I realize I’m hardly a paragon of sanity. But that didn’t stop me from wanting to make the trek to DC for Jon Stewart‘s big rally. And while I realize that by being a part of the crowd I was showing my support for a more moderate, measured approach to politics (and everything else, quite frankly), the trip was hardly what I’d hoped for.
To start, I purchased a ticket on a bus a friend had chartered. I anticipated traveling with like-minded folks and meeting some new people. I wasn’t expecting a busload of partying burners but I wasn’t expecting 50-odd 50-somethings, mostly Jersey women in comfortable walking shoes. Nope, not one person on board who I had any interest in meeting! But let me start at the beginning.
My trip truly began at 3:30 on Friday, in a panic about leaving the newly-fostered neurotic puppy home alone. I’d enlisted the assistance of a friend who agreed to be there at 3:00. She said she was “stopping for food,” which I thought meant to pick up food. She’d just sat down to order food. At a restaurant. I shoved the puppy into his crate, locked the door listening to his shrieking and ran my keys to my friend at Kate’s.
After an invigorating dash to the Path, I rode to Jersey City to meet friends for the hour-plus drive down to Jackson, NJ. There was a diner dinner and poster-making and a quick stop at Target, where I picked up an awesome pair of penguin feetie pajamas. I know, I’m straying off topic… Knowing we were going to have an extremely early morning, most of us bedded down sometime after midnight. But a few others thought it was the perfect time to chat into the wee hours. Which meant we woke up at 5:30am after less than five hours of sleep. Ugh.
In the chilly, still-dark morning we drove to a random park-and-ride to meet our chartered chariot and the aforementioned 50-odd 50-somethings. Bagels and coffee were included in our ticket price but the bus driver wouldn’t allow any liquids on the bus besides water, so I chugged down my Dunkin Donuts caffeine and carried my bagel on board. It was a long drive down to RFK Stadium parking lot. But I was excited about being an activist!
Coming up out of the subway to thousands of people filling the Mall was quite a sight. We walked toward the front but didn’t make it very far; the. We made several attempts to penetrate the wall of humanity, cutting across the Mall, getting stepped on and shoved. I felt like a turnstile! People were trying to walk — well, squeeze between — in every direction. Except for myself and our 6’4″ friend, everyone was having anxiety attacks. The ambulance that wound up idling a few feet from us before it turned on its siren and inched right into the thick of things almost sent us over the edge. The fact that we couldn’t see a thing, not even the monitors, or hear a word made the discomfort totally pointless. We decided to bail.
At least we got to see dozens and dozens of ridiculous protest signs: Wraps are NOT sandwiches! Bacon is good for me! Free the kittens! There were costumes and hilarious t-shirts, all decidedly high-brow and primarily intellectual. I was semi-disguised as a zombie, prepared to say, “I’m here for the brains!” if anyone inquired. I would’ve followed that with, “I went to that Glenn Beck thing. Not a brain in the bunch!” But alas, no one asked. My friends were in costume as well. Alex was a pregnant prom queen with an “Abstinence Only Education” sash. Jonathan was a bear carrying a “Bears are not godless killing machines!” sign. We had an Uncle Sam, a cheerleader and a smarmy politician. Er, at least I think he was being a smarmy politician. He may have just been dressing as himself!
Walking away from the masses we came upon Abraxas, the glittering dragon that had been out at Burning Man, and its crew of burners. Of course we ran into familiar faces and it was nice to see the burners represent! We strolled along, people watching and protest sign reading, to Chinatown and finally found a restaurant without a two-hour wait: Mongolian barbecue, yum!
The return trip was almost as grueling as the trip down: a liquid-less bus ride, drive into Brooklyn and the fucked up F train to the East Village. I finally made it home at midnight, exhausted, cranky and pretty damn disappointed. Yes, it was a good thing to show my support. But I sure wish it had been a busload of burners, that I’d met some great new people and that I’d actually seen and/or heard the damn rally!