off to venice & the chamber of commerce
We find Venice quite palm springs-like – lots of really old, really rich white folks who can’t drive tooling down wide, clean streets lined with tall, skinny palm trees and dripping with loads of shopping opportunities. We discover the chamber of commerce sitting right on the edge of some such shopping center.
Ariel & I reluctantly find a discreet parking space for the truck & reluctantly cover up our ‘pink slip bush’ t-shirts i’ve been wearing everyday for months now & she is committed to wearing everyday also. We are tripply grieved because it is about 200 degrees out here, under water – then stepping inside any door, the temperature plunges to below zero – I don’t know why these people don’t all have pneumonia.
Scoping out the lay of the land, we realize quickly there are no appropriate tall buildings around to do the banner drop – the nearest 4 story building is a hospital – not usually an easy place to carry a banner to the roof of!
Inside the chamber, we find friendly, helpful white folks who confirm the information we already have about the republicans and give us other general info re:Venice. And who let Ariel use the phone for free!
Back out in the parking lot, I rescue the truck from the shadows & park her in her proper honorable position where she can be viewed by all! As I hop from the truck, I notice an older white womon opening her new American sedan, shooting me filthy looks and muttering obsenities in my direction.
I approach her & ask her if she’d like to talk, she seems upset. She declares no she would never talk to the filthy, dirty likes of me and then she launches into a 120 second non-stop verbal attack of my audacity to disrespect our president. She tries not to allow me to speak but I’m able to ask her what does she respect about our president? ‘why, why, everything’ she declares as her mind tries to grasp the multitude of reasons for respecting the prez that I’m sure are swimming around in her head. Finally she says ‘he’s keeping us safe and that disgusting waffler will get us attacked under his watch’.
I ask her how she feels about being attacked under bush’s watch. She declares we weren’t attacked under his watch, we were attacked under clinton’s watch. Okay.
She is so furious – except for during the civil rights protests, i’ve never encountered an elderly female stranger so very furious that I was concerned she was going to go ape in the heat & fall out on the asphalt.
I asked her why she was so angry – the whole time we were talking, she kept telling me she didn’t want to talk with the likes of me as she continued ranting and raving. I told her I believe she did want to talk with the likes of me, as long as the likes of me didn’t get a chance to say anything.
Some other old white man, appearing equally wealthy, tried to jump in and double-team me but I was able to silence him by asking him to stop interrupting and wait until we’d finished speaking. He took to calling me a communist, traitor, ungrateful whore who didn’t deserve to live in this country, in time w/the nodding curls on the blue-haired womon’s head.
I told her, and him, I am an American and there are lots of folks who care about the people in this country who are not white and rich and old and comfortably retired with no worries or cares in the world; and there are lots of Americans who even care about the people we are killing for oil.
These folks took off and ariel finally returned – my ariel mantra these days is “where is ariel?”. We decided to stay in the shopping center for a little while and hand out fliers, getting a feel for this part of the community. Ariel returned to make more phone calls and I began approaching folks.
At least half of the folks in Venice who happened to be in this parking lot were kerry supporters – most of them were quiet kerry supporters who didn’t approach me but who told me softly, when i asked, they were voting for kerry. They also told me horror stories of how they tried to put signs up on their lawns, in front of their driveways, or in their work places – and how every single one of them were either stolen or torn or graffiti’d during the nite. They talked about their fears of openly supporting kerry. A few did loudly wave, honk, smile, greet me joyously!
But consistently, the old white rich bush people were enraged that I was standing in their town, in front of their publix (that’s a southern grocery store….go figure!), handing out pink dollar bills urging folks to raise the minimum wage $1.00 on the front, on the back inform voters the polls are opening monday the 18th! Okay, maybe that didn’t make them as mad as my t-shirt and truck – both now fully exposed for all to view.
I talked with a couple of young white wimmin who were taking a break from their minimum wage walmart clerking job! Neither one were planning on voting in the election – one wasn’t even registered. I focused on the one who was after I handed them the pink dollars & asked them to support this amendment. The one who could vote, looked me in the eye and told me that her supervisor told her that walmart might have to close if they had to pay everyone a dollar more to work there & she desperately needed this job. Once again, I wanted to cry & scream simultaneously. This womon was so young, obviously poor, a mother of 2, living with her mother & two siblings, and she was afraid to vote for a lousey dollar raise that would enable her to make a mere $6.15 per hour, here in a state that seems as expensive to live in as California – it’s unbelievable.
I did my best to convince her walmart would not go under if she was paid another dollar an hour – she declared proudly she was already making almost that now so it wouldn’t help her anyway. I tried to convince her we’re all helped when the lowest paid folks are allowed to earn more money, which led into our discussion of desperation & crime. She agreed the folks on the bottom needed to make more money. She seemed horrified when I told her about the rich in this country – I gave her our little quarter page info sheet which she promised to read.
The young womon who wasn’t registered informed me that her supervisor told her she could work at the polls and make $100 in one day. I didn’t know if you can work the polls as an unregistered person but she was planning on doing it anyway.
They left also promising to think about voting this year.
Ariel and I returned to Sarasota a little battle scarred but even more determined to work harder. We found downtown Sarasota, parked in our most prominent location, and proceeded to get our vigiling materials out of the back of the truck – the ironing board, banners, fliers, quarter pages, ‘pink slip Glenda Hood’ slips, and merchandise along with our clip boards & more eye-catching pink paraphernalia. I urge ariel to hurry – parking is limited to 2 hours & there are no other trucks parked on this quaint downtown 2 lane street lined with tiny individual small businesses – small but certainly very wealthy-looking – jewelry stores, art stores up the ying-yang, not to mention shee-shee little upscale restaurants – all with fancy upstair balconies and lots of vegetation.
As we’re gathering our things, we hear a white male voice shout from the balcony above the truck: ‘you can’t park that truck there’. Ariel responds ‘yes we can, this is public parking’. I look up to see the twinkle in his eye, even at this distance, and see his companion, a white womon. They both confess they love the truck but the womon says she doesn’t know who she’s voting for – she feels kerry isn’t a strong he-man kinda leader, something Saul w/a 'C' can identify with. We point out he was highly decorated in Vietnam, as if that should be a vote-determiner, but he does not promote himself as a ‘war president’ as bush does. I try to point out to her that peace, compassion, and diplomacy will make us a hell of a lot safer than the macho war machine. We urge her to come to the table we are setting up and get some info to read – she doesn’t come.
But ariel & I set up the table and off ariel goes – she is going to hand out info to the stores along the strip – I’m going to staff the ironing board. Lots and lots of folks drive by waving and honking – several fingers are thrown up in the air at me as well. Lots of passerby’s stop, sign the codepink sign-up sheet and the urgent response pledge. Ariel returns excited – she’s connected with move-on pac and we may have a place to stay!!! Yeah!!! She’s also talked with many interesting folks, including one old white man, retired military, who told her the t-shirt was illegal & wanted to try to kick her out of the building for wearing it.
Again, we face people who make up rules to satisfy their own whims – something I’m guilty of doing when unsuspecting tourists to California chose me to ask if it’s legal to smoke on the street corner where I’m standing. ‘hell no, it’s totally illegal to smoke in public’ I tell them w/as much authority as I can muster – most of the time they believe me. But i’ve never told a person it was illegal for them to wear something in the elevator or place bush/cheney stickers on their cars….go figure.
The best conversation I had at the vigil today was with an older jewish man who proudly pointed down the street and around the corner to where he lived in a building of seniors – the something arms or alms. He said it w/that air that everyone should know exactly what & where & who he’s talking about. I nod as he confesses that one day, last week, he walked thru their 4 tiered parking garage late at night (at least 9:00p.m. he figures) and he counted all the kerry-edwards and bush-cheney bumper stickers. He declares 92% were kerry-edwards.
He snorts disgustingly, claiming most of those same folks voted for bush in the last election but attributes their increased awareness & voting change to how hard their social security and medical has been hit!
The best thing that happened today at the vigil is that we met Lauren, who wants to join codepink, and several other wimmin signed up to participate!!!! Yeah!!! We’ve already moved the truck twice and then it’s time to rush off to the NOW meeting – fortunately, they are meeting right down the block at the library. We’re able to park the truck in yet another prominent spot in front of the library & within view of 2 major downtown streets!
The NOW wimmin greet us warmly, sign-up to hear about cp’s Sarasota activities, and one womon, Jane, tells us we can stay w/her. She has a guest house AND a room in her house. We think it is too good to be true. We’re committed to staying at friends’ of ariel’s parents tonite but for sure we’ll check it our first thing in the a.m.!!! Peace, sam