“There's got to be at least 5,000 people here,” I was saying, and really I was in awe. Last time (three weeks ago, maybe?), there'd been protesters in the mid-hundreds. But on Monday, in Santa Ana, they just kept coming—just as the old Pete Wilson commercial predicted they would—down Broadway, turning the corner at 17th, right next to Weekly HQ. They were marching miles, in loops up and back from the Civic Center almost 20 blocks away, and God, they were having so much fun. Of course we decided to jump right in.
But there weren't 5,000 marchers in downtown Santa Ana. I kept revising my total upward as, in some kind of fabulous tactical maneuver, we were met by an eastern flank here, a platoon joining from the rear there. If there weren't 25,000 people in the streets on Monday, I'll tongue Lou Dobbs.
You really should have been there; I think you would have liked it.
My son would have liked it too, but I—stupid, stupid I—forgot to keep him out of school to join the May Day melee. I'm not particularly awake when he leaves anyway: he stops by my bed for inspection, when I ask him if he brushed his teeth and fed our pets, and he lies and says yes, and I ask him what he had for breakfast, and he lies and says an orange, and I know he's lying because his lips are moving, and I tell him to at least stop by the kitchen for a cookie on his way out. The French eat their sugar in the morning, and it doesn't seem to have hurt them. Their women are thin and fabulous, their men live long despite the filterless Gauloise waving in their elegant fingers, and even their public intellectuals look like Michael Vartan. The American way of breakfast, on the other hand, seems to churn out public intellectuals like Rush Limbaugh and the bookie of virtues, big bad Bill Bennett.
We probably should stop trashing the French.
My favorite part of the sun-soaked day, most naturally, was standing at the corner where the counterprotesters—pardon me, “pro-American” protesters—who had now dwindled to three, stood and took their lumps from the Chicanos and Chicanas ambling by. Apparently I'd missed the bigger counterprotest of the morning, when at least 40 people had turned out to stem the tide of many thousands, and when Wicked Witch of the West BarbaraCoe (the founding mother of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform, who has her very own web page devoted to her on the Southern Poverty Law Center's list of nativist hatemongers) had been caught on tape screaming at a Latina, “Use your welfare check to go back to Mexico!” Barbara Coe is a lover, not a fighter! Well, except according to the SPLC.
The marchers shot them the peace sign, and waved, and whistled and hooted and pointed and laughed, under the watchful eyes (filled with blanketed rage) of 18 cops on horses. Frankly, I love riot cops, probably just to give my mom a stroke, but these were mostly old guys with brushy mustaches. If they'd just been sporting pith helmets or tails, I could almost see them as the mysterious Majors omnipresent in EvelynWaugh, blathering on about their campaigns in Injya before getting you drunk and making off with your loot.
Behind me, an old coot said he could solve the immigration problem in just four words: fresh water from Alaska. “Get it out of the Yukon. A 140 billion gallons on a daily basis. Get an underground pipeline to Mexico so they can irrigate their fields, and Mexicans'll be putting up a fence to keep Americans out!” Sounds good, old coot! That's the kind of out-of-the-box thinking that'll get us far in this mixed-up, crazy old world! Then I almost got hit by a car and decided to stop standing in the middle of the street, while the riot cops rolled their eyes and looked away.
* * *
Oh, I wish my son had been with me, bitching and moaning about his indulged little feets. There's only so much I can teach him while watching the tube, besides what the secretary ofstate is for. (“The secretary of state is our representative to the world,” I explained to my baby when Jimmy Smits offered principled conservative Alan Alda—!—the post, about 20 minutes before someone on West Wing exposited, “The secretary of state is our representative to the world.”)
You know that terrifyingly vacant look preteen boys get on their faces (not that look), the one that says they're playing Xbox in their heads? My boy did something so brilliant on Sunday I immediately called my 20 closest friends to tell them, and now I shall tell all 350,000 of you.
We were having beer and chicken wings after the taping of this very bad political program I'm on that you wouldn't like and definitely shouldn't listen to (it turns out—and who knew?—I get shrill), and I was bitching about Hillary and talking up AlGore. (He's no Russ Feingold, but who would vote for a Jew?) Well, before I could even shriek, “And the media owes Al Gore an apology for that whole 'invented the Internet' thing because he never said it, and it was slander, and what he said was, 'I took the initiative in creating the Internet'—and he did, Blanche, he did! He was the one who wrote the bill in the Senate that took the Internet from Pentagon- and university-only and created a global commercial application!” Well, before I could say all that—and it was on the tip of my tongue—Mr. Center Right, Shawn Fago, went all snotty, “Oh, Mr. I Invented the Internet.” At which point I shrilly shrieked the whole thing you just read, and Shawn laid on me, “Created, invented. What's the difference?”
Well, I know there's a difference, but I don't know!
My son, whom I would have sworn was reciting rap lyrics to himself (if I'm lucky, it was the Geto Boys), took the chicken wing from his mouth, rolled his eyeballs back to the front of his head where they belonged, and casually schooled us as he lounged back in his chair for all the world like a young sahib: “You invent something in your head, thinking about it; you create it with your hands, in front of you.”
Yes, Grasshopper. Yes, my baby. Way to shut Shawn up!
Then, of course, it was on to Iran, and Shawn snotted something about turning the other cheek, and I intoned piously, “Seventy times seven,” just to piss him off and because libs should quote holy Scripture more, and my buttercup piped up like Rain Man with “Four hundred and ninety.”
“Is it?” Shawn asked, because, after all, we were drinking, and it's not like we couldn't have done the math, we just hadn't.
“Duh!” said my son, with acid preteen wit, and then, with all the sarcasm at a young man's command, asked: “Why don't you buy the bookHow to Multiply?!”
He said it with italics too.
And after that, Shawn had to go home.
Having my son around is like keeping a loaded gun in my purse—a little, pearl-handled thing that'll put wicked-neat holes in you. What could he have done to the Witch of the West?