the summer of our discontent

She nods me aboard with a smile, letting me ride the train for free. Is she doing that for all sign-carrying passengers, or was it the “Black Lives Matter” bracelet?

I had given myself permission to stay home. The hurting joints. Pretty bad heat intolerance. I’d sent out various missives and received kind encouragements: ‘stay home,’ ‘don’t overdo’.

I dreamt about getting dressed for the rally all night long — looking everywhere for a white shirt, finding nothing suitable.It was probably a 90 second dream.

Still, I wasn’t gonna go. Headed out with the dog in the oppressive heat. It was only 9:30.

But as I walked with Finn, I kept thinking about families crossing the desert in worse heat or riding in airless trucks in desperate bids to reach our border. Running out of water. Coming with nothing. Facing the unknown. It made me almost ashamed. Or rather, it put my anticipated discomforts in perspective.

I would go. Slowly and briefly. That was my deal.

The train cars are AC’d to walk-in cooler temps and yet, beads of sweat roll down my spine. It’s like having a secret. I whip out my sharpie and make my sign. Light flashes on the white poster board from between the passing trees: CRUELTY IS NOT POLICY.

My phone isn’t fully charged and I forgot my hat.

Behind me, two women speak Russian, I think. Across the way, two Asian men tap and scroll, their necks bent. Soon a tatted millennial sits next to me. She taps and scrolls, too.

Is ‘tatted millennial’ redundant?

Now the train is crowded. Passengers climb on at Beaconsfield, Longwood.

The ‘white hairs’ come on with water bottles, hats, and determined expressions. We are getting practiced at this.

A small headache knocks — pollen? dehydration? — but I avoid the water bottle, having arrived at the age where intake has to be balanced with opportunities for output.

I’m recalling Cory Booker declaring that the Supreme Court nomination should wait until after the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.

What criminal defendant gets to pick his own judge?

If the courts go, only the press and the people remain and look what happened to five journalists in Maryland this week.

FUCK YOU MILO. And Fuck You, Sneering Rude But-I-Deserve-My-Cheeseplate Sarah. Fuck trump and his ‘the press is the enemy of the people’ crap.

And now you know which side of the ‘Civility Argument’ I occupy.

It’s all too much. I hope showing up matters, but it’s hard to know. I put one foot after the other and make my way over to Boston’s City Hall Plaza.

CRUELTY IS NOT POLICY.

My sign this week was inspired by a comedian. On Colbert this week, Jon Stewart said to the camera (as if to trump): “and no matter what you do, it always comes with an extra layer of gleeful cruelty and dickishness.”

The Plaza stretches on and on, filled with people and signs, capped by a blue sky.  I can actually hear the speakers, for a change — Senator Markey, Senator Warren, and Rep. Kennedy (all my elected officials). Someone calls them ‘every day warriors’ and it’s true. I’m so proud of them.

I walk the edge of the crowd in a wide loop — probably passing within yards of any number of people I know, but not seeing them. Then I sit for a while under my umbrella.

Before you know it, I’m done. I don’t make myself wrong about this anymore. Just up and leave, doing the Bimini walk in search of refreshment and a john.

The ‘Bimini walk’ is a term invented by a college friend to describe the kind of slow, deliberate walk one does in intense heat.

One foot in front of the other. No hurry. Find a john, get a smoothie, loving my umbrella and my portable shade.

I enter the cool of the Granary Cemetery in what has become a protest ritual — paying my respects to Frank, John Hancock’s ‘servant’. I don’t know why this feels important, but it does. I got a penny of change with my smoothie. Perfect! I have something to leave as a token of respect.

Once on the street again, I see that the march has begun. Tourists pass in Duck Boats and on Freedom Trail tours, thinking who knows what about the spectacle.

Instead of hoofing it to the train, I decide to slow-walk over and join the stream of people heading to the State House. There is chanting. There are signs held aloft.  A massive and raucous jack hammer on the first block offers its own protest — a violent, super-human shuddering at the ground, capable of breaking up old structures. Demanding to be heard. Because I’m open, the sound passes right through me.

There are five-gallon tub drummers. Synagogue groups. Parents pushing strollers. One-time hippies. The ACLU. Indivisible groups. Student leagues.

 

 

Now we flank the Common and I debate when to peel away. A boombox approaches, though of course it’s a blue tooth speaker and no boombox at all — but it’s big and held on the shoulder just like the roller bladers of the 1980’s.

It’s the Rolling Stones. I decide right then and there that if there’s a revolution, I want to them to be the sound track and after hours of noticing my age, something young and vital arises — something I could almost surrender to. But then, Joni Mitchell comes on and my face crumples.

“You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”.

If I were to kneel and weep, would someone call the paramedics, like they did for that woman undone by the heat, prone on the sidewalk near City Hall Plaza? “We believe it’s a case of terrible sadness,” or “the news did her in, I’m afraid.”

So I head, at last, into the sanctuary of the Common. The shade is a relief, as is the whole parade of humanity: toddlers and their caregivers wading in the Frog Pond, vendors hawking icy drinks, hot dogs, and pretzels, and as usual, that Chinese guy sending haunting melodies aloft from his stringed instrument.


I wade in the four inch water of the Frog Pond and miss my children. Or more precisely, I miss the period of their childhoods. There is splashing and laughter. A boy in a Batman shirt plunges in.

The train ride home is uneventful, but once up and on the leafy street that flanks the tracks, I see my good fortune in sharp relief — in every well-maintained porch railing, in each and every recently painted shutter, and in all the beautifully composed gardens.

Someone lays mulch. A man in a yarmulke and an animated woman talk on the corner.

Heading up the hot, radiant pavement to my car, the Bimini walk slows even more. But I am home in three minutes, where a happy Finn greets me. Per routine, he promptly rounds up the treats I’d scattered and plunks down on a rug to enjoy them, preferring the relaxed atmosphere of my company to anxious separation.

It’s QUIET. Really quiet. Newtonites have gone to their beach houses. It’s summer at last.

And it is, I fear, to paraphrase the bard, going to be: “the summer of our discontent”.

“Hey Hey / Hey Ho / This is what democracy looks like”

35 thoughts on “the summer of our discontent

  1. Deborah Lacativa

    Thank you for picking up my miserable slack. It has to help seeing other people who know just how badly all of this sucks.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      And thank you for being one of the women who supported me in staying home. It’s what allowed me to go, in a way.

      Reply
  2. ravenandsparrow

    Yay Dee. Thank you for your fortitude and your presence. I didn’t go down to Seattle (two hours by car and nowhere to park) but I did join my local townspeople at the main intersection in Anacortes. It was a good turnout for our island….very comforting to be with the likewise outraged.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Four hours of transport is asking a lot. And I think even these smaller groups and expressions matter.

      Reply
  3. Liz A

    Thank you for going … thank you for sharing. We were with you … 2045 miles away in Kerrville, Texas. Bussed in by Sorros according to someone who commented on a FB post. I laugh lest I cry.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Wow. Paranoia runs deep and these days, is broadcast by Fox News, isn’t it? I hate that autocorrect just out Fox News into initial caps! How was the heat for you guys?

      Reply
      1. Liz A

        Texas heat is a true force of nature … but we parked one block from the rally and stood under a tree. Small towns are good that way.

        Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I like to think of you there, cool and calm. Maybe I’ll check out the link. Maybe I won’t. I’m so over Bernie Sanders.

      Reply
  4. RainSluice

    Oh Dee, I’m so sorry we didn’t find each other. We could’ve sat together in the cemetery and cried. I feel how you must’ve missed your boys when you were at the frog pond. This is a lovely documentary of your day though; the struggle and the sadness and your admirable perspective on life. I started to go into a state of dehydration, even with a hat and a bottle of water. So, I peeled away and down to the T before we even got to City Hall Plaza. I felt old and sick – I can admit it now after reading your description. ok, I’m still somewhat in denial about it having anything to do with age. Fortunately Dan stayed with me and I have to take pride in declaring defeat before I became a burden. xx

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      We have to take care of ourselves. I’m glad it wasn’t YOU I saw the paramedics clustered around on the sidewalk near Government Center! The bladder thing for me is such a drag. It’s always been a deal, which is why I’ve been known to wander the crappy storerooms of supermarkets back in the day before they all had public restrooms and also to squat on roadsides everywhere (one eye out for poison ivy, the other for onlookers), but now an hour drive or commute is pushing it — especially after a cup of coffee!

      Reply
    2. Liz A

      The heat was a huge obstacle for many … which makes the numbers of those who turned out all the more remarkable.

      Reply
  5. Marti

    Dee, thank you for your deep heart and moving chronicle I sat this one out and I’m not sure why since I fully intended to go to Albuquerque, had made a little sign in Spanish that said “Todos Juntos , Todos Unidos, Todos Bienvenidos”.(All together, All United, All Welcome.) Think that I simply felt that I would become too emotional and did not want to cry in a crowd which is about the stupidest excuse…but there it is. I sat outside in my backyard, underneath our grape arbor, the only shady spot in our garden, thinking of my parents who came here from Spain, through Ellis Island and how while it was tough, they were made welcome and helped by so many along the way, especially my Mother..

    Mama arrived in 1932 did not know any words in English and as she road the trains from New York to California to live with her sister and brother in law, she relied on the kindness of the porters to help her choose food, etc. She had never seen an African American and at first was a bit frightened but she said they smiled at her with their hearts and helped her choose her meals, she would point to what other passengers were eating and they understood. She never forgot their kindness to her and said that they made her feel welcome in ways she had not expected…Both of my parents would be devastated by what is going on here with families.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I’m sure your reflections matter, too. So many people I know realized it was going to be too taxing. The heat in Albuquerque would’ve be oppressive, too, wouldn’t it? Thank you for the image of your shady arbor and the family stories. One of my grandfathers came through Ellis, too — though as a Brit, he spoke English. Worked on the docks in Brooklyn. Met my seamstress grandmother there. My other grandparents lived in Queens. These boroughs were full of hardworking immigrants. They were white and had none of the struggles of so many others.

      The front of the N.Y. Times has a harrowing story about passage across our southern borders. Though I usually skip the news to do the puzzle, I’m going to read ev word of that.

      Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Here’s a note to self: write in idle moments instead of scrolling on a screen. Because my phone was almost dead, I wrote in my traveling notebook on both the train ride in and back.

      Reply
  6. christicarterphotography

    What an absolutely exquisite post, Dee.
    I applaud you; Warrior-ess, RESISTance fighter, human!!

    And your writing … well, it has bloomed into something that resembles its old self, but has become richer, deeper, more succinct somehow. Yes, it is most certainly THAT kind of summer….

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Thank you Christi. It always means a lot to me when you chime in. Glad the improvements to writing show. I HAVE been working on it, week in and week out.

      Reply
  7. Tina Zaffiro

    Dee .. I finally found a quite time and space to read what I knew I wanted to give my full attention. I really appreciate the way you are able to put into words things you see and hear .. how they make you feel.
    Your words make me laugh .. your words make me cry but nothing you write could make me feel any more Mad than these last month’s. It is one thing after another .. after another.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Thanks Tina. Sharing the laughing and crying is helping me through this god awful time. My local friends and my blog friends mean the world to me.

      PS. Feel free to say “I just looked at the pictures today and … “.

      Reply
  8. Saskia

    it is good you went, for yourself as well as for us, over here on the other side of the pond, and of course for those it actually concerns

    I dislike crowds, tend to avoid them so I think it extra brave you did go!

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      I find crowds daunting and exhausting, too. But I’ve discovered if I go alone there’s a way to travel through in a kind of transparent state that takes less out of me.

      Reply
      1. Saskia

        yes, I quite recognize being able to do this once there, but sometimes the thought of going is so draining I can’t be bothered to

        Reply
  9. Fiona

    Thank you for doing this Dee for all of us. We do small things here; but it truly matters to us to see you all continuing to march, to protest to say it is all so wrong. Thank you from afar.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      We are unable to rely on impeachment. The Russian involvement may be much much worse than any of us believed. The courts are being contaminated with right wingers. That leaves: us.

      Reply
  10. Nancy

    Beautiful post my friend. I traveled with you, my heart rising and falling in the telling of your story. I too went, but my pictures sit in my computer, doing nothing. You inspire me to write, perhaps I will.

    Reply
  11. Connie Akers

    Thank you. I came to your blog this morning via Liz A. I’m back because outrage is my default & I need to know I’m not alone.

    Reply
    1. deemallon Post author

      Please come again. The touching of like minds and hearts is the great consolation of our times. That sounds lofty or corny or both, but it is a solid truth.

      Reply

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