Thursday, October 20, 2005

Paving The Way

New Jersey

New Jersey.

Its people live in magnificent mansions and tar paper shacks along roads lined with stately vegetation and discarded hypodermic needles. The people eat fresh fruit in small bowls served to them at Starbucks and dip their fried chicken into thin gravy made of water and flour.

Here, the people respond bravely, by glancing through the glass panes of their glimmering Hondas and running shoeless after our van in search of free condoms.

Business in New Jersey is booming: expansive world-class, corporate campuses seem to effortlessly share the state with quaint bodegas whose boarded windows hide wares such as snacks to be purchased for a quarter – outside of which smack and quarters can be purchased for a little more.

Lives at ease, lives at play, lives strung thinly along political lines: a woman walks the thinnest rope or maybe crawls, but most likely hangs precariously, tantalizing ravenous Fear. Sight is a gift that can not be returned and visions of two Nations in one Country occupy disparate realms of our consciousness: yours for yours and mine for mine and where they meet we’ll not tarry or cry foul, for fear that something may come of our confrontation.

A drunken frat boy lies incapacitated under a bush outside Princeton while his Trenton counterpart can no longer shiver, fetal and stoned, draped in the resin-hued glow of a flickering street lamp. Tomorrow, perhaps, they will both rise again – newly aware of their state and heedless of the actions that brought them to unlikely rests.

“I have loved, before,” he admits to himself – which is human and right and appropriate and correct. “I have known beauty and I have seen it in the face of another,” he is compelled to admit – again with the wisdom granted to all of us. “And the world I know, is,” which is valid and understandable but only a thin veil between the many sides of existence.

My feet walked from his world to his and though I myself remained consistent, I have to admit that at times I was unsure. Perhaps I, too, like the perceptions of the wealthy and the preoccupations of the impoverished, changed materially to affect the zeitgeist of my surroundings. If I am not materially consistent, then the fissure between these two neighbors is not a function of selective existence, but a sound physiological law.

Otherwise, it may seem that we are as heartless as we purport to be. Beneath our cold, distant exteriors is actual coldness and distance (not to be confused with the cold distance beyond that and at our core: more coldness and greater distance). If we can agree to act mutually psychotic, then the world is ours as we will have it and no one really suffers if no one really gains.

And so it is that New Jersey is a pioneer of great social advancement. Beyond the horizon is more horizon: an expansive plane of indifference and self-obsession.

A well known fact: New Jersey is small state.
A little experienced fact: small states are huge on foot.

10.21.2005
Daniel Solon

Paving The Way

Hey Everyone

Hey Everyone

Day six and Kaytee I’m going to kill you when I see you in D.C. for getting me into this mess. Just joking...lol...
We are now in Trenton, NJ and I must say that I slept half the time while the rest were marching down the beautiful town of Princeton. But as soon as I got into Trenton I knew it was my time to come out and do some serious outreach and  in case I didn’t say this in the beginning I’m the bucket boy which means I collect money at every rally and stop we make. So I been running around like a mad man giving out flyers, condoms, and also asking for a donation for the Campaign and people have been nice and happy to see paving the way caravan come out shouting and chanting with Amos from NYCHAN and Uncle Charles.
Trenton reminds me of my community in NYC people hanging out drug dealers and users kids running around and they were all coming out to find out what was all that shouting and chanting about and I was running from house to house explaining to the people in the community why we were here and what the campaign is all about and they were happy to see us and thought it was cool that we were marching all the way from NYC to DC to fight for these issues that are going on in there community.  The host committee in Trenton was so polite and happy to know that someone was going to do something for the people living with AIDS/HIV.  
I enjoy working with the community and this has been such an experience to go to different communities and towns and raise awareness I didn’t think it was going to be like this I could do this all the way to Florida hahaha..Just joking. I’m Aching and I have to be up at 7am for a rally at 9am and then to start our day marching to Philly another 15 miles or so but hey we are doing it and I am proud of myself and I have to thank all the participants cause without them I don’t think I would have the strength to walk and chant and do all these amazing things I’m doing with my caravan.  
It’s been so cool to have taken some time to meet different people and converse with them and learn different types of people that are marching with us all the way to D.C. it’s a family and I like that.
I hope all the other caravans are having an exciting time like I have.

One more thing if Charles King EVER wakes me up at 6am again you can say goodbye cause I am going to …………  lol

Johnny Guaylupo

Paving The Way

Paving the Way Day 6

Today was Day 6 and it has been stressful but oh, so much fun!  Yesterday night, we mistakenly ended up at the location on church grounds where we thought we were to be staying and after unloading the truck and staking out sleeping spots, we found that we were in the wrong building!  We were supposed to be about 4 blocks away.  Sheila had already gone in, taken a shower and was in her pajamas!  Absolutely hilarious!!!!  I kept thinking to myself that there was no way in hell anyone would ever just leave their doors unlocked like that in New York.  Every time I think about it I get the giggles.

Well, that little tiny sidetrack cost us a few hours and the day had been long already; we went to sleep at about 1:45am only to be up and out by 7:30.  Today was blessedly short, but I can see the strain on my fellow marchers; I’ve been marching when I can but have mainly stuck to helping out in the I.T. van since my huge blisters are still healing and on top of everything my back went out on the second day, so I’m trying to help in other ways.  I can see how the walking is taking a toll but I am happy to report that no one is trying to be a martyr and we have people taking breaks and resting in the sweep vans that follow the marchers.

The roads have been tight and potentially dangerous and when one is walking on the road, you really do feel a sense of security and it’s very easy to mislead yourself into thinking that you cannot be hit.  Seeing the marchers from the perspective of being in the van however, is a very different reality.  It is so easy to hit one of the marchers (not that we have) and you can very easily see a car operating at average speed taking a swipe at someone who is even a smidgen off course.

We all have bonded in different ways and levels and we are only at the beginning.  If nothing else, this experience will have taught me to give more of myself. These strangers that have housed and fed us have and continue to unashamedly not only give of themselves, but I am now just realizing, are looking to us to do something.  

What struck me tonight were words I have heard repeated over the past 6 days: “I wish I could do what you do.”  I realized at that moment that part of the reason for which we only have approximately 20 people doing this entire march, is because of some kind of lack of conviction on some level.  I have children and a husband, bills, a job and school meetings to attend to not to mention laundry, homework to sign, dinner and dishes.  But I made this happen.  There was no question in my mind.  So, I wonder….what would it take to solidify someone’s conviction to a cause, to a 21 day march?  Does it take a death?  Of your spouse, mother, father, brother, sister, best friend, lover, child?  What does it take?

Dianalynn

Paving The Way

Paving the Way Days Five and Six

October 20, 2003

Dear Friends,

As I write this, the words “ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around” are singing endlessly in my head.  Yesterday was a hard day.  Today was a glorious one.

Yesterday started with an 11:00am rally at Rutgers New Brunswick campus.  I was already anxious before the rally started, knowing we had a 14-plus mile march ahead of us through along a tough road.  Only a handful of students showed up, and I tried to wrap the rally up in half an hour.  But the local organizer insisted that we stretch the hour out to an hour so that we could catch the students changing classes and so that his friend, the amazing Annette Lazzul, had time to arrive and give the closing speech.

We stretched the rally out, and Annette gave great closing speech, making the point that, while a white middle class, Roman Catholic, heterosexual woman who never used drugs, she was also a person living with AIDS.  With Johnny and Diane Williams leading the bucket brigade, we managed to raise $150 in the hour we were there.  (The day before, we had raised $147 just walking down the highway).

Finally, at noon we set out.  It was Route 27 the whole way.  The road was dangerous, with a narrow shoulder, few sidewalks, and no police escort.  But drivers were surprisingly friendly, honking their horns repeatedly.  On garbage truck passed us at least six times, and the driver laid heavier on the horn each time.   We had developed the ritual of marching in silence whenever we passed a cemetery.  Yesterday, at my insistence, we started marching silently whenever we passed a pumpkin patch as well, in honor of all of the dead pumpkins, lives cut short for Halloween.  

With breaks for lunch and the restroom, 14 miles was an impossible task.  We debated, but decided to march until dark.  But once the sun started setting, night followed quickly.  We entertained ourselves with a new chant:  “Bush must be smoking crack.  Tired of being bushwhacked?  Bush must be smoking crack -- Time for us to fight back.”  Amos’ free verse kept us moving went we weren’t laughing too hard to march.  

All too soon, we found ourselves marching along the narrowest of shoulders, in the dark, not even a token street light along the way.  Finally, we agreed to stop, two miles from our destination.

We were all tired, hungry and cranky, but had to be pleasant since our dinner hosts, at the Unitarian Universalist Church had waited late for us and were clearly eager to see us happy.  We then rode to what we thought was our sleeping quarters at Trinity Episcopal Church.  Together, we unloaded the truck and moved all of our luggage into the hall.  Oddly, all the rooms we had been told we could use were locked.  After several phone calls, the mystery was solved.  We were not at the church after all.  We had mistakenly occupied a building belonging to Princeton Theological.  With visions of being arrested on charges for breaking and entering, we quickly loaded up the truck, and finally arrived at our sleeping quarters a little after 11:00pm.

It was one of those days when nothing seemed to go easy, not even going to sleep.  Six of us sharing a room, searched all over for a light switch fruitlessly.  Finally, someone pointed out a sensor.  The bright lights in our temporary bedroom, thanks to technology, were motion-triggered.  My damp towel needed to dry anyway, so it quickly went over the sensor.  We then all laid very still in our sleeping bags, not daring to move until the lights finally dimmed.

This morning started with promise.  We had one shower to be shared by all two dozen people staying overnight.  One of our hosts came at 7:30, with a carload of packages for breakfast.  Out came cereal, hard boiled eggs, coffee, fruit, and sandwiches.  As she set the sandwiches out, I complimented her on the novel idea of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast.  “It’s not peanut butter and jelly,” she replied.  “It’s peanut butter and pickles.”

We entertained ourselves watching each unsuspecting person pick up a sandwich, suppressing our giggles until that special moment when the person got to the first crunch.  That person then became a part of the club, waiting eagerly for the next unwitting source of humor.

By 9:30, we had made our way back to the point where we left off.  We marched into Princeton with a new song, right for the town’s historical roots:

Yankee Doodle went to Wash’ton
Marching down the highway
Calling for the end of AIDS
On each and every byway

Yankee Doodle, keep it up
Yankee Doodle dandy
Calling for the end of AIDS
And condoms for the randy

Our rally at Princeton University had been cancelled.  So we stopped at a triangle in the center of town and held an impromptu demonstration for a half hour, chanting and harassing passers by on foot and in their cars.  We had horns blaring and collected over $100 in contributions before we moved one, proudly singing our new song.

The next several miles along Route 206 were scenic, but narrow, winding and hilly.  Finally the police from Princeton Township came and provided us an escort.  Lunch time came and passed with no place to stop.  Finally, we came upon the campus of Bristol Myers Squibb, surrounded by acres of manicured lawn.  

The police turned us into the long driveway, suggesting this was the best possible place to have our picnic.  Company security quickly came to check us out, but the police explained that we were marching to Washington to end AIDS and we needed a placed to stop for lunch.  Later, the police asked security if we could bring people up to the building to use the facilities.  The security supervisor initially said yes.  But then the Director of Security came down and explained that this was a secured facility.  Without security passes, it would be impossible for us to piss there.

Our police escorts’ indignation made our own needless.  The officers informed us that there was a fire station 15 minutes down the road and assured us that we would be welcome there.  They didn’t tell us that it was fifteen minutes to drive.  Nonetheless, we arrived 45 minutes later, relieved and well received.

The transition from Princeton Township to Trenton was stark and immediate.  Suddenly we went from forest, farmland and McMansions to obvious poverty.  But the transition was obvious in another way as well.  People were far and few between in the midst of wealth, while the streets of Trenton lined with people standing in doorways, hanging on the street, and sitting on stoops.  Then there were the C2EA posters that appeared in the window of just about every business along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Suddenly we had new energy, feeding of the signs and the positive response of the folk along the way.  “If Bush had AIDS what would he do?  Find a cure, that’s for sure,” we chanted over and over again until we marched up the steps of the YWCA – with it’s twelve showers!  Then a slamming dinner at Mount Zion AME Church!  

We have developed a couple of rituals along the way.  The first is to do a few chants to show our thanks to hosts along the way.  The second is of sharing our thoughts and feelings on the events of the day each evening.  Tonight we had our entire host committee with us, as well as half a dozen teenage girl scouts, who helped to serve and clean up.  We chanted a few times, thrilling the girls with “Banana!”, and began going around the room to share.  

Everyone was feeling especially warm.  The bonds among us had clearly grown much deeper for the hardships of the day before.  But it was especially moving to listen to members of our host committee share how much it meant to them that we had come to Trenton.  Individuals spoke about how isolating their work was, how hard it was to live with AIDS in a city so burdened, and how our passing through had brought them hope.

One of the girl scouts told us her mother had AIDS.  She said she always turned the channel on TV when anything about AIDS came on.  But, she said, seeing us and knowing we had marched so far, she was seeing AIDS in a whole different way.

When we left the church, the girls were all waiting on the steps.  They were hoping, we were told, to see us marching away in formation, with a chant.  Everyone was tired and there were a couple of groans, but Amos, who had been hoarse all day, picked up the bullhorn and got us started.  We marched off singing “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around.”  We thought to sing until we were around the corner, but Amos kept it going until we were again at the steps of the Y.  

Anthony opened the truck and folk spontaneously formed a chain, passing luggage from the truck up the ten steps into the building.  Diane Williams picked up the bullhorn and started softly singing the words again:  

Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around.  Ain’t gonna let no body turn me around. I’m gonna keep on a-walking, keep on a-talking, a-marching til the end of AIDS.”

Soon the whole line had picked up the tune, quietly singing or humming along as we worked.  I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to a wonderful day.

Love,

Charles King





Paving The Way

princeton to trenton

From my previous post (a couple of days ago) you may think it’s been rougher walking 15 miles than I may have thought. The reality is my muscles and bones are not aching too much at all, but I ended up getting a tiny blister on my foot Monday and then a nickel sized one on my right foot Wednesday. Soooo. . . today on our sixth day I helped with the sweep van watching out for marchers, traffic, folks who need a break, etc. and realized it is very draining keeping up with everything. Entirely maddening!!! It is amazing to see the reactions and responses from the communities we pass by. After the marchers pass by chanting and distributing flyers with our C2EA demands you can see folks talking to each other and watching the caravan move beyond. Exactly what we want and need – people keeping a dialogue going and moving from one person to another. This is what C2EA begins with. Networking big city folks with small town heroes, family, friends, and that wonderful stranger wanting to know what’s going on and even drooping a generous donation to boot! Princeton is beautiful and on the way from there to Trenton we passed huge luxurious homes. Right after that we walked through a very dilapidated and very poor neighborhood where the residents were truly inspiring to me. They came out of their homes to greet us and take information. My impression has been people are grateful to us for walking down their streets in their neighborhoods bringing attention to some of their concerns rather than the usual parade down 5th avenue (etc.). What they may not realize is that I am grateful for their kindness, openness, and generosity. Other than my feeble ranting, I just want to say even though I didn’t walk the entire route today – I made sure to jump out of the van to walk for an hour keeping in mind my commitment I made to myself (as painful as it was it is an amazing experience to be a part of this).

Hugs,
Eddie Fukui

Paving The Way

Day 6 October 20th

Day 6- October 20th
Hi-my name is Ilena Elevitch. I’ve been on the road for five days and four nights. I just wanted to take a minute to thank everyone involved in this incredible journey – Jose, Robin – you’ve both been there whenever I needed something. Derek, Terri, Valerie – you’ve done an amazing job getting us from point A to B and everywhere in between, and thanks to Amos, Sepham and Charles for keeping us inspired.  When I first heard we were marching to Washington, I thought – wow – I can actually get paid to spend all day outside and exercise! Sign me up… But it really has been so much more. It’s harder than I thought in some ways - the pain in my feet, lack of showers and lack of sleep was getting to me. But when I see the people come out of their homes and into the street to greet us and to see what’s going on, and hear all the incredible stories of the people we meet along the way and who offer us a place to sleep and who come out and cook hot food for us each night and every morning – it really drives me forward. Also the people in this group who make the journey every day despite everything they’ve been through and continue to go through – that just drives me forward. How can I not keep marching? So I will – as much as I can. I know we are making a difference – one step at a time. See you in Washington. Bring it on Bush!!

this is an audio post - click to play

this is an audio post - click to play

Today was the 6th day of the march and the morning started off by us having a very unique breakfest. We had eggs, fruit, cereal, and the best of all pickle and peanutbutter sandwich. Today was the day my legs broke down and swelled up like basket balls I had to jump in the van 1 mile away from the place where we were staying for the night. We are now staying in Trenton NJ and I was amazed of the way the community is Split up from the lower class to the upper class population it was so evident that a lot of work needs to be done in these communities to educate the younger and older generation about the prevention and dangers of HIV and AIDS.

God bless

Andrew Ross
Sent via BlackBerry - a service from AT&T Wireless.

Paving The Way

Soul of the South Day 4

Day 4
9:25 AM
Oh my god! Austin was awesome!!!! We got to the capital and we had a wonderful time. There weren’t a lot of numbers, but the spirit of the people made up for that by far. We were warmly greated by Heather, host committee organizer for Austin. I was interviewed by a local news station and so . There was a wonderful presentation ofJwas Larry. I’ve never been on TV before  interpretive dance by a group of young women. The women had masks on and 7 pieces of paper in the background with words on it like stigma, fear, ignorance etc. During the song, one woman ripped of the paper to reveal an uplifting word like love, education etc. By the end of it Larry, Chuck, and I were tearing up. It was so moving. Then Larry and I spoke to the crowd for a couple minutes. Then everyone headed to the governor’s mansion across the street for an all night wake up call to the governor. I went to go get my phone fixed (because it had broken again), then we met up with everyone at the mansion. We had cowbells, noisemakers, voices, signs, and unity. We had honk if you want to End AIDS. So many cars were honking. It was so awesome. We were chanting, yelling and screaming. The news came out a couple times. They announced us on the radio. They stayed up all night long! The police even came out because of the noise. They told us they would compromise with us, and leave us alone if we got rid of  Chuck, Larry, and I had to sleepJthe honk sign. We did, but people still honked for awhile, and the group told us that while we slept, they would represent us with their voices and unity. I almost cried when they told us that. So we went back this morning, did some more yelling, and a rep. from a local church prayed with us and gave us a blessing to go on our way. It was so hard leaving. Thanks Austin! You guys rock!

 

Chris Rothermel

 

Paving The Way

Soul of the South Day 3

Day 3
1:47 PM
So last night, we accidentally went to the bath house. We were looking for a bar, but instead we found the bath house. Luckily, the  So Larry and Chuck sang karaokeJreceptionist directed us to the nearest bar last night at the bar (Pegasus). We went to some place called LuLu’s after for some food. We got up this morning, took showers, and hung out with the people that lived at the place we were staying. We spoke with Frank again this morning, and his ED found us $ to sponsor a rider. They are working on finding someone from their agency to ride. We went to B.E.A.T. AIDS Inc. We met their staff and networked for a bit. They rocked! I really tried to get one of the staff to get on the caravan with us, but she had 2 children. Then we headed over to San Antonio AIDS Foundation (SAAF) and took a quick tour of their facilities. I started to feel sick, so I couldn’t pay much attention. Then we headed over to Mujeres Unidas for the local event in San Antonio. I ended up staying in the car and took a nap, because I was sick. So this is pieced together from what Larry told me. Several agencies were there for a town hall type meeting. Issues were discussed about not knowing about the caravans. Despite the “wait and see” attitude that was present, 2 caravan riders came from Mujeres. They will join the caravan in a week though. Hope Action Care (Frank’s ASO) could not come up with a rider, although they had the $ Chuck and Larry say Hi! We’re on our way to Austin.

 

Chris Rothermel

Host Committee Organizer: Soul of the South, Houston
Campaign to End AIDS
1731 Aden Dr.
Houston, TX 77003

cell:504-481-9846

rothermel.c@gmail.com

 

Paving The Way

Soul of the South: Day 2

Day 2
9:47 AM
Well we woke up early this morning at 7 (Larry snores when he sleeps, it’s cute) to go to Valley AIDS Council. We met with the ED, Bob. He was busy getting ready for a conference he was holding, but he said we could ship him some info. He said he would put it at a table at the conference. We went to a mini Wal-Mart to pick up markers and a car charger, but they didn’t have either! That’s how small it was. After a near death experience with a bee at the gas station, Larry and I are headed back up to Corpus Christi to pick up our 3 caravan rider.
After a wonderful send off, we headed to San Antonio. We met Frank, a caravan supporter, at the local planning council meeting. Larry gave a short presentation and they adjourned. We met a lady who said that she had just come across some grant $ to send 2 women on our caravan and she would contact us tomorrow. WOOHOO!! Go C2EA! We are being set up in the local HIV/AIDS living space to sleep tonight. The food was great and the people are nice. Well I will update more tomorrow as I am sitting at a gas station, stealing their wireless.

 

Chris Rothermel

 

Paving The Way

Soul of the South Day 1

Soul of the South:Day 1

So I woke up this morning at 3am. I jumped in the van with Larry, and immediately fell asleep. I woke up a bit later, and we stopped at a rest stop to sleep. We woke up and headed down to Corpus Christi. We took a couple of pictures by the water. I don’t really know what body of water it was, but it was beautiful. We headed over to Coastal Bend AIDS Foundation. We weren’t expecting much response, as they hadn’t responded to Larry’s e-mails, but we were totally wrong. We spoke with the executive director Richard Sledz, who was extremely responsive. By the end of the meeting, he told us he would call his board of directors to see if he can use some of the $ they raised at a fundraiser they had last week. He also said he’d look for a rider as well. Well by the time we actually left the agency, he had called 2 board members, who approved the $, and one of his board members agreed to be a rider! So we left there and headed over the the food pantry, Loving Spoonful, where the rider met with us. We took a picture with the people over there and chatted for awhile. During lunch, Larry convinced me to do the whole caravan, instead of just till Houston. I OK’ed it with my boss, and here I am. Chris Rothermel, Soul of the South navigator/reporter. LOL! We’re headed down to Brownsville now to find a place to sleep and go to an agency there tomorrow morning at 7.

 

Chris Rothermel

Host Committee Organizer: Soul of the South, Houston
Campaign to End AIDS
1731 Aden Dr.
Houston, TX 77003

cell:504-481-9846

rothermel.c@gmail.com

 

this is an audio post - click to play