15 December 2007...5:21 pm

Fabulous Prayers

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I was negotiating with a young bartender over the feasibility of obtaining Lily a green-tea martini (we are all Orientalists here) when she leaned over to me and said, I think that’s Reverend Billy.

Who? I gasped.

Him! Right there! We were whispering urgently now, two hunters in a blind or fine just two girls on the old starfuck prowl. Lily had just seen the documentary What Would Jesus Buy? that chronicles the Reverend’s recent cross-country trip, but I hadn’t and it was consequently harder for me to believe that the man in front of us actually was the anti-consumerist deity of my early political consciousness.


Lily, does he have…highlights?

She nodded. I think he does. Have highlights. We stared.

I tried to remain aloof, aloofness being my only game and a consistently unsuccessful one–when people are intrigued by said aloofness it’s usually inadvertent and I could in fact care less about their presence and when I do care I find it impossible to appear aloof and instead veer sharply toward undignified transparency–but then Krista, chipper and looking a lot like Snow White, said, I’ll go talk to him!


Freya trotted over to join her, and Lily and I were left gaping at the man who was the political inspiration of the woman, Megan, who was then the political inspiration of me. It soon became clear to me that Reverend Billy had Megan beat on charisma, but I think she won the earnesty race. And who needs charisma when there’s a black handkerchief over your face? Megan was an anti-globalization activist, and also my Resident Adviser at the now defunct Governor’s School for Public Issues and the Future of New Jersey. She pronounced her name as Meee-ghan. (Meee-ghan. She was an undergrad at Wesleyan, which is where she learned to pronounce her name like that, natch.)

Megan had short, dirty hair and hairy armpits. I had hairy armpits the summer I attended Governor’s School, too, but Megan’s armpits were the kind of hairy that is disconcertingly braid-able. Also, she did Bread and Puppet theater, also her boyfriend was a thousand feet tall and weighed seventy pounds even counting his pigtails, also she led radical walking tours of the Astor Place-area Starbucks, also she and I were both almost kicked out of G-School when we distributed pro-choice anti-Bret Schundler literature and tried to bully him out of giving a speech.


It was a big summer, I feel in love in two directions: there was Gabe, my soulmate from the moment I realized we both wore our lucky t-shirts on the first days of things, and then there was Megan. It’s an important moment in a young woman’s life when she realizes that playing cute is a waste of everyone’s time. Megan taught me how to get angry and all the reasons I should never apologize for staying that way.

Keep your laws off my body, betch!

Learning to accept alienating people is the most valuable political lesson I’ve ever learned; I’m not sure if Megan got it from the Reverend Billy or figured it out herself. It’s not hard, except it is.

(I am at a cafe and a woman just asked her boyfriend almost unconsciously What time do you think we’ll be hungry again? I completely loved that. I am totally guilty of that kind of hyper-planning.)

In the summer of 2001 Bret Schundler was still the mayor of Jersey City, the seedy and beloved metropolis of my youth. Schundler’s entire political career seems like an accident of circumstance; in the first of the only three elections he’s ever won, the field was split between nineteen candidates, and seventeen of them were Democrats. Schundler was elected as mayor with less than 20% of the vote.

He was reelected for two more terms, though, and some right-minded people I know from Jersey City will grudgingly acknowledge that economically, he did aiight. Mayors don’t need to make decisions on health care, abortion, labor rights or capital punishment, of course, and on all those issues Schundler’s policy is basically medieval.


I guess there was no chance that the state of New Jersey would elect him, but Megan and I (her ever-eager student) weren’t taking any chances. Armed with a well-loved copy of Our Bodies, Ourselves, we took it upon ourselves to educate the other forty-nine women at Governor’s School about their reproductive rights. I made fliers with ghastly statistics and drawings of bloody coat-hangers, and we raided closets for real wire hangers to brandish at the man when he arrived.

Megan’s waifish boyfriend drove down from his workshop in Vermont to help us make a puppet whose illegal abortion had gone gruesomely wrong, and then we practiced some chants. As part of the preparation for actually accosting Schundler in person, Megan taught me some of her black bloc protest techniques. I learned how to resist arrest in a way that I’ve since forgotten, but I think it mainly involved laying down, and she had me prepare a handkerchief in a water-bottle filled with vinegar to neutralize the effects of tear gas.

(Don’t laugh! We knew that Bret Schundler’s cronies weren’t going to tear gas us, but this was a radical apprenticeship with an eye to the future. Vinegared handkerchiefs have since been very useful in my life thank you.)


I fear that I’ve mellowed a lot since the days of Megan. I haven’t been to a demonstration in awhile, I just still wear tight black pants. It remains intimidating sometimes to be politically contentious on my own, and even harder not to smile and ignore it when I start talking about the evils of Mike Huckabee and the man I’m on a date with puts his arm around me and confides to his friend like it’s an apology, She’s feisty.

No, I should say, I am not feisty I am only interested in ensuring that when you impregnate me later it doesn’t mean that we have to wake up next to each other for the rest of our lives. Trust me, this is a good thing for everyone.


Full disclosure: I am actually quite smitten with the person who called me feisty. Around that same time last night he pinched my ass (pinched my ass!) while I was trying to talk to a Swedish art dealer about Gertrude Stein. I liked the ass pinching a lot. Later, the art dealer invited me to an opening on Tuesday but because I’d arrived with a gentleman the dealer gave my date his card, instead of me. It was so proper I forgot to be offended and wanted to kiss them both. Things are complicated and I wonder if, like me, Megan ever forgets that the personal is political. I think Reverend Billy does, because Lily and I were right. He totally has highlights!


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