Monday, March 26, 2018

March for our Lives

Saturday was a perfect day for a protest in Washington:  sunny and cool. The whole day was great and I'm really glad I attended this march. I bought a ticket on one of the Rally buses going up from Charlottesville for the event and we departed at 7:00 am. An elderly man was there, just to stand by and see us off, which was such a sweet gesture. I went alone because I like doing things alone and also because it is easier in situations like this to have only yourself to keep track of, although on the bus, as another single lady sat next to me, I had the uncomfortable realization that I am a middle aged woman who goes to protests alone. I'd packed a piece of stiff fabric and some sharpie markers, and attempted to make a sign but before I finished I felt so car sick I had to abandon the effort and breathe deeply and stare fixedly ahead and hope that the stiff fabric might double as a barf container, should such a thing be needed. It wasn't needed, but I didn't feel better until we were nearly there. My slogan was to be: IT'S EASIER TO BUY A GUN THAN TO OPEN A POUCH OF LAUNDRY PODS which it totally true, by the way.

We arrived at Union Station well before the official march start time, so I was able to get a fairly good position. Not very close to the stage, but within good view of the large viewing screens and speakers. They played music until the rally officially started and it was fun to watch the crowd swell and see all the signs. We were on Pennsylvania Avenue, and I was positioned just forward of the Newseum, where my sister used to live.

Here are a few of the signs I liked.

By the rally start time, the crowd was so tight, I was wedged in without even enough room to move my arms or plant my feet more than a few inches apart. I was right in the middle of the street and to move sideways to the edges of the crowd was literally impossible. I'm not particularly claustrophobic, but I did have to take a few deep breaths at times and remember that this was all for an important cause. And the speeches and entertainment were superb. I got to see Lin Manuel live! I was also blown away by Demi Lovato's performance and the student speakers - many from Parkland, but others from around the country who'd lost siblings to gun violence or who had survived school shootings. These kids are impressive and while I'm ashamed that we adults haven't managed to create a safe world for our kids, I am deeply grateful to these students for taking matters into their own hands. It was also really neat to see the crowd shots on the screen and I realize I was in the middle of that mass of people. I heard 800,000 attended the march in DC.

After the march, which ended promptly at 3:00 I had a few hours to kill, so I went to the National Gallery, hoping to see the Cezanne portrait exhibit, but it didn't open until Sunday. :( Then I went to the Museum of American History, my favorite museum in all the world, and revisited the huge dollhouse, Julia Child's kitchen, and the first lady gown exhibit. (Melania Trump's gown, isolated in its own case was being pointedly ignored by almost all the visitors.) I took a break to sit on the grass on the National Mall and eat the snacks I'd packed and then it was time to head to the station. 

People threaded their signs through the fences along the Mall after the rally.

I wore sunscreen, but still got quite the burn, from standing motionless in the sun for five hours.

Here's to a future in which weapons of war are outlawed and kids don't have to worry about being shot in school.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What I've been up to lately

We tend to hibernate in the winter and not socialize very much, but I've been busy with various projects.


Close up of the wilderness I'm attempting to tame

Work on the brick path stalled, since the ground was frozen, and then wet and I'm stymied by the problem of making it level and how to deal with the slope. Instead, I've been vigorously pulling up vines and cutting down brush along the perimeter of our property, and preparing a garden bed. I have modest plans to plant radishes and Swiss chard and if these are successful, I may plant more things next year. My long term goal is to have most of the backyard converted to vegetables and bee hives. Our lot isn't big enough for a true urban homestead, but I think I could grow all the vegetables we need.

State of the brick path at the moment

Here's how it looked before I started


I recently read The New Bohemian Handbook by Justina Blakeney and it inspired me to take some steps to make my house more pleasant and comfortable. First step was a deep clean, in which I washed all the walls (so many cobwebs) and generally dusted and tidied. I focused on the living room, which we don't use to its potential because it is dark and cold and there's just something uncomfortable about it. I can't go crazy redecorating because we are going to have to rewire this room (indeed the entire front of the house) but I am looking at lamps, and after stalking large gilt mirrors online, I found a piece I really love to put over the mantle. It instantly brightened the room. There's a lot more to do, but this is a start. I wouldn't say that my style is truly Bohemian, but this book has some interesting exercises in it and is a useful resource if you're trying to figure out how to make your house a place you truly feel good in.
Space over the mantle

The mantle needs a vignette now. I'm working on it.

Inspired by a sign I saw at the Women's March, 2017, I designed a knitting pattern that depicts Trump as a simple set of triangles.

I didn't get a chance to take a picture at the march, 
but then I saw a photo of it in a book!

I used excel to design the pattern

Crude, but I think it's recognizably Trump and his KKK friends

I knit a second one, similar to the first only missing the KKK figures and hung it on a tree in Washington last weekend, when I was up there with a group of friends.

I know it's crooked, but it was unbelievably uncomfortable, hanging this, even with two friends. A man who was walking past yelled at me to take it down and then called me a traitor. Also, the tree was too big, but I'd already really upset a squirrel and there were no other remotely suitable trees nearby. 


I haven't been to nearly as many protests this year, but I'm going back to DC for the March for Our Lives protest on Saturday. Also, I participated in a spur of the moment chance to heckle my congressman as he arrived at an unpublicized event downtown. He actively hides from constituents. He was willing to meet with local white supremacists, but won't talk to constituents about issues related to healthcare or the republican tax cut.  Therefore, the strategy is to find him at events like this and ask him the questions he won't answer. There are some good videos out there of him furiously telling a woman that her family's healthcare doesn't matter because she's "just one family" and angrily saying that he won't answer yes or no questions.

Any of you guys planning to march this weekend, either in DC or at your local marches? The NRA must be destroyed.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Where the Sidewalk Ends: Negotiating Charlottesville as a Pedestrian

I grabbed a screenshot of this headline because it exactly mirrors my thoughts about being a pedestrian in Charlottesville. The article pictured above is about Dublin (which has issues where pedestrians are concerned) but it translates to Charlottesville.

To be a pedestrian in Charlottesville is to know rage. Inconsiderate drivers are one thing, but in this post, I'm focusing on how local government is responsible for terrible pedestrian conditions. 

There are a lot of construction projects going on around town, particularly along West Main Street and absolutely no accommodations have been made for pedestrians, who are shunted from one side of the street to the other and back again because the sidewalks are closed. West Main is a busy, dangerous street to cross, particularly after 4:00 pm, when it has the highest volume of pedestrians and drivers. 

Yesterday morning, I walked down West Main to the library at UVA. Here's some of what I saw. For those of you unfamiliar with the area, West Main is one of the busiest streets in the city of Charlottesville. It is the connector from downtown to the University of Virginia. It sees heavy pedestrian, car, bus, and bike traffic. It is absolutely unacceptable to allow developers to take over the sidewalks and bike lanes here.

^Little traffic because it was early Sunday morning. 

Rumor has it that my office is moving back to this area so I'm going to have to walk through this mess every freaking day. And sure, these projects will end, but there's always a new one. I've already seen a few other projects from beginning to end, when different sections of sidewalk were blocked off, again with no pedestrian or bike accommodations. I have spoken at town hall meetings with city council, I have emailed city council, I have had numerous emails with Charlottesville's bike/ped coordinator. I've attended city forums about bike/ped issues. I have specifically asked that developers be required to provide temporary sidewalk access and I'm certain I'm not the only person addressing the city about this, and yet nothing changes.

Essentially, if you are an ordinary Charlottesville resident, you are a serf. Following that analogy, city government represents the ruling class, real estate developers are the nobility and the rest of us don't matter except for our payment of tribute (taxes) with which city government rewards the real estate developers. We serfs are supposed to passively accept that construction projects may shove us into the street.

At its heart, the pedestrian issue is a class issue. Is it a coincidence that the best conditions for pedestrians are found in the richest neighborhoods in the city?  The people building all the hotels and apartment buildings around town are the ones with the money. City council gives them what they want and lets the rest of us go to hell. Since pedestrians aren't a well-funded lobby group, we are at the mercy of local governments. They may choose to make things nice for us, or they may not. It's mostly not. 

It makes me wonder what our streets would look like if pedestrians and cyclists had a lobby group as powerful as the NRA. What do you think bike/ped conditions would be like if that happened?