When I joked the Tuesday before about getting arrested, and mused a little more seriously about possible violence and what I'd do were it to occur around me, my Work Bestie said, 'Well, just be safe and do what you feel is right. Not everyone gets this opportunity, and you are standing up for more than just you.'You are standing up for more than just you.
That is why I went, and that is why I will never, ever regret going. And that's what I need to hold onto.
Because, I'll be honest with you? It was not the best four days I've ever had.
I left my apartment around 7:30 on Wednesday night, after working a full day and puttering around the house with last-minute packing and cleaning. (Smartest idea EVER to take out your garbage before a trip, amirite?) I love travelling, even on red-eyes, and I had my charger and my headphones and my knitting, and it was not the worst night ever. I was able to sleep on the long leg, and knit all through the short one, and blammo, I was in another time zone, in Virginia.
My high school classmate Lucky picked me up and took me to her house (which was home base for the weekend), with her wee children in tow. Eli is 3, and Jude is...6? I'm bad at that game, but they were good kids and she's an excellent mom. She's tired, though. She's tired of only being a mom, because she has her fucking doctorate and spends her days parsing out toddler-speak and picking up cheerios. So that was hard for me to see, as delightful as her children were.
I showered, I put on make-up and clean underwear, I became mostly human again. Then jelazakazone
(or Jelly Calzone, as I always pronounce it in my head) came and picked me up, and promptly took me to a yarn store. Because she is a pal. <3 And then to a grocery store, because this monster needed food, and then to her house, where we spent the afternoon mostly discussing fiber arts and Alexander Vlahos. As one does. She is tiny and factual and creative and it was a really nice, chill time, in a home that is full of art and love and delicious things.
Then I walked over to a Thai restaurant to meet a weird mashup of friends -- my former Work Bestie's ex-boyfriend Drew (who worked on the Hillary campaign and is now just basically being a bum and trying not to drown himself), and sunnyrea
(from HP originally, then Trek and Sherlock and, you know, fandom awesomeness in general). They are both pretty good with people, though, and it was an AMAZINGLY FUN dinner. omg. The uh copious cocktails probably did not hurt.
Drew then took me back to Lucky's, where I found Lucky sat on couches with Gillian, another of my high school ladies. (I went to a very small all girls school; 25 of us in my graduating class. We're pretty tight.) We stayed up chatting until it was far, far too late. There was some crying from each of us at different points; I got to finally express to someone who empathized just how deeply and permanently the Democratic primaries hurt me. Gillian was one of my defenders in the melee with my ex-fiance. She is also a social worker and in the middle of starting a non-profit halfway house for sexually exploited children, all while battling Mysthenia Gravis. Because she is a champion. She is an actual god damn hero.
Friday was fucking terrible
Gillian drove from Colorado to Virginia, so it seemed logical for us to drive into DC for Friday's itinerary, which was just the Holocaust museum and then meeting up with people. In hindsight, of course, this was fucking dumb, but I tend to trust that other people are better at this shit than I am, because I have been witness to 'too many cooks in the kitchen' approximately fifty billion times. This was one of those times I should have spoken up. We ended up parked a mile or two from anything, and the walk to the Holocaust museum became a two hour trip through… well, through the Trump inauguration. Not the ~actual thing, of course, but through crowds and crowds and crowds. Not everybody there was a Trump supporter; a lot of people were early for the Women's March just like us. Gillian had on a 'Love Trumps Hate' shirt and a pink hat (although without the ears) and honestly it was like a beacon. For good things all but once, and I don't want to give that one guy any more of my time so that is all I'll say.
Also, the line for the ladies' room in the hotel/Starbucks was so fucking long I used the men's room. Never seen a more surprised bunch of gents in my life lolol. I felt pretty awesome after that. But then when we had to take an eight block detour through yet more Trump supporters due to roads being closed even to pedestrians (there were a lot of horses hanging out, presumably for the parade, so I couldn't be ~too mad, because they weren't to know, you know?), the buzz faded quickly. As did my phone battery. I just tried to ignore all of them and go on my way. It mostly worked. There was a lady with a megaphone telling everyone to turn to the Book of Matthew – that permeated. I couldn't get the sound of her voice out of my head. Christ was such a cool dude, it hurts my heart so fucking much to hear his words used for terrible purposes.
We finally found the Museum, but sat and charged phones and drank water for a while instead of going straight in. Which was a very, very smart idea, because, well, you know. Holocaust Museum. I took pictures of the stuff that reverberated as particularly parallel. I took a lot of deep breaths. I had 'This Train'
in my head the whole time. I cried more than once.
By the time we got out (it's not a small museum) the crowds had swelled; we stood in line for overpriced lunch in the museum's café, and the other patrons were probably half and half Trump supports vs pink hats; it was hugely busy and we got out of there pretty quickly after slamming down lunch. (And a tiny bottle of wine for myself, because oh my God can you blame me.)
This was the beginning of the worst part of the day, if you can fathom that. I was prepared for the museum, I guess. I was not prepared to spend literally hours trying to meet up with my SCA friends.
We got lost. We couldn't get through security because our cell phones were dead and you have to be able to turn them on and prove they're not bombs. I had a charger, so we sat in the Ronald Regan building and charged the two Androids, but Gillian has an iPhone so we were still fucked. My SCA friend tried to get to us with an iPhone charger, but she just plain couldn't get across the street because it was the parade. We were literally across the fucking street from each other and couldn't meet up. I finally told Gillian and her friend to go home to make signs and rest. Mostly so I could cry in pieace.
My SCA friend Madalena guided me via texts to my dying-again phone. I walked probably two more miles (in heels; did I mention that? Only 1 inch but still. Heels.) down two more miles to the metro. This was the crying part. Big fat liberal tears. I hadn't eaten, I hadn't had enough water, I was surrounded by bigotry and nationalism and just plain mean spiritedness.
The metro was comforting. I find mass transportation very comforting, which I guess is weird but to me just proves I really should live in an actual city. I took the Metro under the street we couldn't cross, then surfaced and was immediately bombarded by a hugely busy intersection full of police, military, protesters, and fancy people trying to get to the Inaugural Ball. It was so fucking surreal.
Madalena texted me to go to the park with the statue and the tent. I waited for her by the statue for a good ten minutes, watching what was obviously a protest about 100 yards away, then heard a girl screaming for Maalox and saw people running and texted her wtf.
'Where are you?!' she texted. She tried to call, but a motherfucking rockband
started up behind me, swear to god. I texted about protesters and tear gas and she immediately replied, 'GET OUT OF THERE.'
I did, although somewhat reluctantly, because I felt safe huddled up against the statue, more safe than trying to wade through the intersections full of cars and soldiers. (Nothing against the soldiers. It was mostly the cars. And me feeling bad for these soldiers that had to know their new boss is an asshat.) But I ventured forth, and I found streetcorners, found a fast food chain. She said keep walking and you're almost to us.
About fifty feet later, some bored limousine driver motherfucking catcalls me
. 'Hey, beautiful!' or some bullshit.
Now, listen, for all that I abhor it, it doesn't happen to me very often, so at first I did the WASPy thing and just ignored it out of shock.
Then he did it again. 'I SAID, hey, you're beautiful!'
He is lucky I am not a violent person.
He is lucky all I did was turn around and say 'GO TO HELL. And have a nice night,' in my most spitting sarcasm possible, then turn on my heel and walk away.
"Well YOU'RE FUCKIN UGLY!" he called after me.
Ah, how quickly they change their tune.
At that point, thank actual literal God and Christ for real
, Madalena found me. Madalena and Martin and Shaya and Kjartan, all SCA people (uh if you couldn't tell by the names lolol). Martin and Madalena I have sung with for a year or so now, so I am comfortable with them, and therefore promptly burst into tears upon seeing them. But Shaya and Kjartan had literally the weekend before
stepped down from being Queen and King. Not only that, but she has a fucking PhD in… Experimental Neuro-Biology or some shit like that, and they are both gorgeous and just impressive as all hell. I had been on a year-long private pro-Hillary FB messenger thread with Shaya, because we have friend in common who knew where I stood, but she and I had just become FB friends around the election, and had never actually spoken. I had never even made eye contact
with Kjartan before.
Until I'm standing there crying because some dude said rude things to me in passing.
So that was delightful. Lolol.
The Post Pub was closeby, and was filled with hipsters and pink hats and indie journalists. I plugged my phone into a strand of fairy lights (as one does), and had a long island (and a free beer), and it got better.
Madalena and Martin were on the Metro with me half the way back to Lucky's, too, which was nice. They're very good people. I know very good people. I need to remind myself of this more often.
Ain't none of us doing this alone, even when we feel like we are.
Saturday we got up at 5, left for the Metro at 6, and it was already full when we got on. Not packed, but full. There was already chanting happening, led by young, young, young non-binary beautiful people, and I just watched all a-tingle. I'm actually a pretty terrible protester. I feel awkward, I'm terrible at ad-libbing, I get thrown off when there's more than one chant happening or it's one I don't know or or or. #classicalmusicianproblems. Or maybe just #beingmeproblems, idk.
But we were pumped, is my point. We had signs, we had hats, we had large numbers. We were IN IT.
Rachel, JR, Gillian, Lucky
...until about hour three. We were super early so we got excellent positions (we could actually see the literal stage. Not who was on it, lol, but the top half of it was in our vision behind the jumbotron. In a crowd of at least five hundred thousand
people, this means we were REALLY near the front) but uhhhhh the programming didn't start until like, ten? And then was END. LESS. Whoever planned it either had no experience in programming, or… No, I really can't think of any other reason it went so awry.
How awry, you may be asking? VERY. Gloria Steinem came on near the beginning and mentioned she'd be back to lead a planned moment of silence at 1pm to start the March…
And at 2pm, that had not materialized and there was probably an hour's worth of programming left. I haven't any idea, really, though, because the crowd started marching despite the speakers still speaking.
That's right! We just…WENT. At least, that's how it happened from my perspective. One of the MCs/organizers kept coming out and saying 'ARE YOU READY TO MARCH?' and when we screamed 'YES!' she would reply with 'OKAY WELL JUST A FEW MORE SPEAKERS!' And at one point she told us all the route had changed, and we'd just be going down that street over there, but that there were (yup) a few more speakers! Basically we took that as our cue, even though it wasn't, and slowly, sloooowwwly, things started going.
And by slowly, I mean…I mean we got through a couple speakers and a band before we were actually physically moving. There were just so. Many. People. It's indescribable. We started walking because if we hadn't, there would have been a trampling. There were that many people. I was at any point touching at least two different people, if not more. People were having panic attacks and we were all glad we were dehydrated, because we literally could not get out of the crowd. So that part was fucked up, and I was glad we got the actual march underway, even though, really, it was rude, and it meant we missed MADONNA omfg. (We saw her on the furthest-out jumbotron as we were shuffle-marching by it.)
But. It was probably the safest course of action, to be honest. And I did see a lot before we left. There was programming I am forever going to be glad I witnessed:
- America Fererra is fierce and really, really steadfast. If I got to pick one of these celebrity activist to actually go into public office, I'd pick her.
- GLORIA. FUCKING. STEINEM. Growing up with my mother, always being surrounded by Ms magazines, how I felt seeing her is probably how other people feel seeing, idk, Wayne Gretski. I just kind of stood there randomly whooping through happy tears.
- Ashley Judd, who is my newest shero, jfc. Not only did she bring the house down, but she was sent onstage to send OFF Michael Moore, who, bless him, was used to being able to just talk for however long he wants. Not when Ashley Judd has something to say at the Women's March, okay. NOT YOUR DAY, MICHAEL MOORE. She came on and then didn’t even look at him. It was beautiful. She just launched into some spoken-word that will go down in history. If you haven't seen it, go do so right the fuck now. And if you're able, leave her some love, because oh my God the online abuse she gets is unreal. It spilled over to me, even, because I posted the video on FB (publicly, per usual) and got bile spewed at me by a stranger. Me! For posting the link! As Beyonce says, 'you know you that bitch when you cause all this conversation.'
- Janelle Monae. She was unfortunately late in the programming, but she was unapologetic about it. Hers was the presentation during which I felt most keenly the tendency of white feminism to just… bow out when it's too hard. I wanted to, God knows, at that point. But there she was, and there they were, the mothers of black people who have been killed by police, and they were worth my hurting feet and my tears and my shouts and my attention.
- Van Jones. There were few male speakers, and he pissed people off because he talked about being nice to enemies. I whooped real hard while people around me hissed.
- Indigo Girls! They went on during the period where we had started marching but hadn't actually started marching, so no one was paying attention, but it was SUPER the boost I needed to survive. They did 'Go', which was super-appropriate on a couple levels. On the obvious har-har level the lyrics do say 'Go Go Go' repeatedly, which in our beyond-ready-to-march state was appropriate/hilarious. But for actual, the song is about activism:
Raise your hands
Raise your hands high
Don't take a seat
Don't stand aside
This time don't assume anything
Just go go go
After that…it's kind of a blur. See, somewhere in the middle of all it, my feet reached the point where if I stood still, it hurt so bad I cried. So. It was bad. It was really, really bad. Once we started walking it was better, but then I was hit by the fact that I'd had three granola bars and one bottle of water all day, which is… I guess enough for some people. But I was a mess. I was toast and there was no exit, unless I abandoned my friends and this thing I'd flown across the country to witness, and took off into yet more crowds in an unfamiliar city.
So we kept marching. Lucky finally took the initiative and gave away all the hats from my mother's knitting circle, which I'd been literally holding onto in case we found our other high school friends – Because that's another thing that was terrible: literally no cell service. I mean, our phones all said 4 bars but nothing would go through. So all these plans we'd made were for zilch, and I walked around most of the day with a bag full of hats. Lucky gave them out in about five minutes, lol, and I was free of that burden, but of course I didn't get any pictures? And feel guilty about it. I feel bad about the tiny amount of pictures I got, but it was all I could do to stay upright.
The march itself – the actual marching – was weird. I… can't say that I agree with a lot of the signs/chants. Well, not 'agree' so much as just think it's counterproductive to be out there yelling about somebody being fat and gross. Fucking hypocritical, and a waste of our breath. Yes, I get that that's his only Achilles heel, is the superficial stuff. But guess what! Telling him he's fat is NOT going to get him to change any of his policy! He's just going to pay LESS attention to actual politics that are being put into motion by his teammates! Which, whatever, I guess, but maybe WE should be fucking paying attention to that instead of calling him fat and orange?
IDK, just a fucking theory.
And #notmypresident has always
pissed me off. In the same way that Sanders supporters pissed me off with their purist idealism. Sure, it must be great to live outside the bounds of reality. Have a nice life on your planet but ON THIS ONE, politicians (and hey! people in general!) have to compromise, and on this one Trump is
president. As was Bush. We had a spate of 'not my governor' here in Washington due to some 'issues' with the vote counting between Rossi (R) and Gregoire (D, and a lady). But she served for 8 years. She, oh my gosh, was the actual governor. And Trump is our actual president. The end. Let's move forward in actual reality.
There of course were some amazing signs and chants and it was unreal and wonderful to be surrounded by the energy of people trying to do good. Shouting "BLACK TRANS LIVES MATTER" is moment I hopefully will never forget.
But it was mostly a blur.
We—my little group of three--didn't make it to the White House. The march route went there, and I'm guessing most people made it, but there were literally so many people that I honestly have no idea what happened. We went for like, eight blocks? I DON'T KNOW BECAUSE IT FELT ENDLESS. Lucky finally said okay let's be done, probably because it was so obvious that I was a mess.
UNFORTUNATELY, getting anywhere else was just as much of a struggle, and I kinda wish we'd just kept marching because we ended up walking miles (literally) to find a Metro station that only had a twenty minute wait vs 2 hour. Every restaurant we looked into was overflowing, and a taxi/Uber would've been eighty bucks and taken just as long. Once in line for the Metro, a woman I don’t know asked me if I was okay. I was just standing there crying because my feet hurt so much, so there wasn't anything she could do, and then I felt bad for crying, but couldn't stop. It was a fucked up couple of hours, and that's all I'm going to say about it.
Once we were on the train, things got better. We had cell service again, and made plans to meet Gillian and her friend at a Thai restaurant back near Lucky's house. I had a lot of wine and noodles and we then went next door to Safeway and got ice cream, and there was more wine at Lucky's house, and pajamas, and sleeeeeeeeeep.
And that was that. The next day Gillian dropped me off at the airport on their way back to Colorado, and I spent three flights trying to figure out how I felt about everything. Spoiler alert: three flights wasn't enough, but there was a gay walkway
at O'Hare and it was raining hard in Los Angeles, so somebody was on my side and I knew, and know, that it was not a weekend spent in vain.
It taught me some things, though.
1) Bring snacks and water. I don't care what the bag regulations are purported to be, or if they say there will be food trucks. BRINGS SNACKS AND WATER.
2) Understand your own weaknesses, that you are not perfect, and that you might lose your shit.
3) Have people around you that you trust to be around when you lose your shit. Or learn how to turn strangers into those people real quick.
4) omg bring extra cell phone batteries, and/or walkie talkies. (That's our plan for DC Pride, which is turning into a big march on the White House.)
But most importantly.
5) Do the thing anyway. It's going to SUCK. DO IT ANYWAY.