rome kept a deliberate social hierarchy in place. Where the poverty they’ve created and intentionally sustained is the largest criminal conspiracy ever devised, and the CIA is literally the coke/crack/meth cartel flooding the streets, all the while assisting an internal police state based on a for-profit prison system now backed by military power and a vast Orwellian apparatus that cannot be diffused.

But it’s not a smoke-filled room where this theoretical hidden hand is meeting, nor is it some “one size fits all” Illuminati-like fraternity. The closest thing we get to the “secret puppet-masters of the universe” is this thing in Monte Rio, and it’s not easy to grasp.  No one is quite sure what to make of Bohemian Grove, but everyone agrees that a place where the top 1% of the 1% drop off the face of the planet for two weeks to attend a clandestine all-male campground and give secret political speeches is bad news.

Also really bad news is that they perform a ceremony called “The Cremation of Care” while carrying lit torches and wearing KKK-like outfits and then burning an effigy (symbolizing “care”) inside a human coffin, underneath a 40 foot stone owl statue that looks like some HP Lovecraft Necronomicon elder god. Extremely bad news. What do you do with that, once you accept it’s real? Once you realize this is what half of our Congress in Washington DC does in their spare time? When the House majority is literally a Grove majority? If you’re like me, you come straight to the source.

Monte Rio is a stage prop. No place other then Hollywood gave me the same impression–when you get there and it’s the end of a carefully built sound stage–like all reality is the finale of The Truman Show.

Monte Rio does the same for politics, for the media, for the military industrial complex. I mean, it is literally a stage prop. There is an old school 1950’s hand painted sign as you pull into town square which reads “Welcome to Monte Rio: Vacation Wonderland.” The “town square” is just a dust bowl–a dirt patch the size of a small parking lot, surrounded by a rusty old gas station, a decrepit movie theater and a deli mart that was closed even on this sunny Saturday.

But then you walk past this shell of a ghost town and you find a small trail that leads up to the tiny crossroads of Railroad and Bohemian. Shooting down Bohemian Avenue is a small bridge with “do not trespass/private property” signs and dozens of surveillance cameras hidden in the trees. You feel like you are staring into The Blair Witch Project as you gaze down this corridor, or perhaps the intro of George A. Romero’s Tales From The Darkside with that cheesy negative filmstrip image toaster effect.

We were out the car 5 minutes before two undercover cars circled past us. A car with punk rock bumper stickers pulled up with some curious kids checking it out, giving us a fearful look before zooming away really fast. We hopped inside our vehicle and were soon trailed back to the main street stage prop by the sheriff of Monte Rio and also a man on a motorcycle with all black leather and a reflective, faceless biker helmet…

Earlier in the day I had met with The Bohemian Grove Action Network and some members of Occupy Santa Rosa (the closest major city to The Grove). The understanding I have of this Occupy Bohemian Grove protest now looming on the horizon is one of a probable circus. Ever since the call went out for a peaceful presence in July, the highly detailed FAQ has circulated like wildfire. The zeitgeist is rolling and everyone in Occupy is waking up to this hidden reality, the same way we all sort of fell into ALEC, Monsanto, Stratfor, HAARP and Bilderberg.

From July 13-30, it’s going to be uncharted territory–no one is quite sure how many will show up. Thankfully, I can report that the ground organizers are going the full distance in assuming 10,000 people might just show up. They are working on public campgrounds to store people, port-a-pottys, community outreach. Unlike other major occupations which have foolishly been declared without any real physical planning, this one has a chunk of the legitimate needs and support necessary to sustain itself. Or so it appears. But it doesn’t matter–Occupiers know how to handle and sustain themselves.

It was Saturday night, and the next stop of my Bay Area Occu-Tour was the almighty Occupy Oakland. Like everyone, I’d been watching their exploits on livestream like a mythological phalanx ever since the job on Scott Olson. Saturday nights, I’d been told, was their weekly “Fuck The Police” march.

Amazed (but not surprised) at this blatantly terrible courting of public opinion, it was clear that the situation had deteriorated so badly that they no longer had any sort of honeymoon with the public. Like all the major Occupations, they were relentlessly infiltrated and attacked. And when the going got tough, the jellyfish bailed–leaving the few dozen hardcore occupiers who refused to go home and then became a daily target for vengeful predators with badges.

Oakland was a dead scene though–no one was returning my texts and I couldn’t locate the enraged mob anywhere. Since sleeping on the street in Oakland = waking up without your travel pack/wallet, I headed to Berkeley for a safe crash spot beneath an oriental massage parlor.

I returned to Oakland on Sunday, April 16 for GA. The park was down the street from the Obama re-election HQ, which was a bigger ghost town then Monte Rio itself. It was pitch black inside, pathetic–cardboard cutouts of the smiling Obama family in the windows. It looked like a Blockbuster Video that went out of business five years ago and no one had touched since.

GA was interesting–sunny, bright, and planted with informants that people were eyeballing as outsiders. The kid that started Occupy Phoenix had just run away from Arizona; I was the first person he talked to, having just wandered into Oakland, same as I. He said he made a Facebook page in October and within three days thousands of people showed up. By the end–last week–it had devolved to him and two other kids. He said there was no cohesion between the radicals and the Obama-bots, and the situation was unsustainable. Said he came to Oakland for “the real shit.”

The spirit was strong–their GA felt like one of Occupy Portland’s at Shemanski Park in the short-lived “Golden Age.” The most freakish topic was one woman whose husband wanted custody of her son, so he told the judge she brought her child to Occupy Oakland’s GA. This was enough legal precedence to kidnap her son from her. There was word circulating that the courts are gearing up to steal kids and put them in foster homes for Occupy-related actions in smaller communities in the USA where no one will be looking. Neo-McCarthyism via child hostages.

The most surreal moment came at Occupy Oakland’s stronghold–an info-shop called The Holdout. There were about fifty people sitting in fold-out chairs listening to a panel of five speakers. The room was a true melting pot. The presenters were passing around a clipboard filled with 100+ FBI/DHS documents highlighting official communications declaring Occupiers internal terrorists. The entire 1984 game plan was now clearly laid out before them.

It was the mind blowing moment when I saw first hand all these 27-33-year-old white professionals from upper middle class families and educated backgrounds come to the turgid conclusion that Alex Jones’ most lucid New World Order fantasies are now for all intents the really real world and that they’re living in an absolute police state guided by Martial Law.

And these people were bringing this horrible fact to their GA as if this was an issue that could be solved by talking it out with the larger group the same way we’d sort out a lack of toilet paper for the sanitation committee, or the engineering tent needs more generators, or what have you. But there was no solution, only shaky voices and frightened eyes. We were now terrorists. There was no consensus to pass and there was absolutely no going back.

I decided to go to downtown San Francisco… Here I was in the most “progressive” city in the USA and certainly one of the most political, but at 1 a.m. that Sunday night/Monday morning, I watched what was symbolically the final deathblow after months of struggle. In the end, despite all the big talk, Occupy SF was withered down to myself, a Buddhist from West Virginia, a 19-year-old, 103 lb. cancer patient, and one brilliant maniac named Gypsy who could only be described by casting Heath Ledger in the role of Jeffrey “12 Monkeys” Goines.

Occupy SF had done the impossible–solved homeless harassment by police for all of San Francisco. Except, of course, for the one tiny patch of land in front of The Federal Reserve they’ve perpetually occupied since September. This is the only place the cops say they will enforce the no camping ban–only because it’s Occupy SF. Their menacing fold-out table is stacked with flyers and a bunch of sleeping bags are crammed into a pile within this sacred 10×10 space. The police told us quite directly (and for the first time) that the entire city of San Francisco was open to sleep on the streets. We could go anywhere–just not here. And if we dared to sleep here, in this Occupy Eden, we would be arrested on the spot.

I read aloud my 2012 State of the Counterculture Union Address over a bullhorn in front of The Fed, with the audience of OSF and two cops parked nearby. Gypsy began yelling at the cops, daring them to come arrest him. He had hellfire in his eyes–he’d finally reached that point beyond all points. The cops finally were angered enough that when Gypsy tried to sleep on the ground just to annoy them they called in the paddy-wagon to arrest us all, ejecting us from the scene with bitter consequences if we continued. The fifteen others hanging around scattered, leaving us four. Lest they steal all our possessions, we hauled our belongings down the street to a tavern awning.

The cops said only one person could stay in that spot, that they couldn’t have a blanket or any items, and they had to stand there from 1 to 5 a.m. before anyone else could enter that Occu-Territory. The cops sat in their cars and watched as the skinny 19-year-old, 103 lb. cancer patient refused to move, shaking from the cold in a thin hoody, while her boyfriend sobbed across the street because she would not be detoured. In all of San Francisco, this was the last defense–me and three “west coast street crazies”.

The next morning, Gypsy told me some scary stuff. He said that following the mass arrest in Oakland on January 28, 600 people were arrested, and 193 disappeared. He said that even if the number of people is inflated, there are dozens missing nonetheless:

“Most of these are people that were just there for the march. Oakland police arrested 600 people and later that day [they] listed 40 some odd people in jail. A couple days later the number had grown to over a hundred. By the time it was said and done, 407 were said to be held on warrants or released.”

“However for anyone that was watching– the prison buses used hold 50 prisoners apiece and they used twelve buses and all were filled to capacity. My question is, what happened to the 193 other people? I’ve had people pop up–’what happened to homeboy, cousin, brother, dad’ on the internet and in person. These people went to the January 28 march and never returned. My fear is that these people haven fallen to NDAA, which allows them to indefinitely detain protesters in FEMA camps.”

Stay tuned America–shit’s getting real…

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