Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I showed up at the Code Pink demonstration yesterday, in front of the Federal Building in downtown Oakland. It was a raggle taggle bunch of Bay Area lefties, a lot of gray-haired women (among whom I'm rapidly beginning to number myself as I let my old dye job grow out...) We held signs and were a small, peaceful, anachronistic presence.

Most people--Federal employees on their lunch breaks--ignored us. A young cop kept reminding us to leave a clear pathway so people could get to lunch. A few cars honked and gave a peace signal. A man with a megaphone heckled us in a way I found so annoying I had to ask Penny to babysit me so I wouldn't hit him. All in all, a typical small demonstration, like countless others.

I don't know what good, if any, these things do. I went for Penny, and to show my solidarity, and in memory of the late great Grace Paley, whose brother-in-law said, "There isn't a scrap of pavement in New York City that Gracie hasn't sat in on or laid down on or been dragged away from/." She spent her long, productive and wonderful life engaging in political activity only to see war, greed, and the devastation of natural resources increase in her lifetime--can I do less?

Maybe there is a better way to change things. I'm sure there is. Maybe if I keep writing and thinking and talking and listening long enough I will find it. But meanwhile, the best I can do for myself and the country right now is to show up, so I did.

The day was bright and windy and afterwards I went to Borders and bought a great blank book, for the new year. And went to the Farmer's Market and bought organic kale and chard and basil. On the radio, a man who had been an economist under Clinton was talking about the inherent conflict between being a consumer who loves a good bargain--that would be me, guilty as charged--and being a good citizen who values the environment, justice, good living conditions and fair wages for everyone. It hit home.

Put simply, I love clothes. Even worse, I love shopping for them, finding great deals at Ross Dress for Less, and lugging home my catch. I've realized there's something insatiable about my bargain-hunting, something of the call of the wild. It's not benign. Maybe it could be channelled into something else--I want to channel that impulse into something else--creation, or even better, bringing into order. there's nothing noble about accumulating yet more stuff when i already have too much. But there you have it.

Today I played tennis with G, a hard good game. we both ran all over the court sweating. I played the best I ever have, which is amazing considering I hadn't played in weeks. It's gray and overcast and tonight is Rosh Hashana. I'm exhausted. I need a nap and a shower before i can go. I started a new poem but don't have enough brain cells operating to finish it. Bethie is saving me a seat.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad you went to the Code Pink demonstration, although I have to admit I did not know what it was until you explained, probably because I am living in the suburban sprawl of the mid-West. Anyhow, you did good, as they say. Btw, the shopping compulsion (if that is truly what you meant) and your interpretation of it, rang true for me, too. I am on the other side now, and do not splurge like I used to. I think that shopping is one of the many ways the more devious part of our society wants us to waste our time and energy. They want us to keep busy with mindless things. Teagrapple

kathy whilden said...

I just found your blog thanks to the current issue of Sun magazine. Thanks you for taking the time to write it