What to Chant at the Demonstration

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The women and occasional men who are going to the march in Washington on Saturday will be a diverse group. In the old days when you went to a march everyone was agreed about why they were marching. Chanting was easy. Hey hey, ho ho, (whatever you hate) has got to go. This Saturday we will be marching for many different reasons, because everything is a mess and we hate it all. That makes it hard to pick a good chant.

Pete Seeger, rest his soul, will not be there to lead us in song. Will there be drummers? I hope so. Marching goes better with rhythm. Will there be stilt walkers dressed up as Abraham Lincoln, young women dressed as the Statue of Liberty? That would be nice, too. But mostly there will be two or three hundred thousand women, marching for a mile and a half because they’re fed up.

The organizers of the event have warned us that people from the alt-right plan to infiltrate the march and try to provoke us into doing stupid stuff, breaking windows, maybe, or sticking our tongues out at cops. Some say, be careful what you chant. Bad guys will try to get us to chant offensive or illegal things and then put pictures of it up on YouTube to show how degenerate the Left is. I can’t think who they mean to show this to. Those who think the Left is degenerate are going to think that anyway, and the rest of us know better. Hey hey, ho ho, Breitbart News has got to go.

We could all sing the Star-Spangled Banner, but the tune is hard to sing, requiring enormous vocal range, and as a march tune it isn’t stirring. When some of us hear it we think of Francis Scott Key in the middle of the Patapsco River watching Fort McHenry under rocket attack, and we want to weep. Others think of sporting events. It doesn’t inspire us to march, not without a marching band. The Marseillaise works better as an inspirational marching song, good rhythm, plenty of blood and guts, but we aren’t French, so that’s no good.

Some say we should remain silent, like the protesting Turks. It’s hard to keep your energy up for a mile and a half in silence. I don’t see that happening.

The most satisfying noise I personally have ever made at a march, and I think they’re still doing it, was just to holler. Someone would  start by calling “aaah” at top volume and others would answer in thirds or fifths, until a great roaring harmonic tone echoed from the office buildings, shaking us from our toes to the roots of our hair, louder and louder until windows flew open all up and down the street and office workers leaned out to join the call. We are here. We are of one mind, if only until the song ends.

Going Back to Washington, Fifty Years Later

Washington.

I used to live there, or near there, in the years before the Metro was built. In my mind it was my town, although I had no feel for politics, or indeed any sense at all, being young. But one could get on a bus in those days and roam all over the city, taking in the passing scenery, observing the people on the street. The view was exciting. You can’t see anything worth looking at out of the window of a subway train.

keybridge1The family home at that time was in Arlington, a house my parents rented from some army colonel who had been posted to Panama for a year. (Every year we rented a different colonel’s house.) I would get on the bus and ride to work in the city, passing the most amazing and seductive things. A used car lot full of strange European cars: a pale gray Opel, a huge black Mercedes sedan whose thick passenger-side windows were pocked with bullet holes, a tiny blue-green Morris Minor that I coveted. If I ever got hold of some money and learned to drive, that Morris would be mine. Or the Mercedes. You had to admit it had cachet.

Just over the Key Bridge was a grain factory belonging to the Washington Milling Company. They had posted a sign just outside the factory: “The objectionable odors you may notice in this area do not originate in our plant.” Where, then, did the smell come from? I never knew. In fact I don’t remember it smelling all that bad, but I can’t forget the sign.

One morning I saw, standing on a corner, a tall man in a floor-length black cape, a broad-brimmed black hat, and a long red scarf. I was thrilled and intrigued. You must remember that this was the early sixties. People didn’t dress funny. Come to find out he was only the doorman at a night club, not the actual Shadow. What the nightclub was doing open at eight-thirty in the morning is another of the secret mysteries of D.C.

My job in those days was as a library clerk at the Washington Post. Politics were talked in the library by people much more knowledgeable than me. A friend made me read the Post’s  copy of the Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens, in the hope that it would raise my consciousness. It sort of did. After a year at the Post I was fired for conspicuous lethargy.

Time went on and I married a newspaper man, my college sweetheart, to our subsequent chagrin and distress. When we left Washington we were still in love, I think. John Kennedy was president. The highest ambition of a number of people I knew was to be invited to dinner at the White House. I still didn’t understand politics.

The nature of politics is slowly becoming clear to me. The only reason I seem to have anymore for going back to Washington is to scream at the government, which one is better off doing in a large group of like-minded people. If you do it by yourself you attract unwelcome attention.

It’s not the same city. It’s full of cops and bollards now because of terrorism. Everyone rides the Metro. If you want to dine at Trump’s White House, I don’t want to know you.

We will go to D. C. next Saturday and scream at the government, if only to vent our frustration. I will breathe the air of a place where I was once young and silly. Maybe I’ll cry a little.

Meanwhile I’m going back and reading the Autobiography of Lincoln Steffens again.

What to Wear to the Demonstration: Revolutionary Headgear

The day after the inauguration, American women are going to Washington to make their voices heard. Exactly what we’re going to try to communicate I’m not sure, except to say that we are watching and listening, and we aren’t about to put up with nazis, fascists, racists, thieves, Russian agents, and enemies of women running around the White House for the next four years. Any time the new authorities get out of line they can expect us to hit the streets. We’re here, we’re sore, and we’re not going away.

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Being women, however, we are aware that what we wear to this shindig matters. A movement is afoot to knit pink hats with cat ears, on the theory that a sea of women wearing pink hats with cat ears will demonstrate seriousness of purpose, the solidarity of sisterhood. There are knitting patterns for these hats—pussy hats, they call them—online. Not to be outdone by the other sisters I knitted myself one.

Plenty of precedents exist for revolutionary hats. Who can forget the broad black brimmer of the IRA? Or the black beret of the Irish provos. To say nothing of Che Guevara. We think of the French resistance fighters as wearing black berets. The Black Panthers wore them. They were dignified and a little scary. If a million women showed up on the Mall wearing black berets all Washington would tremble before us.

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A prime example of the revolutionary hat was  the liberty cap, adorned with a tricolor cockade, worn during the French revolution. In such a hat you were one of the people, a citizen, and if you were lucky it helped you keep your head on your shoulders. What do you think Madame Defarge was knitting as she sat in front of the guillotine? (Hint: it was not a pussy hat.)

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If the D. C. cops show up in riot gear, unlikely in the face of a parade of grannies like me, but not unheard of, you may want to be wearing a bicycle helmet, according to an interesting site I came across from some anarchists across the pond. The anarchists are in favor of hats with brims or peaks that can be pulled down over one’s eyes when the government comes to take pictures, to foil their face-recognition software and keep you off their enemies list. Similarly, a scarf may be wrapped around the lower face. Scarves are also good for tear gas. I had my picture taken by government agents at a peace march during the Bush administration. It made me mad, if you want to know. Now I’m sufficiently radicalized to enjoy marching down the streets of Washington and screaming at the government. Bastards.

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But not in a pussy hat. I finished the pink hat today and tried it on. It was not threatening. It was ridiculous looking. The ears aren’t even cat ears. They are the ears of a pig. It is, in fact, a piggy hat.

 

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So I’m going to wear a black beret. See you in Washington. Right on, and all that stuff.

What’s Worth Writing About

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Anything?

Followers of this blog may have noticed that I haven’t posted to it in some weeks. I wasn’t sick, particularly, although I had one of those colds where you have to cough all the time in order to keep breathing. I wasn’t depressed, although my beloved mother-in-law just died and I heard from a respected agent that she thought my latest offering had no discernible plot. I wasn’t too busy to write, although it seemed as if I were doing things all the time, I forget what. I had people over for Thanksgiving. That was fun, but nothing to write about.

I just didn’t feel like putting finger to keyboard.

I still don’t. I know, these are the times that try men’s souls, I should write a protest column. But I wouldn’t know what to say. Others have said it better than I can. The enormity of these outrages has passed beyond my powers of expression, even counting the bad words. I’m going to Washington next month with the other enraged women and I don’t even know what slogan to put on my button. I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit. (Maybe that’s my slogan.)

Personally, our lives are good. We’re having house guests for Christmas. That will be fun, but not something I particularly want to write about. The neighbors seem happy. Nothing to complain about there. If there were, I wouldn’t write about it anyway, because I won’t violate people’s privacy and I detest drama.

Maybe that’s what’s wrong with my book, lack of drama. I have put it aside for awhile to be looked at later. Meanwhile I found another one on an old thumb drive, something, I think, that failed to interest my last agent. Called Broken Sister, it’s all about a mysterious adoptee returning to the town of her birth. The first few chapters struck me as being really good, right up to the part where I revealed the murder. Maybe it doesn’t need a murder. Not every story is a murder mystery. Maybe I’ll cut it down to the place where I still liked it and take it in a completely different direction. After Christmas, when I get time.

Speaking Truth to Unpleasantness

I’m reading another how-to book to energize my writing career. YOUR BOOK, YOUR BRAND by publicist Dana Kaye advises us to brand ourselves, first of all by analyzing our work and figuring out who we are as writers, then to identify our target audience, and then to polish up our brand and put it out there on social media and in other public places where our particular audience can find it and be impressed.

This is great advice. For me, it’s easier said than done.  My work is all over the map in terms of theme, historical period, characters. What all of it is is quirky with a buried edge of cynicism. And funny. So I guess that’s me as a writer. I try to look at things clearly and describe them accurately, so that even my cozies aren’t as cozy as they might be, and this is offensive to some.

Only my intimates know the worst about me, how I curse like a sailor’s parrot, how I can carry a grudge for sixty years. (Don’t get me started about my orthodontist, may he rot.) I’ve always known that my public utterances might gain or lose readers for me, and as a result I’ve tried to be careful. Maybe this is a mistake. I’m a deeply political person. Maybe I should acknowledge that.

When I was twenty-two I was a union organizer. I worked as a clerk-bookkeeper for AT&T, when it was the only telephone company. Being something of an idealist, I took on the position of shop steward in an office full of meek clerks, thinking I could work to uphold the rights and dignity of the working man (or, more accurately, the working woman). Not many of the ladies in the office were union members. My first task, as I saw it, was to recruit them.

My apartment was half a block from the office in Washington, DC, so I invited all the clerks over for lunch one day and hustled them to join the CWA. Only a few signed on, one being the boss’s secretary, an absolutely sweet woman whose name, alas, I have forgotten. She came to me the next day, full of apology, and asked for her membership papers back. The boss had talked her out of joining the union.

Actions have consequences, you see, and not always the consequences you were hoping for. Just before George W. Bush took us to war in Iraq I went down to Washington for a couple of peace marches. I tell you what, when you are upset with the government there is nothing more satisfying than to stand in the middle of Sixteenth Street and scream your lungs out. But the consequence of those marches was not peace. Instead we went to war, but not before ten women were arrested, grandmothers some of them, famous writers. I saw them led away in handcuffs while a squad of beefy motorcycle policemen came roaring up to menace the rest of us.

On November 21 a number of us are going to Washington again, this time to protest the policies of Donald J. Trump. I expect to stand in the street and scream. I also expect the people who love Trump, love him because his victory encourages them to abuse women, persons of color, foreigners, the disabled, and educated folks generally, to show up and be unpleasant to us. The police will be working for Trump. Can I say shitstorm on public media? Will that ruin my brand?

We’re going anyway, called to speak truth to power. You can come too. But be aware that it might not be a nice outing.

Street Fair

In Ocean Springs, Mississippi, the 38th annual Peter Anderson Arts & Crafts Festival is taking place this weekend. It’s fun. I was there this morning with Harold and son John, taking in the sights, buying a hat. I managed to take a few pictures.

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Hats!
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Beautiful pottery
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Happiness is a tablet and a nuk
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Some drawings
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A local matron
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Boys shooting guns in the bushes
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A wooden crab
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The happy crowd

Spangles and Feathers

a-pretty-birdYesterday two friends and I went to the preview of an auction. The auction is taking place even now, and also tomorrow, at the Eagle Fire House in New Hope, PA. I would be over there right now bidding on antique garments, beaded purses, and whimsical hatstands, if only I had a few bucks and a climate-controlled place to store them. Moths and dampness  are a problem in Lambertville.

Still, the three of us went over there just to fondle and admire the offerings. When we walked in the door a kind man behind a table offered us knitted white cotton gloves. “To keep from ruining the ca-beaded-bodicelothes?” we said. “No, mostly to keep your hands clean. Some of these things are pretty dusty.” Taking pictures with my IPhone was impossible with the gloves on. The IPhone wants my bare finger.

The clothes were in numbered lots, the elegant antique designer pieces hung on pipe racks, one to a lot, the less rarefied in dusty boxes with other objects of their kind. You had to be prepared to bid (for today and tomorrow the bidding takes place) on a whole cardboard box full of shoes in order to acquire the one pair you desired, which might be tiny-footed, archaically shaped, and made of softest green or magenta kidskin. And dusty. Then I guess the idea would be to sell the ones you don’t want on Ebay.

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My friend the duchess

We spent two hours fondling and admiring, and in the case of hats, occasionally trying on. What torture! A roomful of hats and no mirror.

The bulk of the better offerings came from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. We also saw garments from Hollywood movies. Gene London is selling a few things from his fabled collection. At least one dress had been worn by Joan Crawford. Some were designed by Adrian, master of the slinky gowns the stars wore in the twenties and thirties. He dressed Garbo. His name was legend.

And speaking of legend, we saw hanging from the pipe racks the work ofa-fortuny-label the great designers of the twentieth century, made in their ateliers in Paris between the wars. The beads. The feathers.  And the labels. This was what I had come to see. Here’s what a Fortuny label looks like. Fortuny, whose technique for pleating silk has never been duplicated, even in the modern day with all our
technology.

Long story short, I was in hog heaven. And you could be, too. As I said, the auction is going on today and tomorrow. Here’s a link to their web site. Be sure to download their catalog with the pictures included. I’d meet you over there, but I have other stuff to do and (as I may have mentioned) I’m out of money right now.

www.whitakerauction.com/concrete/absentee-phone-bid-forms/

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