Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Free Tibet Now And Then

Back in 1998 I went down to Washington with my father. The ostensible purpose was to visit my cousin Cindi in Annapolis. My secondary reason was to protest against the World Bank with the Free Tibet Society. My father was comfortable situated with my cousin, her daughters, and husband. He had his crossword puzzle and a glass of white wine. I mentioned the demonstration and my old man said, "Aren't you a little too old for fighting with police." "This will be a peaceful gathering." "I don't want to get a phone call from the police." He handed me the keys to his car. "I don't plan on getting arrested." I had never been caught by the cops during the anti-war movement in my youth. "You're not as fast as you used to be." Cindi had been with me on Boston Common for a massive gathering protesting the invasion of Cambodia. "I won't do anything stupid and at the first sign of trouble, I'm out of there." She was right. I couldn't outrun any pursuit other than by fat people. "If you're going into DC, then parking could be difficult." Her husband gave me his pass for parking in the National Geographic HQ. He was an editor for that esteemed magazine. "I'll be back before dark." "If not, we'll send out a search party." My father held up his glass for more wine. It was almost noon. No one said anything. He was still mourning my mother. Traffic into DC was light and I drove down New York Avenue to the center of the city. Various convoys of black Ford Suburbans sped past me. The SUVs were loaded with crew-cut men with steroid-thick necks. They were out-of-town reinforcements for the DC police. During the early 70s I had protested against the Viet-Nam War with a college friend from Northern VA. We also drank at the Tap o Keg on Wisconsin Avenue. After parking my father's car under the National Geographic offices, I phone Tom McNelly's old number. It was disconnected, so I started searching through the crowds for my Tibetan friends. Finding them was an impossible task and I found myself in front of the World Bank HQ, as the buses were bringing in the delegates for their meeting. A phalanx on cops pushed us back.

I said, “Hey, I’m moving.

The cop in front of me jabbed my stomach with his nightstick. His second hit was on my wrist. I hadn't done anything wrong, but I had had enough and retreated to the National Geographic parking lot, where I retrieved the car and drove back to Annapolis to drink wine and eat soft-shelled crab by the harbor. My father asked how it went.

I told him, “As I expected.”

"Glad you're in one piece." We clinked glasses and he said, "Free Tibet."

"Free the world." My cousin and her husband joined the toast. It was a good cause.

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