Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Paving The Way

Day Twelve

October 26, 2005

Dear Friends,

Most people know that I am not a native New Yorker.  In fact, almost everyone knows that I am from Texas.  But the truth is that I am not a native Texan either.  I was actually born in Wilmington, Delaware.  I don’t even know the name of the hospital.  All I know is that I left Delaware for good two weeks after my second birthday, and moved to Texas.  The last few days are the only time I have spent in my birth state since then (not counting passing through on Amtrak).

As a child, I had a sentimental attachment to the “First State” that surfaced while watching political conventions and the like, but as an adult, the view from the train did not make it seem like a particularly attractive place unless one was forming a for-profit corporation.  Delaware became this “fact” in my life, mentioned only when giving vital statistics.  

If I had stopped yesterday, cold rain would have been the chief reinforcing fact about my birth state.  But today was another story.  This morning we got up again at 5:00am, with a goal of being on the road by 7:30am.  But everyone was too cranky to move at that pace.  We ended up setting out an hour late.  The good news was that the forecasted rain had passed.  The morning was sunny, crisp and windy.  

Who knows whether it was the lack of rain, freedom from rain gear, the chill in the air or the wind pushing us along, but we marched at a surprisingly fast pace, clocking a minimum of three miles an hour.  Our first break was made brief by the manager of the MacDonald’s at which we had stopped.  She became indignant when she caught Laverne distributing C2EA flyers and condoms to people going through the drive-thru.  We did a mini-demonstration for the fun of it, but moved quickly on.

There’s nothing like a spontaneous demonstration to lift Paving the Way’s spirits.  We had horns honking all up and down the highway.  At our next break, a shopkeeper, hearing of our pilgrimage, donated a whole case of goldfish crackers.  The van from New York was full of fresh blood, folk who were eager to carry the flags and banner and who raced to keep up with our now seasoned pace.

By noon, we had marched over a mile passed our rally site.  We bused back to the University of Delaware.  We piled out and got into formation a block away so we could make an appropriately grand and loud entrance into the student center.  Because the podium was set up right in front of the food court, we had hundreds of college students attending the rally, whether they intended to attend or not.

For the second time in two days, we had a mayor speak at our rally.  The general student response was mixed, but the participants were clearly enthusiastic.  And a young man introduced me as a fraternity president, wanting to get his fraternity involved in C2EA.

After the rally ended, we led a march out of the Student Center, bused back to our stopping point and put in another mile just for kicks.  We stopped in sight of the Maryland border, savoring tomorrow’s crossing to our fifth state.

Not to disavow New York or Texas, but Delaware has proved to be something else.  For a small state, it has got some amazing AIDS activists.  Again, my hat is off to Susan Tanner and the other members of the host committee for their hard work and wonderful hospitality.  They have made me proud to claim Delaware as my native state.

Love,

Charles King

P.S.:  We perfected a new song in the rain yesterday, written just for my native state.  (Sung to the tune “Those Caissons Go Rolling Along”):

Over here, over there,
We are marching Delaware
And the Campaign to End AIDS goes on

Over here, over there,
We are marching cause we care
And the Campaign to End AIDS goes on

And it’s hi ho hey
We’re Paving the Way
New York to Washington, D.C.

And it’s hi ho hey
We’re Paving the Way
We’re the Campaign to End AIDS, you see

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