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Archive for May, 2011

You know your movement is a little too crazy when…

May 3rd, 2011 by Ashley

…even the Klan doesn’t want to be associated with you.

Earlier this month, some press releases on the KKK’s official website from summer 2010 made their way over to Reddit, from which they proceeded to hit the Facebook walls of social-medites everywhere. According to the infamous organization, they want to make sure no one associates them with the Westburo Baptist Church (these people, in case you didn’t remember), Florida Pastor Terry Jones, or the Tea Party:


John Brewster: beyond the sweaty, shaven nutsack

May 2nd, 2011 by Alex Tomchak Scott

John Brewster. Photo credit: Rockne Andrew Roll.

This story was originally published in the Commentator in the May 2, 2011, issue. I’m reposting it here because people have asked me to link to it.

When people first hear John Brewster bellowing, “Go Ducks, but LTD can lick my sweaty, shaven nutsack,” on a chilly, late-April Tuesday on the corner of East 13th Avenue and Kincaid Street, they react as might Tokyo’s citizens to civil defense klaxons if Godzilla attacked two or three times a week: The fear and confusion are still there, but they are now familiar, borne stoically by those who know what to expect. A note of nervous tension grips the street in the short moment between the first audible scream and the first sight of him. People are fully braced by the time Brewster is visible in the distance now and all eyes are upon him.

Back arched, shoulders tensed, he moves in emphatic, powerful jerking motions on the seat of his bicycle, to which he appears fused. With his glowing, pool-like eyes and wild, bushy mustache, he brings to mind a Chinese lion procession on New Years — wild and yet human, moving with equal parts pantomime and raw aggression. The look is enhanced today by the  tangled, flowing blond wig he wears.

One bystander in a magenta hoodie shouts his catchphrase back at him in front of Frog Miller’s joke book box and Brewster rises to his challenge, rearing up on the seat of his bicycle and throwing a bit of extra venom into the “nutsack,” the last syllable always emphasized with throat-splitting vibrato. As he passes along the other side of the street, a young man sitting on the deck at Taylor’s Bar and Grille bellows out to him offering a beer.

These appearances are all most people know about John Brewster. Many people with whom I’ve spoken can fill in much of the rest — homelessness, mental problems, conflicts with authority — often because they’ve taken the time to ask him. That’s just what Brewster wants out of what he’s doing: for people to take notice.

“Seems like, you know, I do it for the attention,” he says. “That’s the only way I know how to get attention.”

One person whose attention Brewster hasn’t gotten is Andy Vobora, the director of service planning, accessibility and marketing at Lane Transit District, the county bus system about which Brewster is shouting. Vobora’s job makes him essentially the public mouthpiece of the transit provider. He leaves me a phone message when I call asking his thoughts on Brewster.

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” he says. “So I don’t know if I’m going to be much help to you in your piece. You can give me a call back if you need to, but I don’t recognize that name at all.”

When I later explain to Vobora who Brewster is, he chuckles and says he doesn’t know much about the man.

“I’ve seen that guy a couple of times,” Vobora says. “Never had a chance to talk to him. He comes by LTD every now and then, shouting his opinion. … I don’t really have much of an idea what his issue is.”

Brewster says bus drivers are often amused by him, even shout along with him. I talked at one point with a driver who called him “Old Brewster,” and said the two of them had a conversation.

Brewster himself no longer seems too bitter about what happened between him and the transit provider anyway.

The story he tells of what turned him against LTD is sketchy: He says he can’t remember a time of year or whether it happened at at daytime or nighttime.

“Being brain-dead, it’s hard to remember crap like that,” he says.

What he does remember is that the incident was about 10 years ago. Brewster was living in James Park in Springfield at the time, but used to leave regularly in the direction of Eugene. Harsh winds on the Franklin Boulevard bridge that connects the two made biking the distance problematic, so Brewster would ride the EmX a couple of days a week. One day, he got into an argument with a driver.

“I was going to put my bike on one side,” he says. “They had a bike rack over there. I couldn’t put my bike on that side and I had to go across the bridge. Usually, they’d just tell me, ‘Go on the other side,’ because there weren’t nobody on the bus at all, but she just kicked me off the bus and took my bus pass, kicked me off for life.”

Brewster says he was on a lifetime disabled pass from LTD at the time. Angry at LTD for revoking it, he adapted his catchphrase from a line in the Adam Sandler song “Ode to My Car” and has been shouting it ever since.

What’s remarkable as he tells this story is how little bitterness he has toward LTD. Up close, he lacks the ferocity he seems to radiate from his bicycle. His moustache has the texture and color of steel wool, but it curls up on the sides like a housecat’s whiskers, making him seem to smile even when he’s not smiling. His eyes are still wild, but something about the way they fade from hazel near the pupils to a blue so pale it’s almost white dilutes the effect. They are housecat-like too. His skin is deeply tanned and variously, minutely wrinkled, and his chin is dusted with matted white stubble. When he’s off the bike, it’s evident how narrow his shoulders are, how paunchy his belly.

He spits his words out in gravelly, stammering chunks of New England granite — his hometown is Pittsfield, N.H. His eyes dart as he talks, and his spatulate, sodden paws move in concert with a head that strains ever forward for emphasis. His speech isn’t gentle exactly, but it’s less forceful than when he is shouting. I’ve heard him shout “Fuck you” at two young men crossing Kincaid Street in the middle of his catchphrase and “I hope you don’t give a shit” to a security guard following him around Valley River Center. One
Department of Public Safety officer tells me many in the campus security outfit have had run-ins with Brewster, who believes he is banned from campus.

Brewster says this kind of interaction is typical of his relationship with police, whom he says he has distrusted since he was in “second or third grade.” For the story of what happened then, I have only his word to go on, which may not be entirely trustworthy, but here it is.

Pittsfield is a small town — Brewster says his high school class was notably large, but still contained only 69 people. He was the son of a real estate agent and a homemaker, one of four children. “My father didn’t really do anything for us,” he says. His mother, he claims, began an affair with a police officer, who “knocked her up.”

The relationship led to his parents’ divorce. Brewster claims the police officer himself is serving two concurrent life terms for a double murder — of “a Chinaman,” with whom he was “in business,” and another police officer.

“That’s why I don’t like the authority of cops,” he says. “It’s called ‘Serve and Protect.’ I was only in second or third grade and my father said, ‘We’re going through a divorce.’ That just rips me, you know, a kid, up. And it’s all because of that damn badge. It’s called ‘Serve and Protect,’ but all they do was fuck over my mother and family.”

Brewster didn’t stay long in Pittsfield. At first when he tells me why he left, he merely says it was “adventure,” and leaves out the barfight in whose aftermath he received his first criminal charges. Then he calls me and says he’ll show me his the citation from that fight, intimating it may have had something to do with his flying west. When we meet again, though, he retreats from the suggestion.

“Everyone used to go up to Washington House — that’s the name of the bar there — everybody used to talk about who was going to get in the first fight and everything,” he says. “You know, that’s all they did back there, you know. I guess I had a fight that night. I wasn’t involved, but I was around it and I was drunk and everything, and they need somebody to pick on, and maybe somebody bounced off, crashed off me and something, I don’t know. I ended up in jail for it, and all those charges. And then, it weren’t no big deal, I just came out here, you know, and they never did follow through from it. I wasn’t really running from it.”

Brewster said his plane landed in San Francisco first, where he was taken in by “Jesus people,” who put him up and “preached to me for a couple of weeks until I couldn’t take it anymore and I hitchhiked to Eugene, Ore.”

Once in Eugene, he worked selling macrame hangers at the Saturday Market for a few years, not making much money and eventually being kicked out, he says, for using a hibachi. For the next few years, he worked “odd jobs” until 1986, when he got into the motorcycle crash that would change his life.

“I had a Harley Davidson,” he says to begin the story. “I was going 100 miles an hour and (I) went off the road. All I did was break my jaw. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks. I was paralyzed on my left side, couldn’t walk, couldn’t talk or anything. And then I woke up, but when I came to, I was in a nursing home, tied down with body restraints in my bed and my wheelchair. I was going, ‘What the hell you doing that for?’ you know? And they said
whatever the hell they said.”

Brewster says he was given a “brain pill,” which he calls “Haldof.” I ask him if it could be Haldol, a powerful drug prescribed mostly for psychosis and tourette’s syndrome, and he says it could.

“It just started tearing me up,” he says of the pill. His mother came to help and he was off the pill in a few days. While he was in the hospital, he says, he “used to terrorize” the staff to get back at them for the body restraints. He says they told him he was “too crazy.”

Brewster says he sustained brain damage. “I can only keep one thought in my mind at once,” he says. “I get two thoughts, I get confused, and then when I’m … think of something right away I got to say it because if I don’t it just goes away and I can’t remember what I was talking about. It’s really, really confusing, you know? And then, up on the hill where I’m camping out at, I’m doing something and then I’ll go do something else and then I remember, ‘Oh yeah, I was doing this.’ I forget what I was doing, go back and forth like that. And it’s really, I start work on something, I put something else down, and then when I go back to it, I can’t remember what it is and, you know, it’s just really mind-boggling at times.”

He says he’s tried to work, but he struggles to remember instructions. By the time he came out of his coma, he says he was already signed up for the federal Supplemental Security Income program, a program designed to help those with disabilities so severe they cannot work. He has been homeless off and on ever since, living off the monthly government check.

But despite being homeless, Brewster is not unhappy. His campsite is — or was, as of press time — on the side of a hill in Goshen. To get there, he takes a trail just off mile post 199 on the Northbound side of Interstate 5. About 100 feet up, he lives under a massive quilt of blue tarps draped over the branch of a tree, underneath which are his tent, his cooking fire and all manner of personal affects. Off of one gnarled branch over his sleeping tent hangs a pink and red Valentine’s Day pinata in the shape of a heart. When the weather is nice, he uses a massive stockpile of water to fill a children’s swimming pool and he rests in it. He has lived here for five years. On a clear day, one can see for miles from Brewster’s campsite, all of it  green and wild except the Eugene Mobile Village RV Park about half a mile to the north and
downhill. Predatory birds circle overhead and wild animals stumble across. Brewster says he found the site himself and all the work of clearing out the trail was his, and it has been a lot of work. He’s dug terraces into the side of one hill to rest his gear on and cut about 200 feet of trail into the woods.

“I think it’s nice living like that,” he says. “But before, when I was living in a house, stuff like that, I never thought I’d be homeless, because the homeless, I didn’t think much of them. But now that I’ve been up here five years, it would be hard to move me into a house. Now, I ain’t got a choice. Being up here, you can’t see no cars, no houses, nothing. It’s just a lot of stuff to think about, to look out and space out on. Because I don’t like getting anything done, but I look out there and I think of all the millions of things I could be doing, you know? It’s so nice just to look out here.” He points off toward a distant mountain to the northeast.

He lives in spite of a constant threat from the east. Downhill from Brewster’s campsite is “Heroin Hill,” a campsite inhabited by drug users. Brewster takes precautions not to attract their attention, avoiding fires at night, making sure his campsite is not visible from the east. Down the slope, he has fortified by tying dozens of rusty metal tripwires between trees and limbs. Against the dusty brown forest floor, they’re nearly invisible during the day, probably moreso at night. Brewster says Heroin Hill residents have attacked from that direction a couple of times at night and the trip wires have helped him fend them off. He keeps buckets of stones handy for that purpose as well.

Brewster’s campsite is not perfect. Near the tent where he sleeps — always naked, he says — there is the powerful smell of animal dung. In the winter, conditions are worse, he says. Two men camp at the top of the trail together and Brewster says he dislikes them and has asked them to leave. But he is answerable to nobody.

He can dictate his own terms. And the view is very nice. He calls his home “paradise.”

He won’t be able to stay there much longer, though. On the Tuesday when we talked, Brewster said he had until the weekend to clear his things out. Once the property owner became aware of his campsite, Springfield police came through and told him to get out.

He had, he said, until Easter weekend. He spent much of the week packing his things away, taking them to a big public storage unit in town. The deadline passed and Brewster was still in the campsite as of Apr. 26, but he was still in the process of moving his things out. He is not optimistic about life after he leaves the comforts of his home. He says he’ll probably ride around after dark, looking for dry places to lay his sleeping bag for the night, waking before dawn to avoid discovery.

“It will be hell,” he says.

It seems to be hard for Brewster to interact with people in the paved and developed regions of the world. During our first interview, carried out in Valley River Center, at least one mall security guard was never more than 100 feet away. Brewster says he has gotten more tickets and citations than he can remember or count and been arrested several times. Once he urinated on the floor at a Springfield jail out of spite.

Brewster is back out the front door of Taylor’s less than a minute after entering with the young man who offered him the drink. “I guess I got you kicked out,” he says, turning to his erstwhile benefactor. After his new friend mumbles a reply, Brewster says, with seemingly genuine surprise, “I guess he don’t like me.”

This, it seems, is the price of his constant attention-seeking. “It seems like nobody will know I’m around unless I do something weird or stupid,” he says. “They won’t notice me unless I create a scene. I guess that’s why I always create a scene or something like that.”

Brewster, sitting on a bench outside the Duck Store, trails off and there’s a brief silence in which I find myself wondering why the Taylor’s patrons never offer to buy a drink for any of the many homeless men and women lurking periodically on that block. If a homeless man doesn’t grab our attention by loudly and publicly reminding everyone of his genitalia, I wonder, does he really exist to most of us?

New Issue: LTD Nutsack Man

May 2nd, 2011 by Lyzi Diamond

The newest issue is online and it may be, if I may say so, our best yet. It features an interview with everyone’s favorite campus notable, the LTD Nutsack Man, as well as a multitude of stories regarding the recent ASUO Elections, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission and other subjects of note. You can download it here.

This issue also marks my last issue as Editor-in-Chief. It’s been an amazing, crazy ride and a whole lot of fun. It’s been my pleasure to provide you with campus news and political discussion (and dick jokes) over the last year, and you’ll still see me all up on this blog, but I’m moving on to other things (you know, like graduating). I’ll miss you all.

Keep reading. Please. Without the truth, we have nothing, and without the Commentator, we don’t have the truth.

Diamond out.

Mission accomplished?

May 1st, 2011 by Ross Coyle

“Warfare is the greatest affair of state, the basis of life and death, the Way to survial or extinction. It must be thoroughly pondered an analyzed.” -Sun Tzu

There is a hidden irony in the Art of War. Sun Tzu’s greatest teaching is that if possible, war should be avoided at all costs. It is the single greatest burden on a civilization. Few statements have stood the test of time as his work. War is the most costly effort a nation can engage in. It will ultimately destroy any nation that attempts prolonged conflict.

Now that we have killed Osama Bin Laden, can we declare victory in our war on terror?


Osama Bin Laden Dead

May 1st, 2011 by Kellie B.

Bin Laden was killed by U.S. special forces in a mansion outside of Islamabad, Pakistan, earlier today.

America, fuck yeah.