Jeremias X Goes To Washington (Part 3)
Posted by jeremiasx on September 28, 2007
My fourth day began in the pre-dawn hours on a park bench in front of the church that George Bush attends about once a month, from most local accounts. It wasn’t the coziest sleeping place in the world, but it certainly allowed me some time to close my eyes and reflect upon my time walking in front of the White House.
I wouldn’t call what I did on that 4-foot bench technically “sleeping.” I’d say it’s about the same type of sleep one usually gets in a forward fighting position or perhaps a deer stand on a blustery fall morning, troubled and uncomfortable. Any type of bed would be preferable, but I reminded myself that many people (including the six men there besides myself…I assumed from their level of familiarity with this courtyard and each other) well…they sleep outdoors MOST nights. I caught a wink or two. I needed it.
Giving in to the beckoning of the golden arches, I slipped into Mickey D’s (on New York and 12th?) to change my underwear, clean my face and hands, and enjoy a little greasy city slicker breakfast food. It sure wasn’t breakfast in bed with my lovely wife, no bacon and eggs with homemade biscuits and jelly to speak of. One makes do with what’s available at the time, though, I suppose…I made the most of the free refills in my small drink cup thankful for the Powerade on tap to get me hydrated for the coming day.
The majority of this day was spent exploring the DC midtown, speaking with locals and travelers, and handling my personal hygiene and dirty laundry…I had a little help in these noble but mundane endeavors. After stopping in at this place for directions and at the local valley for a refreshing shower and very pleasant chat with the secretary and steward…
…I felt refreshed and even human again…and then left those magnificent places and I traveled further West into the Latino neighborhood not too far away to do my laundry at a local lavenderia…the locals who had been maintaining the temple grounds were happy to walk me halfway there. Muchas Gracias, Muchachos!
They pointed me to a really nice little joint that had clean machines in good repair, and an owner who I believe was an African Muslim because when I put on a clean T-shirt that had Farsi on it, he seemed quite thrilled and beamed a smile at me…he checked on me several times to make sure my experience in his establishment was a great one. I love it when people run a business with pride. This man had it in spades. Unfortunately, he had to point out to me after I spent more than one quarter drying my socks that I had it set on “fluff.” Oops.
I strapped my sign to my backpack again (I had to take it on and off any time I needed anything out, but fortunately I’m not that finicky with my gear) and walked back to the White House through an Arabic neighborhood, and I think most people there all were quite receptive to “the message.” Smiles and good-natured nods abounded.
I finally made it back to the White House north lawn and joined my new friends and sisters Patricia and Laurie (who gave me the two excellent black t-shirts you’ll see me wearing in various photos here, check out some of her fine work here) in a small ad hoc protest and show of solidarity between ourselves and another man who drove the magic bus all the way from San Fransisco for the march. We were all excited about it and hoped for a good turnout.
Patricia is a professional photographer and I’m going to go ahead and use this wonderful photo she took that afternoon in this very blog, with full acknowledgment and humble gratitude, and I’d suggest that each and every one of you check out her other art at her website.
After a few hours of enjoying smiles (mostly) and occasional mindless rhetoric (VERY rarely…maybe once or twice over a period of several hours and several hundred visitors) from O’Reilly-Rush-Hannity automatons we were pretty Bushed for the afternoon. Even though the chickenhawks proliferate on the internet they seem a bit sparse in reality. They also seemed to be hesitant to talk their typical loud-mouth bullshit in person.
Most NORMAL folks seemed just fine with us being there and asked us questions and we were happy to oblige them to photo sessions (especially the Japanese…ALL of them were happy to see our protest…or at least seemed to be…they were stereotypically wonderful shooting rounds and rounds of memento photos posing there with us, smiling, and throwing peace signs to us and each other.)
Patricia and I headed to a WONDERFUL little Italian restaurant where she most kindly treated me to pizza and salad. We had a deep and meaningful exchange of ideas and I think her dedication to her pet cause (avoiding war with Iran) is inspiring at the very least.
She will be seen at first by many passersby as a distinguished looking lady in a motorized wheelchair, but her level of integrity, truthfulness, and the beauty of her spirit elevated her in my mind…head and shoulders above the walking while slumbering public. She loaned me her poncho for the evening as it looked like it might rain and offered to charge my camera batteries at her hotel room so I’d have a fresh set for the protest.
I returned once more to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and I found myself wondering more and more about the little white tent across the street with the signs and placards to each side. I’d passed by it more than once and had even been admonished by Start Loving to drop in there, but the man named Thomas had not been around during the first few days I was in town. I’d see his wife, Concepcion, and another man whose name I learned was Troy…but no Thomas, and that’s the man I was sent to talk to.
I decided to overcome my initial shyness and walked on over to check out and see what they were about. My curiosity got the best of me, and I fell into a bit of a rabbit hole.
A man sitting cross-legged and quiet as a monk caught in the midst of a moment of deep reflection sat there stroking a long and braided goatee (sp?) and being very neutral about his entire presence in such an austere location. This was, after all, 1601 Pennsylvania Avenue, the hottest piece of real estate in all of DC. (The sidewalk directly across the street from the White House, front and center.)
I asked him his name and introduced myself to him, and we proceeded from there to have one of the longest and most unusual conversations I’ve had in quite some time. It was the kind of conversation that I had hoped for the entire time I’d been in DC. I learned much during those hours. I’d learn so much more in the day to come.
At the end of the evening I was searching desperately for a payphone, as the ones in Lafayette Square are all disconnected. I guess they don’t want folks gabbing on the phone that close to the White House…maybe they think it’s tacky or something. Anyhow. I had to walk several blocks in the rain first to find a bathroom (it’s pretty tough living on the street, don’t ever fool yourself on this one…ever) and then to find that phone to call home and let the wife know everything was fine.
I literally checked a dozen donnikers (port-a-johns) and found no trace of toilet paper. I had left my pack at 1601 with Troy. I had nothing. I was desperate. I finally found a late-night Vietnamese joint and walked inside wondering what the toll would be. I quickly saw my opportunity in the drink case (can sodas with your noodles!) and bartered with the purchase of a V8 (about one federal reserve note) to gain admission into the mens’ room. All was well.
Upon returning to Lafayette’s square, I picked up my pack and walked over to the stage being set up for the ANSWER coalition event the next day, and I introduced myself to some young and seemingly nervous young folks who would be camping out on the stage…seemed like a groovy spot to me but their level of security was such that I couldn’t chill with them there.
I felt a bit sad as I was hoping to lend a hand and do some interviews in the process but I understood why they had fear…it was after dark…and most folks are shot through with it *fear* these days and who can blame them with the state of the world? Between the general uncertainties of life, the quiet and sometimes desperate struggle with the meaning of our own existence and trying to find our place in the universe and the rotten or nasty people and institutions in divers places…it *the world* certainly helps to perpetuate the phantasmal (mind) killer. *inhales sharply and exhales…run-on sentence*
I finally settled on a park bench in the farthest northwest corner. I tarried there for some time and was pleased to meet a few deaf students from the local school (Gaullatin) who were chilling there and having a few drinks whilst getting stoked to the gills about the march and rally to be held in this very place twelve hours later. For many of those gathered, including the organizers, aides, workers, and security it was their first major demonstration. I thought that was great. It was my first as well, and I just knew it would be fantastic.
Eventually the hours dwindled on and after wearing out my thumbs on these kids’ blackberry discussing patriotism, family issues, and life in general…a couple more young folks showed up with a man wearing a Che Gueverra shirt. Could be DC undercover, could be cool folks…but the Che shirt wasn’t really much of a shocker considering the event coming up. I put my “Papa Bear” Bill O’Reilly brainwashing aside for a moment, and I tried to make the angels of Ann Coulter and Anne Malkin on my shoulders be silent and to still my beating capitalist red-state redneck heart…and I met some of the coolest folks on my trip yet.
The man and his two sons were Puerto Rican (Americans) and fine exemplars of some of the finest and most refined lessons in humility, honor, duty, and charity that I encountered in my journey. To quote Pantera…”Is there no standard anymore?” The youngest son was mostly into video games and MMOs (like my misses) and it turned out the older brother supposedly has a forum staffed by those who are haters of his character in WoW…lolz…anyhow he is also a Staff Sergeant in the US Army…and his job is to bring the soldiers home from the war. The soldiers that J.P. brings home don’t get to be with their families any more in this world…he drives them in a horse-drawn carriage through Arlington cemetery to rest with the other unsung, mostly forgotten, and (to Bush and Cheney) seemingly disposable heroes…of this current travesty in the Middle East being waged under the banner of mealy-mouthed and Mickey Mouse imperialism that has produced the one positive effect of being a lesson in worst-case foreign policy and practices. Then there are those who pay in anguish every day.
Upon learning of my personal circumstances, they offered to allow me to share their dwelling and told me they’d take me out for breakfast at a swell joint down by Arlington. I was able to update some folks on the net and I must admit that J.P.’s setup is the uberbomb for gaming with a large flat screen for maximum optical enjoyment. I remember the cool toys I bought in the service. I still buy one every year or so now. I’ll confess, I’m a bit of a minimalist these days.
I slept like a baby on that hide-a-bed…and dreamed of freedom and justice.
***-end part 3 part 4 coming soon – check back and check my other posts. My archives are extensive and at your disposal. Education is freedom. Feel free to email me.