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.