Sunday, August 29, 2004

Uptown Sunday

The word on the news this morning was that the protests against the Republican National Convention were to pick up in size and intensity downtown. Wisely, L. and I had scheduled all of our downtown activities for Saturday, and were planning an uptown day for Sunday.

So Sunday morning was spent in the lap of luxury at the Waldorf - Starbucks coffee, room service and the Sunday Times. At checkout time, we reluctantly left our bags with the bellhop and headed in an uptown direction. The Waldorf was heavily guarded by at least a dozen policemen and private security (plus, I imagine, other precautions not quite as apparent to the eye). We walked uptown to Barney's to buy me some more comfortable clothes (like a bonehead, I forgot that it could actually get hot in NYC in August, and I had packed only wool or blend pants, and mostly long-sleeved, but all cool-weather, shirts). One pair of Hugo Boss jeans, Three Dot sweatpants and a long-sleeve t-shirt later, we headed to a strangely uncrowded Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the Dangerous Liaisons show of 18th Century French (the theme still continues) furniture and clothing. After the Met, we had lunch at the usually-mobbed-but-today-nearly-empty E.A.T. (Madison and 80th), then a little clothes shopping for L., and then back to the Waldorf to pick up our bags and take a cab back to LaGuardia for our flight home.

Meanwhile, a roaring two-mile river of demonstrators was surging through downtown Manhattan in the city's largest political protest in decades, a raucous but peaceful spectacle that pilloried George W. Bush and demanded regime change in Washington. According to Robert McFadden in the New York Times, "On a sweltering August Sunday, the huge throng of protesters marched past Madison Square Garden . . . and denounced President Bush as a misfit who had plunged America into war and runaway debt, undermined civil and constitutional rights, lied to the people, despoiled the environment and used the presidency to benefit corporations and millionaires. The protest organizer, United for Peace and Justice, estimated the crowd at 500,000, rivaling a 1982 antinuclear rally in Central Park, and double the number it had predicted."

"Four more years," Republican delegates reportedly chanted.

"Four more months," the protesters responded.

So why had L. and I avoided all this? I am certainly opposed to the war in Iraq, but I wonder if I'm getting so bourgeois, or so apolitical, that I prefer to spend a Sunday in the Waldorf Astoria, and uptown bastions like the Met and E.A.T., rather than take my political views to the street and stand up for what I believed.

Or am I too ambivalent about politics to get involved? Or is it just that my vacation time and dollars are hard-earned and precious, and not to be spent in a sweaty, angry mob?

Or am I just getting too old? . . .

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