Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: Barricades and snapshots

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

Barricades and snapshots

Monday, April 17, 2017

 Two days apart I walked past two lengths of police barricades and took two very different photographs.

On Saturday in New York, in a taxi going west on 44th Street, I passed blocks of barricades and a large law enforcement presence on 6th Avenue.  Is it a holiday? What’s today’s date? There must be a parade.  Later, walking along 6th, I saw the barricades being stacked and loaded onto trucks.

“What was the parade?” I asked a police officer.

“No parade. Protest,” he answered, telling me that this block, just a few away from Trump Tower, was the scene of protests every week now, though that day’s—coming as it did on April 15—was bigger than usual and was specifically directed at the President’s refusal to release his tax returns.

Back in Boston, in my neighborhood two blocks from the finish line of today’s Boston Marathon, there were barricades, too.  A little while ago, I went to watch. The elite runners had crossed the finish line, the late stragglers were still to come. The runners I saw—or almost saw as I stood on tiptoe and peered over the crowds—were running strong and in solid numbers. The announcer called out their names and home towns as they came in and we all were applauding. All of us spectators had passed through security lines and there could have been no one standing there unaware that this was exactly where the second bomb had gone off four years ago. There was a City of Boston sand truck across the intersection of Exeter and Newbury, blocking vehicle access to the race and the grand stands. There were police everywhere, and, of course, barricades.

The barricades will, if history prevails, be neatly stacked by evening and carted away tomorrow, to wait until they are needed for the next public gathering. The next public celebration, show of strength, show of determination, show of courage. The next show of public engagement. Yes, they are “crowd control”; yes, they “hold back” the crowd. And yet, the barricades in a way enable us to form ourselves into a group to send a message outward.  On Saturday in New York and other cities it was a message of defiance and determination. Today in Boston it was a message that honored human accomplishment and courage. Barricades, but not obstructions. Not barriers to a mass message sent.

Today I also took photos. I recently became the one of the last people in the world to buy an iPhone, and I took videos (!) of the cheering crowd and, holding the phone high, the heads of the runners. I captured the sounds of the cheers and of the announcer.

On Saturday, heading to the suburbs after my day in the city, I took a picture, too, not as celebratory. It was on the train, the back of the set in front of me: a graffiti swastika. The conductor, like the policeman on 6th Avenue, said this, too, has become a common occurrence recently.

“I think I know who’s responsible for this,” he said. “There was a blond fellow, strange hair style, lots of money in his pockets. I heard he got a new job in Washington.”

Back to the barricades.

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