Monday, May 1, 2017

United, We Bargain. Divided, We Beg

Life teaches us you can't always be someone's first choice.

S: Going down the list to see who might join me at Rapp Session. If I must, I will go alone, but I must eat more of their luscious crabcakes now. Can you join me?

Me: This moment or when?

S: No time like the present.

Since I was at a stopping point in my writing (waiting for a source to respond) and that bowl of soup I'd had for lunch was a distant memory, why wouldn't I stroll over to Rapp Session on the dot of 4 to see someone I hadn't seen in at least a year?

For that matter, why wouldn't I go eat a dozen discounted Old Saltes during oyster happy hour? Or sip my favorite orgeat lemonade given the 82-degree afternoon heat I'd walked through to get there? Not to mention that a few bites of those crabcakes my friend had been craving proved why we were in an oyster saloon in the first place.

As a Marylander might say, my, my, major backfin.

After catching up and filling up, I mentioned I was on my way to Abner Clay Park for the annual May Day parade and to my surprise, my friend wanted to join me, a sequel of sort to having been at the Science March in D.C. two weeks ago.

I started doing Richmond's May Day parade in 2009, back when I was laid off, on unemployment and trying to figure out the wreckage of my new life.

Then it had felt like a way to show solidarity with all those still fortunate enough to be employed as the Great Recession of 2008 trickled down. Now it felt like another thread in the anti-fascism tapestry decent Americans are trying to weave in reaction to a leader who just yesterday questioned why the Civil War could not be worked out.

Clearly when the Constitution was framed and the requirements for President laid out, the founding fathers couldn't foresee that it would be necessary to stipulate that he/she had a working knowledge of U.S. history. Sad.

Arriving at Abner Clay Park to a larger than usual police presence, a guy with the United National Antiwar Coalition handed me a flier and shared the reason for all the black and whites: a couple of white supremacists had shown up earlier and tried to pick a fight.

It's nothing short of terrifying how quickly the bigots have gotten comfortable with spewing their venom in public since 45 took the reins.

But they were gone now and tonight's pre-parade rally began, as they always do, with free food and short speeches about capitalism, socialism, and fighting white supremacy and the patriarchy while people socialized and chose signs, puppets and placards to carry.

My friend bravely took on a slug costume - paper mache slug head, business suit, cardboard briefcase emblazoned with the name of banks - Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank - who took advantage of consumers for corporate gain.

A parade veteran, my pick was a large "Sanctuary" flag to wave. "Your shirt matches your flag," the harmonium player observed. I told her it wasn't intentional. "Yea, right!" she cracked, grinning.

Unsurprisingly, I ran into loads of friends: my favorite hippie couple, the tailor, the Civil War re-enactor, multiple servers from a favorite wine bar, the dancer, the Party Liberation Front maestro, the activist and, of course, the event's organizer, master puppet-maker Lily, herding cats, assigning parade duties and totally in her element.

She said the plan was to walk down Leigh Street, through the public housing projects and on to City Hall, but the police, who'd be escorting us, nixed that because of a situation involving a shooter on Northside.

Instead, the drum contingent led us down Marshall Street to City Hall, chanting all the way.

No hate
No fascist USA

Whose streets?
Our streets!

Tonight's crowd was far larger than those of past parades (hmm, do you suppose people could be motivated by the daily onslaught of disturbing information coming out of the blowhard-in-chief?), so things got warm walking downtown between tall buildings with zero room for air flow. The good news was every cross street delivered a gusty breeze that whipped banners and cooled us off.

We finished at City Hall, sweaty but resolute, but they wouldn't let us in. Still, our point had been made.

As we walked back down Broad Street, my friend mentioned a dream two nights ago about something very like tonight's parade and wondered now if it had something to do with being in a period of Mercury Retrograde (when coincidences are more common and frustration reigns supreme) since I'd been the one to share the news about the parade when we met up.

I said that on my walk this morning, I'd thought about where I might go eat tonight, considered Rapp Session and decided I wouldn't have time to get there before the parade. Mighty coincidental, both.

As for Mercury Retrograde's other effects, I can only assume that frustration was the motivation behind the carful of girls I just now heard egging the apartment downstairs. No doubt one of the young male occupants living underneath me was the source of frustration.

You can't always be someone's first choice, honey. You'll learn that what matters is who - or what - you're playing second fiddle to.

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