The Best Way Out–

A political dramedy in Seussian verse

Here’s an excerpt from my ten-minute play that depicts the Cheetoh-in-chief’s first day as president.

DONALD TRUMP:
I’m huge with the good people in this great nation. paul-noth-trump-oath-cartoon

You could see them all at my inauguration. 

Millions were there to see me take the oath. 

And I used two Bibles--I needed them both. 

My hands are not tiny like some people say. 

In fact no part of me is, by the way.

If you enjoyed this snippet, here is a link to the whole play: best-way-out

And I couldn’t resist including this Paul Noth cartoon from the New Yorker.

Depression is not the muse I asked for:

A make-it-up-as-I-go-along survival guide to the Trump era

I used to call myself a writer.

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Not that I made a living from it, but I have spent a significant portion of time in various writing pursuits over the last eight years, at least enough to justify my business card, I think.

 

I still make grocery lists–does that count?

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I didn’t post anything on my blog for a whole month. I did have a fully composed piece ready to send out; but for some reason, I hadn’t published it. So, it was late, but luckily, it wasn’t one of those pieces that is time sensitive. Not like news.

Ah, news. In the last few months, I’ve desperately subscribed to more news sources to try to keep on top of what’s happening to our country. I want to be informed. It strikes me as masochistic, but I crave news more than ever, now that the news is nearly always bad and I feel as if we’re losing ground on a daily basis. One only has to hop onto Facebook or turn on the TV to glimpse basic liberties crumbling beneath our feet.

So despite the increase in reading about current events, I had not heretofore felt compelled to write about them. In fact, I rarely thought about blogging at all, depressed as I was about impending fascism. Like many other like-minded people since the recent presidential election, I’ve felt distraught, overwhelmed, and rather joyless at our immediate prospects in the good old U.S. of A.

But I’ve decided that wallowing in self-pity would mean that they win–they being the cabinet from hell, the Republican wusses who are too cowardly to rein in their party leader, the evil Steve Bannon, and of course, the Cheetoh-in-chief himself.

Last year my goal was to walk all the paths of Berkeley, and I had thought, once upon a time, that I might branch out to Oakland, Albany, and El Cerrito this year on a similar quest. But in January, when I was considering my annual resolution, I didn’t have the heart or energy to embark on such an expedition. I put off setting any goals and kept myself otherwise occupied.

fetal-positionNow I see what I must do to stay sane. Instead of throwing my hands up when I read about immigration bans, I can do a little research and write to my congressperson. Rather than ranting to the dog about how fascism starts with gagging the media, I will write my thoughts on Facebook to provoke conversation. As a more productive alternative to curling into a fetal position over our doomed education system with Betsy DeVos at the head, I can write a short play condemning 45’s cabinet picks. I might as well use my anger to fuel my writing. It’s more productive than sitting behind my desk and seething, right?

I recently happened upon a Robert Frost quote that struck me as a propos at this point in history:

“The best way out is always through.”

Rather than fleeing to Canada or staying in bed until this administration passes, I plan to make it through this presidency. And since I’m non-violent, I will go through it not with fists flying but with fingers flying over my keyboard.

flying-fingers-on-keyboard

Now I have a new path to follow. Won’t you join me?

A different kind of urban hike

 

img_2698The night before the march we got out the poster board and broad-tipped Sharpies in five different colors. I spent way too much time looking for catchy phrases to put on my sign. We’d heard that in New York no rulers–or anything that could be used as a weapon–were allowed to hold signs. So I punched tiny holes in mine, inserted string, and planned on wearing mine sandwich-board style. In the time it took me to make one sign, Dave had made six–enough to make three two-sided signs so that he’d have some to give away to people who didn’t have any. Dave’s two-sided ones were “Ally/No Bully,” “Resist/Fight,” and “Free Melania/No Country for Old, White Men.” Mine was “No Hate. No Fear. Everyone Is Welcome Here.”

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The day began with scattered showers, so we wore our raincoats and put clear packing tape on our protest signs to protect them from the rain. I’d looked online for what to pack for a protest march, but it wasn’t actually that helpful. I already wear sunscreen every day, and I generally carry a water bottle. I honestly didn’t expect to get pepper-sprayed, so the suggestion for vinyl gloves (so you won’t spread the pepper spray via your hands) didn’t seem relevant to me. And writing your emergency contact number on your arm in Sharpie (because they take your phone away from you in the slammer) seemed like overkill. Besides, I know Dave’s number, and if I got carted off to the hoosegow, he probably would be too.

I packed some Band-aids, a portable container of hand sanitizer, an ear-warmer, and a kazoo. Dave was really smart and brought cashews. We picked up our friends at their house and headed for the North Berkeley BART station. By the time we were halfway there (near Monterey Market), we were already seeing people walking with their signs toward the station. So we parked and walked the last half-mile to the station. It was early in the day, and we had energy to spare, so why not?

We saw the lines around the BART station from the moment we turned the corner onto Virginia Street around 10:20 a.m. I wish I’d thought to take a picture, but I was focused on getting to the march. Luckily, Berkeleyside did it for me. The pic below was taken just a few minutes before we arrived there. We were so glad that we had clipper cards and got to bypass the lines buying tickets. Apparently there were still lines to board BART an hour later.

north berkeley bart 1.21.17
North Berkeley BART station @10:05 a.m. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cardozo

Once inside, the atmosphere was festive–people reading each other’s posters and discovering friends among the crowds on the stairs and platforms. I heard my name called from above the escalator and turned to see a friend who’d moved to Connecticut years ago!

bart-car
photo courtesy of Berkeleyside

Unbelievably we snatched some seats in the last car of a train that was heading toward San Francisco but stopping at Oakland’s 12th Street station. Many people had stayed on the platform to wait for a train that would head further east and drop them off at the Lake Merritt station, which was closer to the beginning of the march route. But it turns out that the train that followed us couldn’t even stop at its scheduled drop-off point because of overcrowding at the station; so I guess we were lucky we’d gotten on the car we were on. With each stop, protesters piled in until we were surely beyond any capacity that train had ever seen. But everyone was kind and cheerful.

We emerged from the 12th Street station and set out to join the march already in progress. Streets were closed to traffic to allow the hoards of protesters to march down the middle of Oak Street up to Grand Avenue and along Lake Merritt. The march’s destination point was Oscar Grant Plaza (officially Frank Ogawa Plaza), where a rally would feature speakers, music, and other performers at 12:30.

img_2685It was really less a march and more a shuffle as thousands of people came together as one to take to the streets and express our deep disappointment in the presidential election’s outcome. But rather than spouting rage, we were espousing peace in a hundred different ways. The variety of signage was a testament to our boundless creativity and was evidence of our various passions. There were humorous ones (e.g., We Shall Overcomb), and the ones children carried (e.g., Be Nice), were the sweetest. Some used Trump’s own words against him (This Pussy Grabs Back!), and some relied on wordplay (Truck Fump). Some stated what should be obvious but isn’t (Women’s Rights Are Human Rights), and more than a few depicted ovaries and vaginas. I personally liked the alliteration in Viva la Vulva! As an editor, I also appreciated that 99 percent of the ones I saw were spelled correctly. And as Dave pointed out, maybe “facism” is a thing.

img_2691I was impressed by the range of people represented–women and men; infants to senior citizens; humans of every ethnicity and religion; folks in wheelchairs; some with canine companions; some with musical instruments; and lots with pink pussy hats. We were chanting, laughing, even dancing. We were all in such a good mood, so happy to be surrounded with like-minded people who might not have identical political views but who all agreed on one thing: we were mortified that Donald Trump was our newly elected president. For some, it was their first march; for others, it was the latest of many.

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There were those who staked out a spots along the route and watched the parade go by rather than become part of the swarm, but we all waved to each other. Several people lined up along the Oakland Museum, and many cheered us on from the second and third stories of their apartment buildings along Oak Street. We passed the courthouse, the library, the Scottish Rite Temple, and hugged the north shore of Lake Merritt. As some marchers split off down other streets to take shortcuts to the rally, the crowds thinned enough that we were able to pick up the pace a bit.

Around 1:30, when we turned from Grand Avenue onto Broadway, I was ravenous, so we stopped at The Old Brooklyn Cafe and Bakery for sustenance. The little corner shop was filled with other similarly hungry protesters, and we all made room for each other. Dave and I got two of the last three bagels and gobbled them as we rested briefly.

img_2693On our way out of the bakery, we ran into friends who were coming from the rally. Was it over already? It was supposed to go until 3:00. They said they enjoyed the music and the dancers, but they couldn’t really hear the speeches from  where they stood. So they decided it was time to grab a late lunch and march back home.

It was 2:00, and we were four blocks away from our destination. We could definitely still make it before it was over. But if we weren’t going to be able to hear the speakers, did we still want to go? Of course, if getting to Oscar Grant Plaza was really our goal, we could have walked the one block from the 12th street station and arrived there long before the rally began. Dave’s back ached and my feet hurt from all the standing on pavement. What can I say? We’re getting old.

No, being part of the march was our true aim. We were among the thousands in Oakland and over a million nation-wide that marched on Saturday. I didn’t know it at the time, but people marched all over the globe in solidarity. We are part of a movement that is going to fight back. We didn’t need to stand at the rally to prove that.

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We passed the Paramount Theatre and entered the 19th Street station, where many marchers had propped up their signs in a row as a visual record that they had been there. We waited on the platform  with dozens of others who were done protesting for the day. When the train’s door slid open, and nobody in the packed car seemed to be exiting, I asked if anyone was getting off. A voice behind me urged me to get on, so I started to step inside the car. Just then a man emerged from the crowd and pushed me angrily back onto the platform. I wish I could say I channeled Gandhi and practiced passive resistance.

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But I pushed back. And I may have said a bad word. Luckily, it ended with him grumbling under his breath that I was there for a stupid reason as he brushed past me and went on his way, apparently to accomplish something more important than defending women’s rights. In my head I had a few more choice words for him, but I ignored them and made my way onto the train to take us back to Berkeley, a little shaken and steamed but too tired to care about one dissenter in such a positive group.

Once on the train, a dad discovered that his toddler had lost a shoe and nicely asked if we could all look on the floor around us. Packed too tight for people to bend over, I assumed the shoe was gone-daddy-gone. But seconds later, an arm shot up holding a tiny sneaker, and everyone around us cheered. We were a team, a force to be reckoned with, a finder of shoes, and advocates for justice. We were a part of history, dammit!

If Saturday’s protest was any indication of the passion, resolve, and cooperation we are capable of, we have a good chance of making our voices heard.

It sure feels better than doing nothing.

An election-day connection

albany sr cntr

Last Tuesday I was running late for my hip-hop class at the Albany Senior Center. (I’ll pause here so you can conjure up and then dismiss those images. Are we ready to continue now?)

I usually walk there because it’s so close, but I was finishing up a project, and…well, you know how it goes. I found a space on the street that required advanced parallel parking skills, but I was undaunted. Because it was a tight fit, my bumper tapped the car parked behind me ever so slightly. Now I’m a firm believer that parallel parking is the very reason we have bumpers. I mean, what are they for if not to protect cars in just this situation?

But when I glanced in my rearview mirror, the sour, wide-eyed expression on the woman in the driver’s seat led me to believe that she may not share this opinion.

Before I opened the door, I took a deep breath and did my best to channel my husband, Dave, who is the consummate diplomat. Then we both got out of our cars to take a look.

“I’m sorry–I must have startled you!” I chirped as she gazed at me, appearing wary of my sunny attitude.

“You hit my car,” she answered, not in an attacking way but in a serious tone.

I decided against presenting my theory on the purpose of bumpers as we both inspected her car. Rather than reacting, I considered my options: Getting defensive would only escalate the tension. Assume the best, I told myself. Be honest, but admit nothing that she could run with (just in case she had a bent chassis from a previous run-in and needed someone else’s insurance to cover it.) I was lucky–there were no scratches, dents, or even dirt on her front bumper.

“It looks like no harm was done,” I offered with a smile.

I saw her shoulders relax and her face soften as she agreed, “Yeah, I don’t see anything, so I guess it’s okay…”

I voted stickerI noticed her little “I voted” sticker.

“Good for you!” I exclaimed, pointing to the little red, white, and blue oval on her blouse. “I sent in my ballot a few weeks ago–I was worried that lines would be long at the polls–but I kinda miss that feeling you get when you vote on election day, and, of course, I didn’t get a sticker.”

All of this was true. For once I actually sent in my ballot early, and I did find myself envying her sticker and the sense of pride that accompanied it.

She opened up, “I voted for Bernie, and it felt really good–voting for someone I truly believe in.”

“Me too! Now I kind of wish that I’d voted today. Were the lines long?”

We chatted for a moment more, no longer thinking about her car or whether bumpers were intended to be bumped. We were just two Bernie supporters who had voted our hopes and dreams, even though we both knew he was unlikely to clinch the Democratic nomination.

bernieI wished her a good day and trotted on over to my dance class feeling lighter. It could have been an ugly interaction with accusations and finger-pointing. But it wasn’t. We’d made a connection, and it actually brightened my day.

Of course, had she been a Trump follower, things might have gone differently…

Durst Delivers Laughs When We Need Them Most

I was fortunate enough to win tickets to “Will Durst and Friends” at the Marsh in San Francisco last night. On a Tuesday night? Yes, Durst’s show is only on Tuesdays.

See, it’s political humor, so he decided he’d keep cracking jokes every week until the first Tuesday in November, when we’ll all be sitting around the television biting our nails wondering who will be our president.

Plus, it’s a good excuse to go out on a Tuesday.

First off, despite the title, it’s a solo show. And,  unlike most performances at the Marsh, it’s not a monologue that’s constantly getting polished in order to become theater. It’s just stand-up comedy at its best. If you’ve seen Will Durst, then you know he’s the best political humorist around. And he’s been around for a long time. (Though he bemoans the fact that his Taft jokes no longer fly.) Of course, politicians generously continue to provide Durst with plenty of fodder. As Durst himself says, “You can’t make stuff up like this!”

Because his show isn’t wed to a static script, he’s able to update his show each week. And with all the political shenanigans in the news every day, there’s no lack of material. Last night we were treated to humor surrounding the now-famous Akin interview in which he explained how women who were “legitimately raped” didn’t get pregnant. Admitting that “normally rape and funny live in two different solar systems,” Durst didn’t let this comic opportunity pass him by. Awarding Akins with the Joe Biden “Foot-so-deep-in-his-mouth-he’s-probably-tickling-his-spleen-with-his-shoelaces” Lifetime Achievement Award, he pointed out that Akins is a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Which causes one to wonder what criteria a person needs to be considered qualified to lead the nation in matters of science. Certainly not a basic understanding of medicine…

“Will Durst and Friends” is not a self-revealing solo performance in the style of Dan Hoyle, Marga Gomez, and Don Reed—talented monologists whose stories have been developed on the Marsh stage. But if you want to laugh—and who doesn’t?—this is the show to see.

And if you can’t make it to the Marsh, check out his website, “The Will Durst Journal” http://www.willdurst.com/ where he puts the “mock in democracy.”