At the cafe where I work, there are good nights and bad nights just like at any other job I’ve ever had. There are nights where it feels like I’m getting mad tips for just hanging out and being a smart ass barista, and consequently there are nights where I feel like the guy on the cover of BOLT THROWER’s War Master LP, who has shown up with a sword and battle axe to do battle with a bunch of drooling, drunk idiots.
On top of that, there is the phenomenon that’s become known as “Muppet Show Shifts.” That is exactly what the name implies, in that the cafe is like the goddamn Muppet Show with every customer in the joint bugging out and acting a fool, to the point where one wouldn’t be surprised to see the Electric Mayhem band hanging out or some crazy looking bug-eyed rats swinging from the rafters with old Statler and Waldorf chilling in their box seat talking shit about how much the place sucks and what a lousy job you’re doing.
And this night was definitely a Muppet Show night to the max. To be honest, if there had been a self-destruct button that would have incinerated the entire cafe, I would have stabbed it about fifteen minutes into the shift. Like I said, there are good nights and bad nights, but then there are those where your first mistake was walking in the goddamn door. I’m sure even a casual reader would ask, “But why, Doug? What happened?” And my answer would be something to the effect of “what DIDN’T happen?” I have remarked in the past about how working the late night shift is chill most of the time. Let’s say there are thirty days in a month.
Out of those, twenty-nine will be mellow and cool. You may get the occasional creeper from Palmer’s coming in trying to spit game on unsuspecting girls despite being piss drunk and unable to form a complete sentence, but that will be the extent of it. Then comes the thirtieth day, and all the freaks and unsavory weirdos show up in one night-in such numbers that one would suspect that they were using Facebook or Twitter to organize and network themselves.
This, my friends, was one of those nights. By the time bar close rolled around, I had already forcibly ejected three people, one of whom had a bottle of vodka unceremoniously thrown at him on the way out. Then there was the guy that passed out in the bathroom, followed shortly thereafter by one ballsy lass who was trying to pick up on yours truly while reeking of vomit. Words cannot describe what an epic shitshow the cafe was on that night and looking back on it, I find myself getting a little angry at how people get a little alcohol in them and act like complete jackasses.
But T-Dog and I did what we always do when shit goes down on the overnights-hunker down, crank death metal to the point where you can’t hear what people are talking about, and hold it down till four am, when we close for two hours and have that as our excuse to clear the deck and kick out all the rowdy fucks that are raising all kinds of hell. After that, you have two hours to clean, stock shit and get your druthers back and you’re in the clear. Six a.m. arrives and the morning regulars are some of the most laid back people you’ll ever meet, and they love hearing about all the fucked up bullshit that you had to deal with somehow on the night shift.
Anyway, on this particular morning it was getting to be around seven, which is the time where I make sure the dining room and the espresso bar are straight, take out the garbage and the recycling, and generally seal the deal on the shift. I was about to do a report on the cash drawer when I noticed a black SUV pulling up out front, followed by two others. Being that the West Bank neighborhood of Minneapolis isn’t exactly known for such high-class modes of transportation, I found this to be a little strange. However, it wasn’t as strange as the armored personnel carrier that pulled up right afterwards-or especially the guys in camo gear that jumped out with M-16 assault rifles and started establishing a perimeter out front.
I then heard the sounds of people running around on the roof and the back door of the cafe opening and shutting a couple of times. Not having a clue as to what the fuck was going on, I went back through the kitchen and opened the door out onto the back patio where we have our collective meetings. I slung open the back door, and found myself in the company of four of the aforementioned guys with rifles. And while these rifles weren’t pointed at me, the whole scene was enough to make my hands involuntarily shoot up in the air. “Fucking shit” was all I could make myself say at first, but then when it became established that I was a worker at the cafe and had no idea what was going on, I was let off the hook.
When I started asking questions as to why the hell all these guys were running around my place of business with rifles out, I got the cold shoulder and eventually gave up in favor of hopefully controlling the scene inside the cafe itself. The whole situation was a hell of a thing to leave my coworker Nathan when he showed up at 8, and while I usually pass out immediately after returning home from an overnight shift, I found myself having to drink a couple of beers just to calm myself down to the point where I was relaxed enough for sleep to come and take me away.
While this particular night at work was disconcerting in a lot of ways, I couldn’t (and still can’t) help returning to my vision of the FBI, with their SUVs and personnel carrier, pulling up in front of an otherwise unassuming building. I was to find out later that this particular action was a raid carried out upon nonviolent Colombian workers’ solidarity activists, whose apartment happens to be on the same block as the cafe is. In addition, similar police actions had taken place in Chicago, Michigan, and North Carolina. To this date, I don’t have any knowledge of any wrongdoing or “terrorist activity” as the FBI is so fond of putting it. To me, the whole episode just seems like another instance of the FBI and the police having open season to raid you and your property-at any time any any place that they see fit.
I’ve written a lot lately on how my perception of anarchism as well as any sort of progressive organizing has changed as I’ve gotten a little older. As a young punker, I was always inspired by the more reactionary facets of “anarcho” punk, as in demonstrations, black bloc actions, and property destruction. And while I think such things can be empowering in a way, they don’t amount to much when we have organizations like the FBI and CIA who have free reign to show up whenever they want, run roughshod through your home, and damage your property on a mere suspicion that you’re up to no good. After seeing the events that I just described, I can’t help but think that it’s high time that we all started working more on organizing ourselves and striving to communicate with each other more in some hope of rendering such organizations obsolete and unnecessary. As our civil liberties continue to be swept under the rug, it may soon become the only thing that we have left.