Monday, August 21, 2017

The Empty Nest and Cville Terror Aftermath

Seamus moved into his dorm on Saturday - a day I was both dreading and anticipating. To be honest, I am totally OK with being an empty nester. I've been parenting for twenty-five years, and while I love my children more than anything, I am ready for them to be launched. Also, I've learned from experience when my older children moved out, that the parent-child relationship changes after they leave. You can be less of a parent, more of a friend. (Not to say that you're absolved from all parenting duties, and seeing your child go through young-adult crises and heartbreaks is agonizing.)

That said, when a child moves out, there's a big hole in your life that takes a while to fill. But after time passes, everyone adjusts, and your kids come home for visits and holidays and it's lots of fun.

Move-in itself went smoothly. Friday night, we were woefully unprepared and not packed, but when around 10:00 pm, I finally got around to reading the move-in instructions, I learned that the check-in time for Seamus' hall and floor wasn't until 4:30 pm, which gave us a lot more time to get packed and organized.

For those of you not familiar with Virginia Commonwealth University, it's a large state university in the middle of Richmond. It's truly an urban campus, with no real defined boundary between the school and its neighborhood, known as the "Fan" a large fan-shaped area of 1800s buildings just west of downtown Richmond. Seamus preferred this to the self-contained and peaceful setting at George Mason University, the other school that accepted him.

I took a few pictures of the VCU neighborhood, walking back to the dorm after parking. Most of these buildings are part of the university. VCU is a large state school, but without the usual soulless, large, state school campus. Richmond's Fan is one of the loveliest urban neighborhoods I know.

Streets close to the dorms were closed to all but VCU students, so we were able to pull right up to the door of Seamus' dorm and unload the car. I drove off to one of the designated long-term parking areas, while Jon and Seamus waited for student volunteers to help carry his things up to his room on the 11th floor. The streets were alive with volunteers and campus police to direct people and music played out into the streets - a nice touch to relieve stress and create a festival atmosphere.

Seamus' new home

We didn't get to meet Seamus' roommate because he had already moved his stuff in and gone off somewhere when we arrived, but he left a note with his phone number, which has an out of state area code. He's a complete stranger, but his note was considerate and his belongings, neatly arranged, were similar to the sorts of things that Seamus brought, which bodes well, I think. (Significantly, he didn't bring a TV. Ian's freshman roommate brought a huge TV which he would turn on the minute he got up each day. It was enormously irritating and inconsiderate.) We picked up Grace and all went out to dinner before Jon and I drove back to Charlottesville. It's only an hour's drive from Cville to Richmond, so we are close at hand, but not too close. 

All settled in.

The move-in was successful, but not without trauma. Starting college is a stressful event for the whole family. On top of that, last week was very difficult as we tried to assimilate the feelings of having been under attack,  and then to hear Trump's remarks, calling the nazis who murdered a young woman and who threw fuel at protesters and tried to set them on fire, "fine people" and then basically saying that we deserved this violence. I didn't get more than four hours of sleep a single night this week and rogue nazis continued to terrorize us for days. On Monday evening, as I walked Phoebe, three men on scooters deliberately swerved at me and tried to run me over. I had to flatten myself into a hedge to escape and they all beeped and laughed at me as they passed. The "violence on both sides" argument is a vicious fiction in order to gaslight those of us who don't support Donald Trump. And on top of that, the terrorist attack in Barcelona was traumatic to hear about, and on top of that, the contrast between Trump's response to the Barcelona attack, compared to his response to the Charlottesville attack is sickening. Donald Trump is an irredeemable beast and he is actively engaged in the ethnic cleansing of the United States. He refuses to denounce the people who attacked Charlottesville because they are doing what he wants. Trump is a sadistic monster who enjoys seeing his opponents suffer.

On Wednesday night, 5,000 people in our community gathered on the UVA grounds to reclaim our space with a candlelight vigil. I attended, and although I think this was a healing event for many, I was overwhelmed by a crushing sense of despair. There have been few times in my life when I felt more alone and sad.  I already deleted the pictures I took (which were terrible) but here's one I shared on instagram, of people gathering in Nameless Field before the march.  Lots of spectacular pictures elsewhere.

A post shared by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

Anyway, the house is a bit lonely now, but we will be fine. I am glad this hateful summer is nearly over though.
Seamus' empty room. This is certain to become Phoebe's bed now.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Terrorist Attack on Charlottesville Virginia

I'm sure you have heard that my city, Charlottesville, Virginia, was attacked by white nationalist terrorists on Saturday, August 12th.  I didn't attend the counter-protest. I'd been dithering about it, partly wanting to go, but also worried because the white supremacists coming to the rally had been bragging about violence. Friday when I got home from work, I impulsively climbed onto the porch roof and painted a resist sign. We live less than a mile from downtown and I wanted any nazis who might park their cars in my neighborhood to know that they were not welcome.

The evening before the rally, white supremacists gathered near the University of Virginia grounds for a torchlit march, which ended in violence when they encountered a group of anti-racist UVA students and attacked them, including throwing their lit torches at people. I even heard a claim on a news video that the nazis threw fuel on people and then threw their torches. I think I speak for many locals when I saw we feel protective of UVA students. It was monstrous that they should be attacked defending their college grounds.

Saturday, the rally was supposed to start at noon, but people started assembling around 9:00 am and quickly became violent. A friend of mine who was there says that the violence was in little, self-resolving bursts. Punches thrown, then a calm, then punches thrown somewhere else, followed by calm. The city declared a local state of emergency and unlawful assembly was declared before even the official start time of the rally. That clinched it for me and I didn't go. I thought it would be a bit of a jerk move to show up after unlawful assembly had been declared. So I stayed home, glued to my twitter feed, until the horrific terrorist attack.

To explain the scene for those of you who aren't local: downtown Charlottesville has a pedestrianized street with shops and restaurants. It's a popular destination for tourists and locals alike and is always crowded on summer weekends. Two streets are allowed to cross the pedestrian mall, although with speed bumps and multiple warnings to drive slowly and yield to pedestrians. After the rally dispersed, there were still many people downtown. A car, driving at full speed charged across the pedestrianized mall and crashed straight into the crowd. Witnesses say he then reversed and slammed into the crowd again. On the eyewitness video I saw, the car was driving so fast it was a blur. One local woman was killed, 32 year old Heather Heyer. Many others were injured, some critically. Jon had been leading a retreat for health care workers and many of the participants were paged to come into the hospital and help with the multi-casualty incident.

The driver of the vehicle was apprehended about a mile from the crash scene. It is confirmed that he was a white supremacist, Trump-supporter.  I had been horrified by similar vehicular terrorist attacks in Nice and London and the fact that it had happened here, in my own town, on a street I walk on frequently was too shocking to comprehend.  And then, perhaps an hour later, the state police helicopter that had been circling the event all day, crashed. Both officers on board were killed.  Never in my life have I been in a place that was actively under attack. Yes, I was safe in my house, and my neighborhood stayed peaceful, but it was horrifying. And an innocent woman was murdered by a terrorist. We won't forget that and we won't let it happen again.

Sunday afternoon, the rally organizer (a local blogger and embodiment of toxic white male culture) had the audacity to hold a press conference. I had this crazy idea that if I attended this conference I could maybe throw a tomato at him or something. Shocking, I know, but I was brimful with rage and I thought if I could just get an opportunity to get close and just maybe gently lob something on him because he needs to be marked with humiliation for what he invited to our town. But then I thought that a tomato would be too firm so I went to Wegmans and bought the biggest, messiest, chocolattiest cream doughtnut they had. I just thought, if the opportunity presented itself, I might clap it against his shirt or smoosh it into his face. I was totally serious about it, but I didn't get an opportunity because when I got to the press conference, there was a large crowd and I couldn't get anywhere near the man. I could barely see him. We all screamed SHAME at the top of our lungs and completely drowned him out. Then someone rushed the podium and punched him and he ran away and we all chased him. We literally chased him away and the riot police came rushing in and blocked the alley he'd run down. There was a standoff for a while but nothing much was happening, so I wandered away and left the bouquet I'd bought when I was buying my assault doughnut at the impromptu memorial for Heather Heyer.

A few pics from Sunday:

My own memorial for Heather
The memorial that sprung up on the spot where Heather Heyer was murdered.

That blue hat had a swastika on it, but every time I tried to take a picture he turned his head.

Riot police protect Jason Kessler's escape

These videos are straight from my instagram. It seems they don't show up if you are reading this in a feed. Sorry! The quality is so much better than if I put them on youtube, so that's why I do it this way.

A post shared by Aileen Bartels (@aileenbartels) on

It was incredibly cathartic to scream at this man. I think most people around me felt the same. We were so enraged and shocked at what happened in our community that we needed to scream. I screamed myself hoarse. People on social media called us thugs and said we were as bad as the nazis, but that is BS. Don't you DARE compare people venting their rage to terrorist murderers. I reject any claim that our behavior was bad in any way. Also, any argument about "both sides" or "violent leftists" is FALSE. This "But what about the leftists?" has become the new "But her emails." The white supremacists INVADED our town. In the weeks before the event, city council and local businesses worked together to find a way to legally prevent the rally without being guilty of a free speech violation. There was a lawsuit and a last-minute injunction by a judge saying that the rally had to be allowed to go on as planned, despite multiple claims of an expected crowd of thousands.

Sunday evening there was a vigil for Heather Heyer at the site of her death. Originally, it was to be held in a local church, but nazis threatened to attack it. Think about that. These hateful Trump supporters threatened to attack a peaceful vigil for the woman they murdered. But some republicans are trying to claim that the left is responsible for the violence. We gathered and lit candles and sang. State and local police were there to protect us from Trump's terrorists. It's always sad to hear about someone who was murdered, even if it's someone you don't know, but it's a different feeling when the murder was an intentional and vicious attack on your community. The community itself is an additional victim. This is something I hadn't realized. I would also like to thank all the people around the country who held their own vigils and rallies in support of Charlottesville.

The vigil for Heather Heyer on Sunday evening

And finally, this morning, as Phoebe and I took our pre-dawn walk, we saw a memorial of white paper luminaries that had appeared overnight in our park. The park itself, with its hilltop location, groves of ancient oaks, and the worn-down stones of a mountain range older than human memory, has always felt like a sacred space and the memorial was like a tiny paper Stonehenge, there in the dark (and literally at the intersections of Druid and Stonehenge Avenues).

Monday, August 07, 2017

Window Washing Weekend

I spent the weekend washing windows, which is way more fun that it sounds. Nothing makes you feel quite so accomplished as surveying your sparkling windows.

The window-washing cloths from Williams-Sonoma are the best. All you need is water.

Sunroom windows cleaned.
This window still had glazier's fingerprints from decades ago.

Even after cleaning, the front door and windows look rough.
It will be a future project to restore our porch.
I'm dying to get rid of that basket chair, but Jon will object.

Otherwise I'm really dissatisfied with the state of our house right now. In addition to washing windows, I scrubbed the toilets, washed the kitchen floor, vacuumed, and cleaned the microwave and yet still the house feels grimy and unpleasant. The living room is still partially dismantled so that Sancho can sleep closer to the floor. Cobwebs are taking over. No sooner do I vacuum them up than more appear. One morning we're going to wake up and find ourselves cocooned in them.

Cobweb level: Satis House

I made poke bowls for dinner for the first time. I'll eat sushi in restaurants without a qualm, so it's odd that I felt squeamish about preparing raw fish to eat at home. It was yummy and easy to prepare but I have too much poke angst to make this again.

I also spent the weekend reading Olivia in India by O. Douglas, a very charming epistolary novel about a young woman's trip to India just prior to World War I. Every book I read by O. Douglas is even better than the last. Also reading The Prime Minister by Anthony Trollope, which I have been reading forever, it seems.

This summer is rushing to its conclusion. Only thirteen days until we move Seamus to his dorm at VCU. I think we have managed to get most things done. He's registered for classes, we finally submitted the dreaded immunization form. I bought twin, XL sheets, a laundry bag, and a laptop. He can take a few bath towels from home, and whatever else we need, we'll just get at Diversity Thrift on move-in day. I'm extra happy to shop there in particular because their profits benefit the LGBQT community and I learned that Vice President Mike Pence will be speaking in Richmond on move-in day. Couldn't this asshole pick a day when the city isn't already overburdened with tens of thousands of students moving in? Seriously. Isn't his team supposed to research things like this? Can't he see that not disrupting an entire city and creating a hell day for thousands of people is more important than getting his ego stroked by a group of sycophants? (Although that's probably the only thing of his that gets stroked.) It occurred to me that we could carve out some time to go and protest him, but I doubt it will be possible.

Meanwhile, Seamus and Ian left on a trip to New Orleans to visit Brigid. A brothers' trip! To visit their sister! Isn't that cute? They're going on the train, which didn't depart Cville until 10:30 pm yesterday so they both spent the day moping and I was happy to see them go. Based on what we're hearing from Brigid, the rain down there is intense, and I'm hearing worrisome tales about flooding and riding a bicycle through waist-deep water. Brigid herself got a job teaching art in a public elementary school in her neighborhood. She's also volunteering in a community garden and at a studio that teaches costume making to kids.

With everything that's been going on this summer, we have't had a proper vacation but once Seamus is settled at school, I'm going to Buffalo for a family reunion. Jon's going to the upper peninsula of Michigan for a conference in October, the two of us are going to Boston in November for a professional event for Jon, and we're going to try to squeeze in a trip to New Orleans as well.

I'll leave you with an awesome bit of craftivism that appeared overnight in our park. The letters are cut off a bit, but it says DISARM HATE. I haven't hung any yarnbombs lately because I've been working on one that's larger than anything else I've attempted so far and it's going to take a while.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Pomfret Towers

I am pleased to announce that I found an Angela Thirkell novel that I actually liked. I've been slowly reading my way through her collected works, and finding each book to be worse than the last. Trooper to the Southern Cross, Demon in the House, O These Men, These Men!, The Fortunes of Harriette, and Summer Half were all pretty bad, so Pomfret Towers (1938) was a pleasant surprise.

I got my copy at the public library

First of all, most of the action happens at a weekend party at a country house, and you couldn't ask for a more perfect venue for comforting British chick lit. Secondly, there are no children in this book, and children, as portrayed by Angela Thirkell, are particularly horrible. Thirdly Thirkell doesn't mock the servants or demean the lower classes. Instead, she aims her mockery at pretentious poseur artists and self-important authors, which is much more satisfying.

Here's a quick plot sketch. Alice Barton is the painfully shy daughter of a respectable architect. She and her brother Guy are invited to a weekend house party at Pomfret Towers, occupied by the local lord. Of course Alice doesn't want to go, but her mother makes her. And so we meet the usual weekend house party people: assorted sporty hunting people, a publisher, a professor, the lord's heir, and girl with a hyphenated last name who screams a lot. There's also a snobbish and officious "authoress" who's main object is to get her daughter married to the heir, and her son, Julian, a pretentious artist of dubious talent with whom Alice falls in love. These two get snubbed and humiliated in a variety of amusing ways.

Pomfret Towers isn't a perfect book by any means. If I had a ranking system, I'd give it 6.5 stars out of 10. Thirkell tends to pad her writing with unnecessary plot action: "She crossed the room and greeted her aunt and then sat down." Still, I enjoyed it enough to recommend that you check it out of your library, if it's in their collection, but don't go crazy tracking down a copy to buy, unless you can get it for less than $5.

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Brensham Trilogy

I have an amusing little trilogy to share with you all today. The Brensham Trilogy by John Moore was written in the 1940s, partly as a reaction to the sweeping social changes that occurred in Great Britain after World War II. I added this series to my booklist after I saw it mentioned, in Austerity Britain by David Kynaston (reviewed here).  Kynaston says that the Barchester series by Angela Thirkell, and also The Brensham Trilogy, were written specifically to reflect on and criticize the changes that occurred in Great Britain in the period immediately following World War II. I read Austerity Britain nearly four years ago, so it seems it takes me four years from the time I add a book to my list until the time I actually get around to reading it.

I found my copy at UVA's Alderman Library

I was expecting a trilogy of novels, but these books are a memoir that reads like a novel. In the first book, Portrait of Elmbury, Elmbury is a fictional name for Tewkesbury, the town where John Moore grew up. This book is the most closely connected with Moore's life, describing his childhood in a beautiful Tudor house in "Elmbury," his school days, and later work in his uncle's auction house. Brensham Village and The Blue Field, are both about the village of Brensham, located about four miles from Elmbury. In these two books, Moore is more of an observer than a character, focusing on the characters of these villages and the complex social interactions and relationships that make up village life, and the unfortunate changes that come with modernity. A mysterious "syndicate" is menacing the village, slowly buying up property for "development." A man faces serious legal trouble for planting his field with linseed (the "blue field") rather than the foodstuffs the agricultural board has ordered him to plant. The villages and town are also overrun with weekend warriors and their noise, litter, and road-hogging buses. (Sounds a bit like Charlottesville.)

Unlike Angela Thirkell's books, these are not a ham-handed, snobbish longing for the good old days of noblesse oblige. The Brensham Trilogy is a sensitive examination of society and how even sometimes positive social change comes with a price. The characters are beautifully drawn and their stories are told with humor and love. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Progress on the Empty Nest Front

Yesterday I took Seamus to his freshman orientation. Would you like to hear how it went? No? I'm going to tell you anyway. First of all, we were late. Check in time was 9:00 a.m. and at 8:40, we were just pulling out of a McDonald's parking lot, sixty miles from our destination. (YES WE WENT TO MCDONALD'S. AND DIDN'T EVEN GET DIABETES LIKE WE DESERVED.) You can actually get to Richmond pretty quickly if you drive 80 mph most of the way.

But then I missed the parking deck entrance and we got sucked into a vortex of one-way streets, all going the direction we didn't want to go in, plus NO LEFT TURN and NO U-TURN signs, so we had to make a massive eight-block detour and attempted the parking deck again. And then we walked briskly the three blocks to the orientation building, only to learn that check in was in a different building right across the street from the parking garage. So we got Seamus checked in (we were absolutely the last people to arrive) and I was immediately all, HOW LONG ARE PARENTS EXPECTED TO STAY? WHEN CAN I LEAVE? CAN I LEAVE NOW? BYE, I AM LEAVING NOW. WHEN SHOULD I PICK HIM UP? TOMORROW? SO SOON? HOW ABOUT NEXT WEEK?

So there I was, speeding on my way back to Charlottesville, feeling pleased that a whole day stretched before me in which I was not expected to appear at work, when I realized that all the paperwork that Seamus was supposed to bring with him to orientation was still in my bag; most importantly, the immunization form, much crumpled, but with proof of recent meningitis vaccine and actual signature of a nurse and even a coffee mug ring as an extra stamp of authenticity. I was still in the western suburbs of Richmond, so I pulled over to the shoulder and texted Seamus about the situation. Of course he didn't respond and I got back on the highway and drove all the way back to the school. And then I had a full blown panic attack in the car, while driving 65 mph on I95. As they say, keep calm and panic on.

As soon as I got back to VCU and parked I got this text from Seamus:

I'm in the tour group now. We're just leaving. It's okay, send me a picture of them when you get a chance and we can mail them late.

I rushed out of the parking garage, hoping to catch him anyway, and in the distance saw a group of orienteers walking away on a tour. (All the students had the same yellow backpack.) I managed to get close enough to the group to be fairly sure that Seamus wasn't among them. And then -- yellow backpacks everywhere! The students had broken out into small groups, for staggered tours, and I was surrounded by small groups of students, but I couldn't find Seamus, and at this point, I'm not even sure I would have recognized him. Admitting defeat, I texted him pictures of the documents.

Back in the parking garage, when I tried to pay at the pay station and it wouldn't accept payment because I still had two minutes left of free parking before I was expected to pay. Could I make it to my car and out the exit in under two minutes?

It took maybe twenty seconds to reach my car. I was so frazzled, I put it in reverse without depressing the clutch. I reached the exit with perhaps ten seconds to spare and it was blocked by a woman who was having some kind of issue with the card reader. She grimaced at me in her rear view mirror as if to say - what? "The machine ate my ticket." "I'm a hillbilly who doesn't know how to parking garage.""You're a jerk for pulling in behind me when I'm obviously having difficulty here." Who can say?

My two minutes expired while the lady in front of my was still trying to sort herself out, so now I had to back out of the exit and find a pay station, but of course, someone had backed up smartly right behind me. It was awkward, but I extricated myself from the exit, drove to the pay station, which now accepted a payment from me, escaped the garage and was on my way home, a full hour from the moment I'd realized I still had Seamus' papers in my bag. Incidentally, that's twice that I paid the garage yesterday. Parking fees were included in the $150 orientation fee, but I'd left the parking validation card with Seamus. This day was really full of win.

I made it home without further incident, but this fun day wasn't over yet because now I had to be photographed for the local weekly paper, which is including me and my yarnbombs in a story they're doing about Charlottesville. I am one of those people who looks terrible in photographs - stiff and unnatural with a big toothy frozen grin and eyes that always seem to be directed skyward and after my stressful morning, I was far from looking my best. Additionally, I had hoped to lose weight before the photo, but felt fatter than ever and being sweaty always makes me feel like I've gained even more circumference. I had the distinct impression that I was bursting out of my clothes. There were two photographers and I had to sit on a chair in the middle of the downtown mall and pretend to knit and it was the most awkward thing I have ever done. After the shoot, walking back to my car, I actually clutched my head in mortification a few times. Oh well at least I'm not Ann Coulter.


Monday, July 10, 2017

The KKK Come to Charlottesville

Over a year ago, Charlottesville City Council, at the urging of some local citizens, announced an intention to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a park downtown. As a result, Charlottesville has become noticed by racist groups who are agitating to "preserve history." In truth, the statue is not really a historical monument. It was erected in the 1920s and its dedication was attended by leaders who were active in oppressing the black community in Charlottesville. It's fair to say that the statue can be seen as a symbol of oppression by some people.

Fast forward to this past weekend, when the Ku Klux Klan held a rally in Charlottesville. As you can imagine, there was much consternation, and a news conference in which the community was strongly discouraged from mounting a counter-protest. Instead, numerous alternative activities were planned. The argument for keeping people away was that the KKK just wants attention, so a protest is playing into their hands. In the weeks before the rally, police visited and intimidated local leftist activists. Other activists received phone calls or emails.  No doubt, the KKK get a perverse pleasure from being greeted with angry hordes, but to not show up, to me, implies complicity. Ignoring the KKK will NOT make them go away.

Even with dedicated daily knitting, this is all I had time to make.

I attempted to organize local knitters and crafters to meet me in the park the morning of the rally, to hang "yarnbombs" and show the KKK that they are not welcome here. In the end, no one but me had time to knit anything. Still, a friend of mine went with me to the park that morning and another friend met us there, to help. It turned out that moral support would be necessary.

The scene in the park when we arrived to hang the signs. Those are the police who harassed me.

I was tying one of my signs to a tree in the park when two police officers approached and asked me what I was doing. I showed them the knitting and explained. I was lectured about how if I hang signs, then the KKK would want to hang their signs, and then there would be hateful signs everywhere and we can't have that, can we? I said that if the KKK wanted to hang signs, they have the same right that I do so what did it matter? The lecture was repeated, this time prefaced by "Don't you understand that..." (Copsplaining, apparently.) Then the cop asked if I had gotten permission to hang my signs. At this point, my friend had come to stand beside me. Ask for permission to hang little bits of knitting in a public park? It had never occurred to me to ask for permission. I asked if I was committing a crime and the police said that I was not.

At this point, a random man with a black lives matter t-shirt spoke up and said that it was my free-speech right to hang my signs. The police drew back a bit and said they would call their captain and ask if it was OK. A moment later, the verdict: the police captain said I could NOT hang my signs. The entire interaction was polite, but it was close to an edge. I am certain that a police captain does not have any authority to take away my free speech rights, but I was equally certain that if I resisted, I would have been arrested. So I said, "Fine, I'll hang them outside the park boundaries." And the police conceded that I could do that, so we hung them up around the park, where I think they got more notice than they would have in the interior.

Maybe I should have resisted? Let me tell you though, in the moment, it is not easy to defy a police officer. They have guns and pepper spray and tazers and handcuffs and you are defenseless. I do wish I'd had the presence of mind to use the ACLU app that I have installed on my phone. It records any incident and immediately transmits to the ACLU, so even if your phone is taken away, they have your footage. And even though the interaction was polite, I felt harassed. The police were in a position of power, they had the upper hand and they used it to bully me about some completely harmless signs. And, as my friend Becky pointed out, the KKK had permission to bring their guns. Why is their "right" to open-carry a deadly weapon more protected than my right to express my disdain for them?  What has happened to our society when knitting is perceived as more threatening than a gun?

Later in the day was the actual rally and counter protest, scheduled from 3:00-4:00 pm. I thought the counter protest would be low key, considering the pressure to stay away, the announcement that the KKK would be armed, and the numerous people who posted on social media that they would be staying away. I arrived on the scene at 2:30 and it was an absolute circus. Hundreds of people marching and chanting. There was music and a few dancers. It was more of a festival atmosphere, and no sign of the KKK.

The scene at around 2:30 pm. Below is a tiny video that I took.

A little after three, the crowd swelled (final count, 1,000) and people started to ask, are they here yet? Where are they? Police had set up a fenced-off  "free speech zone" where the KKK would be, and the rest of us were ranged around. A state police helicopter arrived and circled the park, over and over. At 3:30, they still hadn't arrived and it seemed like they might be a no-show at their own rally.  I did see a confrontation between a few of the crowd and a man with a confederate flag bandana.

Around 3:45, the energy changed.  I didn't actually see the KKK arrive in their pen because it was so crowded, but wedged in as I was, I could just make out their flags, through the leaves. We all shouted "RACISTS GO HOME" and other sayings of that nature. For many of us, (myself included) our motivation to see the klan was curiosity.  Indeed, the scene reminded me a little of the panda exhibit at the National Zoo. What in the world does a klansman look like anyway? OK, so it turns out they look like a bunch of grown men wearing cheap Halloween costumes. Rank and file klan members wear a uniform that looks a lot like a police officer's. The leaders wear silly robes, mostly white, but one guy was in purple and another in black. They wore hoods that looked comically similar to a bishop's mitre. Their faces were exposed. You will have to search the news sites for good pictures. Mine are all terrible. Check out The DTM's facebook page for a powerful picture of local clergy marching against the klan. (Other great photos there too.) Also, check out our friend Eze Amos' page. He's a local photographer and his photos focus on the individuals in the crowd. (Below is one I embedded from his Instagram.)

After the protest
These three had style

And then, perhaps half an hour after they arrived, the police escorted them away. Some of the crowd raced away to follow them to their cars and I was tempted, but I also was really craving a glass of wine. Most of us dispersed and I went to the pub where Jon had been the whole time, and had a lovely chilled glass of Sauvignon blanc. It's a good thing I didn't follow the protesters who stayed behind, because they were tear gassed by the police. Official media accounts say that they were tear gassed because they blocked the road and refused to let the KKK cars pass. Eyewitness accounts of people I trust say that protester were peacefully mingling after the KKK had gone, did not immediately disperse when ordered to by police, and were gassed. Seamus, who had been at the protest with his friends, was in the vicinity of the gassing, but farther away and doesn't have a clear account of what happened.

Please know, if you hear that the protest in Charlottesville was a violent Antifa demonstration, you are being lied to. People brought their babies and their dogs. The local clergy were there in force. While there were certainly protesters from out of town, overall this was a community protest. There is a disappointing amount of local disdain about the protest. It is embarrassing and shameful, apparently, that people chose to shout down a hate group. It is disheartening, to say the least, to read these disparaging remarks about an event I enthusiastically participated in and support.

To recap: in a city that is self-styled the "capital of the resistance," residents were pressured not to protest the KKK, activists were visited by and intimidated by police prior to the rally, KKK were allowed to bring their guns, but I was not allowed to hang my knitting, KKK was allowed to overstay their permit by about twenty minutes and were given police escort to and from a safe space created for them, and peaceful counter protesters were gassed by police and criticized as shameful and embarrassing.

Monday, July 03, 2017


Just a quick update, because I have posted so much negative stuff lately. Things are looking up! Sancho, our dog, who became paralyzed, has responded to prednisone. There's still something really wrong with his gait, but he has improved enough that we can get him outside to relieve himself without any drama. He's currently tapering off the steroids, and I'm not sure what will happen when he stops them completely. (Ugh, not sure why blogger won't let me turn off the center justification here.)

The city paved the muddy ditch in our street, which is a massive improvement in our quality of life. Even the dead bird situation is better because the city entombed it under fresh asphalt when they patched the holes in our driveway. (Although Phoebe is extremely interested in the margin between patch and the original paving.) Furthermore, we used 1,000 fewer gallons of water since the city hooked us up to the new line, so perhaps there was a leak somewhere? Maybe it's a coincidence, but I don't usually see such a dramatic drop in water usage unless we've been away on vacation.

The Big Scary Go-Live happened over the weekend. Since I'm now exclusively responsible for regulatory stuff (MIPS and Meaningful Use) it turns out I wasn't expected to work cutover night, nor do I have to be in the command center over the coming weeks. I know there's an issue waiting for me that I'll have to investigate and figure out how to fix, but it's not super critical.

Yesterday evening, I spotted this bit of craftivism in the square where the KKK is planning to have their rally and it really cheered me up. It says DISARM HATE.

Finally, Brigid made it safely to New Orleans, after spending twenty-five hours on the train. I thought that our going away party last weekend would be our last opportunity to see her before she left, but I was wrong! The train to New Orleans passes through Charlottesville, but not Richmond. Amtrak sent her to Cville on a bus and she had a nearly two-hour layover here on Friday evening. Jon and Ian and I met her at the station and we all went out for one last dinner together before seeing her off on the train. I wasn't satisfied with not being able to say good bye at the point of departure, so I'm really glad we had that opportunity. We got an update from her last night - they went swimming and met new friends. Brigid had sold her bed, but the new one she ordered from Amazon is arriving today and she and her housemate are going to have a domestic day setting everything up. (BTW, it's LIFE CHANGING that you can buy a mattress and box spring set from Amazon.)

Jon and Brigid - she did the embroidery on that cape.

Waiting for the train

Below, we thought this was Brigid's train, but it turned out to be a freight. Her train was very late.

Jon took this picture of me as the freight train passed.

Brigid's train at last.