Saturday, January 21, 2017

Brunettes are Troublemakers

Today was definitely a day for spending with like-minded souls.

On this gray, soggy day, I woke up to a message from my best friend in Texas.

Feeling nauseous especially just seeing Hilary and Bill sit, ready to listen to Trump's shit. Are you going to watch?
Not for all the $ in the world.
It was just like his campaign spewage. Totally disrespected former presidents in attendance. He spoke to the populace instead of trying to mend all those that have been offended. Very divisive.

Okay, I lied because I would have sat through it for all the money in the world, but no one was offering me that, so I went for a drizzly walk and drove to Williamsburg to spend the afternoon with an El Salvadoran immigrant who feels privileged to be living the American Dream.

As we sat in one of his restaurants, I interviewed him about his journey and the thrill of becoming a legal resident 15 years ago while behind me, a TV was tuned to a Spanish-speaking station covering the protests in D.C today.

It was interesting to listen to as we talked because Spanish would be flowing smoothly, only to be interrupted when the newscaster had to say "Trump," a word which cannot be made to sound fluid and effectively halts the progression of a sentence with its staccato single syllable.

A close second was the word "Twitter," which also didn't exactly roll off the lips.

Talking to a man who lived through El Salvador's civil wars which caused his family to be completely uprooted and displaced - homes and businesses taken by the rebels three times - only to land in Virginia, fail at his first restaurant yet go on to open eight more, making him feel like the luckiest man in the world, I couldn't help but contrast that with the sounds behind me as people protested the inauguration of a man who wants to shut the door on immigration in a country built on the backs of immigrants.

Oh, the irony. Fortunately, relief was in sight.

Planned for those of us having a tough time with today's coronation of a misogynist racist pig, the Bijou's fascist film festival offered Charlie Chaplin's classic take on right wing authoritarianism, the satirical "The Great Dictator."

As if by divine intervention, while mingling in the lobby, a guy introduced himself and his posse of three as Atlantans en route to the Women's March, one the college roommate of a Bijou co-founder. I liked them all immediately so we took over the front row of the theater.

The film's title card alone was worth the price of admission for how relevant it felt on this day.

This is a story of a period between two World Wars - an interim in which insanity cut loose, liberty took a nose dive and humanity was kicked around somewhat.

That's Exhibit "A" and further proof of the Bijou's absolute brilliance in choosing this particular film to play on this difficult day, not to mention their prescience in knowing that we'd also need a reason to laugh, which Chaplin delivered in spades.

Although I'd seen several of his silent films, this was the first of his talkies (and his first talkie) I'd seen, so I was pleasantly surprised at what a fine speaking voice he had. And while I wasn't surprised at all the physical humor, the Bijou audience reacted with belly laughs throughout.

At least right up until the end when Chaplin gives his "You, the people" speech, the one about why peace and goodwill, brotherhood and kindness needed to win out over prejudice, discrimination and dictatorships. The human truth.

It was positively stirring and just exactly what scared and disillusioned people needed to hear today.

Mingling again in the lobby afterwards, everyone talking was blown away, not only by how good the film had been but by how ideally suited it was to this time we're now living in. If only Trump's doppelganger could appear and spout such things instead of polarizing rhetoric.

When one of the guys I'd met asked James, his former roommate, for a good place for pizza and pasta, he referred the question to me. I told him Nota Bene for the win and he plugged it into his phone.

Next thing I know, they're asking me to join them for dinner and James jokes, "I can vouch for all of them except him," pointing to his college buddy. So now I've got a personal recommendation and post-film plans. Not bad for just showing up.

They'd already scored a table in the back when I arrived to join them and with bottles of Italian Rose and Temperanillo, we soon began a round robin style conversation, going around the table every time a point was raised or question asked so everyone could hear each person's answer.

They joked that I was just the latest stranger they'd picked up en route to D.C., the charming Scotch artist across from me having been acquired yesterday in Chapel Hill where they'd spent the night with the ringleader's mother, an award-winning author.

We went around the table about whether or not Trump would make it four years (and if not, why not?), our favorite scenes in "The Great Dictator" and, naturally everyone's first concert: Buffet (she claimed she didn't choose it), Elvis (in '74, so fat Elvis), Kraftwerk (he's seen them four times since) and Depeche Mode in '87 (swoon).

They were all in love with the restaurant, captivated by the food - arugula and chickpea salad, two orders of broccolini with lemon, garlic and fresno peppers, three different kinds of pizza and white pork Bolognese to die for.

"We'd never have found this place without you and it's amazing," one guy told me. The flip side was that without them, I wouldn't have had anyone to discuss the movie with in depth, much less commiserate with about the reign of horror that began today.

They were my company on a day when my misery was looking for some, discussing what could possibly improve with Trump and whether non-voters might feel differently come 2020. Everyone weighed in.

They became my surrogates tomorrow, making me an honorary member of their march entourage, in spirit anyway.

And because they were good people, when they learned I'd parked three blocks away, they insisted - a gay couple and a straight couple, none of whom had ever laid eyes on me before 6:00 tonight - on walking me to my car, or at least most of the way.

As they clustered on the corner of 23rd Street as I walked down the hill to my car, the ringleader called out, "The Brit doesn't care about your safety. He's heading back!" Assuring them they could all go back, he joked, "Call us when you get home!"

Hilarious because they already knew me well enough to burst out laughing when I yelled back, "I'll call you on my cell phone!" See, Luddites can be amusing.

I got home to one last bit of business, a message from a friend with a kind offer.

I'm carrying names on the #womansmarch tomorrow. Let me know if you want yours to be included.

Yes, please, add mine, preferably with an addendum: I can't believe we still have to protest this shit. Now my spirit and name will be there.

It appears that we've turned the page and are now living in an era where insanity has been cut loose, liberty is on a nose dive and humanity has been completely kicked around, yet good people are all around me.

We're in this together. As Chaplin's character said, "We want to live by each other's happiness, not by each other's misery."

And on a difficult day, friends, immigrants and good company were the way to stay sane.

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