Squinting at the Light

I am the first one to realize how long I have had this blog on hiatus.  Over a month is very out of character for me.  I have no illusions that there are hordes of people who hang on every word I post here, the same way people crowded the docks of New York and Baltimore for new shipments of Dickens’ novels.  My blogging this afternoon is one of the positive signs that I’m emerging from a mental lethargy that has consumed me much of the summer.  For the past week, however, I feel like I’m emerging from the mental haze and back into life.  (Also, I’m doing a once-over-gently allusion to I Peter 2:9 here.)

The lack of blog entries is a sign of what I suspect may have been a serious bout of depression.  At no time was I suicidal, nor did I (or anyone else) think hospitalization would be necessary.  However, my inactivity and overall lack of energy and drive worried me.  One red flag was when I looked at the current volume of my diary.  It is a 200-page composition book, and I wrote in this volume for the first time on May 1.  Today is August 7, and I am only up to page 57.

Per my Casio Data Bank watch, it is now 2:26 in the afternoon, Eastern Daylight Savings Time.  I am not at work right now because my CPAP machine kept acting up, and it was nearly impossible for me to sleep.  I was finally dozing off into a restful state when my alarm sounded.  I had just enough strength to phone my supervisor and tell her I wouldn’t be coming in, and then fell back into bed… and was unable to sleep.  (This is due to a combination of the CPAP, which is in need of a new data card with new settings, and Nuvigil, the wakefulness drug I just started.  The Nuvigil may be working too well at the moment.  My body needs to get used to it.)

Getting out of the house and onto the trike worked pretty well for me.  A trike ride has yet to fail to rejuvenate me–I keep hoping I can get my psychiatrist to declare it medically necessary, so my insurance will pay for it.  I had a great ride to the Ohio State campus, and to Thompson Library, where I am sitting in the lab typing this.

A week from tomorrow, I will be on the road.  Susie has spent the summer in Florida with her mom, and I will be making my first journey to the Sunshine State on ther 15th.  On that night, I’m hopping a Greyhound to Orlando.  It’ll be a 22-hour trip, with an hour-long transfer in Atlanta.  I’ll spend two full days in Merritt Island, and on Sunday morning, Susie and I will fly back to Columbus via Southwest Airlines.  This will be the first time I’ve flown on an airplane since 1983, when I lived in Boston, and used airplanes semi-regularly to get to Ohio or to Washington, D.C.  I will have some pictures and blog entries from this trip.

A definite step in the right direction for me was my 26-hour road trip to Washington, D.C. the weekend before last.  A friend invited me on Facebook, and I accepted, and was surprised at how underwhelmed I was about the whole thing.  Usually a trip to Washington has me stoked with adrenaline from head to toe.

This was a rally to ban fracking, an issue which affects many natives of Pennsylvania, Ohio, and upstate New York.  In my childless days, I paid little attention to environmental issues, shrugging it off by saying, “The world can do what it wants after I’m dead,” but that whole picture changed once I became a parent.

The Stop the Frack Attack took place on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.  We left Columbus just after midnight from the Franklin University parking lot, and made it to Washington (by way of Interstates 68 and 70) just after 8 a.m.

I like schedules like this.  The rally itself didn’t start until 1:30, so I had plenty of time for walking around Washington.  Washington is a very pedestrian-friendly city, although it is tropical in the summer.  I had no plans to join any guided tours.  They always try to hurry you through too many sites in too little time.  The bus dropped us off at Union Station, and I got my backpack and began walking toward Chinatown.

I had an 11:30 lunch date with my friend Robert Nedelkoff, the man the British Museum and the Library of Congress consults for accuracy.  We had several emails flying back and forth between Columbus and Silver Spring about just where we were going to meet for lunch.  My first choice had been The Tombs, a bar and restaurant in Georgetown a block or two from the famous Exorcist stairs.  Looking at a map made me realize that Georgetown was a little too off track for going to the rally.  I would have had to inhale my lunch and then catch the Metro toward Capitol Hill.  So we agreed to meet at Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy in Foggy Bottom, where we had eaten before.

My walk through Chinatown was to look at Wok and Roll, the Chinese restaurant at 604 H St. NW.  Robert and I had eaten there before, but my interest is because, in 1864 and 1865, it was the Surratt boarding house, the meeting place for John Wilkes Booth and his conspirators as they plotted the abduction (and eventual assassination) of Abraham Lincoln.  For her hospitality, the owner of the boarding house, Mrs. Mary Surratt, was hanged in July 1865, the first woman executed by the Federal Government.

The William Petersen House, also known as The House Where Lincoln Died, 516 10th St. NW in Washington.  Visting this place and Ford’s Theater (even when I don’t have the time to go inside) is, in a way, my equivalent of visiting the Western Wall.

Robert had asked me when was the last time I visited D.C. as a tourist.  I couldn’t pin down the date, except that it had to be pre-1994, because when I visited JFK’s grave at Arlington National Cemetery, Jackie was still alive and not buried there.  In 2000, when my dad died, I sent his obituary to the alumni office at his alma mater, the Catholic University of America.  A woman called me to let me know they were going to say a Mass in his honor.  I wanted to go to it, but a day or two before the Mass took place, I awoke with a very bad case of the flu and walking pneumonia, and my travel was restricted to the bedroom and the bathroom.  Trips between the two felt like climbing Everest.

Ancestors on my mother’s side owned and operated coal mines in Noble County, Ohio, and my late uncle, Glenn McKee, often wrote in his poetry about the mine fires and the mined-out coal country of that part of Ohio.  I took comfort in the fact they were probably rolling in their graves if they knew I was headed to Washington to protest fracking.

The truly joyous event of the trip to Washington was reuniting with an old friend.  The name Bill McKibben is quite familiar to anyone in environmental circles.  He is the founder of 350.org, an organization dedicated to solving the climate and earth crisis.  He is also the author of The End of Nature and The Age of Missing Information.  (The latter is the only book of his I have read, I confess.)

Bill graduated from Harvard in 1982, three months before my arrival in Boston.  He had been president of The Harvard Crimson, which would become my employer and the focus of my life and activity.  After he graduated from Harvard, he worked at The New Yorker, writing many of its “Talk of the Town” columns.  Bill grew up in Lexington, Mass., just outside of Cambridge, and he would often stop in The Crimson‘s building on Plympton St. to visit when he was up from New York to visit his parents.

While he worked for The New Yorker, he volunteered as an advisor for the newspaper for an inner-city Manhattan high school.  When the paper folded, he came to Cambridge and asked me, and one or two others, to typeset the farewell issue.  (This was also the night of The Crimson‘s annual Alumni Dinner.  After the fête at the Sheraton Commander Hotel, I went to work on the copy.  A true Kodak moment: I was sitting at the CRTronic Linotype, my jacket draped over the back of the chair, my sleeves rolled up, the knot of my tie hanging down to mid-breastbone, and a can of Michelob at one hand and a can of Coke at the other.  And yet the finished product looked beautiful.)

I suspected Bill would be one of the speakers, because he is a superstar in the environmental movement.  The center of activity was a small dais on the West Capitol lawn, facing toward the Washington Monument (closed since the 2010 minor earthquake).  And I was not disappointed.  Bill was the third or fourth speaker.

I was able to shoot a video of Bill’s speech, and my batteries miraculously lasted long enough to get the entire thing.  I had the foresight to bring extra batteries for the camera, so I was able to shoot even more video and still pictures.

This is not my video of Bill McKibben, however I do make a Hitchcock-like appearance in front of the platform.

Once Bill stepped off the platform, I went to meet him.  “Hey, Bill.  It’s Paul Evans, from The Crimson!”  He laughed and hugged me, and said, “How are you doing, brother?”  I thought he would remember me, because we had some common ground, however slight, other than The Crimson.  His mother was born in Parkersburg, W.Va., as was I.  (Whenever I’m tempted to ridicule West Virginia–a very popular sport when I was growing up–I try to bear in mind that I was born in Parkersburg because “advanced” Marietta had no obstetrician/gynecologist in 1963.)

I handed the camera to someone nearby, and immortalized the moment.

Your intrepid diarist and Bill McKibben, July 28, 2012, West Lawn of the United States Capitol.

What truly inspired me was the undercurrent of happiness and positive focus that guided this demonstration.  I am not echoing the thoughts of New Age gurus who will happily collect your money and tell you that the victims of Hurricane Katrina should have thought more positively, and that six million Jews died under the Nazis because they chose to.  Hubert Humphrey spoke (somewhat naïvely) about “the politics of joy” at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago as police were breaking protestors’ skulls with clubs and arresting reporters, delegates, and protestors en masse.  At many peace march and political gatherings, I have often felt an undercurrent of hostility, of people who were itching for fights, and who delibertely tried to “sow dragons’ teeth,” which my English teacher Mrs. Curtis always warned us never to do.
I witnessed this when it came to a head in November 1982, when a march against the Ku Klux Klan in Washington degenerated into rock-throwing, tear gas, vandalism, and arrests.  I was on the receiving end of tear gas, and have chronicled the experience here, in an earlier entry in this blog.
After the speakers left the podium, everyone took to the streets from Capitol Hill.  There were about 5000 people, shouting and displaying every pun based on the word frack you can imagine (My personal favorite: GOD HATES FRACKS, a variation on the signs the Westboro Baptist Church alleged humans carry).  There was no parade permit, but the police stood by and watched.  Since we weren’t all mobbing the streets like the rejects from Attila the Hun’s army, they could relax.  We were a celebratory mob.  A young woman who was on the bus from Columbus periodically stepped out of the street and gave water bottles, sandwiches, and bread to homeless people sitting on benches nearby.
Only one time did I fear that the march would veer out of control.  We converged on the American Petroleum Institute on L St. NW, on a Saturday when the doors were locked and no one was at work, save for a lone unarmed security guard in the lobby, who probably earned minimum wage.  I’m sure all he wanted was to listen to the baseball game on the radio, but then here comes this mob that surrounds the entrance in a semi-circle, chanting, “The water!  The water!  The water’s on fire!” with the responding, “We don’t need no fracking, let the corporations burn!”  (This was a parody of “The Roof Is On Fire,” by Rockmaster Scott & the Dynamic Three, which I heard way too many times in the bars when I was at Ohio University.)  The energy level was so high that I was afraid at some point someone would toss a trash can or brick through the glass doors.  That would have been my cue to leave.  (To echo the words of Messrs. Lennon and McCartney, “But when you talk about destruction, don’t you know that you can count me out.”)
The march ended at Franklin Square, at 14th and K Sts., NW.  Many of the people opted to jump into the fountain in the center of the park.  This was pure spontaneity, and I doubt anything on the march was choreographed or pre-arranged.  There was no street theater or political statement to it.  The temperature was around 85° F., with relative humidity hovering around 82% all day.  (This, by D.C. standards, is cool for summertime.)  Only a person extremely self-disciplined and -denying would not have been tempted to get in the fountain.  (I didn’t get in, but I stayed near the lip of the fountain and was “accidentally” splashed a few times.)

Franklin Square, Washington, D.C.  “Whose water?”  “OUR WATER!!”  A far cry from the way the park appeared in The Lost Symbol.

Our bus was back in Columbus by 2 a.m. Sunday morning.  I thought about sleeping on the way home, but I was keyed up from the experience, and didn’t even read while we came home along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, I was content to look out the window.  Once home, despite my exhaustion, I was up until well past dawn loading pictures and video to my Facebook page.
And I dreaded that a crash was coming.  After an event that is so exhilarating it stokes the adrenaline, once the stimuli disappears, the letdown is bad, especially for someone with bipolar disorder.  I tried to keep in mind the Facebook maxim “Don’t cry because it’s over, laugh because it happened,” and I was fortunate enough to have a full load of work when I came to work the following Monday.
This was important, because as much as I dread typing certain doctors (one sounds like he dictates after happy hour, another one sounds like he moonlights as an auctioneer), it is good for me to be busy.  Over the last several years, I have noticed that boredom leads to severe depression for me.  This is the type of situation that made me understand Sherlock Holmes’ rationalization of his cocaine habit in The Sign of Four.  Presented with problems, work, or crime, Sherlock Holmes could leave his syringe alone.  When his mind was idle (“My mind rebels at stagnation,” he told Dr. Watson), that was when he would turn to cocaine.
That route has not tempted me, neither cocaine nor anything else.  Since Susie was an infant, I have not had any beverage stronger than Diet Pepsi, nor used any unprescribed drug.  So, bored as I was, I never considered relapsing.  (The hardcore Straight Edge people, however, would not consider me one of their own, because of my excessive caffeine consumption and the fact that I eat meat.)
I have to constantly guard, however, against my current rejuvenated feeling veering off into a manic episode.  I have been conscientious about taking my lithium twice daily, but it can only control mania or depression, not stop it.  Under the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, I probably cannot legally own a firearm, because I have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric facility in the past.
That’s probably a good thing.  Gun control pro and con has been all over the news this summer, because of the mass killing in Aurora, Colorado and this Sunday’s massacre in the Sikh temple just outside Milwaukee.  When Mitt Romney and President Obama take to the campaign trail after Labor Day, I am sure there will be plenty of idiots who want to get their names in the history books by killing them.
As a bipolar person, I understand that it would be stupidity for me to have a handgun in the house.  Not because Susie would find it and play with it–when she was in Florida last December, Steph took her to a firing range and let her target shoot, and the paper target now hangs on Susie’s bedroom wall.  Either end of the bipolar pendulum could spell disaster for me.  I would not use a gun on someone else, but in a moment of extreme mania I could find myself thinking how much fun it would be to shoot out street lights, or to see what would happen if I blew a hole in the living room ceiling.  And on the extreme depressive end of the scale… use your imagination, gentle reader.
As long as I’ve been typing this, I feel like I’ve gone a few laps on a treadmill.  Maybe it is a good sign that once I logged on here and began typing a blog entry, the struggle was not to produce the next word, but the biggest difficulty was stopping. 

Memories of a Retired Hitchhiker

Susie and I are at Kafé Kerouac, a coffee house/bar named for the patron saint of hitchhiking, Jack Kerouac, at the moment.  (Kerouac’s 90th birthday would have been on the 12th of this month, but, unfortunately, he drank himself to death in 1969, aged 47.)  She and I are in the front room, and pages from the first several chapters of Kerouac’s opus, On the Road, adorn the north wall.

The north wall at Kafé Kerouac, decorated with pages from On the Road.

Something that brought the long-moribund subject of hitchhiking to my mind was seeing that one of my Facebook friends was listening to Vanity Fare’s “Hitchin’ a Ride” on Spotify.  I’ve been in an advanced and rapidly progressing state of ennui lately, which is one of the reasons for the paucity of blog entries.  (I deleted two previous entries after only writing a sentence or two, so I’m hoping to get myself back on track by writing in here tonight.)

I should preface what follows by saying that my hitchhiking days are far behind me.  I haven’t done it since the summer of 1989, and I am sure that it’s more dangerous now than when I was a teenager and a young adult.  (It’s never been 100% safe.  When my thumb was my primary mode of transportation, it horrified some of my high school friends.  I still remember one of my classmates looking at me, slack-jawed, and saying, “Paul!  You’re going to get your head blown off!” when I casually mentioned I would be thumbing to Athens–a distance of about 48 miles.)

The first time I hitchhiked, it was not my idea, and I was far from enthusiastic about doing it.  It was in August 1979, and it was a relatively short trip.  I was 16 years ago, and I was traveling to OPIK ’79, a regional Liberal Religious Youth conference.  (OPIK–rhymes with topic–was an acronym for Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Kentucky.  In 1979, it took place in Michigan, for reasons too complex to explain here.)  I had been on the bus from Columbus since noon on Saturday, August 18 (the conference began the next day) with a young woman from Columbus named Suzanne, who was also headed to OPIK.  We arrived in Kalamazoo around midnight, and no one at the conference site was answering.  (OPIK ’79 took place at Circle Pines Center in Delton, which was about 25 miles away in Barry County.)  So, since we were marooned at the closed Greyhound station for the night, we sat on our suitcases most of the night, talked, ate date bars, and I read, wrote in my diary, and tried in vain to sleep, using my windbreaker as a blanket and my typewriter case as a pillow.

Morning came, and we splurged on a big breakfast in the Time Table Inn, the bus station’s restaurant, tried Circle Pines Center again, and finally Suzanne heaved a sigh and said, “Well, let’s hitch.”  This was long before the days of Google Earth and GPS systems, so we roamed around a bit before we found M-89 West, the road that led from Kalamazoo to Delton.  Once we found that, a friendly guy in his 20s named Stephen gave us a ride straight to Circle Pines’ parking lot.  I was happy to add a new experience to my résumé–hitchhiking–but my first order of business was to find a cot.  When I found one, I immediately collapsed fully clothed, shoes and all.

This experience emboldened me, and when I got back to Marietta, I talked the ears off anyone who asked me how I spent my summer.  I managed to resist the temptation to embellish the trip beyond the 25 miles from Kalamazoo to Delton, yet the account caused many to further question my sanity.

For the remaining three years I lived in Marietta, I overcompensated for my earlier reluctance to hitchhike. It was analogous to someone overcoming a lifelong fear of water and the next day deciding to swim the English Channel.  (The concept of the golden mean remains totally foreign to me to this day.)  The following summer, I stuck my thumb out on State Route 550, destination Athens.  I had not thought to let my dad know where I was going when I left the house that Saturday morning.

I did not make it to Athens, but the reason for aborting the mission were truly in character.  On the way up 550, I encountered Carpenter’s Books, one of the most unusual bookstores I have encountered.  It was in a man’s garage, and the place was wall to wall, floor to ceiling loaded with books.  Carpenter also raised chickens and sold eggs–quite a juxtaposition.  I spent maybe $2 to $3, and came home with a large box full of paperbacks and hardcovers.  As usual, my choices ran the gamut from Gold Medal originals by writers like Peter Rabe and Richard S. Prather to odd volumes of Harvard Classics and Black’s Readers Service classics (The Works of Tolstoi and The Works of Doyle).

After some test runs to Athens, I made my first “big” trip in May of 1981, a month before I graduated from high school.  I was en route to Washington, D.C. for the biggest protest since the Vietnam era, protesting the military presence in El Salvador and the military buildup overall.  I took the bus as far as Cambridge, Ohio, and then set out on I-70.  I was dressed in jeans, a work shirt, and hiking boots, and I carried a small backpack–only enough room for a change of clothes, my diary, and a book or two.

I was buoyed by my success.  I made it to D.C. in three rides.  The longest was a driver who picked me up around Quaker City and took me as far as Hagerstown.  A second ride (by a contractor who was at Catholic U. the same time my dad was) got me to Gaithersburg, and a third ride dropped me off on M St. in Georgetown.  I had turned 18 earlier that week, which meant I was finally legal to drink beer.  And I marked the event in style.  I had my first legal beer at Clyde’s of Georgetown, which was the prototype for the gathering place in St. Elmo’s Fire.  Its lunchtime menu inspired Starland Vocal Band’s “Afternoon Delight.”  (Since I had just read William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, I had searched in vain to find The Tombs, the bar where whiskey priest Damien Karras cries into his suds to a fellow priest about his lack of faith.)  I remember the polyglot conversations at the tables around me, and the pay phones in the rest room.  I spent the remainder of the night wandering around Washington, and buying The Washington Post as soon as it rolled off the presses.

Getting home was no fun.  I had a ride to the infamous Breezewood, Pa. from Silver Spring.  Breezewood is the “Town of Motels” just off the Pennsylvania Turnpike, eloquently described by Business Week in 1991 as “a polyp on the nation’s interstate highway system.”  I was stuck there for hours, so much so that if Breezewood is the first thing I see when I die, I will know beyond a doubt where I’ve gone.

I won’t list every journey I made by thumb, but the memorable one came in the spring of 1982, when my LRY friend John (whom I met at the aforementioned OPIK ’79) came to visit me in Marietta.  Going to all of Marietta’s points of interest does not take long, even with a trip across the river to the Fenton Art Glass plant in Williamstown.  Bored, John and I were doing the “What do you wanna do?”  “I dunno–what do you wanna do?” thing, when I said, in jest, “Let’s hitch to D.C.”  The next several hours consisted my burning up the phone lines to find friends of friends (multiplied ad infinitum in the D.C. area where we could sleep.  The calls started at the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Washington office, and became quite hydra-headed.)  Both of us owned Paul Dimaggio’s The Hitchhiker’s Field Manual, and we had both read our copies to tatters, since it had become a weird kind of Bible for both of us.  During the journey, whenever we argued over where to stand on the road, Dimaggio’s word was law.

Our name for the trip was the “Nobody Said It Was Easy” tour.  Nobody said hitchhiking was easy, this is true, but the song “Nobody Said It Was Easy (Lookin’ for the Lights)”, by the Louisiana band Le Roux, seemed to be on the radio or tape deck of every car picking us up.  In Bethesda, we hopped a Metro bus that put us in Dupont Circle.  John and I were both tired and cross from the long journey and inadequate nutrition, and John was skeptical of my claims that we had made it.  I was vindicated when the escalator in the Dupont Circle Metro station brought us to street level.  I nudged John.  “What?” he said testily.  Without a word, I pointed at the lighted dome of the Capitol.

My final hitchhike was from Cincinnati to Columbus in 1989, illegally, since I used Interstate 71 the entire way.  Not a memorable trip.  In my journal, I wrote about it in two sentences, and devoted pages more to the subsequent visit with Adam Bradley.

Peaceably to Assemble…

Last Friday, I walked past the Convention Center en route home from work.  This past weekend, it hosted Ohayocon ’11, a convention celebrating Japanese pop culture (anime, manga, etc.).  A co-worker was waiting at the bus stop when I told him I was going to hoof it home, and he walked with me for a few blocks, until I turned east on E. Goodale by the Church of the Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral.  We passed by quite a few people who were at Ohayocon (many of them Anglos) and they were all dressed in many different shades of bizarre.  (I always got a crack out of going past the Convention Center during Marcon–Multiple Alternative Realities Convention–when I saw Darth Vaders, Klingons, and C-3POs standing outside smoking.)

Bizarre as the costumes and hairstyles of the people from Ohayocon were, I’m glad that no one seemed to be hassling them or giving them a second glance.  There are usually no shortage of people who think the First Amendment’s “right of the people peaceably to assemble” only applies to their particular group, party, religion, or political philosophy.
Unless there is an out-of-the-building errand, I spend my lunch hours in the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation library on the third-floor mezzanine of the William Green Building where I work.  I either sit inside and read The Wall Street Journal or The Dispatch, or else I’ll sit at the little table outside the doors and read, write in my diary, or doze.  Two years ago this week, I was sitting at the table with my journal, and I heard a middle-aged guy on a cell phone, pacing the floor and obviously looking not very happy.  I heard his end of the conversation (whether I wanted to or not, and he wasn’t make any effort to conceal it), and found that he was on the phone to the Holiday Inn in Worthington.  He was complaining because the Holiday Inn was hosting the Winter Wickedness Perversion Fest.
He was an ordained minister, he said (at least twice), and kept asking if they would have hosted “the Kyoo [sic] Klux Klan” if they were wanting to hold an event.  He talked about how he was going to boycott the hotel in the future (an empty threat if you live in Central Ohio) and urge other people to do the same.  I felt sorry for the minimum-wage desk clerk unfortunate enough to have caught this call.
The fact that he mentioned that he was an ordained minister two or three times, and spoke loudly enough to be heard by the whole mezzanine made me wonder how much time he spent meditating on Matthew 6:1: “Be careful not to make a show of your religion before men; if you do, no reward awaits you in your Father’s house in heaven.”
The Winter Wickedness Perversion Fest was a gathering of people who realized that sex was for something other than procreation, and have quite varied ways of expressing sexuality.  I don’t personally know the man who was so irate about the hotel’s hosting this, but I played amateur psychiatrist and wondered if his displeasure boiled down to “and damn it, they didn’t invite me!”  (After all, if you need to locate a militant anti-gay rights crusader, the first place to look is usually in a Roadside Rest or public park men’s room.  And it requires a computer to chronicle all the Republican and fundamentalist Christian leaders who are serial adulterers and divorced multiple times.)
I’ve seen protests over movies.  The Colony Theater in Marietta, for many years, showed soft-core porn movies on Friday and Saturday nights, and when I was in high school, they inaugurated this with a showing of Oh! Calcutta!, wanting to launch the porn showing with an artistic bent, I suppose.  Naturally, a large contingent of religious fundamentalists were protesting, one guy bringing his German shepherd, carrying a sign that said, “I wouldn’t take a dog to see this movie!”  What I didn’t see was anyone pointing loaded weapons at them and forcing them to see the movie.  This was a precursor to the people who would protest The Last Temptation of Christ, mostly people who lacked the insight or literacy to actually read the novel or see the movie, and understand that it was/is a highly moral movie.  French fundamentalists showed their love of Jesus and his message in 1988 by throwing Molotov cocktails into a Paris movie house during a showing, injuring 13 people and severely burning four of them.  Who would Jesus bomb?
I’ve struggled with the issue myself.  In November 1982, I took my first vacation since moving to Boston, since The Crimson was on hiatus for the Thanksgiving holiday.  I took a Greyhound down to Washington, D.C. and stayed in the youth hostel on Eye St., NW.  I made my usual pilgrimages–Ford’s Theater, the house where Lincoln died, the graves of JFK and RFK, the Smithsonian, etc.  The hostel was in Franklin Square at that time, and I began seeing “DEATH TO THE KLAN” posters on walls, fences, and trash cans all over the District.  I gleaned from what I heard on the street and what appeared in The Washington Post there was supposed to be a Ku Klux Klan rally that Saturday.  (In case the person mentioned in the fourth paragraph reads this blog: Please note the pronunciation of the first word in their name!)
I went to be a part of the protest, although I didn’t go there with “death to the Klan” in mind.  Unlike the majority of the protesters, I never questioned the Klan’s right to be there and to march.  As despicable as they were, the law that allowed Vietnam War protests and the March on Washington to take place covered them as well.  I would be there to let them know what I thought of them.  (The march was the brainchild of pro-Soviet Trotskyist loudmouths known as the Sparticist League, a self-styled “revolutionary communist” group.) I was troubled when I saw one guy yammering on about how he was going to get a Klansman’s head stuffed and hung in his recreation room.
Since the Klan never appeared, the crowd who had arrived there loaded for bear, and spoiling for a fight, went wild, breaking shop windows around Lafayette Square and the White House, and charged across Pennsylvania Ave. into Lafayette Square.  Pennsylvania Ave. was still open to through traffic at that time; this changed after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.  I saw a man driving a car which contained his wife and two young children.  They were in Washington as tourists, and wondered just what the hell they had stumbled into.  The man turned his car from 17th St. NW onto Pennsylvania, near the Old Executive Office Building, and I saw a man very deliberately march over to their car and put his fist through their back window.
Crossing over into Lafayette Park, the protesters rioters went after the police, who had lined the streets with sawhorses and dressed in full riot gear.  I was not going to pick up any type of projectile, but I was barely in the park when I felt something whoosh past my right ear.  I realized just how bad the situation was when I noticed it was a chunk of cement the size of a softball.  Had it been one millimeter in the other direction, I would have been the recipient of some massive brain damage.
But I didn’t have the time to contemplate that, because the wind shifted and a massive cloud of tear gas blew right into my face.  For a second, it felt like my face was on fire.  My dad told me about basic training when he was in the Army, when he and his fellow privates were confined in a Quonset hut that was flooded with tear gas, before they were allowed to put on their gas masks.  Tear gas is made from the active ingredient in onions, and my first instinct was to wipe my eyes.  Two women pushed me onto a bench and made me sit on my hands until my eyes stopped burning.  They told me I’d be rubbing it into my eyes deeper.
The Sparticists (their official name is the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)) who were so eager to organize a riot against the KKK were too young to remember that it was not so long ago that membership in their organization meant no driver’s license, no government employment, no veteran’s benefits (even if honorably discharged), no bonding for jobs (which meant not even work flipping burgers, because you need to be bonded if you’re handling customers’ money), and other prohibitions.  Communist organizations were so heavily infiltrated by the FBI that several cities had cells comprised totally of agents!  (The running joke among leftists was, “How can you tell the FBI informant at a Communist Party meeting?  He’s the only one who ever pays dues.”)
I have zero interest in football, college or professional.  That doesn’t mean that I want the pre- and post-game craziness around High St. that happens on Saturdays all fall to stop.  I know better than to venture into that section of town after a game, especially if the Buckeyes were victorious, but I would never deny them the right to gather to celebrate a victory.  (During the 1970s, Columbus police dealt much more harshly with protesters against the Vietnam War than they did with football revelers, and the post-game crowds usually caused much more property damage.)

Cold, Wet, and Gray Outside

Very erratic sleep schedule this weekend, which means I’m now waking up (it’s after 8 p.m.) after a four- or five-hour nap.  I thought the best thing to do would be to share some of the D.C. pictures with my faithful readership.  My actual thoughts from Friday night to Sunday morning are available in the scanned handwritten pages that I’ve already posted.  That always reads better than recapitulating the experience later.

I was in bed a little after 4 a.m., after arriving back from the One Nation Working Together rally in Washington. I took the time to scan the pages from my union diary where I wrote my thoughts as they came to me, but didn’t post them (backdated) into the blog until this afternoon.  This morning, between awakening and leaving with Susie for church, I posted my pictures to my Facebook account.

Amelia Houser and I at the Communication Workers of
America’s union hall on East Broad St., just before
boarding one of two Washington-bound chartered buses.

The above picture reminds me of something Travis McGee, the hero of 21 novels by John D. MacDonald, said in A Tan and Sandy Silence that, if he carried a placard, it would read:


We could not have asked for better weather, especially when I was giving Amelia, who has never been to Washington before, a good workout as we walked up and down the National Mall.  One Nation Working Together was not a march per se; the publicity was a little misleading in that respect.  It was more a rally, taking place at a fixed place.

And what better fixed place?  This is how the Lincoln
Memorial looked a little after 10 a.m.  I took this just
after Amelia and I crossed the Memorial Bridge from
the Pentagon’s parking lot in Virginia.

We didn’t go inside anywhere, but I did show Amelia the significant landmarks within visual range of the Mall, such as the Washington Monument, the Capitol Building, the White House, the National World War II Memorial, some of the visible spires of the Smithsonian, etc.
The Reflecting Pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial looked sparkling, which isn’t always the case.  I remember making a trip in high school and finding that it was drained, and that had been in May.  Sometimes in the summer that is common.  During the Poor People’s Campaign in the spring and summer of 1968, when Resurrection City stood on the Mall, the pool was emptied several times because residents were using it to clean clothes and wash dishes.
Amelia was happy to touch the Washington Monument, even
though we arrived too late to go inside.

This is the scene in the early afternoon.

Happy for a brief respite from the crowd, Amelia and I
went to Tonic at Quigley’s Pharmacy on G St., NW, in
the heart of the George Washington University community.
My friend Robert Nedelkoff took us to lunch–a very good
lunch!  It’s always good to see Robert.

After the repast at Tonic.  Robert, as usual, looks like
he stepped out of the St. John’s Bay catalog, and I resemble
an outtake from America’s Most Wanted.
Bidding a reluctant farewell to the Lincoln Memorial.
I took this picture after Amelia and I walked back over
the Memorial Bridge (on the left) into Virginia, where
our charter bus awaited.