Wednesday, November 2, 2011
At about 9:15 this morning I arrived in downtown Oakland on my little yellow cruiser, and locked it to a tree. I went inside the closest cafe and grabbed a cup of coffee, internally bemoaning my capitalistic morning energizer on such a historic day. (Although, let's be real. No American revolution would happen were it not for this beverage brewed from precious imported beans.) I stepped into the crowd and wandered, hoping to find my people - I'm never sure who that is, anymore. Sometimes it's people I've only hung out with once or twice, with whom I feel completely free. Sometimes it's a friend I've known for 12 years. And sometimes it's someone I'm introduced to on the spot, and we just love love love each other instantly. Anyway, I found a friend, A, and her friend, and they were my morning team. We stood together, in awe of the crowd, of the speakers, of the indescribable buzz in the air. We chatted, we had other friends move in and out of our conversations. While we hung out, I texted back and forth with my somatics practitioner. We had a session scheduled for the afternoon and I didn't want to leave the demonstration. I decided to ask her if she'd be willing to do a totally experimental session and show up downtown, do it there. She agreed! I was super excited.
Later in the morning, another friend of mine, C, showed up and said she & her crew were going to put up a huge banner in the middle of the intersection and asked if we wanted to help. I asked if they needed climbers, as my friend A is a bit of an acrobat. Turns out they did. I helped unfurl and cut holes in the banner, so the wind could move through more easily. We then moved the banner out into the middle of 14th and Broadway, with A & one another person scrambling up one streetlight post and two others doing the same at the post kitty corner, then getting the ropes in place to raise the banner. After some technical difficulties and A needing to bounce to feed the parking meter (what a strange thing to need to do on a day like this) the banner went up. It read, on one side, "Death to Capitalism" and on the other, "Long Live the Oakland Commune." (I think. I didn't see that side much.)
I hung out as people began to march to a bank. I saw so many beautiful people I know and love, who have been working in different sectors on issues of justice and the environment for a long time. I gave and received lots and lots of hugs. I stood, listening to speakers. At this point I had heard Angela Davis & Erica Huggins speaks, heard some beautiful poems, and heard lots of other speakers whose names I don't remember but whose messages stuck with me. At some point in there, A brought back tacos, found me, and fed me. I hadn't realized I was hungry until I had inhaled three. I went back to the crowd, and listened some more. And then, I suddenly began to feel lonesome. Standing alone in a crowd full of people who were determined to do whatever it took to get the message across that they believe in a better world and are willing to fight for it, to work for it. Of all places, in that crowd. I started to feel terrible. I wanted companionship. I wanted my people again. I felt the weight of my breakup, the weight of gossip about me that has gotten back around to me, the weight of moving and moving and moving some more, and the weight of my employment situation, my life situation. I felt a big heft, looking at my life from the outside, realizing it was not anywhere near what I thought it would be at this point, what I hoped it would be, or what I thought I deserved. I felt so lonesome and down I thought I would burst into tears, right then and there. And I thought that if I started crying, that I wouldn't be able to stop.
I spotted a friend. Went over and asked for a hug. She's one of those always-smiling earth mamas. It helped a little bit.
I tried to check in with my body to see what I needed and decided it was time to go to the bathroom. I walked into the plaza toward the port-a-potties and my feet felt heavy. The sun was intense, something I usually enjoy. But this time I felt hot and sad and weighted down. I wandered, listless. I found a spot of shade near the area I told my somatics practitioner, P, to find me. I turned to my right and found a sweet friend, someone I don't know well but who is just like a ray of sunshine, standing next to me. M and I chatted for a bit, a welcome distraction until P arrived.
P was so good today. She totally went with the flow. I suppose she always does. We weren't sure where we were going, but we walked until we found a spot that felt comfortable. I don't think I realized we had chosen a spot until we noticed we had been standing there for a while. Parked by the SEIU tent, we stood and talked and centered. It was hard to dim the noise and the energy of everyone around us, something I for some reason was intent on doing. At one point, I turned to P and she put her hands on my shoulders and I cried. I had a moment of hearing and feeling the din around me, but still feeling totally present in my own body and in noticing P's presence, her hands, her heat, her eyes, her smile. It was a fleeting moment, but a totally perfect one. We walked a bit to round out the session, and she checked out the commune. It was her first time down there, and it felt special to experience that with her.
I went to the stage, after that. Stood and walked and sat and found more friends. Good comfy ones. Ones with whom I laugh, ones whose love I trust to be unconditional. It's so nice not being nervous around people, not feeling like I have to be funny, or suck in my gut, or say the right thing all the time. We watched wonderful performances (like a Destiny Arts dance routine) and not-so-wonderful performances by performers who shall remain nameless, mostly because I don't know their names. Another friend joined. Another comfy one. I felt safe.
The announcements from the stage all but cleared the amphitheater. They were trying to get everyone to get moving on the 4 pm march. We were all determined to wait until the 5 march. We loafed and snacked and smoked cigarettes and talked about getting laid. We spotted exes and friends and unabashedly called people "hot" and "sexy." We eventually lined up with the feminists and queers and sex-workers. That was how we explained it to friends who were trying to meet up with us. At about 3 minutes to 5 pm, I was shouting into my phone, to my friend N, "WE'RE BY THE FEMINISTS AND QUEERS AND SEX-WORKERS." I should have said, "Look for the sign with the hand getting ready to fist somebody."
And then, we marched. We walked all the way to the goddamn port of Oakland, then marched in further than my tired feet would have liked. There were so many people there that my head was swimming. I thought, I don't even know how to count this high. And when we got to a spot that felt like a good place to camp for a minute, we couldn't come up with much to do but sit down, stand up, say hello to passing friends, and smoke more cigarettes. And we were tired, oh so tired. So after some time doing that, a couple of friends and I decided to head back.
The walk back was just as beautiful as the walk there. More friends, more music, more random speakers with crowds gathered around them. More people in costume, dancing around. More love.
As we wearily entered the BART station, I looked at my friends, T & N. My tired little heart surged with love. I looked back, too, at the other people. My vision blurred out all of the unnecessary police officers staking a spot by the entrance and instead focused on people. All the other people. The ones who showed up and walked long distances and probably shared their snacks and their songs and their ideas with one another. The ones with "Medic" tapes on their backpacks, and the ones with clown noses, and the elders with dreadlocks down to their waists. My heart hummed a little "Thank you."