Holly watched from the weathered rocking chair on her front porch as Penn parked on the street before her Dilworth bungalow. As though he were climbing from the pages of a men’s clothing catalogue in his smart flat front khaki pants and untucked button down shirt, he hopped from his Jeep.
Holly rose from the chair to meet him midway.
“I was coming to the door, like prom night,” said Penn as he neared.
Holly smiled. “I thought I’d save you the trip.”
“This is a fantastic place, great street,” said Penn glancing about. “And more importantly, and before I forget, you look really good.”
“Sweet,” said Holly, who was in a pair of jeans and a suede jacket, her brilliant red hair pulled up. “So, the house looks fantastic, the street is great, and I’m really good?”
“I mean, you look better than good,” stammered Penn. “Poor word choice, but you get the idea, I hope.”
Penn guided her to the passenger side where he offered her a hand up to her seat.
“Very proper,” commented Holly on his manners, “And may I say, before I forget, this Jeep is really good.” Her eyes twinkled at her word choice. “I’m just playing, but I really do like it.”
“Thank you,” replied Penn returning to his side. “And getting away from appearance and adjectives, I trust you’re hungry?”
Penn cranked the engine to life. In the warm spring air, with the Jeep’s top down, they headed to the restaurant, a colorfully decorated but dimly lit tapas on the other side of town.
Guided by a hostess, Penn and Holly waded through the narrow, jazz-infused eatery to a corner table, where they situated themselves and placed initial orders for drinks. The couple followed standard introductory date blueprint and briefly reviewed their respective pasts as they ate.
Holly felt herself being drawn in. She gazed across the table with impressed eyes. In addition to being handsome, his side of the conversation was thoughtful, quick-witted, with a sharp sense of humor. And most refreshingly of all, he was unlike the men she typically found herself with, which added his attractiveness and appeal.
The two worked their way around a small plate of prosciutto-wrapped dates while further exhausting the small talk.
“Did you see the energy building you were protesting was attacked?”, asked Penn in a lull within the conversation.
Holly wiped her lips with her napkin. “You mean, we were protesting,” she pointed out with a smile. “I didn’t get all the details, but from what I heard the building was basically smoke bombed.”
“Yeah, that’s what it sounded like.”
Holly grimaced, more unimpressed than revolted. “I’m guessing it was the same knuckleheads who were trading tear gas with the police during the protest. I guess they just switched the gas for smoke.”
“Hmm, that’s interesting,” said Penn. “I was expecting a little more enthusiasm from your end. I thought you would have been pleased.”
“Why would I be pleased?”
“Well, from what you said at the coffee shop, a disruption like that could cripple their operations and cost them serious money.”
“Sure, it may disrupt them for a day or two; and yes, it may cost the company some money, but attacking a building with smoke hardly solves the problem.”
As she spoke, the waiter appeared and replaced the exhausted plates with fresh dishes of pomegranate-braised lamb rolls and encrusted shrimp.
Penn waited for the waiter to depart before he continued. “Fair enough, but at minimum it’s a start.”
Holly was studying the new additions to the table and spoke without looking up. “No, not really.” She snared a shrimp with her fork and took a bite. “Wow, this is really good,” she said of the food before returning to Penn’s point. “Unfortunately, a couple smoke bombs will not stop Knight from continuing their expansion and it will not stop them from mountain-topping for coal. If anything,” she said as she picked another shrimp, this time with her fingers, “they gain political clout and sympathy from the moderates as the victim of an attack.”
In silence, he digested her point of view and a shrimp.
“Now, don’t get me wrong,” Holly said, “I’m all for action when it tackles the problem head-on. But monkey-wrenching for the sake of monkey-wrenching is usually misguided. Pure anarchy, ecotage, and black bloc tactics are good for headlines but ineffective in bringing about sustainable change.”
“What’s black bloc?”
“You know, the folks on the news. The hooligans wearing the black shirts, pants, masks protesting the WTO, globalization, and the establishment. They’re the ones slugging it out with the police, rioting, vandalizing, and getting arrested.”
“Here’s a question, why do they always wear black?”
“You need to brush up on your activist fashion. Black is the universal color for anarchists from Berlin to Boston.”
“I have a black suit,” joked Penn.
“Oh, I know you have a suite, you wore it to the protest,” teased Holly. “But again, everyone and everything has its place, and those guys up front are great for illuminating a particular problem, but you can’t stop a freight train by putting a couple nails on the tracks.”
“True, but you can stop a train by blowing up the tracks,” said Penn as an aside.
The destructive remark struck Holly as off color. “Admittedly grassroots efforts can be slow, sometimes frustratingly so, but eventually they work. Protests, petitions, letters, editorials, e-mails, and voting shapes the long-term course. In my oh-so- humble opinion, real change, lasting change comes from the inside out. If you want to change the world, you begin with yourself and work your way up and out.”
“That could take a lifetime.”
“True, but it in most cases it took a lifetime – if not several lifetimes – to get into these situations. Fossil fuel dependence, pollution, endangered species did not just come about overnight, and they will take time to thoroughly address and really fix. It took a long time to walk into the woods, and it will take a long time to walk out.”