Saturday... February 2, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 144
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News
New York City--There's a "Mud Truck" here in the
Big Apple that pushes not only caffeine, but peaceful patriotism
in the faces of citizens of the East Village.
The "Mud Truck" is a four-wheeled coffee shop, replete
with the finest blends one can imagine. It parks in the
morning at one of the city's busiest subway stations, the 6-train
where people pour in and out hurry to and from work.
orange and shaped like an armored car, the boxy cafe latte machine
hunkers between two giant competitors--the Starbucks at Astor
Place, and only a block across the street, another Starbucks
on Third Avenue. Standing at one Starbucks, Johnny
Weissmuller could throw a javelin to the other Starbucks, using
the Mud Truck as the half-way mark to the goal.
Competition is fierce for coffee in New York City.
You can tell the caliber of a street person by the cup he or
she uses to jiggle at you for change--if they hold a Starbucks,
they are on the upper crust of panhandling. If the have
a small, unmarked cup, they're on the final skids. And,
if they have a Mud Truck cup--well, they're good local guys,
in support of the ebb and flow of the East Village.
Astor Place is like a hub of liberalism. It is the
epicenter of a class between the old East Village and Yuppie
East Village. Where the Mud Truck parks, conservatives
and liberals pour into and out of the subways.
On one corner Greenpeace advocates challenge you to sign their
petition, and across the street a mad poet cries loudly for
everyone to gather guns and stave off the police when they try
and take away our freedoms. It is a potpourri of
emotional, cultural and political viewpoints--a thriving chunk
of history with a coffee flavor for everyone's taste, regardless
of race, color, creed or whether one stands on the right of
the American Flag or the left of it.
why I was enthralled to see the American flag attached to the
side of the Mud Truck. It wasn't the contemporary
flag, but instead a replica of our original Memorial Flag, the
one with thirteen stars, representing the first States of the
got it at Martha's Vineyard," Nina, who woman's the Mud
Truck in the morning said above the din of buses pulling past,
taxis bleating horns, the rush of subway noises funneling out
of the catacombs below. She was busy making coffee
for customers who lined up waiting to receive what Nina calls
"the freshest cup of coffee you'll ever drink."
I shot a series
of pictures of the flag and truck as a symbol of how someone
in today's climate of Terrorism can cast aside their polarity
and still represent a patriotic yet peaceful point of view.
Personally, I'm a
red-necked conservative Republican at heart. I grew
up in the tough-minded Northwest, in Oregon. A "rugged
individualist" state, where there was America first and
everything second. As an adult, I lived
in the conservative citadel of Orange County, California, so
my background is red, white, and blue. I was
also in the U.S. Marine Corps where the highest honor was to
die for your country--after killing lots of those who threatened
its symbol of Freedom. Some might say I was
brainwashed. The point is, I'd rather see the American
Flag used to state one's position on peace with the way the
Mud Truck Flag was presented, than see it being burned or abused.
I thought it quaint
that the flag was hung on the side of the truck with clothespins.
It gave it character. As I moved in close,
I noted the center of the flag had a peace symbol sewn
in using stars. I shouted a question to Nina as
she brewed up coffee: "Who did the stars?"
Nina replied. "I sewed them on."
I wanted to get into
a deep discussion with Nina about her viewpoint on the war,
and how peace and Terrorism worked. In New York
City, I've altered many of my former narrow and rigid views,
and become far more accepting and tolerant of other people's
right to their opinions and ability to express them.
But the noise along the street and the constant flow of people
seeking a cup of coffee or one of the magical brews of "mud"
prohibited such a conversation.
Plus, it was apparent that
the facts were flying in my face. The story was
told by the presence of an original American flag with a peace
symbol sewn in the middle.
It meant that Nina and
the Mud Truck were Patriots of Peace.
Patriots of Peace are simply
those people who want Freedom without Violence.
Martin Luther King was one example. Most mothers
of young boys are Patriots of Peace. They don't
want their siblings to go to war and be killed.
Back when I was more narrow minded,
I might have thought of the Mud Truck crew as being "commie
pinkos," assaulting the purity of the flag by desecrating
it with a peace symbol. But as time has passed and my
vision broadened, I thought it even more appropriate the flag
be adorned with a peace symbol. It represented
the real goal of America--to be free from Terrorism, and since
Terrorism's opposite is Serenity, and Serenity ultimate means
Peace, it seemed absolutely on target, to the point.
A Patriot of Peace also had to have courage, conviction and
take action. Someone willing to appoint the flag
with a peace symbol would certainly run the risk of alienating
"flag purists." In business, that's not
good. But, as I studied the flag and pondered its
message, I realized that the young, energetic people cranking
out coffee from the Mud Truck respect America's foundations.
They may disagree with its policies, but not its principles
of Freedom and the right to be able to follow one's dreams and
beliefs without repression. That's what Freedom really
means, at least to me--the Freedom to express one's viewpoints
in a peaceful, mature way.
At the same time they advocate
America's foundations, they seek peace. The two
are not exclusive. They can co-exist in the same
breath. Peace and Freedom are mates.
I thought about how I might
explain the flag to my five-year-old grandson. I
could tell him that the people who presented the flag were peace
advocates, or I could call them "left-wing liberals."
Or, I could launch into a big hurrah about how the American
Flag should never be altered, never be touched because it was
Ultimately, I could
tell him that the flag belongs to each American. That we are
franchisees of Freedom. We own 1/300 millionth right to
the flag. It is each citizen's flag, to do with
what he or she decides. One can burn it, desecrate
it, honor it, evolve it, redesign it, or, the worst of all,
one can ignore it. I would tell my grandson the greatest
crime was to refute the flag, to ignore it, to turn one's back
on it--for despite its good and bad--it was still the mother
and father of our Freedom, the symbol of our right to be Free
Thinkers, to enjoy Free Speech and Free Expression.
And we were its children, charged with protecting its rights
for our children, and their children. And, if we didn't
like what it stood for, we could change things.
would tell him the Mud Truck people were Patriots of Peace.
In their way, they fly the flag as proudly as Ronald Reagan
might, but with one caveat. They emboss it with the symbol
of peace. They added the exclamation point to the
red, white, and blue that it doesn't just stand for power and
might, but also compassion and caring and consideration for
others' rights. After snapping my pictures I stood for
a moment and processed my thoughts.
Then, being a good
American who prefers Peace over War, I bought a cup of coffee
from the Mud Truck.
"It's the freshest
cup of coffee you'll ever drink," Nina said as she proudly
And, it was. I not
only got a fresh cup of coffee, but also a fresh and crisp viewpoint
of how to express Patriotism.
To Daily Diary, February 1 - Expecting The Unexpected