She nods me aboard with a smile, letting me ride the train for free. Is she doing that for all sign-carrying passengers, or was it the “Black Lives Matter” bracelet?
I had given myself permission to stay home. The hurting joints. Pretty bad heat intolerance. I’d sent out various missives and received kind encouragements: ‘stay home,’ ‘don’t overdo’.
I dreamt about getting dressed for the rally all night long — looking everywhere for a white shirt, finding nothing suitable.It was probably a 90 second dream.
Still, I wasn’t gonna go. Headed out with the dog in the oppressive heat. It was only 9:30.
But as I walked with Finn, I kept thinking about families crossing the desert in worse heat or riding in airless trucks in desperate bids to reach our border. Running out of water. Coming with nothing. Facing the unknown. It made me almost ashamed. Or rather, it put my anticipated discomforts in perspective.
I would go. Slowly and briefly. That was my deal.
The train cars are AC’d to walk-in cooler temps and yet, beads of sweat roll down my spine. It’s like having a secret. I whip out my sharpie and make my sign. Light flashes on the white poster board from between the passing trees: CRUELTY IS NOT POLICY.
My phone isn’t fully charged and I forgot my hat.
Behind me, two women speak Russian, I think. Across the way, two Asian men tap and scroll, their necks bent. Soon a tatted millennial sits next to me. She taps and scrolls, too.
Is ‘tatted millennial’ redundant?
Now the train is crowded. Passengers climb on at Beaconsfield, Longwood.
The ‘white hairs’ come on with water bottles, hats, and determined expressions. We are getting practiced at this.
A small headache knocks — pollen? dehydration? — but I avoid the water bottle, having arrived at the age where intake has to be balanced with opportunities for output.
I’m recalling Cory Booker declaring that the Supreme Court nomination should wait until after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.
What criminal defendant gets to pick his own judge?
If the courts go, only the press and the people remain and look what happened to five journalists in Maryland this week.
FUCK YOU MILO. And Fuck You, Sneering Rude But-I-Deserve-My-Cheeseplate Sarah. Fuck trump and his ‘the press is the enemy of the people’ crap.
And now you know which side of the ‘Civility Argument’ I occupy.
It’s all too much. I hope showing up matters, but it’s hard to know. I put one foot after the other and make my way over to Boston’s City Hall Plaza.
CRUELTY IS NOT POLICY.
My sign this week was inspired by a comedian. On Colbert this week, Jon Stewart said to the camera (as if to trump): “and no matter what you do, it always comes with an extra layer of gleeful cruelty and dickishness.”
The Plaza stretches on and on, filled with people and signs, capped by a blue sky. I can actually hear the speakers, for a change — Senator Markey, Senator Warren, and Rep. Kennedy (all my elected officials). Someone calls them ‘every day warriors’ and it’s true. I’m so proud of them.
I walk the edge of the crowd in a wide loop — probably passing within yards of any number of people I know, but not seeing them. Then I sit for a while under my umbrella.
Before you know it, I’m done. I don’t make myself wrong about this anymore. Just up and leave, doing the Bimini walk in search of refreshment and a john.
The ‘Bimini walk’ is a term invented by a college friend to describe the kind of slow, deliberate walk one does in intense heat.
One foot in front of the other. No hurry. Find a john, get a smoothie, loving my umbrella and my portable shade.
I enter the cool of the Granary Cemetery in what has become a protest ritual — paying my respects to Frank, John Hancock’s ‘servant’. I don’t know why this feels important, but it does. I got a penny of change with my smoothie. Perfect! I have something to leave as a token of respect.
Once on the street again, I see that the march has begun. Tourists pass in Duck Boats and on Freedom Trail tours, thinking who knows what about the spectacle.
Instead of hoofing it to the train, I decide to slow-walk over and join the stream of people heading to the State House. There is chanting. There are signs held aloft. A massive and raucous jack hammer on the first block offers its own protest — a violent, super-human shuddering at the ground, capable of breaking up old structures. Demanding to be heard. Because I’m open, the sound passes right through me.
There are five-gallon tub drummers. Synagogue groups. Parents pushing strollers. One-time hippies. The ACLU. Indivisible groups. Student leagues.
Now we flank the Common and I debate when to peel away. A boombox approaches, though of course it’s a blue tooth speaker and no boombox at all — but it’s big and held on the shoulder just like the roller bladers of the 1980’s.
It’s the Rolling Stones. I decide right then and there that if there’s a revolution, I want to them to be the sound track and after hours of noticing my age, something young and vital arises — something I could almost surrender to. But then, Joni Mitchell comes on and my face crumples.
“You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.
If I were to kneel and weep, would someone call the paramedics, like they did for that woman undone by the heat, prone on the sidewalk near City Hall Plaza? “We believe it’s a case of terrible sadness,” or “the news did her in, I’m afraid.”
So I head, at last, into the sanctuary of the Common. The shade is a relief, as is the whole parade of humanity: toddlers and their caregivers wading in the Frog Pond, vendors hawking icy drinks, hot dogs, and pretzels, and as usual, that Chinese guy sending haunting melodies aloft from his stringed instrument.
I wade in the four inch water of the Frog Pond and miss my children. Or more precisely, I miss the period of their childhoods. There is splashing and laughter. A boy in a Batman shirt plunges in.
The train ride home is uneventful, but once up and on the leafy street that flanks the tracks, I see my good fortune in sharp relief — in every well-maintained porch railing, in each and every recently painted shutter, and in all the beautifully composed gardens.
Someone lays mulch. A man in a yarmulke and an animated woman talk on the corner.
Heading up the hot, radiant pavement to my car, the Bimini walk slows even more. But I am home in three minutes, where a happy Finn greets me. Per routine, he promptly rounds up the treats I’d scattered and plunks down on a rug to enjoy them, preferring the relaxed atmosphere of my company to anxious separation.
It’s QUIET. Really quiet. Newtonites have gone to their beach houses. It’s summer at last.
And it is, I fear, to paraphrase the bard, going to be: “the summer of our discontent”.
“Hey Hey / Hey Ho / This is what democracy looks like”