Smashing

Getting onto the turnpike, I thought how the poking out of a ticket from the machine was already ready for pandemic.

As I drove, the clouds were gargantuan and baroque, puffs and flourishes and light and shadow.  In New York, I gazed at the beautiful buildings.  Here, I gaze at clouds.  Or stars.  We have both.

I wondered if my anxiety was going to zoom out of control.  Maybe I wasn’t up to this.  I kept going. I was thinking about how long it would take me to get home.

Then at some point I forgot.

Past the empty racetrack, past the empty every place, I swooped off the interstate and made turns to get me to the spot.  Maybe my 16th protest in the last three years?

Protests of the last four years (okay, to brag, but also to remind myself I have done things):

  1. Anti-Trump, uptown, with Alec Baldwin (allegedly, I could only barely hear his voice)
  2. Pro-immigrant, Battery Park, with Chuck Schumer
  3. Pro-press, at the New York Times building
  4. First women’s march (NYC)
  5. Second women’s march (Lawrence)
  6. Pro birth control (KC)
  7. Pro gun control (KC)
  8. Black Lives Matter (KC)
  9. Black Lives Matter (Lawrence)
  10. Lawrence school board to protect teachers
  11. KCK school board to protect teachers
  12. Something during the day at Washington Square Park… I think we were doing a sick out, for immigrants, and I had a panic attack, so it was memorable
  13. Something in Lawrence that had to do with the Mueller investigation, honestly I’m not sure which moment of horror that was.  There were just a few of us, me and some people a generation ahead of me
  14. Anti-Trump visit (KC)
  15. Pro gun control (Topeka)
  16. Pro Medicaid expansion (Topeka)

I sent postcards to electors to beg them not to vote for Trump.  For two years, I made a list of what egregious harm Trump had done to our country that week.  I’ve written countless emails.  A few times, I even called, though I loathe the telephone.  I’ve done tons of research to refute arguments that were illogical, fallacious, or otherwise wrong.

I’ve read news, more news, more news, hoping that one of the stories will make me feel better or safer.  This doesn’t usually happen.

I am definitely waiting around for God to show up and be like, good work, you learned the lessons of history.

Although I don’t believe in a God that works that way.

That God sounds like a jerk.

I’ve slept and not slept.  Eaten and not eaten.  Exercised and not exercised.

When I got out of my car, newly decorated with the signs I’d painted, I walked up to the group of maybe 20 people.  I chatted a minute with a lady who tried to read my sign, and so I held it up for her.  She was wearing a mask, and using a cane, and had a young girl with her.  The girl asked if she could take my photo.  Of course, I said.  A budding journalist and activist!

I walked up to the others, and they organized for a photo.  Someone took our photo.  The world of pandemic protesting is weird.  One lovely thing that usually happens at protests is that people share food, and stories, and go have a drink after.  During the pandemic they don’t do most of these things.  It sucks.

You don’t even get a good read on who is there, and you may not recognize them if you run into them again, because you only interact with them on Facebook, and at the event everyone is masked.

You try to smile with your eyes when you walk up to the group, because for all they know, you’ve shown up to scream at them with your corona-laced breath.  Or you’ve come with a gun.

I most often go by myself, so I try to take a lot of photos, when I don’t have a buddy there.

Had I been to protests before this?  Well, yes.  But I had taken some long breaks.  I began in animal rights activism.  We have gotten some of what we asked for back then: more humane treatment of animals raised for fast food was a big one.  There have been many victories in pushing back on the fur trade.

Right after the photo was taken, the organizer (whoever in the world that was) said we could go, because the meeting was online anyway.

I think God knew how much energy I had that day, and so I was only asked for that little piece.

And for the hour and a half I spent driving.  Looking at clouds, green fields, the sign for the Agriculture Hall of Fame, where I still want to go.

I test drove the ending of my [meditation? self help? activity?] manuscript.  The ending felt good, but it did not fix me.  My emotions still felt a mess.

I determined that for me, pandemic is like waking up in a mine field. Every day of the Trump presidency is like waking up, knowing there are more mines, but not knowing where they are.  Knowing many people will step on them before anyone can find them.

Yes it makes it hard to sleep.

Yes I still kick myself for the times I wished to live through something historically significant.

When I get back to Lawrence, I stop by the Dollar Tree to buy more plates to smash.

My thing now is buying $1 plates, smashing them with a hammer on my living room floor, and then gluing the pieces onto something.  And then grouting it.

It was my dream in high school that– in addition to living through something historically significant– I have a newspaper called The Grout Gazette.  This morphed into a different thing I worked on, but my joy in the word “grout” remains.  There’s something about that “gr” sound, isn’t there?  It’s not easy being “gr”een.  “Gr”over is one of my favorite Muppets.  And then “out,” such a pinched up word.

Immediately when I got home, I got my reading glasses on and started smashing.  I ought to do this in a deeper cardboard box, or inside a towel, ut there is some joy in seeing the smashing.  I sweep up later.  I pray that no fragment gets my cats in the eye.

Then I have this long, joyous, quiet experimenting.  Stripes.  No pattern.  A cross.  A flag.

Glue.  Piece by piece.  At first I thought fancy glue was necessary, but Elmer’s seems to do just fine.

And then grout.  Grout grout grout.  Grout is Mark Twain.  Grout is spittoons.  Grout is squeaky shoes.

So I sit and do my work.  Smash, arrange, glue, grout.

Yes everyone I know will be receiving mosaiced things for the foreseeable future.  (Well, I also learned to make room sprays with essential oils, so there could be surprises!)

I have to make things.  I have to.

Currently, “Law & Order” puts me to sleep.  I do bedtime yoga while a story plays out in its staccato way, like a ticker tape, and then I get in bed and listen to the story.  It makes a pretty good radio play, “Law & Order.”  Most things are explained, even if they are also shown.

Does it give me nightmares, hearing stories about attacks and violence?  It doesn’t.  The characters on the show are handling it. I watch them handle everything.  I’m so glad they handle everything.

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