Thursday, January 26, 2017

Essay #4: Women's March, January 21

A day is usually 24 hours. But last Saturday, January 21, for me lasted from around 7 p.m. Friday night, when my niece Rachael picked me up to drive down to Washington, to about 3:30 a.m. Sunday morning, when we arrived back at my apartment. Here’s what it was like.
            We weren’t awake the whole time; there was some sleeping in the Comfort Inn in Gaithersburg, Md. But I felt our march started at a rest area somewhere in New Jersey where we smiled eagerly at all the women in pink pussy hats and wondered how many others there were also on their way to march.
            We finally made it to our hotel around 1:30 a.m. after detouring into D.C. to drop off Rachael’s friend J. Did more march-goers account for the tour buses there? The desk clerk didn't know, but he’d seen teenagers with Trump caps, and he looked dismayed when he said it.
            Saturday morning we met up with cousin Raechel (yes, the cousins’ names are pronounced the same, but spelled differently) and went to the Shady Grove Metro station, where a line stretched maybe 20 yards. I heard some people waited in line at that station for three hours! But we’d gotten our Metro cards in advance and breezed right in. And got seats because Shady Grove was the end of the line.
            Early on the train filled up with mostly marchers. A couple of women in pussy hats handed out Planned Parenthood stickers to whoever wanted one. One was a librarian, and she and my librarian daughter, Christie, bonded over that. I was holding my sign [[insert pic]] so it was visible, and one man took photos.
            It took an hour to get to Judiciary Square, where I texted another cousin and five other people I knew were there, but we never connected with any of them – too many people! Two were on the other side of the Mall. Niece Rachael wanted to follow her phone’s directions, which I knew, from my years of experience at protests in D.C., would have led us into the thickest mass of the crowd, while I wanted to circle around the crowd, if that was possible. We started off on the “circle around” strategy and passed a sign reading
“You’re so orange, I’ll bet you think this sign is about you.” 
(Some signs I couldn’t get photos of because we were walking and I was terrified of losing my small group.) After a while we made a Port-o-potty stop, where I saw these great shields (literally shields, with straps on the reverse for your arms).
By now it was 2 o’clock, and on my portable radio rally speakers were still on the stage. Marches never start on time.
            Back on Independence Avenue, people were moving in the direction of the White House, and we joined the mass. There were great signs, but now, frustration. Whenever I got out my phone to take a picture, someone walked in front of the sign, or the sign-holder twisted it out of view, or I’d accidentally press the button that turned the phone off. I missed so many great pictures. But here are some I caught. 

We made it to the Ellipse between the White House and the Washington Monument, where I saw one of the best signs I didn’t get a picture of:
“I’m allergic to misogyny. It makes me break out in feminist rants.” 
And then we dispersed. It was around 3:30. We eventually met up with my nephew Geoff, who’d flown in from California for the march; hung out in the Martin Luther King branch of the D.C. Public Library until it closed; and went in search of dinner. Along with hundreds of thousands of marchers.
            After giving up on one place that had an hour and a half wait – we were seven people by now – and waiting an hour at another place, eating in D.C. was impossible. And we needed to drive back to New York that night. So we went back to Shady Grove to pick up Rachael’s car, and ate a late dinner (9 p.m.) at Paladar, which I recommend if you happen to be in Gaithersburg, Md., and want killer short ribs.
            On the road back to New York at 10:30, we drove through moderate fog most of the way -- was this an omen of days to come? We dropped off Christie in Brooklyn and made our way to upper Manhattan. The fog faded on the West Side Highway around 34th Street, but emerged again at 79th Street.