When he was a kid, Dan Kaufman had a vision: A sound system on a tricycle. It seemed like a silly notion, but it had a powerful effect on him. He had no idea if such a thing was possible, but – what a dream it was.
Dan grew up – well, sorta – and abandoned his impossible dream in favor of being a responsible family man. Then, a few years back, he went to the Burning Man festival in the Nevada desert. There he met a man who had put a sound system on a trike.
Dan came home to Portland with renewed faith in his vision. He excitedly told his wife about the guy with the trike, and she understood how important it was to him. As luck would have it, soon thereafter she found a brand-new trike on sale for an improbably low price. They snapped it up and Dan made sure it was well-assembled. He already had a big-ass amplifier, which he put in the giant trike basket. He got a power supply, fashioned a converter, and the Disco Trike was born.
It might have been just another example of Portland’s renowned weirdness, this dude riding around town blaring out his eclectic playlist, but then Occupy Portland came to town.
Dan was (and is) an ardent Occupier. He marched in the Occupy demonstrations, providing a sound track for his compatriots. He joined the BikeSwarm, an army of two-wheeled (and one three-wheeled) Occupy supporters.I learned all about Dan’s tricycle dream on Dec. 12, when the Bikeswarm rode out in support of “Occupy the Port” day. A beautiful memory from that day is rolling down a scenic hill overlooking the Willamette River at sunset, standing on the pedals so I could dance along with tunes from the Disco Trike. Dan’s playlist that day acknowledged the holiday season with a medley of merry Christmas tunes, most of which none of us had ever heard before. People along our route came out to the sidewalk and danced to the music with us.
At another Occupy action, Dan played “Keep On Rockin’ in the Free World” and other hard-driving tunes as we marched to re-occupy another public park. Right around sundown he announced to the Bikeswarm that he was “gonna go home and feed the kids, but I’ll be back.” He swerved off toward home and, a block away from the demonstration, switched to more festive holiday music. He rode through downtown among Christmas shoppers who turned, smiled, and waved. Dan waved back and wished them a Merry Christmas. He was, for them in that moment, just another example of Portland’s renowned weirdness.
I will attest to this: When Dan arrives on the Disco Trike, that’s when the party starts.
Maybe that’s why Portland Police confiscated the Disco Trike on Jan. 25.
It was such a benign thing, an Occupy Portland support march on the first anniversary of the demonstration at Tahrir Square in Cairo, which kick-started the whole Arab Spring. A lot of us credit the Egyptians with lighting a spark in the hearts of people all over the world, and we are grateful.
The Portland demonstration started all hopeful and joyful. There was food, there were impromptu speeches and greetings to Egypt on the Livestream feed. I heard police telling people, “Make sure nobody blocks the sidewalks,” to which someone replied, “These people don’t like to take orders, man.”
More people showed up, and they decided to march to the former site of Occupy Portland, which was rather rudely evicted Nov. 19. Dan, of course, was there.
He wasn’t even playing music. He was just there. And there, right there, in front of God and YouTube, they “confiscated” the Disco Trike.
The Portland Police Department Handy Lexicon has a new entry. “Confiscate = (v.) to steal.”The excuse – oops, I mean the charge – is unlawful use of sound equipment. Which gives them every right in the world to take Dan’s beloved property. Seems to me that writing out a ticket would have been sufficient to make their point. But perhaps they should have waited until he was actually using sound equipment unlawfully. Check out that YouTube video and observe the distinct absence of loud music during the confiscation.
Portland Police are holding the trike as “evidence” until his trial, scheduled for Feb. 13. Seems harsh. Says Dan, “You’d think they could have just written me a ticket and not ripped my camera out my hands (losing a $170 battery in the process) and handcuffing me. You’d think.”
This whole story probably seems pretty silly and trivial to some, but this incident helps paint the picture that’s developing, of a crackdown on anything that gives the Occupy forces hope and inspiration. The diehard Occupy Portland family is well aware of how much the Disco Trike added to our solidarity and spirit of fun. People started wearing “Free the disco trike” buttons right away.
Yeah, it’s silly. But it’s not funny. We are not laughing.
Dan will, of course, fight the charges and fight to get his trike back. In the meantime, he produces a live video webcast with Portland BikeSwarm (crankmychain.tv), and #Bikecheck, a talk show that airs Monday-Thursday, 9-10 Pacific Time.
He misses his trike. A lot of us do. Stop laughing. It’s not funny.
Join the fight to liberate the Disco Trike on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FreeDiscoTrike
BREAKING NEWS! Even as this article was being posted, Portland Mayor Sam Adams announced that the Disco Trike was to be liberated. Portland remains weird! Bikes will swarm in celebration, no doubt.