Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Plan B

The Lawrence Journal-World shared some great photos of today's Equality Rally at the Capitol in Topeka.

I am so proud of Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. A group of members attended the rally. You can see pictures on GCPC's Facebook page.

The bummer is, I missed my ride. Typical communication breakdown. The message about carpooling said to arrive at church at 11:00 so we could leave around 11:30. Miraculously, I arrived on time. I walked through the church doors right at 11:00. I was excited to see the crowds of people inside the church waiting to carpool to the rally. There were lots of cars in the parking lot, so I figured there were lots of people going. I'd never been to this church in the daytime during the week.

When I walked into the lobby, no one was around. I could hear kids down the hall to the left and older folks down the hall to the right. But no one in the lobby holding signs or smelling of patchouli.

I stepped up to the glass window where two women were sitting in the church office.

"Excuse me. Do you know if this is where we're supposed to meet for the rally?" I asked.

"Um, let me see," the first woman looked at the second.

The second woman said, "I heard they were leaving at 11:30." She looked up at the clock. "It's only just now 11."

"Oh," I said, confused. "I got a message to meet here at 11:00."

This seemed to jog the first woman's memory, "Oh, I think I heard they were leaving at 11:45."

"Well I only just heard of it this morning, so maybe I'm wrong," said the second woman. "Would you like to have a seat on the couch and wait for them?"

They both smiled. I sat for a minute, but I was too excited and fidgety. So I walked around and took some pictures to begin documenting my day.

This is near the front entrance to the church: May Peace Prevail on Earth, translated into several languages:

This sign is on the inside of the church:

I love this painting inside the church:

I wandered around for forty-five minutes. The preschool kids got picked up by their families. The older people hauled their canvasses and art supplies out to the trunks of their cars and drove off. The church grew quiet. Finally, around 11:50, the church secretary got a hold of someone and found out my ride was already on the road to Topeka. My ride hadn't received the message that I was waiting for her. I'd have to drive myself.

Which is fine. I am a grownup after all. Except that I drive a crappy car and I have a crappy cell phone. Because I'm frugal. And I don't care too much about material possessions. Normally this works in my favor. I don't spend too much money on fancy crap. And I can keep my mind occupied on more meaningful things than, "where did I set my smartphone?" But occasionally, like when I have an hour to get to a rally over an hour away and my phone doesn't get great reception, I miss pertinent messages directing me to where I should go to meet my group and the whole plan falls apart.

But that's OK. Plans falling apart never stops me. I'm terrible at planning things, but I'm not too shabby at improvising.

I stopped by Valvoline and got my oil changed and my tires properly inflated so I'd be less apt to break down on the trip. I had to stop inside the library to use the public printers to print directions to the rally because, again, I can't rely on my phone to get a good enough signal to access the directions from the online event page for the rally. While there, I spent ten minutes or so chatting with co-workers. As I was heading toward the exit I got a whim to see if there were any Anne Lamott books on CD I could listen to during the trip. Sure enough, I picked one off the shelf. Properly named, "Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith".

I was so mesmerized by Lamott's words I barely noticed the seventy-mile one-way trip. I've had so many people tell me I should read Lamott, it almost began to feel like people were shoving it on me like gluten-free noodles, or a neti pot. Or, The Bible. The more people tell me I need something the less I tend to want it.

I'm almost always wrong. I usually do need what people recommend to me. I just need my independence more. I generally get around to reading books people recommend about a decade after they've been published, and for some reason I can't understand why I can't find someone else on the planet who is also freaking out about how awesome it is. I only get fanatical about things once they've become passé. It's like our poor kiddo Katie who lives in a home with a couple of frugal weirdo Luddites. Out on the playground at school, she can't understand why no one wants to talk about The Legend of Zelda: The Ocarina of Time for the Nintendo 64. You know, the game that came out eight years before she and her classmates were even born.

So I listened intently to Anne Lamott talk to me about her faith during the drive to Topeka. She's an amazing human being. I had fantasized about the conversations I'd have with these new churchy friends from Grace Covenant. I imagined we'd ride together in a van and talk about the meaning of life and politics and suffering and love. It would be intense and I'd feel at home. Instead, I sat alone in my own car, but I never felt alone. Anne Lamott is an excellent traveling companion. She hooks you in with her crazy, grace-filled life and you can't stop listening.

Until you see your exit and you have to turn off the CD player so you can pay attention to where you're going, as I did when I made it to Topeka.

The Capitol isn't far off the exit. In fact, it's so close at first I passed it. After finding the right way to drive down all the one-way roads, I turned around and headed back toward the Capitol.

On the event page for the rally it said over 400 people were going, last I'd checked. I saw no crowds of people. A smattering of pedestrians, but no large groups of people. Certainly not "my" group.

I drove around the Capitol to make sure I just wasn't mixed up on my directions. No crowds outside.

It was cold, so I thought maybe they took the rally inside. It was 2:20 at this point, so I figured I could still catch the last forty minutes of it. I found a parking spot, dropped my quarters into the meter, and began my hike. All the way around the building. I found some empty chairs. But no people.

The rally was supposed to be on the south steps of the Capitol. I climbed the massive stairs to the heavy doors, pulled hard, and, nothing. They were locked.

I headed back down the stairs and saw a "visitor's entrance" sign with an arrow pointing around the corner. I headed around the corner to, another sign. And around another corner, and up some stairs, and down some stairs, and finally, I found it.

I walked inside the Capitol and I was immediately asked to remove my bag and coat and run them through a scanner on a conveyor belt. I walked through some type of scanner too and set off the alarm.

"Do you have any jewelry that might be setting it off?" the agent asked.

"Not really. I've got a bunch of change," I dug out a handful of change from my front pocket. I had swiped it from my husband's stash before I left the house in case I ran into some hefty summed parking meters. As it turns out, it was only 50 cents an hour, so I had tons of change left over.

That's what it was that set off the alarm. After I dropped my change into the bucket, I walked through the scanner freely. I retrieved my things and headed toward, well, I didn't know where.

I wandered around in what looked like a cross between a state historical society museum and a tomb. The rock walls led me to believe I was in the basement. I tried to find someone from the rally or someone from my church group.

After about fifteen minutes I said "fuck it" and gave up looking for my group. I'd make the best out of this trip I could. I love to go to nerdy historical sites and museums and all those boring places my family groans about. Suddenly I realized I was by myself. I could do whatever I want. So I allowed myself a little mini nerdy tour of the Capitol. I grew up in Missouri, so I'd never been inside the Kansas state capitol. I wandered around and took pictures of interesting things I encountered:

Where does this hallway lead? Are we sure we're not at the Glore Psychiatric Museum

Rural electrification: 1938. My mom was born a month after this. It's weird to think of all the technological progress humans have made in my mom's lifetime.

My favorite psychologist, Dr. Harriet Lerner, worked at the Menninger Clinic.

John Brown is from the town that is now the home to the State Mental Hospital.

The last moderate republican president.

Amelia Earhart

Kansas is not entirely flat

Flint Hills

The original window to the Capitol

Kansas women got to vote before it was a federal law. Cool.

Some random sink, I guess to wash up when you start to feel dirty about how shitty people were treated in Kansas throughout history

The Capitol really is pretty.

The Kansas banner before we got a flag

The United States Flag when Kansas entered the union

sick: slave rewards

I wonder if I was late to this meeting in my past life?

 voting on whether or not to allow Kansas into the union as a free state or a slave state

John Brown's sword

I finally passed a woman who had on an Equality Kansas sticker.

"Excuse me. Were you with the rally?" 

She beamed like she'd been out fishing all day and caught a live one. "Yes! Yes! And your name is?"

"I'm Becky. I've gotten lost from my group. Is the rally already over?"

"Oh, yeah. It got over around 2:00. It was pretty cold. But we had a great turn out! Would you like me to show you were everyone is now?"

We passed through the tombs and rode up an elevator, making several attempts to get off on the second floor, but it wouldn't let us. Finally she pointed to a sign that said, "No public access to 2nd floor."

"Ooooh," she said. "That's OK. I know a way to get you there."

We rode to a different floor and got off, then we found the stairs and walked down to the second floor, across the building, and finally, into a small room in the very corner of the capitol building. All the while, surrounded by intimidating looking people wearing grey suits and talking on their iPhoneInfinity, this wonderful woman told me about the work she does teaching children not to bully and raising awareness of violence against LGBT kids for the non-profit organization Kansas City Anti-Violence Project

Once we entered the small room, my guide introduced me to two other people who work for Equality Kansas. They gave me a notebook full of information about their campain to "end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity/expression." I'm usually awkward during introductions to strangers, but I instantly felt that these are my people.

I never did find any of the Grace Covenant crew because my phone wasn't getting reception, so I didn't see that Pastor Jonas had sent me messages about where they were. They ended up going across the street to another building after the rally, but I didn't know because of my cheap ass phone. 

So that's a total bummer. But, I did get to tour the Capitol and meet some like-minded activist types, so it wasn't all bad.

And the best thing of all: I got to ride back home with my Plan B Buddy Anne Lamott in my car.