The Big Blow-Up Elephant Marches Amid the New Amsterdam Donkeys
It may be a harbinger of the election ahead: last night outside the Obama-Bill Clinton fundraiser in New York City, young Republicans mocked the gathering, and Democrats revealed how different 2012 is from 2008 for them.
Monday evening was a perfect late-spring day, a coolish breeze almost imperceptible in among the dark clouds that, truth to tell, threatened a rain that, happily, did not fall, though hundreds of umbrellas were prophylactically tucked under arms and in thoughtfully packed tote bags. The milling tourists were out in the myriads. Fat, ill-dressed teen minority youths twirled poles on each of the many corners at Times Square, Broadway, Seventh Avenue, 42nd Street. Hawking the comedy revues dotting the neighborhood. Making minimum wage as they held their footing among the crowds pushing every which way. Comedy night! Comics tonight!
But along with the camera-phone-happy gawkers from Chicopee Falls with their maps at the ready, at the New Amsterdam Theatre running cheek by jowl with Madame Tussaud's waxworks and the premium jumbo MacDonald's that emits friendly wafts of comfort food at the stranded or bewildered, hundreds of New Yorkers, two and three deep, were queued up outside the New Amsterdam on the south side of 42nd, where the huge black and white marquee screamed BARACK OBAMA and BILL CLINTON TONIGHT. Police barricades on both sides of the street penned in the hopeful onlookers on the north side of the street, as the people who hadn't paid from $250 to $1,000 per ticket hoped for a glimpse of savior-boy and Bubba as they entered the theatre for a champeen kumzitz in the heart of libtown.
On the sidewalk, hundreds and hundreds wound down the street to eighth Avenue, snaking lazily, chatting, relaxed, staring at cells -- not electrified like the Beacon Theatre uptown audiences about to catch a really hot musical act for major bucks, but excited enough to watch with quizzical glances as some 30 of us marched up and down the sidewalk hefting our huge pachyderm-grey inflated-rubber elephant with rubber tusks in off-white and black-paint toes. All anatomically correct, pretty much. Two men walked under the elephant, and the rest of us, from the New York Young Republican Club (NYYRC) ambled alongside, holding our paper signs with photocopied pics of Bill Clinton saying MITT ROMNEY IS STERLING, as he recently opined on TV, and a tongue-in-cheek several shots with John Slattery, who plays Roger Sterling on AMC's Madmen, reading ROMNEY IS...[above the photo of Sterling]. You had to be savvy enough to recognize the verbal pun by being familiar with the TV show, and his name, both in character and in real life, to 'get' the sophisticated pun.
We walked alongside the two men whose heads were holding the nearly-full-size elephant (GOP), bwanas of the Big Apple, and we chanted NO-Ba-Ma! And ROMNEY! ROMNEY!
On one side, all the ticket-holders waiting to be securitized, their umbrellas and potential weapons removed and dumped into 30-gallon plastic rubbish bins in front of the entrance (very classy) by hired greeters at the New Amsterdam, and on the other, lots of hangers-around, baffled street people, heavy-lidded aimless with ash accumulating on the end of lit cigs, who could not quite figure out where we ended and the queue'd-up standees and their donkey views began.
The sidewalks were packed, too, with home-going working folks, rushing to the subway, or, more likely, the Port Authority down at the end of the block.
The presumed donkeys, Democrats, snaking down the sidewalk inhaling the exhausts of fleeing buses, were hundreds; we were few, all of us of all ages and sizes, all respectably dressed from our day in offices of one sort or another. The women in light dresses or professional match-ups in good cloth and accessories; the men in ties and dark suits. Dress-code uniforms for metropolitan workers.This was our evening demo protest against the continuation of the current administration's failed policies.
At hand, Khalil Haddad, the exceedingly handsome president of the NYYRC, was the lightbulb spark behind the evening's protest outside the Clinton/Obama venue. He paced us as we strode the macadam. Because we kept up a brisk pace, we did not need a permit for standing in one place, which our usual rallies require, since we are usually in a confined area. Because we held our paper signs up, we had no worry about police having to remove dangerous sticks or poles. Because we used our voices in unison, we had no need for loud speaker licenses.
Just the day before, tens of thousands of people, kids to veterans of past wars, natives and new citizens, had gathered and marched, sang, tootled, floated, danced, twirled, motorcycled, stiltwalked, unicycled and cheer-led at the 4-hour joyous Israel-Day Parade up Fifth Avenue all the way from the grand Public Library to the 70s, where the crowd entered Central Park for a 4-hour free concert. The street was lined with enthusiastic well-wishers, parents, friends and kin of the marchers.
As we walked, we chanted Admit the Blame! and Where are the Jobs? Jobe not Jerks! Interspersed with Rom-ney! and No-bam-a. We laughed as we thought of new slogans to add.
But a funny thing was notable at this Monday night gathering in support of Romney, and not in support of the outgoing industrial-strength losing strategy. Four and five years ago, when we had marched and chanted on behalf of Republican candidate John McCain, on the Upper West Side (what cognoscenti label the Upper Left Coast), the good denizens of our neighborhood had flipped us the bird, spat at us, called us vile names. Monday night, that had changed: Only the ugly fat underpaid badly dressed youths called me names, refused to move from their 'twirling spots' advertising local comedy venues. The crowd of paying customers waiting to get into the New Amsterdam was mild, amused, observant and quietly regarding our elephant and signs. No one brought out their fingers, middle or index or anything. They seemed aware, respectful, even, that we had an idea that was not so... farfetched. People spoke in answer to our questions with bonhomie and tolerance.
This was a sea-change donk response to political realities. It looked suspiciously like acknowledgment that we were not regarded as outré nor beyond the reach of comprehension.
It felt refreshingly like fear.
Cost of tickets corrected