This is What Democracy Looks Like: Washington Protest January 27, 2007 (1)

United flight 0936 San Francisco to Dulles
8:00 AM, Friday January 26

The sun shines from the direction we’re heading. The coast range pokes through cloud cover thickly wrinkled like the top of a souffle blanketing the valleys below.

The 5:30 AM flight from SLO to SFO: Venus cast her pristine beams above an eastern horizon striped pink and orange as we descended in the dark, only mountain peaks and a couple of beacons protruding through the marine layer. A few thin spots glowed pale, traces of the sea of lights hidden below. This is what the Bay Area might look like after the deluge. Morning coffee served by a pretty stewardess.

I love flying. Planes and airports let me admire rather than scorn our human achievement: thought, organization, community. Even the corporations.

Flying also sends my mind inward, propels me to the edge. At any moment the plane could start falling. I’d grab my cell phone, call Jan, say it’s been great”buddhatrip, eclipse, wabikon, barrel stove, venice, thank you, have fun, travel. What do I leave behind? The initials of my password: wife, children, grandchildren. Three books. Three places: New York, Lund B.C., San Luis Obispo.

Over the Sierras now. Low light on snow and rock, sharp line between brightness and shadow on the ridge crests. The mountains wont suffer from global warming or nuclear winter.

9:00 AM

Still over mountains, snow covers the country, normal for January. Not the weather weirdness of two weeks ago, with sunbathing in New York and wild blizzards in Denver. For the last week I’ve been immersed in the apocalyptic prophecies of An Inconvenient Truth to prepare for my new English course: “The Rhetoric of Sustainability,” and working on plans for “Focus the Nation: Global Warming Solutions for America” coming up in 2008. But this trip is about the War. The ads for 2 million dollar vacation condos in the airline magazine deny both threats. What has my generation bequeathed to our grandchildren?

9:40 AM

I delight in reading Julian Barnes’ Arthur and George. The language gives pleasure one sentence at a time. The author’s sly slow release of information about the characters makes you engage with them before learning their identities. After 80 pages it turns out that this is a real-life Sherlock Holmes mystery about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It takes place in the world of Bleak House that Jan and I were immersed in last night in the final episodes of the BBC serial. Anglophilia is my guilty pleasure, even as an English professor.

11:00 AM Pacific Time above North Dakota

Graph paper road grid, a right angled overlay on squirming fractal landforms.


7:00 PM”Il Rumbero

I wanted the airplane to be filled with people converging on Washington to protest. My old college friend, P., who was supposed to be sitting next to me never showed up. I felt a duty to tell the stranger in his seat that I was going to march against the war, but I kept chickening out. On the shuttle bus from Dulles to the Metro I looked for allies and spotted a man with a gray beard carrying a sign. He was from Mountain View California, a retired Cambridge eye research scientist.

I’ve arranged to arrive around 8:30 to crash at the apartment of young people I was introduced to last summer. A. is the son of friends who lived in the barn loft on the farm in Lund for two years in the seventies. We visited his mom on Saltspring Island and met him for the first time since he was one year old, shortly after his marriage to S, whose picture I saw in their wedding collection on Flickr.

I took the Metro to Smithsonian station expecting to find a museum open late on Friday night to escape the cold sleet and entertain myself, but they all closed at 5:00, and I was left wandering across the Mall. I passed a well-dressed young man talking on his phone: “No I’m not here for the March. I think we need to send in the troops.” I wanted to rough him up and say, “Why don’t you go?” I wandered past huge, intimidating stone facades: Department of Justice (Ashcroft and Gonzalez) and J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building. A man in a hooded sweatshirt and jacket stood on a steaming manhole cover in the middle of the wide sidewalk gripping his sides.

Up Seventh Street I found the Portrait Gallery and Museum of American Art open till 7, and warmed up staring at grandiloquent pictures of Presidents and Pioneers. I miss P. When they close I make my way through dense crowds at the “Verizon Center” standing in line to pay $80 to attend a concert by Rod Stewart. Nobody here worried about the war.

I returned to the Metro, now an expert at adding value to my ticket, and got off at Columbia Heights A. and S. left me the key to their basement apartment, but I couldn’t make it work in the door. Around the corner I found this chic Latino restaurant where I drink a glass of wine and wait for supper.

Saturday 9:00 A.M. Irving Street

After the meal, the key worked and let me into a bright and modestly furnished one bedroom railroad flat with new appliances, tile work, books, two cats, an electric piano, and no tv. I rest and read. The cats run toward a back door where S. arrives wearing a blue helmet and carrying a bike. She’s been to a concert of contemporary classical music with friends, not crazy about it. Recently back from ten days in New Orleans where she led “citizen assemblies” to develop community rebuilding plans, working for a non-profit NGO, “America Speaks.” A. is at a weekend training session at Eastern Mennonite University in Pennsylvania where he’s getting an M.A. in Restorative Justice, a form of community conflict resolution that functions as adjunct to the courts. She prepares herself dehydrated vegetable soup and fresh sauteed kale and offers me a beer. They have to pay $1400 a month rent, but they picked this place because they can garden outside. Their former crackhouse neighborhood is being gentrified. The huge construction project by the Metro station is for a mall with Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. Tomorrow morning we’ll be picked up by her friends and driven to “Teism” for breakfast before the demonstration. I feel at home.

Continued here 

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