A Man is Worked To Death; so, Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?

It may seem a bit indulgent, but I feel like if I don’t say something my readership will learn to gloss over rather than listen for me. I’ve been working extra intensely for the past 2-3 weeks, and have not seemed to find any time to read or write, much less get a satifactory balance of sleep and food. I am painting houses this summer, for those of you who don’t know, and regularly put in 10 or more hours a day 4-5 days a week. I will be on my last house this next week, which should be relatively relaxing considering it’s a 5-minute walk from my apartment. In that time I hope to get back on track. This weekend even, being extra long due to the Labour Day holiday, I might write an entry.

Thank you to those keeping a look out for me.


As a side-note, when I was riding downtown to drop off a library book the other night, there was something of a demonstration on the Hawthorne Bridge. By this I mean that a crowd of 2-300 people blocked my way on the otherwise large and bike-friendly path that takes me across the Willamette River. They were holding up signs demanding that the war end, and smiled with disgustingly smug satisfaction.

They were making a difference.

I was struck by a number of things. The first was the predominantly white, obviously middle to upper-middle class constituency of the group. I saw at least three people with sweaters wrapped around their shoulders like Hawvawd prep-jerks. There was music being played and children running around. People beamed with stupid grins as they held up their signs and got honks; they were really enjoying preaching to the choir. A song started to run in my head by the middle of the way through the crowd, a Beatles’ song: Why Don’t We Do it In the Road.

The song is—apparently—not so obviously about having sex in the road. Purportedly, McCartney was inspired by a monkey hit and run copulation he witnessed in India. I began to wonder to myself though, why aren’t they in the road? They’re on a frickin’ bridge, nicely staying out of the way of the cars, who honk almost as mindlessly, and yet they’re purportedly expressing their frustration with the war. I quickly turned the observation back on myself, who clearly could be in the road as well, especially for being so aware that it was much provocative a gesture than sign-masturbating. I don’t really have an excuse, but I like to think I had to get to the library before it closed. It was late, and I was already tired from working like a dog and riding all over town to retrieve said book for its return.

However, as I cleared the crowd, to my delighted surprise, a lady screeched, “Someone’s in the road!” I rode on thinking through the possibilities. When I came back though, the crowd was largely cleared. It was time to go home and go to bed, because there was work to do in the morning. The drums keep pounding rhythm into the brain.

2 thoughts on “A Man is Worked To Death; so, Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?

  1. I was recently on vacation in San Francisco sitting in the back of a car being carted around by my parents. Somewhere in the center of some financial district or another as we approached a light a white bread truck pulled diagonally across the intersection blocking all forward progress from any lane. The back opened and out poured a dozen or so protesters, each with their own folding chair, who proceeded to set up shop. Within a minute they had all placed themselves, chained their chairs together and connected the chain to the truck, and cuffed their hands to their chairs. It was beautifully efficient. Quickly, traffic backed up in all directions, horns blared and motorcycle engines whined. My parents looked nostalgically on. But, none of us registered exactly what the complaint was. I still don’t know. They were upset about something or other. I wonder, what exactly does an effective protest look like?

  2. I don’t think the question is about effectiveness as much as a certain kind of gesture. That gesture is either on the side of change or not. The practical question of what kind of change we’re effecting, and to what extent this or that action effects it, is important but nonetheless a different question. I am not dealing with that question here.

    My complaint was about how demonstrations like the one I saw risk nothing. Especially in a town like Portland, the embarrassment some might face for publicly crying out against the war in, say, Smallsville, Texas, is not a factor. I made a point of describing the circus like air on the bridge. What it reveals is that under the veil of something serious like an anti-war protest, we or they are not really taking it seriously. How could they be taken seriously when there are balloon artists and clowns parading around?

    What demonstrations and the like that risk nothing amount to is a demand to effectively change nothing. The point, obviously, is not to simply be annoying. Anyone can be annoying, as your example shows. There are two components to the kind of change gestured at in a protest: organization and a direct conveyance of dissent. A bunch of people jumping out into the street with no explanation is not organized, but merely annoying, no matter the dissent they wished to convey. In cases such as these, I would almost say they are as much on the reactionary side of not changing as the people in my original complaint. Now, hundreds or thousands of people jumping in the street with a concrete message requires organization and conveys the kind of dissent that can’t be ignored or otherwise written off in the mind.

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