It all started with the video. It was sent to me last Thursday via email. A YouTube link from someone calling themself Primrose Evergreen.
The email said “We made this video. We want 2 talk 2 U. If U want 2 talk w/us B sitting on the 9/11 bench @ Pier & Valley/Ardmore @ 11:15 PM. Thanksgiving. No phones. No cameras. No recording devices.“
Debra didn’t want me to go and I will admit I was tired from too much food and too much drink. I will admit that may have impaired my better judgment. I told her I was pretty sure it was just a prank and I’d be back within the hour.
So at 11:05 PM I parked my EV at Hermosa Beach City Hall, plugged it into the free charger and strolled over to the button-covered bench on the greenbelt.
At exactly at 11:15 on the nose, a Honda Odyssey minivan pulled to a stop in front of me – the side door opened and a young voice belonging to someone inside said, “Put this on, and get inside.” – a hand reached out of the backseat holding a Trader Joe’s shopping bag.
I took the bag and thought WTF – “Look,” I protested, “Let’s not be ridiculous about this. I’m not going to – ” Someone wearing a goofy Thanksgiving turkey mask leaned forward and loudly whispered “Don’t be a fucking climate chicken. Don’t you want to meet Hayduke, Doc and Bonnie?”
I put the bag over my head, got inside the van, the side door slammed shut and we were off.
“Hey, slow down!” I yelled from inside the bag and at least three different voices laughed derisively at me. “You sound like my grandfather,” one of them mocked. Somebody cranked up the music and the sound of Lorde’s forlorn voice doing the old Tears For Fears hit, “Everybody Wants To Rule the World” filled the van – and not in a good way. I got the creeps.
Then I almost got carsick with the bag on my head smelling faintly of cilantro as we did what seemed like an endless series of donuts, attempted drifts and all manner of diversion tactics I’m certain were a complete waste of time.
After what felt like 10 to 15 minutes we stopped and I was gently led out of my seat, out of the Odyssey, on a short walk and up some stairs. When the TJ’s bag was finally removed from my head the dim light revealed the packed interior of what turned out to be the inside of a storage unit – the location of which is still a mystery to me.
“You can’t write about what you see here or what we look or sound like, or anything else that might give us up,” said the girl who called herself Seldom Seen Smith.
“Happy Thanksgiving to you too,” I said.
“You’re not here for pie and ice cream,” said the boy who went by George Washington Hayduke, “We need your help and we want you to do some stuff for us.”
“You’re overrunning your headlights kid. Who is “us” and why should I be helping you?”
Hayduke turned to the other half a dozen kids there, “See, I told you this guy was another phony like our parents.”
Another girl stepped forward to cut him off, “Enough with the drama.” She turned directly to me. She was the one calling herself, Bonnie. “We brought you here because we think we can trust you,” she said. “You’re the only one we know who’s been talking about this since I was in middle school. I remember when you wrote that we might strangle our parents in their sleep when they found out what they had done to us,” she told me with a definite Breaking Bad-influenced grin.
I was thinking that things were now not breaking so good for me.
“I don’t know if you know I never had children and that I had a vasectomy when I was 22 and single,” I told them.
“Yeah we knew. What you want, a gift card to Kids Ain’t Us?”
Little snot-nosed wiseass I thought, but then he said “We’re not stupid. We did our homework. We know who you are and what you keep saying about our parents trashing our future and –”
“– and none of them are listening or doing fuck about it!” another interrupted.
“Doing less than fuck!” said Hayduke. “They won’t even let me talk about it. My dad calls me “Mr. Negativity” when I ask him what happens when I get out of college if nobody does anything. He told me to worry about what I was going to get mom for Christmas and leave the science to the scientists.”
“School?! ” bellowed Doc. “They’re not teaching us reality! They’re not teaching us how we’re supposed to pay for everything you — ” he pointed at me, “– trashed and burned and then also pay for your generation’s Social Security and Medicare… “Tell me how we’re supposed to do that and have any kind of good life?! We are so screwed.”
“You sure as hell are, “I softly agreed.
“No we’re not. You are,” a voice in the back firmly said. “Well maybe not you, personally… If you help us.”
“Help you what?” I pleaded. “I still have no idea what you’re talking about.”
The smallest and youngest girl in the room stepped out of the shadows. Rue might have been all of 13. “We’re talking about no more bullshit fairytale about our future. We’re talking about saying to hell with school and volleyball, prom and junior lifeguards and all the other stuff my mom wants me to do way more than I ever care about.”
“We read that “Do the Math” thing in Rolling Stone,” added Bonnie. “We know how to add and subtract and we’re not going down that way. Our parents are fucking retarded if they think we are — mentally retarded!”
“I think they prefer the term’ intellectually challenged’ these days.” I said.
No laughs, not even the hint of a smile. Definitely a tough storage room.
“They must think we’re retarded, taking money from Chevron and Exxon for our schools, scholarships, sponsoring environmental programs – can you believe that shit?” Seldom Seen snarled. “Do you think we ever hear the truth about what Chevron and Exxon are doing to kill the climate? Buying off politicians and everybody to make sure nothing gets done to fix things?”
“Hey, you’re not telling me anything I don’t know kid, I’ve been writing and acting on this stuff for – “
“Yeah, we know!” Hayduke yelled at me. “BFD! Get over yourself. Jesus, it’s not about your stupid blog.”
“Wait – you’re saying you actually read my blog?” I was floored.
I suddenly loved these kids and started to feel like their mentor and maybe their spirit guide. I wondered if they ever quoted me.
“I just wish you’d like it on Facebook too,” I said. “It would really help me – ”
Primrose abruptly cut me off. “We’re not on Facebook, you fool! We’re starting a freaking insurgency! We’re rebels, not your stupid fans! Stop kissing your own ass and listen to what we need. “
I can’t write about anything else that was said after that but I can say some of it was chilling, some exhilarating, but most of it was unbelievable.
These kids claim to be connected with tens of thousands of other kids all across the country. They’re using social media networks and SMS platforms I’ve never heard of to communicate, which they showed me on both tablets and smartphones.
Was it all just a scam? Was I being filmed by some reality show I was being punked on? That’s what was in the back of my mind the whole time I was there.
But what I couldn’t deny was real was how angry these kids are, how serious they are about what they intend to do, and how clear they are about who they blame.
It’s not the oil, coal and gas companies or the Koch brothers or Fox News.
It’s their parents. And their teachers. And anyone else who was supposed to be responsible for making sure that they weren’t the generation left holding the bag after their elders partied like drunken frat boys, trashed the frat house, then moved on, leaving the mess, an unpaid mortgage and a fire raging in the kitchen.
After I listened and agreed to do what they asked of me and put the damn Trader Joe’s bag back on my head, they returned me to Hermosa Beach City Hall where my Tesla-Toyota had fully charged up.
It was 2:50 AM and suddenly I was exhausted. I made it back home, calmed a worried wife, and collapsed into bed.
I spent most of Black Friday sleeping and then I wrote this account while it was all still semi-fresh in my mind and before anything else happens.
So, what does it all mean?
You’ll find out soon enough.
But in the meantime, if you’re a parent or authority figure and this all seems totally ridiculous and unimaginable to you, a word to the wise — the Cluetrain just left the station and you weren’t on board.