Brian said that my description of the day would be “I went to the NSA rally, and I had an amazing sandwich.” He was partly right. I actually had two.
But more on the sandwiches later.
This time the rally was in the middle of downtown Cleveland, on the northwest corner of the Cleveland public square, not far from statues of cannons, and men from 1854. Turnout was … a little lighter than expected. For a while we were worried that it was just going to be the five of us: Myself, the lord and lady Buckley, Josh (the NSA agent from the trailer), and Brittany (wife of the other guy in the trailer who wasn’t Brian). The rally was supposed to start around noon. By 12:15 two others had shown up, out of the 27 or so who said they would come on Facebook.
After a quick walk around the square to look for stragglers, finding no one but a group of revivalists with megaphones, we returned to find our group doubled. It’s possible either Brian’s height, or my mutton chops were scaring them off initially, but two bite patriotic brownies convinced them to stay.
It turns out the intersection of people who will stand in a public square and protest something, and those that will listen to them, is a group of some pretty colorful people. Our initial encounter with the public was a woman in a motorized scooter, who found our resident NSA agent to be particularly adorable (though she did say we were all a pretty handsome bunch for the record). She even asked if he liked to date older women. She talked to us for a considerable period of time, and when asking me for my phone number prompted me to present one of my lamer excuses “I’m not very good with numbers.” That’s right, the guy who wrote a fractal book about mathematical art doesn’t remember numbers. But she didn’t know that, and thankfully the well intentioned lie allowed us to share the public contact info, without getting too personal.
Most encounters were friendly, with only a couple of more vocal hecklers. The ability to hand out flyers definitely helped, as it allowed us to spread the word to people without immediately interfering with their day, though I know in a couple of cases it did prompt people to come back to have a conversation with us. Turns out the privacy issue is one that a lot of the public is passionate about. They don’t want the government looking in on their business, and rightly so.
Our final quorum of 13 was small but effective. We moved to a more trafficked, if sunnier part of our small quadrant, which was at the intersection a couple of crosswalks and along a couple of really busy roads. Many cars, and several buses honked at us, including a novelty horned car that knew exactly how awesome their horn was. A few of us handed out flyers, while others were more in the attracting attention game. I was more in the latter camp, reprising my “My Bytes Have Rights” sign, and generally hanging out in the shadiest part of the corner I, the lady Buckley, and the NSA knight errant Josh could find.
One reality we hadn’t really expected may be largely because we don’t live in Cleveland. The majority of the people who talked to us were African-american. This is not to say that we expected any one group to be more interested than another, because this is an issue that affects all of us, but this was the group that was the most polite, actually took our flyers, and engaged us in conversation. Several even said “God bless” for what we’re doing, which is awesome! Most white people we saw snubbed us, and got along with their day. I don’t really know what that says about anything, but it’s an interesting thing to observe first hand.
Internally we were a diverse group in terms of viewpoint if not skin color, but at least united on the single cause. I think we’re still working the kinks out in terms of talking points, and in terms of length of rally. We were there until three, and my sore feet and sunburned face say two hours might have been better, plus sunblock, but that’s my fault cause I’m a stubborn guy and my wife wasn’t with me.
Brian did a great job organizing this thing, and I was really happy to be able to come out and support the cause again, and my good friend. I write this again after a late night of talking about writing, and how everything went before I am back on the road again home. By the time you read this I will have had my lovely reunion with the little red haired girl, and all will be right with the universe.
Okay now the sandwiches.
The first was a Reuben from Jack’s deli, right on the corner of the public square. On no less than three signs, this establishment advertised “hot corned beef”. Obviously I thought I should go and try the hot corned beef. I got a sandwich called “The New Yorker”. Three pieces of rye bread (so double decker), with Swiss, coleslaw, sauerkraut, mustard and enough thinly sized corned beef that I practically had to unhinge my jaw to eat it. Given the fact that the place smelled a bit like cigarillos and the proprietors did not quite look “New Yorker” I was a little wary of how this would sit, but trust me it was one of the best decisions of my day.
Until the Barley House, our after party venue for eight brave protesters. In addition to much needed Sam Adams and fries that tasted like they were from a state fair, I purchased the buffalo poor boy (though I was equally tempted to buy another Reuben as my companion next to me had done). I was not disappointed by the poor boy however. I’m not even entirely certain I can describe to you exactly what was on it, but I know there was tomato, onion, coleslaw, buffalo grilled chicken, fries, and great thick almost Texas toast style bread. If my jaw had to open wide for the Reuben, it was practically on the floor for this sandwich.
I hope I have you all drooling now. I imagine by the time you read this I will have resumed eating food, as right now additional nourishment seems deeply unnecessary.
One more thing I need to highlight.
Brian is a braver man than I when it comes to walking right up to people and talking to them. There were some characters that had I seen them in a different context I would probably have walked away to avoid them. I’m not saying this is a good impulse, but it’s just the world I grew up in. For better or worse, Brian seems oblivious to these sorts of things, in a not “put on” sort of way. Maybe it’s a different view inside his head, but from the outside he will talk to anyone, and he gets people to talk to him. This is a remarkable skill, one that I only know how to achieve through writing. It was a little thing but we were talking to an older gentlemen, one of the last we were to talk to for the day, as I decided to go with Brian on one of his sweeps of the square. He was wearing a mishmash of clothes, and was a little hard to understand. But he was polite and understood what I was talking about when I mentioned the NSA and the fourth amendment and that whole issue. It was clear that he needed something else though. When Brian finished talking to the lady he had started with he came over, and together we managed to glean that the man had been recently released from the hospital and needed somebody to pick him up. Brian pulled out his phone, and called a number for the guy to get him picked up. It’s a little thing, but most people would walk right on by. Not Brian, and that’s why I count him as one of my best friends.
Well these have both been pretty wordy posts, and I do need to actually sleep before my drive tomorrow. Signing off at a little after midnight in the Buckley dining room, your friend and wandering writer, Ben.