Oakland, CA

Sideshow Organizers in Oakland Petition for New Status



Photo by Yuvraj Singh on Unsplash

This story is a fiction piece, and it was created from my imagination.

After last week’s sideshow in East Oakland, Bay Area fans of sideshows are petitioning local lawmakers to reconsider this pasttime.

Not everyone knows that sideshows are illegal. Sideshows, that dangerous Oakland pastime involving huge crowds enjoying late-night car stunts, vehicles with candy paint and sparkles and fireworks, loud music, fog machines, and a sense of mischievous frivolity, are in fact, bad news.

Even during COVID-19, sideshows have continued—if not increased—in Oakland. How one gets involved, we will not cover in this fictional news story.

“People are feeling so isolated, and sideshows are a complicated endeavor,” said one fictional correspondent. Though we’re pretty sure an actual person has said this at some point. “Sometimes there are even aliens and circus animals. It’s the coolest! I bring my knitting group every week.” They said, nodding sagely.

As a result of the frequency of sideshows increasing, Oakland Police has attempted to crack down on sideshows.

They’ve done this by driving up to sideshows and parking there with their lights on.

Occasionally they will shout sweet nothings into revelers’ ears through loudspeakers shaped like McDonald’s French fries. Sometimes they will yawn through their masks and eat takeout with their hands, mashing food into their masks because they’ve forgotten they’re wearing them.

Other tactics Oakland Police have (fictionally, remember) used include Tweeting about how sideshows are bad, telling people, “No, no no!” and also disguising themselves as aliens and infiltrating the sideshow.

We’ve seen weirder around here! And, for the record, sideshows are illegal and bad. We are simply reporting a fictional, local news event here in Oakland.

Police have gone so far as to arrest sideshow participants, confiscate items, and even tow some of these supremely tricked-out vehicles whose sole purpose in life is to streak tire marks all around any four-way intersection.

Now, participants are fighting back.

The Struggle to Make Sideshows Commonplace

“I think there are a few things we can remember being illegal in just the past few years that are now legal, Said one sassy and wonderful sideshow aficionado.

“So legal, in fact, that there are now billboards for those formerly illegal products,” they said. “So many billboards that I nearly vomit from marketing overwhelm on the side of the road.”

Fair. Very fair. There are, in fact, many billboards, and many marketing dollars, that have been poured into a now-booming industry.

So what if sideshows used the same tactics? Lobbying, aggressive cultural work and advocacy, and finally, funny buddy comedies?

Oakland sideshow spokesperson Darimbul Thweeten had a lot to say.

“We’re ready to make this endeavor a franchise,” he said. “If Bikram can say he invented yoga in a place where it’s hot, which he absolutely did and we respect him for it, we can definitely say we invented sideshows in a place called Oakland.”

Thweeten and peers plan to make sideshows a registered trademark, complete with startup seed funding and a great merchandise line.

“It’s about making it a lifestyle,” he said.

This lifestyle is a full-time job for anyone ready to take sideshow life seriously.

“Think about the time you spend on your car,” Thweeten said, his velvet sport coat shimmering. “Then there’s the music, the fireworks, the anti-alien insurance, the way you have to get your hair just right as you’re spinning in a circle at 50 miles per hour. It’s no small feat! Then you have to save money to take a person you’d like to date out to a nice meal.”

Too true, Thweeten. But what about the current status of sideshows? How will this upstart effort make it through the fact that, well, it’s illegal and there are no medical uses for it?

“We’ve thought about all of that,” he said. “And we’ve hired think tank consultants to help us make it through. Hey, call your local representative and say, ‘Make sideshows legal.' That should get them to pay attention.”

In these uncertain times, folks are wondering if sideshows are what we should be thinking about right now in the midst of COVID-19 and other issues. Thweeten and his community have strong words to say about this.

The Why of Sideshows

“It’s a community activity. It’s togetherness. It’s flash. It’s aliens sometimes, which we still don’t know how to emotionally process,” said Thweeten’s right hand womxn, Zandie.

“Considering how far we’ve come this past year in communicating and thriving without seeing each other all the time, we’re really proud of what we’ve done with our community,” Zandie said.

“It’s an opportunity for people to come together, do things like hold hands, and call it a night at a reasonable hour, usually around three o’clock in the morning.”

Overall, sideshows are a significant historic activity in Oakland.

“I’ve been going to sideshows since I was young,” said another group member. “I remember watching my dad spin out of control one Saturday night—it was terrifying—he did at least three full vertical flips before crashing back down, safe and sound.” They said.

Last week’s sideshow included police taking away owners’ cars and taking names and phone numbers and you name it.

Police are cracking down because people shouldn’t be gathering due to COVID-19 and also because this type of late-night gathering usually includes some level of adjacent crime, like flying through the air with the greatest of ease or stealing.

“We’re in this for the long haul,” said Thweeten. “And nobody can stop us. Literally. Have you ever seen a sideshow thwarted? It's like COVID-19.

Thweeten continued. “No, you haven’t. It’s impossible. We’re like a starfish. Cut off an arm and we’ll grow back sixteen, or however that situation works with starfish. Or was it jellyfish?

Thweeten scratched his head and looked to see if anyone else knew. “Anyway, all are welcome in our community. We don’t know when or where it is, but we’ll let you know the moment we’re ready to welcome you.”

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SF Bay Area (formerly OC) writer, mindfulness educator, and life coach. Passionate about public safety. Big fan of improv, funny lawn ornaments, and truthiness. IG: @bigsisterco | https://bigsister.co

Oakland, CA

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