11 years and 11 days ago, around 11:11 a.m., the city of Seattle was held at bay for 11 hours by a lone man armed with nothing but determination and a samurai sword. His name was Tony Allison, although on that day he preferred to be called Apollo.
The morning was proceeding like any other in late 20th century Seattle: the streets were alive with the practiced hustle and bustle of Frappuccino-swilling, nouveau riche dotcommers and tourists mesmerized by the simple antics of fishmongers as the last dying strains of grunge wafted through the air. Little did they know that the bland tranquility of their orthonoiac lives was about to be slashed open by the God of Poetry and Truth, made manifest in a martial-arts-trained transient released a year previously from Western State Hospital.
According to a contemporary news report, an off-duty police officer was first alerted to a leather-jacketed and camo-pantsed man with a sword disturbing (presumably in the psychological sense) passers-by. The officer followed the man from Pike Place Market. At the corner of Second and Pike, the man took what the police report described as a "defensive stand" and refused to drop his sword. The officer called for back-up. So began the great Seattle Street Samurai Standoff of 1997.
Apollo -- for that was who he declared himself to be -- made no aggressive moves, apart from the occasional dramatic poses and cryptic pronouncements. The police, cautious of his martial prowess, chose not to provoke him. Instead they cordoned off the streets and commenced negotiations via bullhorn.
They asked him again to please put down the sword and surrender; he again refused. They offered him $50 for his sword; he ignored their bribe. They tempted him with a Big Mac; he held fast. They spoke fondly of his dead brother in hopes of changing his mind; he was unmoved. They tried reverse psychology on him, telling him Satan was preventing him from surrendering; he wasn't fooled by their lies. They shined bright lights at him; he wore shades. Growing desperate, nonleathal projectiles and pepper spray were tried; he repelled them through sheer willpower. It seemed nothing would stop lone Apollo from standing his ground on the sidewalk athwart the combined forces of the City.
The orthonoids of Seattle were not happy. Traffic was brought to a stand still and businesses were evacuated. Hundreds called 911 demanding action and offering advice on how to deal with this unexpected menace to civilization -- some suggested throwing a net over him, others shooting him with tranquilizer darts, and not-a-few using lethal force. Talk radio was apoplectic -- more so than usual. If Apollo was aware of the effect he was having on the psyche of Seattle, he showed no sign of concern. His concerns were beyond what the small minds of conformity could comprehend.
But the City would have its way. After nearly half a day unbudged from his sidewalk post, steadfast Apollo was finally brought down using a two-pronged tactic of cold water sprayed with firehoses and prolonged exposure to a large fan -- designed, after consultation with medical experts, to weaken his muscle control through hypothermia -- followed by a rush to pin his body with a 12-foot ladder and his sword arm with a pole. Even with these extreme measures he showed nigh-Rasputinesque levels of resilience: the high-pressure hoses were only able to knock him down temporarily and it took nearly three minutes to finally wrest the sword from his pinned hand.
In the end, no one was injured -- presumably since the demonic forces chose not to show themselves before Apollo's sword. Also, to the great relief of Seattleites, no Starbucks were harmed.
Assistant Police Chief Harv Ferguson had this to say after the standoff: "I've never seen anything like it in my 30 years. I don't want to make an icon out the guy, but I simply had to marvel at his ability to withstand all of that."
Although he was brought down, this was no real defeat for Apollo. He had made his lone defensive stand before all of Seattle, and Seattle, for a while at least, bowed to his will and grudgingly marveled at his iconic greatness. But what was Apollo's stand defending?
Among his pronouncements during the standoff Apollo mentioned having brothers in China and Russia. Could this have been a reference to the most memorable example of the Lone-Figure-Standing-Against-the-World archetype -- the Mercurial Tiananmen Square protester who stood down a line of Communist tanks? Or perhaps Bacchus Yeltsin astride a tank in defiance of a military coup? If only the SPD had a tank to complete Apollo's symbolism!
Tankless though his stand may have been, I believe Apollo, like his brothers before him, stood for the Individual in the face of insurmountable powers aligned against him. His stand was not just in self-defense -- that is, defense of the integrity and sovereignty of the Self against either dilution into the cloud of the Collective or subservience to the will of Another -- but defiance of social conformity, which unjustly demands that one shouldn't strike poses with a samurai sword in downtown Seattle, no matter how totally kick-ass that would be.
Even in his fall, Apollo had a defiant message for us: maybe the Individual can't win, but at least he'll go down brandishing his sword and looking cooler than the cowered tools of conformity could ever hope to look. Their jealousy shall be the Individual's ultimate victory!
Who was Tony Allison that day? Apollo, folk hero for the oppressed Individual, or just a crazy guy with a sword disrupting the mundane flow of society and scaring tourists? I choose the former. His stand has been mostly forgotten, and Tony's sword is presumably retired for good, but it may be no coincidence that this website -- my own defensive stand against the Forces of Mind Control, the Belgian Conspiracy, monorails, and tree octopus extinction -- was started later that same year.
So, for whatever inspiration he brought me, I offer this paean to Apollo, disruptor of the orthonoiac, wherever he may be.
UPDATE 2008-11-25: Video of Tony Allison's stand.
End of post.
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