On Friday I was shocked when I saw the 2003 protest against the Iraq war listed on Wikipedia's "On This Day" area of the page. Holy sh!t! It's been ten years since then. Time flys-whether you are having fun or not.
I don't remember who's idea it was to go down to the protest in New York City that weekend--if I had to guess I would have said it was Dan's idea. We had all gone to several protests in Boston. I even went to one march by myself on a Sunday. (Most of the people I encountered at that march were sanctimonious prigs.)
We must have rented a car because I know we didn't take Adam's ailing BMW 2002 down to New York. Adam and his girlfriend Stephanie and Sean and I drove down to my parents' house on Staten Island on Friday night 2/14/03. While on the BQE with Sean driving Adam ( a native of the Bay State) yelled "Don't signal! that will let them know what you're doing!"*
My dad was in Idaho visiting his mother because she was ill, but my mom was home. The front door was supposed to be unlocked, but it wasn't. I called from my cell phone and woke Mom up. She came down to let us in to the house in a robe and then went back upstairs to have a sleep emergency. It reminded me of how Mom's mother--my grandma--would always come downstairs in her nightgown whenever we arrived at her house in Beverly.
Mom had prepared a vegetarian chili for us and left it (in a microwave safe container) in the refrigerator along with some beer. I was happy to have my friends down at my parents' place to show it to them and shown them to my mom (see Mom--my friends aren't imaginary!)
I had been a little worried what my parents would think of the idea of the protest. They had lived in the village in the 1960s and (as far as I could tell) still seemed to have missed most of the cool parts of it. They didn't seem to think highly of the anti-war movement (although they were anti-Vietnam war). Dad had gone to one anti war meeting at NYU and had come away unimpressed--"They kept talking about The Movement. It sounded like they all had trouble with their bowels."
So I was pleasantly surprised to find that that not only did they approve of the protest, Mom would be going with some people from her church. Perhaps we could all meet up at the rally? The city of New York had vetoed the idea of a march in front of the UN. Instead there was a park where we could hold a stationary rally. We were going to meet our friend Dan at the rally as well. He'd also come down from Boston but he'd stayed with his brother Friday night.
On Saturday 2/15/3 Mom went in to town earlier than we did. It was Cold that day. Luckily Adam and Sean worked at Hilton's Tent City. They had brought hand warmers for us. We all had ENEMY t-shirts, but you couldn't have seen them without an X ray. I made the error of wearing just my t-shirt beneath my wind-stopper fleece and hard shell. This was not nearly enough coat and I spent the entire afternoon realizing this.
We took the ferry and the subway up to near the rally site. So did everyone else in the NY, NJ CT area. By the time we got off the train we were in a huge crush--everyone was headed towards the rally point, but there were so many of us we became a march (a very slow one) whether the City wanted it or not. We tried to stay on the sidewalks but there were just too many people. We never did find Mom. Somehow we found Dan. None of us had smartphones with Google Maps (because this was 2003!) and this was a part of New York City I didn't know well, but it didn't really matter because there were so many people that no one was moving quickly, and we were all going the same way whether we liked it or not. We passed a deli where Dan had once worked. I think we passed the Roosevelt Island Tram, but I don't remember for sure. The police were around but everyone was behaving well** People were drumming and chanting "This is what democracy looks like!" They got fire trucks to go down the avenue blocks with their lights and sirens on. People yelled at the firetrucks to stop doing the cops bidding.
We never made it to the "rally" but that didn't matter. The rally was too big to fit in the park and spilled out all over Manhattan.
Eventually we got cold and hungry and went to a bar to eat dinner. We were supposed to meet up with Dan's brother and my sister (because they both lived in New York City.) I think we got Dan's brother but not my sister (she was working at the Strand that night.) We hit multiple bars. One of them had a juke box and Adam and Stephanie danced. I watched them feeling happy and sad. Sean didn't like to dance and so I'd occasionally danced with Adam, but now Adam had a girlfriend and so I'd lost my dance partner.
I was thrilled to be out so late because we were in a city with all night public transit. Somehow we all--Adam, Stephanie Sean Dan and I made it back to my parents' place on Staten Island and we all went to bed. Adam and Stephanie got the attic, I got my childhood bed, Sean got the bed in my sister's room (we referred to it as "The Slab" because it was like a marble mattress) and Dan got the couch in my parents living room.
The next day Adam and Stephanie went to Brooklyn to see friends of hers. Sean, Dan and I met them at the Brooklyn museum later and then we all went for dinner before driving back to Cambridge. At dinner my Mom called and told us to come back to SI. There was a snow storm coming and she didn't want us driving in it. We decided to go home anyways--we had to work the next day.
I'm sure there are plenty of parts I've forgotten and some I've mis-remembered. The part I remember the best is how very cold I was. I don't think I've been as cold since. It was still a good weekend and I can't believe it was 10 years ago.
*I have since heard other Bay State natives say this. I have yet to figure out why you wouldn't want your fellow drivers know that you were changing lanes.
** As far as we could tell at the time the protest was entirely peaceful. When I went to go buy bagels the next morning I noted that the New York Post had a picture of a cop on a horse with a protester in what *might* have been construed as a violent confrontation. The headline was "FACE OFF." The Post has never been noted for it's liberalism.