Saturday, January 21, 2017

The Accidental Pied Piper of Olive Street at the Women's March in LA.

The original idea was to get one of those pink plastic trumpets to bring to the Women’s March in Los Angeles and blow little “Ta-Daa” riffs as merrily we strolled along, but the vendor I get a good deal from discontinued the pink model a while ago, so that idea was shot. I scratched my chin over whether to bring a horn and ultimately decided to, which turned out to have been a good idea.

The scene was way more than I anticipated. The Del Mar station in Pasadena had a 100-yard line to buy tickets at 7:45 AM, so we queued up until the first train came by. It was mostly full already, and maybe another few dozen were able to board. Some people peeled off the back of the line and boarded a train going the other way so as to board the inbound line before it got so full. Pasadena being forty minutes outside of Pershing Square, the epicenter of the event, it was obviously shaping up to be a massive influx into the city, so we decided to try to catch an Uber instead.

Our driver got us to where the traffic really started to clog, and when it came to a full stop, we bailed out, climbed up a set of concrete stairs where we were met by a six-foot tall chain link fence. Fit young gents were on the other side, receiving person after person who was streaming up those concrete stairs and up an adjacent embankment. A fellow of about 300 pounds was helped up and over, and soon enough came my and Debra’s turn (there is photographic evidence of Debra’s crossing!), and we made it over and began the trek to Pershing Square.

Word came quickly that Pershing Square was completely jammed and packed solid all the way out to city hall, so we eventually maneuvered over to Olive Street between 6th and 7th. It was wall to wall peaceful, loving humanity, with just the rainbow of ethnicities, orientations, ages and eccentricities I have come to love about my adoptive city. Out came the horn for a quick run through what I could figure out on short notice of Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman.”

So this being LA, a woman films the last bit of it and introduces herself as a dear friend of Helen Reddy’s. She said she’d send it to her. That stuff happens all the time out here, by the way. After that, many people began tugging at my sleeve and soon enough I was standing on top of a roof rack on a white panel van, looking at a thousand people to my left, a thousand people in front of me, and a thousand people to my right. I started shaking like a leaf and wishing I had practiced more last week. I played “America the Beautiful” with the Ray Charles timing and it was about as good as I could have hoped for. Pretty free of errors and a nice sound on the horn. Many hundreds of people screaming their brains out.

I tried to step off but was not permitted to, cajoled for one more, so I played the Star Spangled Banner with all the gravity I could muster. I am not really much subject to stage fright, but I had it then. It’s a hard song to sing or play, and I got it all the way through, pooched the high note, but EVERYBODY was singing it, and it was actually better to lunch the E flat (not only for humility's sake), because I could finally hear how loud everyone was singing, and the word “free” being sung by thousands of people filled my head instead of the loud sound off the bell. It will go down as one of the most moving experiences my friendship with the trumpet has ever taken me to.

We made our way through other areas of the march, with “This Land is Your Land,” "When the Saint Go Marching In," “Down By the Riverside,” and “We Shall Overcome” in the mix along with “Grand Old Flag” and “Yankee Doodle Dandy” as a means in part at least of underlining the fact the right’s attempted appropriation of all that music isn’t working at all. We finally stopped for lunch in Chinatown and had a lovely meal, where we met and ate with Katie Tur’s Mom. Yes, of course we did, because as was mentioned previously in this essay, that kind of thing happens all the time in Los Angeles.

We’re back home now. Debra is napping and I am writing. One thing Debra has said in this house is, “Don’t mess with Chris when he’s writing.” I will also add, don’t mess with Debra when she’s well rested. So, we’re both in this up to our necks, and we are ready to do what we can in what we anticipate to be a waterfall of conflicts large and small that we are likely to have with the new administration. It was an indescribably energizing and uplifting experience to march with many hundreds of thousands of people who are committed to true gender equality in this city and across the country. What a beautiful morning.



  1. I read this and cried...happy tears, of course. I truly wish I'd been there to see it and hear you play. You are an *amazing* fellow and I'm so thrilled you and Debra found each other.

    1. Pretty thrilled about that myself. We're off to Death Valley for her birthday weekend.