I just returned from Washington D.C., where I joined tons of people at the Rally to Restore Sanity. Truthfully "tons of people" doesn't even come close to the description. It was throngs of people. Legions of people. The mall was abundant with humanity.
We got there about an hour early and the crowd was already way back at 7th street and the sculpture garden, which was (as I understand it) the outer limits of what had been reserved for the Rally.
People continued to pile in behind us and the very-cool-young-men-in-a-tree behind us informed me that they couldn't even see the end of the crowd. Once I took a look at some of the aerial photos of the event, it was obvious that the crowd spilled out from the mall into the streets on the side and way back to the end of the National Mall.
I think I'm in this picture, but if I am - it's near the front of this crowd (the part furthest away from the reflecting pool) - which is still very far away from the actual stage. This is just the back half of the crowd.
At any rate - I was surprisingly pleased to be part of a horde for the first time in my life. After the rally, we all left slowly, tightly, with me holding on to my husband's back pocket the whole time so he wouldn't lose me in the mass of humanity. Along the way, I kept pointing out posters so he could get pictures of the great ones.
Once clear of the National Mall, all the rally-goers were marching down the surrounding streets, holding our signs and smiling at each other. It somehow felt historical and really, really great - like I was speaking up for something - even if it was something as mundane as just treating each other with decency. You know...using manners, not making assumptions about others, and appreciating the fact that Americans can disagree and not think it's the end of the world as we know it.
So...ok, it wasn't exactly the civil rights or women's rights marches my mom participated in during the 60's (I consider myself blessed that she and others fought those battles for us) but it was a semi-spontaneous march that mattered to me in 2010. I'd say it was a march for my generation, but that wouldn't be fair or even accurate. I was surrounded by people my parents age (and older) as well as people much younger than my 39 years. (The guys in the tree were clearly not only in great shape but most of them were almost certainly in their twenties..except for one really old dude who was rather overweight. I seriously think he might have teleported himself into the tree. But...I digress.)
I loved the trip to D.C. for a bunch of reasons. Saturday was the ultimate experience of going with the flow. I'd asked some friends for restaurant recommendations. That turned out to be quite laughable...as we quickly realized we were walking down Independence Avenue with 215,000 other people. We crowded into the Metro - which was packed like a Tokyo subway - and departed near GWU. We beat most of the rest of the crowd to that part of town by about 15 minutes, which meant we only had to wait 45 minutes for a table at a surprisingly good Italian restaurant. It wasn't on any of the lists I'd collected, but I enjoyed a glass of their house sangiovese, ate roasted garlic with spinach, and enjoyed the fact that I wasn't standing up anymore.
I loved looking at everyone's signs and I thought Jon Stewart's final statement was fabulous. I can't BELIEVE I got to hear Yusef (a.k.a. Cat Stevens) sing live. I was in pure heaven singing "Peace Train" and swaying. (Maybe I was channeling the 60's just a bit...)
I clung to my husband as if it was 1963 (or...really...1973, since I should at least reference a year in which I was alive...) because so many people were using cell phones that the system was pretty much down. My cell phone was about as useful as a paperweight. I couldn't get texts or calls to go through until I hit Foggy Bottom. I was holding onto his back pocket like it was my lifeline because I knew if we got separated, it would be a while before we'd reach each other on the phone.
When all was said and done, we made it back to the hotel where we purchased exorbitantly expensive glasses of Jameson's and worked on this slideshow of all the great signs we'd seen. (Mine is the one that says "Chill!" in case you're wondering.)
I learned a few things this weekend.
1. It's great to spend a few hundred bucks to take an irrational trip every now and then.
2. There's a totally cool couple from Iowa (about my parents' age) who are the only people in their social circle to watch The Daily Show. (You go, cool Boomers!!)
3. There's a really, really bad Tex-Mex knock off restaurant in the Charlotte, N.C. airport that charges WAY too much for watery margaritas and nauseating nachos.
4. I may vote Democratic in many, many elections - but I'm not "a Democrat" - I'm an American. And a mom. I appreciate artistic outlandishness and conservative stability. Oddly - that doesn't strike me as contradictory.
5. My husband is the same stable and reliable guy that he was when he led me around D.C. on our honeymoon in 1993. Thank goodness I'm with someone whom I can trust to consistently point me in the right direction. And...you know...find me a good red wine at the end of the day.