Back to Metroland's Home Page!
 Columns & Opinions
   The Simple Life
   Looking Up
   Myth America
 News & Features
   What a Week
   Loose Ends
   This Week's Review
   The Dining Guide
 Cinema & Video
   Weekly Reviews
   The Movie Schedule
   Listen Here
   Art Murmur
   Night & Day
   Event Listings
   View Classified Ads
   Place a Classified Ad
   Online Personals
   Place A Print Ad
 About Metroland
   Where We Are
   Who We Are
   What We Do
   Work For Us
   Place An Ad

Bang the Drum, Optimistically

I never thought I’d find myself playing music behind a giant pig’s ass, but there I was, drum in hand, pounding out a bass beat in the middle of Seventh Avenue in New York City.

This was no ordinary pig. It was much larger than your standard farmyard hog, with its shoulders reaching a good 10 feet into the air. It wore a sign draped over its back that read: “Piggy GOP.” The pig would eventually make it to the Republican Convention site at Madison Square Garden, but it would not be allowed in.

It was a sunny day when my friend Mary Anne and I got to the city via a Metro North train out of Poughkeepsie. Following a short subway ride from Grand Central down to Union Square, we eventually made our way to Seventh Avenue and 17th Street. There we found a motley band of about 25 wind, brass and percussion players outfitted with pieces of colorful fabric and fake flowers dangling from a chaotic variety of headgear. They were led by a guy with a colorful bass drum who sported tinted goggles and the spirited arm movements of a conductor.

At the last moment before leaving Albany, I’d decided to bring along one of my drums, hoping to add a little noise to the march and demonstration against George W.’s policies. The drum is a bit unusual in that it consists of a bass drum head with a two-inch frame that makes it resemble the top of a 55-gallon industrial container. It’s light, doesn’t take up much room and can be very loud. It seemed like the perfect instrument for the occasion.

As we merged into the crowd amassing on the street, I put my drum to quick use, joining the bass end of this wild band, as the pig’s hind with its short curly tail swayed before us. The band played for a good hour before we finally started to move up the avenue toward Madison Square Garden with the big pig lumbering along before us. We appeared to be near the end of the hundreds of thousands who had gathered for the march, which probably explains the long delay before the pig began to move forward.

Our movement forward was soon stalled as the massive crowd flooded the avenue. As the band played on, I got a better look at the large porcine balloon. It appeared to be constructed out of a pink plastic film that had been seamed to form a body, head and legs. It kept its full rotund shape through the inflating action of four small battery-operated fans, like one might find on a desk. The fans were at the bottom of each leg and were held in place by volunteers who also moved the beast along.

As I was checking out the low tech involved in this creature, an eight-foot-tall penis balloon made out of a similar material came rushing toward the pig. It was surrounded by a phalanx of pushy secret service characters in suits and sunglasses who called for us to make way for the vice president. It soon passed the pig and vanished from our view into the vast crowd further up the avenue. Somehow I didn’t think “Dick” would make it into the convention site either.

As we waited for the march to get moving, helicopters buzzed by and a Fuji Film blimp hung overhead. It was low enough to read the added acronym of the New York City Police Department, which had apparently taken the advertising vehicle over for other uses. As we began to move up the avenue, I realized that the blimp and helicopters were only a small part of the security forces marshaled against the march of humanity that stretched out over two and a half miles in its protest against George W.

As we passed through intersections, the police presence became more evident on cross streets and the closer we got to Madison Square Garden the thicker became the police deployment. Ironically, while this massive show of force was theoretically to contend with nonspecific terrorist threats that George W.’s administration had been reporting for months, it was primarily used for controlling the crowds that demonstrated. Those who came out in accord with the best of democratic traditions to show their opposition to George W.’s policies were subjected to the kind of force set into place for terrorists. Madison Square Garden was cordoned off with wire fencing, concrete barricades, huge dump trucks carrying tons of sand and multiple rows of police. No doubt more lethal equipment was kept conveniently out of sight.

It took us close to four hours to finally make it up the 16 blocks to Madison Square Garden as the massive march plodded forward. Long before we got to the Garden the front of the march had made it back to Union Square. All that time on the street got a few thoughts going through my head.

I thought that if the administration was truly concerned about the strong possibility of another terrorist strike in NYC during their convention there was a fairly simple way to reduce the threat: Move or cancel the convention. If George W. was so concerned for the people of NYC, why hold the convention there? It was not as if they had anything to decide, since the candidates were running unopposed. But I guess using the 9/11 backdrop was considered worth the risk and the millions of taxpayer dollars necessary to secure the effort. I also thought about how the demonstrators filling the streets probably contributed a lot more to the NYC economy than the conventioneers.

I couldn’t help but also think about all the people who had come out to exercise their right to protest despite the terrorist fears flamed by the government. It was this thought that gave me a certain sense of hope that helped to fuel my drum beats.

—Tom Nattell 

Send A Letter to Our Editor
Back Home
Send Flowers Today 2
wine & food 120 x 90
Copyright © 2002 Lou Communications, Inc., 419 Madison Ave., Albany, NY 12210. All rights reserved.