The Legend of Giant the Jack-Killer

by Whatsblem the Pro

Chicken John Rinaldi -- PHOTO: Chris Stewart

Chicken John Rinaldi — PHOTO: Chris Stewart

People talk a lot about translating their Burning Man experiences to their lives outside Black Rock City, but given the breathtaking diversity of what people take away from Burning Man, that can mean a lot of things; some interpretations are fairly accurate reflections of a large percentage of burner viewpoints; some seem way over the top or even downright silly, like when people get the notion that burners should never, ever sell anything to each other, ever, for any reason. Burner diversity means that if we want to get at our commonalities, we have to take a broad view of things.

Not much is universally applicable to burners; we might get close, though, by saying that burners tend to do the things they do in an active/aggressive manner rather than a passive one. Feeling small and alone and powerless is for other people; we know we are giants, and we behave accordingly, for better or worse.

Civic pride is one of the more obvious manifestations of that oh-so-zesty active/aggressive attitude toward daily life that year-round burners have in common, and last Wednesday night a sleepy little coastal hamlet called San Francisco, California got a lovely example of it, albeit from a man who would surely curl his lip at me if I called him a burner.

John Rinaldi never needed Burning Man to unlock his creativity or his dynamic nature; he is more of an originator of burner culture than any kind of convert. His own civic pride seems to know no bounds; he even ran for mayor of San Francisco once upon a time, and unleashed a zombie flash mob on the debate proceedings as part of his campaign.

When Chicken John heard that corporate chain Jack Spade was moving into his neighborhood, displacing local small businesses and threatening to further infect his demesnes with that dreadful sameness one sees in strip malls all over the country (and the world), he didn’t sit and cry about it, and he didn’t start making plans to move elsewhere. . . he got off his ass and did something about it.

Long story short: Jack Spade will not be opening a store in John Rinaldi’s neighborhood.

How did one man manage to stand off a billion-dollar corporation bent on invading the Mission District? By his own admission, he didn’t, not really, not all by himself. . . but he did rally a tremendous amount of support, and managed to put some formidable pressure on Jack Spade. I’ll let John speak for himself on all that:

The representative from Jack Spade that was at the hearing on Wednesday night was standing around afterwards chatting. Someone handed her this flyer:

And she said: “Yeah. I think we are going to pull out.” With no irony, she said “pull out.” The comedy here is amazing.

Yesterday morning, the CEO from the parent company that owns Jack Spade wrote a letter saying they surrender. We won the hearing, and thus we were in a power position to annoy the shit out of them for six months or more. Meanwhile, that $12,000 a month rent is really starting to add up. . . all the calls and letters and e-mail were probably clogging up their days as well. In the end, we’ll never know if it was this flyer that pushed them over the top. . . but I’m going to say it was because it’s funny.

Tonight our activism is a victory lap, but don’t think for a second that we are done fighting chain stores. There are two pieces of legislation that the Board of Supervisors will be voting on November 25th. There is legislation to be re-worded. . . and there are safeguards that need to be put in place to protect us from carpetbagging interlopers.

So even though we won, and Jack Spade is not opening in the Mission, the Jack Off is ON!!!! Come. Or cum. Or whatever. And know that anything is possible. You can bend the will of a billion dollar company by threatening them with a circle jerk everyone knows you can’t deliver on. If that is true, and we have proven that today, what else is true that we thought impossible?

Forty-eight people in sailor suits forever changed the direction of the Mission district by altering the path of a chain store worth over a billion dollars.

All you ever really need to do anything is a plan. No matter how stupid, insipid or impossible that plan might be. Now, this action wasn’t really the reason why Jack Spade “pulled out.” It was many little things, a few big things and this action came at the right time as the straw that broke the camel’s back. There was all the letters you guys wrote. There was the bombing of their Facebook page. There was the phone calls. There was the comments section of the articles. The bad press. There was the VCMA doing the appeals of their building permits. There was the members of the Latino Community that spoke out at the hearing, and Calle Biente Quatro. There was the letters from Supervisors, assemblymen and legislators. There was the people who showed up to City Hall and spoke. There were the merchants who put “no Jack Spade” signs in their windows. There was the t-shirt company that made shirts for free: Ape Do Good. Arin Fishkin graphic design. The Make Out Room for letting us have a benefit there (that paid for the appeal filings). There was the plea to action for the Mission Merchants Association (a cabal of landlords) that got the conversation going. And a bunch of other stuff I’m forgetting and even some stuff I probably don’t even know about.

The point is that we committed. We committed to do whatever it took to get it done. This is paramount. We stuck together and stuck it out.

What can you commit to that will make things better, in your home, your neighborhood, your city, your country, your world?

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