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We All Scream

Aaron Gach and his Tactical Ice Cream Unit help beat the heat.


Aaron Gach, artist-in-residence at Grand Arts, has just been informed of a problem with his baby, TICU. The acronym stands for Tactical Ice Cream Unit, which is the mock-military term for an ice cream truck that dispenses frosty treats and progressive propaganda from Gach's organization, the Center for Tactical Magic. The TICU is the star of the gallery's September opening, and today it's getting painted. Unfortunately, it's getting painted with the keys locked inside.

Gach, a diminutive 31-year-old with a mischievous smile, is unfazed by this news. "The whole unit is very McGyver-able," he says with confidence. "I don't think this is much of a setback."

Turns out he's right. Someone retrieves the keys by scrambling in through the sunroof, which is waiting to be sealed off with a submarinelike plastic bubble. The truck has cameras outside and video monitors inside, so passengers have a 360-degree view. A directional microphone allows for pinpoint-accurate eavesdropping; the front of the vehicle has barricade-busting bars.

Gach wants community organizations to realize the truck's potential and borrow it for their own missions. Citizens could use it as a roving police monitor, following cruisers and documenting their actions to make sure the cops respect people's civil rights. Rappers can borrow the truck's PA system and rock a crowd with music or speeches. Activists can park it at rallies and protests, turning it into a canteen providing water, literature, film for cameras, or filters for gas masks. They can drive out to investigate potential industrial-waste dumping sites, or use it as a mobile kitchen and hand out free food.

The TICU is hauling around hopes for a more participatory populace, a fairer allocation of wealth, a less authoritarian government. But let's not forget its real mass appeal: the ice cream.

Jose Valdez, who owns the Tropicana ice cream shop on Southwest Boulevard, invented two new popsicle flavors just for the TICU. One is a red-white-and-blue pop called Da Bomb; the Mexican flag version is called La Bamba. There's also Black Magic (chocolate-chili), White Magic (honey-vanilla) and eight other flavors. Most of the time, the ice cream's free.

The truck is no joke, although it's covered with them. Its logo is a power-to-the-people fist clenching an ice cream cone, topped with a lit cherry bomb, over a yellow-star background. The rest is emblazoned with clever slogans. The stop sign, warning motorists that children may be present, folds out and reads "Chill."

Of course it jingles, and these speakers are bangin'. "Pop Goes the Weasel" suddenly explodes with drum and bass (courtesy of DJ Cloak and Dagger, Gach's friend from San Diego) then breaks into a sample from Snoop's "Drop It Like It's Hot," when Pharrell Williams says, I'm a nice dude/With some nice dreams/See these ice cubes?/See these ice creams? On the next track, "Ice Ice Baby" gradually takes shape around a grimy electronica background.

Gach will ride around town in the TICU until the close of the show. In October he's taking it on the road, starting in Chicago.

"I don't foresee an end to this tour," Gach says. "We'll tour until people see its operational potential, and we have enough support to work on the fleet."


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