Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Recent Street Fun

1. On May Day, May 1, I marched in solidarity with immigrants rights groups, labor groups, anarchists in balaclavas, etc. from Judkins Park in Seattle to the Space Needle. It was quite a long hike, but downhill, and boy did I love tromping along down the middle of the street! My favorite protest sign read "Proud Daughter of a Public Worker." That's me!

There was a heartening range of participants, from Latina mothers and their children, to union members whose friendships crossed color lines, to all kinds of young people. An old couple who I'd seen on the bus, the gentleman wearing a jacket proudly proclaiming his union membership. A bilingual little girl holding her mother's hand and chanting along with protest slogans celebrating the people. The march grew to a very satisfying size, and I'm glad I was there to add my presence to the numbers.

Being part of a protest march allows you to be part of a ciclovía, in a way. The streets are opened to people. You feel the scale of an urban center more acutely when you're walking in the middle of the street. Protests transform public space, which is a political statement in and of itself. I should learn more about the connections between Situationist ideas about public space and "happenings" and mass protests in 1968. The best part of the day came from a brass marching band that played some 60s R&B tunes. Next time I go to a protest I'm going to bring bubbles.

2. This weekend I went to the U District Street Fair, which again let me frolic among the little bumps that mark the center divider in a street. It had less of a sense of motion than the march since it was a festival, with many many vendors and people inching along looking at gourmet foods and jewelry. I enjoyed a hand-dipped corn dog, and gawked at a man who'd made himself a full body suit from mirror shards.

I also learned at the fair that there is in fact some kind of ciclovía program in Seattle, called Summer Streets. Their choice of name reminded me that I'm glad CicLAvia got named after the original event in Bogotá to point out its origins. Summer Streets calls to mind NYC. Also, it seems like Seattle's event must have been initiated by city employees rather than a grassroots group. We shall see, come summertime, how people up here like playing in the street. (My guess is that they like it a lot.)

3. Usually I find "street fashion" blogs disappointing, since they seem to be looking for people who could fit a fashion magazine's narrow standards for beauty and branding. I know The Sartorialist makes a point of showing that biking can be blonde and scantily-clad, I mean sexy, which is great, but I'm someone who values creative combinations of secondhand garments way more than sweatshop-produced and New York-policed high fashion. Enter Hel-Looks, a street fashion blog in Helsinki. They've got women of various ages and sizes and numerous mentions of the benefits of secondhand clothes. They've got gents who look like 30s sailors, and ladies who match seafoam and lilac. Be still my heart!