Back Channels: Come on down, campers! Pitch a tent for free!

A jack-o'-lantern brightens up the Occupy Philadelphia encampment at City Hall's Dilworth Plaza.

'Good morning, Camp Dilworth. How can I help you?

"Yes, indeed, we do still have some choice campsites available, though it is getting a little snug out there. But that helps keep everyone a little bit warmer.

"Camping fee? Oh, don't be silly. This is completely subsidized by the taxpayers. And we have 24-hour security provided gratis by the Police Department. Fencing around the perimeter. It's practically a gated community, like the 1-percenters have - but please don't tell anyone I said that.

"Oh, of course the taxpayers don't mind. The leadership of the city has been negotiating benefits with campers from the start. They don't make a move without deferring to us. And on Tuesday the majority of them will be overwhelmingly reelected.

"Sure, at a recent candidate debate one of them might have hinted that there is no constitutional right to camping, but our Committee on the Legalization of Whatever We Want informs us otherwise.

"It's right there in the Ninth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. No, no. The 10th is the one those law-breaking tea partyers are always quoting. We go by the Ninth, which clearly states,

'The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.'

"Camping on public property is clearly one of those inalienable rights that cannot be denied or disparaged.

"Plenty of historical examples. Did the mayor of Valley Forge insist that George Washington pay for using the grounds that winter? Did the mayor of Gettysburg charge Gen. Meade a camping fee as he chased the rebels back across the Mason-Dixon Line? Did the French charge us when we sent our armies over there twice in the last century?

"Oh, OK, you got me. The French probably did make us pay in one form or another. But, we are an imperialistic power. We deserved it.

"Oh, no, no, the city curfew doesn't apply to us. How can a silly city ordinance trump the Ninth Amendment? Well, yes, it helps that our underwear doesn't stick out over our pants. That really drives some of the city leaders nuts, so we try to avoid that.

"Arrests? Yes, I did see that in the newspaper the other day. Frankly, I'm shocked. No, not about the arrests, just that it was reported. I was under the impression that all media people who came within 100 yeards had sworn an oath to totally kiss our butts, trip all over themselves to find meaning in any gibberish we spout, and downplay as 'fringy' anything that might reflect badly on us or give comfort to the 1-percenters. Oh, and every other article has to have that trippy '60s song lyric, 'There's something happenin' here. . . .'

"And all that great PR is really paying off. Have you seen our poll numbers? Way better than the tea party.

"But, yes, sad to say, there were a few arrests the other day in the lobby of a local communications firm.

"Well, there are various theories. I don't want to speak for anyone, because after all, we are leaderless and no one can truly speak for anyone - well, except that we do claim to speak for 99 percent of the entire global population. Got me again.

"Yes, initial reports said the sit-ins were held in solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are being repressed by police in Oakland, Calif.

"There might be something to that. But, really, have you seen those really cool enormous screens they have? And that great food court with the gi-gun-do muffins. Plus, in a couple of weeks, you know how hard it's going to be to get a seat in there once they start the holiday show?

"Sorry? Oh, right. One of my committee sisters suggests that I might've gotten off point. My apologies. Let me tell you what really happened. Some of our committees thought it important that we have cable access to keep up on events in the world. The Wi-Fi service in Center City isn't always the best.

"So we called for cable hookup, and the people over there were very nice. We asked for a day they'd install service, but when they heard the address they said they wanted to be sure that we were going to be around that long. And we said, 'Why wouldn't we be?' And they said, 'Well, I thought the city was going to spend millions redoing that plaza.' And we said, 'We haven't made a decision on that yet.'

"Anyway, they finally gave us a day. And that was fine. But then they said the tech would be out sometime between 1 and 4 in the afternoon.

"Sometime. Between. 1 and 4. In the afternoon!

"Good Gaia! We have committee meetings to attend! One-percenters to protest! 'Greed sucks' signs to paint!

"We knew they wouldn't pull that on customers with real homes. Word got around quick, and we were off. Sic semper cable guy.

"Yes, it'll be hooked up by the time you get here. With HBO. They had a special for new customers who commit for the long term.

"No rush. We'll be here for a while."

Contact Kevin Ferris

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