Somewhere Near The Rally

Rita’s Eyebrows is an odd little shop on Fulton street. It’s tiny and shaped like a crescent moon. The sign out front is hand drawn with one of those line renderings of a face with almonds for eyes and an upside down question mark for a nose. Rita is Indian and uses the threading method for shaping eyebrows which I’m into. She’s not as good as Rozina on Venice Blvd in LA, but she’s close. The only other employee I’ve seen there is a dark-skinned woman who does braids. I’ve never heard her speak. Maybe because Rita does enough talking for everyone. I was in there last week and walked in on a political discussion which surprised me. I never heard a lot of politics going on at Rita’s before. Rita and the customer who’s eyebrows she was finishing up were talking about America’s impending war and the fate of the world. Rita was convinced Armageddon was here. The other lady wasn’t so convinced. “Millions of people in the world are suffering, and have been for a long time. America can’t be separate from that. We all live in the same world.” she said. She was making a lot of sense, and I silently nodded a little. My eyes were tearing from the cold outside and water had streaked my face so I was trying to clean myself up.

At the rally yesterday, I also heard snippets from a lot of average people saying smart and considered things about our position in the world. I should amend “at the rally” with “somewhere near the rally” because after a lot hurried and shivered walking I made it only to 51st and 2st Ave where cops had blocked off every street west of 3rd avenue from 71st to 30th. Even though I couldn’t get to where the action was I did get to wander around and freeze my ass off with thousands of would-be protesters an avenue away from the action. The 4 train I took there crawled at a snails pace uptown and I finally abandoned ship at 33rd street figuring I could take the bus, or at least walk faster than my current pace. Outside I headed east where the crowd, even at Lex and 34th was mostly protesters. As we got closer to the action I saw a guy getting the inside of his poster inspected by four police offers. The poster read “KNOW YOUR RIGHTS”. The irony wasn’t lost on passerbys many of whom snickered, several took pictures.

Second Avenue was closed to cars by 45th street and there was an eerie silence in the air even though pedestrians filled both sidewalks. Helicopters loomed overhead. On several storefront were preventative “No Bathroom” signs. Police barricades blocked the streets running east toward the official protest site. People were arguing with every available officer. I must say, it was a bad feeling to be denied access to the rally. I heard “This just isn’t right” from every direction. When I spoke to one of the cops he said they were there to “isolate and contain” the crowd. “Why does a legal protest have to be isolated and contained?” I asked. He turned away to the next person. Another cop I talked to said it was so emergency vehicles could get in. The papers today said the police were unprepared for the massive crowds. Why that meant throwing up barricades on every block is beyond me. Another officer said they were protecting the residents of those upper east side streets, but it seemed to me and lots of others, that the residents of this whole city wanted their voices heard. And no doubt many upper east-siders were among them. In any case, they should have gotten their stories straight.

I wandered up and down my patch of 2nd avenue hoping to find a way in, or just see what happened anyway. A girl in a silver get up and Martian makeup gave an interview to a TV crew about George Orwell’s 1984. A bike whizzed by with a sign, “bikes not bombs”. Ominous black SUVs with tinted windows were parked along the avenue. I overheard a fireman say to an older couple, “If I open my mouth I’ll get fired.” At one point something like an organized throng came down the avenue chanting for peace now. A clash with police ensued. After a few minutes people dispersed.

After about 3 hours I realized that I had lost feeling in both hands and both thighs and I set off for a train. The 51st and Lex train station was closed. That pissed me off more. The whole day was giving me this suspicion that the protesters were being punished. No trains, no bathrooms, no access. If I could have blamed city officials for the weather I would’ve. I stood in the vestibule of Starbucks to warm up for a minute. Finally on 5th I found an open train, which I took to Queens to get some other errands done. In general I was pleased with the crowd I encountered. There were the obligatory hippie college kids and legalize-pot folks, but there were a lot more average people of all ages from all backgrounds, and I found them a welcome antidote to the warmongering on TV and radio 24/7. I know I don’t hang around a lot of right wingers, but if support for this war was even 50% like some of the lowest estimates on TV, I feel like I might run into someone somewhere that would defend it. But I haven’t. Where is this 50%? Maybe the population of Crawford, TX is larger than I thought.

Strategies for Agoraphobia

It’s 5 PM, and like the light at the end of a very dark, cold, windy, and damp tunnel, the unset sun reminds me that a warmer spring might still be on it’s way. Mind you I’m having to look far past the grey and bleak sky, below freezing temps, and impending violence. February has been and continues to be the suckiest month of the year. It’s a gift that it is only 28 days long (usually) so at least goes by a bit quicker, even if it doesn’t feel that way. I’m having trouble motivating my way out my front door these days, as several of my exasperated friends can attest to. In light of this I thought I’d sniff around and find at least ten reasons to leave the house. And yes, I am doing this more for me than you. In no particular order…

1. Saturday Feb 15 : The World Says No to War rally. Ever since Dori and I got arrested at an RTS march 3 years ago (or was it 4?) I don’t go for political protests and rallies. And I especially don’t go for them in the winter. It’s just that things are looking pretty dire right now. And so far sitting with my head in my hands and moaning hasn’t helped.

2. The Pianist is one of the only winter movies I haven’t seen yet, and typically the one I’ve been most wanting to see out of all of them. And maybe it’ll stop my pussy whining about the weather.

3. Two double features this weekend at Symphony Space City of Hope & Lone Star (love John Sayles) and Nenette et Boni & Trouble Every Day (love Claire Denis).

4. At BAM, Best of the African Diaspora Film Festival. I’m especially wanting to see the Marvin Gaye documentary. And yes that’s a lotta movies but it’s no weather for a picnic, ok.

5. The Metropolitan Museum of Art – Leonardo da Vinci, Master Draftsman. I’m certain I won’t motivate for this, but I should so I might as well feel bad about it.

6. David Hammons: Concerto in Black and Blue which I’ve now planned on on going to, address in pocket, and ended up not making, three times now.

7. Old Navy is having a ridiculous getting-rid-of-everything-winter sale. Fleece hoodies for six bucks. and if you are either tiny or enormous your chances of scoring sweet deals increase by 10.

Ok – I can’t think of 10, and even that Old Navy thing was kind of a stretch I know. But there are 2 double features and a whole film festival so that could really count as several reasons. If you’ve got suggestions lemme at ‘em. My bar tolerance is low these days, as is talking to strangers or marginal acquaintances. But spring, it will happen.