Rats. Almost got myself arrested today at a protest; it would have been my first time but I wasn't quite prepared: when it suddenly looked as though the 'civil disobediencers' were going to proceed to lay their bodies down, I handed my cellphone & wallet to partner Rich. Surprised, he said 'you going to do it? I just nodded & waded into the group, belatedly realizing that we were now separated & how would he find me? I didn't want the po-po to slap on the cuffs (plastic ties, actually) & know who I really was. I thought I preferred anonymity.
It never got that far.
I am a long-time activist, but the chances for civil disobedience don't come around like they used to. Plus, the older us hippies get the less our bodies want to do all that marching & sitting on the hard ground & baking in the sun. Even when the cause is just, the knees can't take as much as they used to. Hell, I don't do dance auditions anymore for the same reason, although I call it something else—lack of worthy material—but jumping & prancing? I save that for my Wii.
We decided it was time to get one in—a straight-up Action at a local refinery whose initials are 'Chevron'. We got there in the car—Zero Emission EV, natch'—to save ourselves the major part of the route & we brought our trail mix & water & tripod seat. Of course, the standard of the Left is to tell people what time something starts & then start it a couple of hours late, so we walked some & visited a garage sale. Ultimately, we hooked up at the park with singers & sign-carriers who were also awaiting the main group's arrival.
And what a march it was; lots of Native American drumming & beautiful banners; brass band & many children. It looked to be upwards of 2500 or more, including press & some local dignitaries even. Environmentally safe paint was brought out to decorate Chevron's entryway with a giant Sunflower-mandala under glorious blue skies.
In the distance, the lines at the two port-a-potties appeared pretty daunting & a woman standing next to me opined that we could go in the bushes, but that that would be illegal. I responded jocularly: 'if this was Europe, that wouldn't be an issue' and she shot back 'well, who wants to be in Europe anyway? America has all the innovations'. Stunned by this totally *non* counter-culture attitude at a protest rally no less, I said 'how 'bout health care? They got us beat there…' but no, she was not having it: 'oh, really? I wouldn't want to have cancer over there. We have all the cures & treatments here & we do all the research'. I couldn't resist: 'well funny you should mention that; it so happens that my late uncle, who was a French doctor, co-authored the definitive paper of the late '50s which defined…' but she didn't let me finish. I was going to say 'brain-death', however her opinion overrode my statement 'well if you like France, why don't you live there' and I responded 'excuse me? I'm half-American & I live here by choice, but that doesn't mean…' but she interrupted me again 'so where's your mother? In France?' I said 'no, she's here, on Social Security, & compared to French health care…' Again, interruption 'so she's using 'our' system to get free money & complaining about it?' I said 'what are you talking about?? She raised 3 children here & supported a husband who worked in the white-collar labor market here, by providing him a comfortable home at the end of the day, not to speak of ironing his frickin' white shirts'. This did not stop her in the slightest: 'well, we're the global innovators & I am sick & tired of…' but then her boyfriend said something I didn't quite catch & she answered, 'yeah, let's go over there' & I said 'O, yes!! Please do!'
Shortly thereafter, numerous men began to leave the road, climb up in the trees & shrubs, following Nature's call; women caught on pretty soon. It seemed appropriate for Chevron land.
But that's not what I want to talk about.
I've been reading Clan of the Cave Bear books for the last few months since every time I would see my mother or talk to her on the phone she would say 'Have you read Clan of the Cave Bear? And I would respond 'Uh, nope' and she would say 'O, it's wonnnnderful! I borrowed the first book from Lucia [my sister-in-law] and then got the next ones at the library'. And I would say 'Well, I'm in the middle of [fill-in-the-blank]. A week would go by and again: 'Have you read COTCB? It's marvelous!' –'No, Ma, haven't'.
Then my middle son Ryan, voluminous reader of damn-near everything on earth, de-camped from his long-time address to my basement, on his way off to Washington State, and lo & behold, seems he's reading COTCB. Seems he was between books & got the bug at the job site from his boss, my younger brother Tim, Lucia's hubby, who had been curious & gotten into it mostly to be nice. The paperback versions were being passed around amongst the oldsters; Ryan downloaded it to his beat-up, well-used Kindle. So I gave in. He copied all his COTCB files to my Kindle before he left, & so I jumped in.
Now, I am a fast reader, & I'm not shy about skipping passages; I survived Moby Dick in HS Senior English by fast-forwarding. At present I'm in the 5th of six books, & I'm not saying anything to anybody in the family except some Facebook chatter to Ryan, who laughs heartily, but this series…o, my everlovin' sweet-socks-in-a-sack it is a harsh read! Repetitive, sloppy, pedantic; in desperate need of editing by about 50%. I haven't spent this much time on some reading matter of this caliber since I spent my entire summers, in fact all my spare time as a child, going through Edgar Rice Burroughs' oeuvre, including Tarzan of the Apes, John Carter of Mars, and the whole Pellucidar adventures. I've always loved to read. The reason I bring up ERB is because my 7th grade core teacher was very encouraging & complimentary about my use of vocabulary at that stage of my education & I attribute this to ERB; not many of my fellow students were using simultaneously, or ejaculated—as in '"Mon Dieu!" ejaculated Tarzan'—in their beginner essays.
This means that when I think back to my early tendencies in reading, I fully admit to fondness for the over-wrought & over-writ. That's my father's legacy, bless his heart. His favorite books were A Thousand Years A Minute, kind of a cool time-travel story with Neanderthals & dinosaurs, and The Saga of Jarl The Neatherd. Yet, this does not mean that I continue to read these types of…youthful books, if you will. I'm kinda over that. It makes it very difficult, therefore, to share with my French mother (who in fact knew I was reading Tarzan and thought it was a waste of time) that I think COTCB is inferior dreck.
Why, then, when it came time at the protest to move over into the area reserved for those who were going to put themselves directly in front of the Chevron gates which were by this point crawling with cops, did I suddenly latch on to a white-haired retired 90 year-old nurse who was there with her grandson? Why did I turn to my partner, hand him my stuff, & then tuck in behind that old lady wearing jeans & sneakers? I certainly didn't plan it in advance as she had—although, have to say, she should have brought a sun-hat; shame on her grandson even if he did have some sunscreen in his jacket. She was a total media-magnet, it's true. Maybe I thought 'if I stick close to her, they can't club me.'
Whatever the reason, once committed, it seemed a done deal. 300 or so of us. We sat down, en masse. The chants grew loud: 'LOOK AT US ALL FLIRTY, FLIRTY! LOOK AT CHEVRON—DIRTY, DIRTY!' & so, the paddy wagons began to fill up. From our vantage point, it was going to be a very long afternoon. I think they wanted it that way, of course. A young guy on my left had taken off his shirt & looked thoroughly toasted on weed—what a flashback. After an hour or so, I helped granny take off her watch in preparation for the plastic cuffs; gave her a hand standing up in our squashed-in circumstances so she could at least stretch her legs. I looked around me & the periphery seemed a solid ring of cops, all feet apart, clubs across their bodies. 'What am I doing?' I thought 'I'm gonna get put in a wagon, my arms & shoulders all fucked up, & then I'm gonna hafta pee.' The local radio station approached granny & interviewed her, & then somebody got the bright idea 'hey, Ms. B., would you like to go to the front & get arrested *now*? We'll make a path for you'. She said 'Sure!' and waved her fists in the air to the robust sounds of cheering. I experienced a brief sense of abandonment by this person whom I had walked with & touched & smiled at in solidarity, but who had not even asked me my name.
I turned & at that precise moment saw my guy at the back of the crowd, waiting to take me home.