Interview with Paul Rifkin of Moonakis Cafe in Waquoit
Irreproachable but still arrestable and great food in the meantime
"I need a community," said the former self-proclaimed vagabond and drifter Paul Rifkin as we enjoyed a hot and delicious meal at his restaurant, The Moonakis Cafe, in Waquoit. Rifkin was referring to his now firm and healthy roots in Falmouth, his adopted hometown, where he and his partner in life and in business Ellen Mycock have made their home, living, and foothold in political activism for twenty years.
As we sat and enjoyed a tasty sampling of his menu, I the Eggs Benedict and Paul a potato and cheese omelet with a side of fresh fruit, I became enthralled in his journey of activism. We were nestled in a corner of his comfortable eatery, which serves breakfast and lunch daily on Route 28. During our two hour visit, many customers stopped by to share a kiss, best wishes, and a laugh - and from all political persuasions - praise for his dedication to peace. There we were, the hawkish and conservative former pol and the peacenik, thoroughly enjoying our conversation and camaraderie. What a sight. What a country.
Hipster, Monk, Peacenik, Restauranteur
From his San Francisco hippie days in the '60s to his short stint as a Buddhist monk, to his work today building a peace network one viewer at a time with his poignant and engaging videos, Paul's political activism was instilled in him virtually from birth by a father who was, according to his apple-not-far-from-the-tree son, a "political agitator" and union organizer. "I want to be able to wake people up," says the 65-year-old peace activist with his steely-blue gaze, who compared the unrest with the Iraq war similar to the lack of civility and divisiveness in the America of his youth when heroes were shot and hopes dashed. Paul's plan for peace embraces a tool unavailable to his Nixon-era counterparts - the Internet.
Rifkin, who by his own proclamation does not acclimate well to group settings, searched for an outlet for his passion for peace and social justice that would not require him to conform to the dynamics of working with people en masse. He found a video camera, then the popular video website you tube, and has since been viewed over 25,000 times. His most recent video, detailing his recent arrest in Barnstable which includes a moving reading of names of some of the fallen soldiers, is available here.
Honk if you love peace
He has been a regular at the weekly Falmouth peace vigil on Saturdays and has determined that his role in this and other organizations is to inspire others to bring an end to what he calls an illegal and immoral war and seek peace. "I am not a pacifist," he explained, "I am not in this as an intellectual. I am in it as a creative person to end the war by getting people on the street one, no, five at a time." His vehicle for getting people "on the street" of activism is his videos.
Learning is indeed a lifelong excursion only limited at times by our own self-imposed blockades. I have known Paul Rifkin casually through local politics since his involvement with saving Highfield Hall nearly 15 years ago. I always thought, due to my own closed-mindedness, that he was just another silly old liberal, playing with his video camera to share some clips at a wine and cheese party somewhere where silly old liberals meet. The man I got to know today is an inspiring gentleman of integrity and conviction, and although I do not share his views, it would be an honor and a pleasure to share a cup of coffee with him anytime.
I admire your work, Paul, and your Eggs Benedict were pretty good too!