08/10/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Brownies for Tehran

Some white-haired seniors I know were Vietnam activists back when they had real teeth. They moved to Canada from Chicago after the summer of 1968. I was 15. When we met, they showed me how to make and eat brownies.

Here's what they remember about tear gas and demonstrations:

  • CS Gas, chlorobenzylidene malononitrile, is the most common tear gas. It stings like a bastard but only lasts 20 minutes or so.
  • CN Gas, chloroacetophenone, is also sold as Mace
  • Pepper Spray is capsaicin extract from chili peppers suspended in corn oil. It can remove bare skin and burns for hours.

When you participate in a demonstration in a major city against a hostile administration, make sure you have a group of like-minded friends with you. Go over a map of the route and the area with your friends before you get to the demo. Identify several safe exit points, and agree among yourselves on some rendezvous sites in case you get separated.

Being alone during or after a police action makes you very vulnerable. You should dress comfortably with plenty of coverage over your skin. If it's not too hot wear a brightly colored outer layer and darker inner layer. If you are suddenly targeted run into the deepest part of the crowd then drop the colored jacket or shirt, before making an abrupt turn.

A bandana soaked in water or vinegar is a good first barrier against gas and will also hide your face from video cameras. Of course, if there are police and tear gas you will be videotaped.

If you anticipate gas, swimming goggles provide a good seal around the eyes, and are very portable. But you need to block the holes of the mask that prevent fogging during use as ordinary swimwear. You can do this with silicon or contact cement.

Other good things to take with you are:
  • water to drink, but also to irrigate eyes and wounds, the best way to treat CS exposure. It's also good for cooling off
  • vinyl or latex gloves for use as a protection against pepper spray, nasty stuff that really burns
  • your friends' contact numbers and -these days- a video cellphone
  • Band-aids, and antiseptic
  • 3 small bottles of canola oil, alcohol, and a solution of liquid maalox or antacid and water (1:1 ratio) in a spray bottle, lots of gauze or sponges. Store all this in several sealable plastic bags. Ziplocs are great. This will clean you and your friends off, and limit the duration of pepper spray. Baby shampoo also works very well.
  • tampons for nose bleeds which can really slow you down
  • a clean shirt wrapped in plastic for a quick change if you get heavily gassed. Anything touched by heavy CS is really toxic. (It's chlorine).
  • snacks. Something special and high energy.*
  • candy good for raising blood sugar to get a burst of energy or to overcome shock
  • aspirin, ibuprofen, paracetamol, tylenol (whatever you have)
  • money. You may need to take a cab or duck into a restaurant or do some other commercial activity
  • a tattoo perhaps?- that gets you off the street quickly.

Keep all this stuff in a thick backpack that is light enough to run with. Keep the backpack straps tight so it rides high on your back because this is the most likely place for you to get hit by a police baton while you're running. Once you are hit, change directions and start sprinting away from the action. The police will tend to cluster together and -- usually -- will only chase you so far.

If things get bad remember history and much of the world is already with you. Stay alive and live long enough to watch your children enjoy the liberty you earn today. Keep your spirits up, and remember what my friends say 'Liberty is much like brownies because -after the first bite- you develop a real taste for it.'

God bless.

*Brownies are small, individual chewy, chocolate cakes that were very popular with the student activists of my youth. The following recipe is taken from the Internet. I reproduce it here for your convenience.

The Ultimate Brownie is my absolute favorite brownie. It is tall like a cakey-brownie, but is dense like a fudgy-brownie. I'm sure it will be one of your favorite brownie recipes too. Prep Time: 20 minutes Cook Time: 40 minutes Ingredients:
  • 8- 1 ounce squares of unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 cup butter
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2-1/2 cups chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13 pan.
Melt chocolate and butter in a saucepan over low heat; set aside. In a mixer, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla at high speed for 10 minutes**. Blend in chocolate mixture, flour and salt until just mixed. Stir in the nuts. Pour into prepared pan.
Bake for 35-40 minutes. (Don't overbake.) Cool and frost if desired, but that is not necessary.