Essays: On The Road And A Little Off


Sign Panama's Guestbook

More essays
at KindaMuzik:

Panama and the Live Sex Show

Soulful Trip Revealed:
Panama Red Plays Roosendaal

Welcome to Amsterdam, Buffy


Honestly, the last thing he said to us as he stumbled
out the door on his way again to Alabama was, "You're
gonna love this babe. She oughta be heard from." Then
he was gone...

by Marlan Warren

Dear Panama:

Yesterday I wound up at the Women's Anti-War March in
Westwood. I've never marched in Westwood, mainly
because I thought it would be hard to find parking, but I did
find it. In fact, it was right on my TO DO list after Tai Chi
at Vietnamese breakfast: "FORGET PEACE MARCH." But
the traffic from San Gabriel Valley was light and I found a space.

My basic impressions: a whole lot of middle-aged and
senior white hippie or politico types milling about with
some witty signs: "THE EMPEROR HAS NO BRAIN";
WHERE YOUR CONSTITUTION IS?" and some wonderful
tall puppets. I felt at ease because of the art.

I gravitated to the core of the pre-march mill: an
African in tribal clothes banging on a drum with some
other percussionists. I'd brought a coffee can and
chopstick. My friend Barbara's friend Margo had sent me
an e-mail telling me that the idea of this march was to
make NOISE against the war. I'd been to her drum
circle. That's how she had my address.

The African was resplendent in green. Unlike most of
the crowd, he gave off color and energy. Although there was
a middle-aged woman in harem pants and head scarf who was
whooping it up a lot with drum and dance and Arabian
tongue calls.

My biggest surprise when I was walking to the march site
banging on my coffee can was the complete lack of
comaraderie among my fellow protestors. I would pass
people (with signs, clearly on their way too), and nary
a smile would they manage, not even if I smiled first.

I had just come from a park in Rosemead full of
exercising Chinese and had gotten used to the big waves and
greetings of strangers who welcome me because I am there too.

But I found that gradually as I joined this drum circle
with my coffee can, my social tension dissolved in the
music and the unity. Then my former protesting buddy and
suitor, Havik, appeared in front of me with a great big sign.

"I thought this march was for women," I said.

He shrugged, "They said on the radio that anyone can
come and join. They gave me this sign. What does it say?"

It said: "Las mujeres dices No la Guerra"

My energy changed with Havik next to me. I still
played, but I felt more self-conscious. I wanted to dance
around but was afraid it might turn him on.

The central drum players were men. There was a
beautiful Arabic looking woman on the side with a drum
around her neck. We were all grinning at each other.

There were shade trees, but for some reason we were in
the sunniest spot at noon, with the sun heating up. It was
a hot spring day. I told Havik that I'd thought the march
would be over in half an hour. I didn't bring any water.
I'd love to go back to my car and get some, but I might
miss the march. They were selling water, but I left my
purse in the car (in case of riot).

Then I saw a woman from the drum circle pass by. I went
to ask her where Margo was. Then Margo showed up and it
was very, "OH, HI! HI!" and when I turned around Havik
had disappeared.

I feel I grow more Amazonian every day. I've always
prayed not to spend my old age like my Aunt Evelyn,
happy that men don't look at her anymore. But the longer
I'm out of the loop, the less I feel like scaling the wall.

The drums were actually behind the shelter of a bus stop
where women stood on the curb with signs yelling "NO
WAR" "NO WAR" "NO WAR". I decided to stand directly
behind these women and bang a beat to their chant. The
African American woman in front of me turned and smiled
and bounced to the beat. Her friend joined her and also
showed appreciation.

I was so happy to be in such a large crowd (there must
have been a thousand or so) and able to enjoy myself
without fear. Havik turned out to be several protestors
away on the curb and he would look over and smile and

Finally, after an hour, Margo came and said that we'd be
gathering for the march. So I went with her and her
group...Havik was with me and I explained to him that we
were going off to be a little percussion section and he
and smiled.

As I started to walk away, I heard him call me and when
I turned around, he handed me a small bottle of water.

It almost breaks my heart how nice men can be.

The march, for me, was like being in an altered state.
I was comfortable the entire time. Staying near the
curbside. In case of mass confusion or trouble, I
prefer the outskirts to the middle. Margo was next to me,
pounding both sides of the drum around her neck.

People behind us were chanting (as we marched) "NO WAR"
and Margo said, "That's too negative for me. A bad
affirmation." I said yeah, it's like bringing the war closer
by mentioning it over and over. So we chanted "PEACE NOW"
and the people behind us transformed it into:

"WHAT DO WE WANT?" (boom boom -- went the drum)

I didn't find the deja vu of those words comforting.
Most of the slogans were left over from the Vietnam
protests and it saddened me to see how we've cycled
back to this primitive politics. The same archetypes --
Big Bad President and Earnest Protestors.

Where were the Blacks, the Latinos, the Asians?
Hardly there at all.

As individuals, most of these folks struck me as
uninteresting. As weak and unfocused as Bush is
powerful and single minded. Plus, there were factions
that I tried to avoid: Socialists...and even the arabs carrying
signs for Palestine. It was a women's march. Where were the
male arabs with signs for muslim women's rights?

Police on bikes lounged on the sidelines, not looking
particularly fazed. How much trouble could a Women's
March be?

The march was full of men and bedraggled aging women and
some young college students with their friends. Next to
me was a clown -- a woman with a big red nose and long
purple, yellow and green "hair" -- she'd squeeze her
Harpo Marx horn and yell "No War!". She pointed out
that her horn was tied on with duct tape.

But the surreal part was looking up and seeing the
skyscrapers of Westwood over us. They seemed
incongruous. Leaning powerless and without any
meaning whatsoever over the throngs of people walking
between them. Without all the busy cars and honking
horns and business people on cell phones, the buildings
might have been Grecian ruins.

Power to the people is not just a slogan, I realized.
It is a true force. In our case, the whole was definitely
greater than the sum of individual parts.

Like every march I've ever been in (and this was my
second -- my first was in D.C. after the Kent State killings),
it felt like we marched for an eternity. Like it would
never end. All we did was go from the federal building, up
Wilshire a few blocks, past the Exxon building and
circle around the Westwood Village streets that brought
us back to the feds.

Then the march gradually spread out in front of the
stage where folks talked on microphones. A black woman was
the emcee and she introduced "who we are passing the power
to...the next generation...." a cute little blonde in a
midriff top and belly button who made the standard
rhetorical speech.

I've seen too much and been too many places -- and when
I look at the little blonde belly button, I see her future.
I see the conventional life she will turn to, the Ted
Turner she will marry, the apologies she will eventually
make to Corporate America. In my eyes, all we are
passing to her is the right to get up and say something into
a microphone. To have her 15 minutes of personal power in
a political venue.

For just as we chant the slogans of yesteryear, so these
archetypes must turn on the wheel of change as they
always have. And not just for the True Believer on the Left.
Even Bush will have his fatalistic ending. So it is
Written. So it has been. So it will Be. From McCarthy
to Nixon to even Reagan in his senile infirmity,
comeuppance is inevitable. Dubya's Dad seems to have
gotten away with murder, so I think we fear that Dubya
can't be beaten. But the Fat Lady ain't sung yet.

The one thing that was said on that stage that I
remember is that "Today they sent 75,000 body bags
to be with the troops..."

Ed Asner spoke. Danny Glover spoke. A bunch of white
guys did some theater about being Corporate Assholes.
And I went home.

On my way back, only one protestor smiled and spoke
as I passed.

"They should have let more women speak!" It was a
middle-aged white hippie guy in tie-dye, popping
vitamins, standing at the open door of his van.
Yes, I said. Yes.
"I'm a man and even I noticed it!" he said.

I'd lost track of Margo. Halfway through, she noticed a
woman with the Aztec dance troupe that was dancing near
us and said, "I did an article about her but never met her.

I have to go meet her." So then it was just me and the clown.



(Editor's Note: Ms Warren's e-mail address is