Wednesday, April 16, 2008

With Each Other

They say that there is an Olympic Torch.

They also said there was a great and powerful Oz.

Someday, maybe, I’ll see them both.


The day of the torch run I was at work, plugging away, when one of our sales reps walked in and suddenly got the idea at about 12:15 pm that she was going to walk down to the ballpark and see it. One of her friends lives in one of the SoMA box condos on Townsend, and they would meet and walk down. As she was leaving, my boss glanced over at me in a rare and mischievous dare and said, “Why don’t you go with her?” I left immediately—with no identification and two weapons on my belt: a multi-tool and a box-cutter with extra blades in the handle. Still, my uniform makes me look like a cop, so I trusted that they would be kind in the event of accosting me.

We met her friend and walked up 3rd to King, keeping to the right side of the street, and a group of Bejing Olympic pride supporters marched to our right on the sidewalk, complete with march call and leading flag. I was not afraid of the situation—with the curse of my legal last name most narrow-minded people think that I am naturally descended from Hitler himself, and, I had the two weapons after all—but there was a delicious tension in the air. When we got to the corner of 3rd and King where Borders sits, we crossed the street to meet another of the rep’s friends and stood in front of the crowd packed along the sidewalk in front of Happy Donut, across from the ballpark.

Press ran about everywhere. Some spectators had made it to the roof of Happy Donut and a reporter from the New York Post, heavy in a vest of cameras and notebooks, called up to them at a run from the Willie Mays entrance—“You got a camera or even access?” He rubbed his fingers together, indicating he would pay for pics or steps to their location. They were saavy—“What publication?” A name indicates wealth, and he called out, “New York Post!” They gestured him up, and a heated discussion went on around our immediate crowd for a minute; some of us thought the Post was rolling in it, and others of us thought that he might have done better to lie and call out the NY Times as home.

People were finding it a joke to get back to work. If the crowd pressed out from the sidewalk or protesters stepped onto King, just one step, the police had them back on the sidewalk. Many times there wasn’t room on the sidewalk and they had to move down behind the barricades where a person couldn’t see a thing. I kept my place at the front as anyone who stepped in front of me was on the street and there was no room behind me to move back. The police force was only a layer thick, and as relay time approached the motorcycles fired up and ran the route, sirens blaring by turns. 1 pm came and went, and then 1:30 pm, and then 2 pm.
2:05 the trucks arrived and the riot gear came out. A young man dressed like a relay runner sat in the open backseat of a car parked in the N Judah track and facing the Embarcadero, intent in a cell phone conversation. The sun was beating down on us and me in my blacks, but I could not unzip my jacket for fear the cop a mere 3 feet in front of me would arrest me for having two holsters of sharp objects. The intense light burned a red V where my polo shirt ended and my neck began, and I had had to pee since I left the warehouse. Then, at 2:30, we got wind of the news from someone’s cell phone (the cops are not “at liberty to give or confirm information”) that the torch had been “taken around” by water, and that we wouldn’t see it.
I gestured to the force of men and women across the street strapping on vests, and pointed them out to my companion—“Time to leave. This crowd is about to angry and cheated, and I don’t want to be here for that.”

And we walked back.

If I were to say that this adventure was a disappointment, I would be lying. To be surrounded by the raw idealism that I was surrounded by that day, to have hope of the torch, was enough. The torch goes back to enigma after the event, but not in a bitter way for me. I have hope of seeing the Olympics someday, and I also have hope of seeing Tibet someday, even though I’m not necessarily athletic and I suffer easily from altitude sickness. It was encouraging to see what I saw, not disparaging. I have faith in people, always have, always will, despite their nuttiness and their emotion…AT LEAST THEY LOOK ALIVE.

It’s been awhile since I have seen genuinely alive.

Free Tibet.

Free yourselves, dear readers.

1 comment:

Occasional Guest Blogger said...

Nice specimen of civic journalism, Jo.