Yo, yo, all dem what's got da shiznit in da chifferobe. Ugh, sorry about that. I think I was trying to be ironic, but it was most likely just stupid. Happens a lot.
So how to begin? First, a preamble:
I am aware (painfully so in some cases), that many of those receiving this letter do not share my political ideologies. That's cool, because it keeps me on my toes. I'm just letting you know that the following letter is not a manifesto or backward-masked Satanic incantation of any kind. It's just some shit I saw.
After much hemming & hawing, Wifely & I decided to attend the big anti-war march on the White House last Saturday. The reasons were myriad, but I would be a bit of a Fibber McGee if I didn't admit the primary attraction: I love to hear people insult George W. Bush. I love it, I love it, I love it, tie me to a warthog and call me Susan if it ain't so.
I find the man odious in the way only a fellow Texan can: He's giving my home state and its natives (that would be me) a bad, bad name. He is the perfect embodiment of the Dumb Texan Who Thinks He's Smart. Just watch him. He'll stand up there and blather incoherently about "newkular" weapons, and you can tell from his smug little face that he thinks he's talking perfect sense. He's like my old English teacher who told us the spelling word was "Propellant. Like insect propellant." UUUUURRRRRRGGGGGGHHH, godDAMMIT that shit kills my soul. My SOUL, dammit.
So it's plain to see that we had no choice but to go. The shitty part was that Bush wasn't even gonna be in town that day, but I suspect he would've planned an absence around any protest, regardless of when it was held. No matter, we figured, we'll yell at his stinkin' window boxes. "And you, geranium, shut your fascist yap!"
Online, we found a cheap bus that the organizers had chartered, & so I went to their Manhattan office to buy tickets. It was right outta Forrest Gump, man, all makeshift desks, posters, lesbians, army fatigues (why always with the army fatigues?), and eight kazillion flyers laying about the place. Lesbian Eight Of Twelve sold me the tickets, & I was told to be in Brooklyn's Grand Army Plaza at 5:30 AM Saturday morning. Ouchie. Activism hurts, yo.
Well, Saturday came & we got up on time (freaky, man), but forgot that on weekends, the subway system becomes...that's right, SATAN'S BOOTY TOY. We sat at the Atlantic Avenue station a goodly while as entire flotillas of those damn yellow construction trains groaned interminably through where our coveted 2 Train was supposed to pick us up. I swear, I never see those construction trains do anything but rumble ponderously through stations full of waiting passengers. They look like fucking G.I. Joe assault barges, bristling with all these armatures and jumpsuited men. But I think the fuckers just tool around in the tunnels all night yelling, "Yo, Joe!" and blasting invisible Cobra command posts.
Fortunately, all the other protesters had also worn their ass for a toboggan that morning, so we all showed up at 5:50 and tried to cram ourselves through the bus doors together. In all, there were 9 or 10 buses from Brooklyn alone, plus a bigass armada leaving from various points in Manhattan and the other boroughs.
To be honest, I was intensely curious about which route the bus would take. It's been forever (ca. 1996) since I actually drove in New York, and even then I didn't know what road I was on half the time. Our driver's preferred route seemed to be over the Manhattan Bridge, through Chinatown, and then through the Holland Tunnel into New Jersey.
I always seem to catch New Jersey in the dark, so I'm not even sure what it looks like. My impression thus far is of a Lite Brite with only the ugly yellow pegs left. And the tollbooths. Rather than ranting on that rich subject, I simply refer you to George Carlin's superb album, What Am I Doing In New Jersey?: "You can't back outta your DRIVEWAY in New Jersey without some schmuck-in-a-hat wants fifty cents."
We did reach the southern end of the Garden State around sunrise, and it was actually quite lovely. Gardeny, even. And by that time, the Bus Driver Wars were over. You know the scene: Thirty or so people on the same vehicle, each with their own temperature and light threshold. And this is a bus full of protesters, so don't think for a minute that they're not gonna speak their minds. In the end, it was decided that the lights would be off, and the A/C would come on every ten minutes or so, then cut off once the driver's pinky nail turned purple. No solution was offered for the oppressive urine stench, however, because it's a goddamn bus.
And we did all prevail in getting Teddy Pendergrass off the sound system. If I've learned anything from Al Gore, it's that righteous indignation and smoove lovin' really belong in two separate lockboxes.
At last we reached the Gates of Democracy, the Treehouse of Freedom, and now the Fortress of Strategery, Washington, DC. This is my third visit, and what I always forget is how ordinary Washington looks everywhere outside of the Mall area. Modest, even. It's sort of an unassuming place to find the center of world power. You'd expect it in the middle of Manhattan, but this is kind of like wandering through Fort Worth and suddenly finding an Egyptian pyramid. "Wait, was that always there?"
The area we were dropped at was definitely Washingtonian, though. Right in between the Washington Monument and the Vietnam Veterans' Memorial sits Constitution Gardens, or Muddy McSwampyswamp, as it was known on Saturday. The sun was out by that time, but there'd been rain all morning. As we approached the stage area, I envisioned Woodstock II mudfights or Red Hot Chili Pepper-induced mosh pits, but I must say that this was the most docile group of over 200,000 people I've ever seen. The age & demographic span was tremendous: students to grandparents, soccer moms to mohawks, & every skin color imaginable.
We arrived during one of their low-level speakers, who was promoting some amalgam of socialized medicine and gun control. That's one rather sticky bit about organized rallies. To get higher crowd size, they recruit from many tangentially-related organizations. These organizations use the opportunity to get their cause on the microphone, which can result in a few dead spots in the program, during which the bulk of the crowd isn't sure whether to cheer or boo. Lots of "political prisoners" got named, and since I didn't know 'em from Adam, I just waved my sign at those around me.
Oh, yes, we had a sign. I knew that an event such as this would be prone to weighty proselytizing, so I figured at least SOMEBODY had to have a humorous sign. Ours was quite a hit: "AVOID NEWKULAR WAR, STOP BUSH!" Not that global thermonuclear war is a necessary byproduct of invading Iraq, but as I've said before, I just like making fun of the little turd. I got my arm grabbed feverishly by a number of fellow marchers, who exclaimed, "Oh, my God, doesn't that drive you NUTS?" and other such cries. Sometimes I like people.
And sometimes I don't. As the speakers took turns pounding the podium, the suspicion I've been harboring became confirmed: There is a LOT of anti-Texan sentiment out there right now. References to the Bush boys, Halliburton, Enron, the death penalty, big oil, & numerous "cowboy" comparisons roared through the PA and stirred the masses to angry shouts. I must admit, I got a little uncomfortable.
I mean, look: I've never really agreed with the majority in my home state on political issues, and that's one of the reasons I left. But to hear Reverend Al Sharpton, of all people, say that WE THE PEOPLE run this country, not Texas, is about as ridiculous as a dingo in a hat. Firstly, there really are PEOPLE in Texas, people who vote. Just like there are people in Montana and people in Iowa. It's the fucking United States of Fucking America, and the majority really is supposed to rule when it comes to elections. Honestly, that's one reason why I'm so pissed about having Lil' Stinky Butt for a President, because the goddamn Electoral College picked him, not the popular vote.
But it doesn't matter whether you think the majority is wrong, they pick who they pick, and the voters in Texas are legally entitled to select the President, along with every other voter in the country. I don't know, it just rubbed my feathers forward to get the point lost in such bullshittery. Let's pick our enemies and deal with them, not solidify regional enmity. Far better to say that WE THE PEOPLE rule the country, not George Bush. See how much better that sounds? Geez...
Thankfully, not everyone dwelt in the house of Sharpton. Jesse Jackson showed up, as did Patti Smith (Christ, someone get that woman a Cone Of Silence), but by far the most impressive presentation came from Ben Cohen, of Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream. He had CHARTS, for Chrissake. Charts and graphs of all sorts of actually useful things that the war money could pay for. (We've got a transcript now - ed.) And he was funny. Much better than Jesse's incessant rhyming: "If you get it to rhyme, they believe it most times."
So then we marched. Or rather, we shuffled. There were an awful lot of people trying to cram themselves onto Constitution Avenue. The route was to go around the White House and come back, but the crowd was so huge that the front end had to wait for the back end to pass before they could go back to the starting point. Along the route, there were punk-protester cheerleaders, drum squads, and even the occasional pro-war sign-waver. We were all having fun.
But then there was this truck moving slowly through the crowd. Wifely & I called it the Pain Wagon. Some stupid whitey in his gangsta outfit decides to make with the shitty anti-war rhymes over the Pain Wagon speakers and bob his stupid honky head like he's fucking Snoop Dogg or some shit. But the funny thing is that he sucks so bad that EVERYONE ignores his ass. He tried so hard, but you can't get around that kind of inherent shittiness. So then he brings on his tonedeaf girlfriend to grind her banjo and sing If I Had A Hammer, for the love of Pete.
See, it's not that I'm anti-violence, I just think that we ought to pick our targets better. The Pain Wagon, for instance, needs a goddamn Patriot missile through its tailpipe. I kept hoping that they would harrass the police so they'd get hauled off. The police were a bit gruff, I must say, but I did spot a few dumbasses fucking with them, so they'd probably had a bad day already.
Round about the time that we were coming up on the White House, the Wifely and I actually started to get a little pooped. We'd been up since 4AM, & had eaten nothing but lunch meat & cheese sticks all day, so we sat down on the curb for a minute. This cop on a three-wheeler roars up and yells at us to get the hell off of the sidewalk, and we were thus enamored of the Washington police forever. It was then that I checked the time on my cellphone. Finding it to be 4:30 PM, it occurred to me that our bus was supposed to leave at 5:00. Good planning there, everybody. So we left.
It turned out that the bus was late, and so we hung out in front of a national library of some sort for a while to wait for it. They sure know how to build gigantic, block-sized Greek edifices in Washington. And there was a guy playing the paint buckets, an old New York staple.
The drive home was extra long due to traffic, but we took a different route, this time through Staten Island and over the Verrazano Bridge to Brooklyn. It was my first time over the world's sixth-longest suspension bridge, and it provides quite a view, even at night. I had wandered around Bay Ridge, right next to the bridge, earlier that week. John Paul Jones Park is right there on the shore, and there's a big obelisk dedicated to the Dover Patrol, which apparently gained some notoriety in World War I. According to the inscription, there are identical monuments in Dover, England, and some town in France. I think stuff like that is cool. Standing there in a little park by yourself, wondering who's looking at the other two monuments on the other side of the Atlantic. Just seems cool to me for some reason.
So even though we didn't quite make it to the White House, our first anti-war protest was still a damned interesting experience, and I think we would've been sorry had we stayed home. And I'll tell you, Burger King at midnight never tasted so good.