Monday, November 01, 2010

"The Rally to Restore Sanity" 10-30-10

Now that I have some time, I'm going to try to give an account of my time in Washington DC this weekend. I went with a group of 5 other guys to attend "The Rally to Restore Sanity" on Saturday- like hundreds of thousands of other fun-loving, engaged citizens.

If I had no traveling companions, I definitely wouldn't have made the trip... so it was great to have my brother and some other guys we know want to go, too.

We were totally psyched for the trip & our one friend known as 'Shooski' aka 'The Shoosk' has a brother who lives in DC, which helped our planning alot. Shoosk wanted to get a hotel, and we all eventually realized this was the best way to go since we could stay & really have a good time. Another one of the guys 'The Rev' offered to drive down in his truck and park at the hotel, so we were good to go.

Both my brothers went to a Freeway concert in Philly the night before the trip. I, on the other hand, was on my back patio at 10Pm on Friday nite ripping apart small wooden pallets to use for sign handles. Only one of my brothers could go to the rally on Sat., but thanks to the concert he was late & hungover the next morning. He didn't hear the end of that for the next 24 hours.

Once we got rolling, we faced the notorious state-long traffic jam known as Delaware. The traffic slowed on 95 a little but the drive overall wasn't horrible. Once we got to the hotel, the plan was to take the metro. We didn't realize the inevitable until we paid for our tickets & got down there- that it was like a Japanese subway with people packed in every car like sardines. There was literally not room for one single person in any of the cars. After several of the trains stopped & went without being able to fit anyone, we decided to bail.

We went back up to the streets to take a bus or cab. It was past noon & the rally had already started, so we wanted to makes moves fast. We lucked out & saw a minivan taxi who picked us up. Since there were 6 guys, I volunteered to sit in the van's hatchback just to get to the damn rally.

Once we got to the general area of the park, we got out & followed the large streams of people leading toward the nexus of the event. We walked for a bit & once we got into the grass we found a spot to put our 'protest signs' together. I had earlier busted my staple gun back at the parking garage, but thanks to my general desire to be prepared I also had a whole roll of wide masking tape. I weaved the tape around the handles and taped over the tape! I was frantically trying to get all 6 signs together & eventually got everyone else to help the process along. Surprisingly, the signs held up for the entire day & made the effort worth it.

Once we had our signs, the real fun began. We could just walk around & watch the madness. Immediately, we realized all the rally signs that I made were a hit- as people started taking pictures, laughing & making approving comments.

I was carrying my "Savior/Liberal Devil" sign that people kept asking me to flip around. My brother wanted the "Teabagging Takes Balls" sign, which got alot of laughs throughout the day. Shooski of course carried the sign saying "Shooski is Here!", with "Ralph Wiggum 2012" taped to the back. People kept laughing when reading out loud the Shooski sign or saw my Monkey Buddha signature on the other signs, even though they had no idea what it meant.

As we kept walking toward the main crowd, the sea of people kept getting thicker & thicker & thicker!

Our highly-visible signs came in handy as we tried to keep together & navigate the massive crowd. I have never seen that many people in one place. It was almost surreal to be amongst that large a gathering of seemingly endless variety & number. It's hard to describe, but 'astounding' comes to mind. As we slowly pushed our way along Madison Dr., the crowd near us was being amused by a Jesus hanging up on a traffic light. It could have been an impersonator, but he did have the crowd enraptured by his antics. Once we got closer, I realized his sign said "Jesus Loves Obama". He was perched up there for a while.

Other people were climbing trees, standing on walls, trying to get any high vantage point. Even going up on a little hill, though, it was possible to get a glimpse the size of the crowd extending out in all directions. Eventually we needed a break from the shoulder-to-shoulder people & went off to more open side parks & wandered for a bit.

At some point after we rejoined the crowd, my brother & I realized we lost a couple people. This wouldn't be a problem, but nobody had any cell phone service. Without being able to text each other, we'd never find them. We looked for the 'Shooski is Here!' sign, but all we saw were thousands of other people who were not The Shoosk, as far as the eye could see. We debated with the other 2 guys with us if we should hang out, or just walk around. I realized we didn't prepare for something like this at all. There was no meeting time or place, most of us didn't have the hotel info, etc.

Instead of worrying about it, we decided to hang out around 7th & Madison for awhile. The four of us took over the corner & held our signs up while shouting ridiculous slogans to the throngs of people walking by. We always had at least a couple people trying to take pictures of each sign. I was constantly flipping mine around for people to see both sides. During this time when I was appealing to the masses, I could barely manage to take photos of my own, but I still got a bunch of good ones.

After maybe an hour, we finally had a text message come through from the other guys & were able to meet back up. It turns out they were right near us, but in a different area so we didn't see each other.

This might sound crazy, but like alot of people I didn't hear or see any of the actual rally!!! From where we were, I could barely make out Colbert & Stewart's voices and had to look through trees across the park to see the huge video screens beside the stage. Missing the scheduled entertainment was totally alleviated by the plentiful entertainment provided by the rally-goers themselves. I like to observe things & people-watch, so this was like visual overload. There were so many crazy people, costumes, signs, & things going on in the street, that missing the show was almost inconsequential. I still haven't been able to go watch it all online yet!

The idea of promoting reasonable discourse & open-mindedness should not be revolutionary, but the two hosts should be proud of their effort to promote a more constructive way of thinking.

After the rally was officially over, the other guys wanted to go find a restaurant in town which was another bad call because every food place in the area had a half-hour wait or more. I would have just hung out around the park area for a while longer, but I wasn't sweating it. We finally ended up all jamming into a regular cab & going back to the hotel.

We found a cafe type restaurant near the hotel to chill out & eat. As we were waiting for our food, the manager or owner came up to us an said something in a thick accent, but I thought I heard it very clearly. Incidentally, I was pretty buzzed by this time after finishing my Sprite bottle mix of Tanqueray. I looked at the guy quizzically and asked him, "Did you just say your name is... 'Master Something' ???" ...which is what I swore he said! Everybody laughed because they thought he said the same thing. It turns out, he was asking if we needed mustard & some other condiments, so I apologized for the misunderstanding. However, he is now forever "Master Something" in our minds. On the way out, some of us wanted to take our leftovers to eat later. I asked 'Master Something' for a couple boxes for the food. He looked at me like I was from another planet, so I tried asking for containers instead. He nodded & went in the back. He came back with 2 large cardboard packing crates! Another waiter had brought us out actual food containers in the meantime. He must have saw that, along with the mixture of amusement & bewilderment on my face, because he continued walking with the big boxes right out the front door to put them in the trash. He tried to apologize but I told him not to worry about it.

Back at the hotel, everyone was wiped out & it was only the late afternoon. The plan was to go out on the town that night after we had rested up a little. I ended up passing out for a little bit.


When I woke up, it was nighttime & time to get ready to go out. The combination of gin & the cold I was fighting this weekend made me look like I was a wreck. We each took showers & changed, then were ready to head out to the Adams Morgan neighborhood of DC.

For some reason, none of us thought to even bring costumes, despite Colbert encouraging it on his show for the rally. My brother had a crazy vampire mask he was wearing under his Día de los Muertos hoodie. However, he didn't bring it out to the bars. It wasn't long before we saw people in costume, and when we got into the town, we realized everyone on the streets was in costumes!

From then on out it was bar-hopping & taking pictures with people in awesome costumes. We actually felt out of place because we were some of the few people not dressed up. I was wearing a black hoodie, so I put it up- to be at least partially disguised! Regardless, we had a good time & stayed out till we shut the bars down at 2.

Overall, it was a wild, action-packed day that many thousands of other people also got to enjoy. The rally, its purpose, and its effects have been endlessly analyzed already. To me personally, the spirit of the gathering was that of good-natured social awareness, tinged with a healthy dose of absurdity & humor.

I took about 100 photos on Saturday of the rally & the nightlife. I edited the set down to these, showing the size of the rally, and the multitude of characters inhabiting the nation's capital for a truly memorable day.

More of the story is detailed in the photo captions...

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