Saturday, September 24, 2005

Washington, DC, September 24, 2005

It's late, I've had a giggly, bibulous dinner, and I'm having Tone Trouble -- can't summon the careful balance between frowny-faced earnestness and ribtickling satire that is the Insouciant Jingo Formula, so I'm just going to play it straight. I want to get these thoughts down and these photos before you, Dear Reader, before they get blunted -- because, after all, Service Is Our Middle Name.

These, then, are the impression I garnered today. My most fabulous pal Todd, who comments here under the nom-de-guerre Xtcfan, accompanied me to the festivities and provided a sovereign sounding-board for my jokes -- not all of them in the most pristine taste. At one point, a call-and-response went up in the crowd: "Show-me-what-de-moc-rac-y-looks-like! This-is-what-de-moc-rac-y-looks-like!" and I set up a damned fine obbligato right in the pocket: "Five-foot-two, eyes of blue, ootchy-cootchy-cootchy-coo, de-moc-rac-y might look like this..." It was Lovely, dammit.

Before the march began, I was looking for the perfect expression of Nowness that illuminates the Hipness of the Immediacy of the Vroom-Vroom-POW-ness of the assembled hepcats. I believe I found just the thing:

After we paid our obeisances to the Flying Spaghetti Monster (I, for one, felt not only Touched, but indeed Fondled, by His Noodly Appendage), we went and watched some speeches. These were of (to say the least) uneven quality, but Jesse Jackson and Cindy Sheehan stood out as attention-grabbers. We cheered, chanted, generally psyched up -- it felt like stretching exercises right before the U-10 Boys' Soccer Tournament kickoff -- and then made our way to 15th and Constitution, where the march was to kick off.

Here's where things got a little swimmy.

We were attempting to meet with some fellow bloglodytes from The American Street. We'd made cell-phone contact, but our mutual self-descriptions ("I'm wearing a black t-shirt," I said, helpfully) were a little ineffective, I think, and we never did find each other. But while we were milling around waiting for the show to start, we noticed that a gaggle of VIPs had emerged from the stage on the Eclipse and were passing right next to us. Cindy Sheehan, Jesse Jackson and Joan Baez were the ones we could recognize. Just as they were passing (I swear to you this is true), I felt a commanding arm in the small of my back, and I felt myself being herded not away from the VIP coterie, but into it. We looked around, and realized the Security bods (not hired goons, but volunteers) had assumed we were, you know, with them, and now we found ourselves inside their cordon.

Quite surprising. Bet the Secret Service would have been a bit more careful, but there we were: Three positions back from our new most excellent buddies Cindy and Jesse and Joanie Phonie. Just as I was about to ask Joan for the chords to "Diamonds and Rust," we noticed that the crowd behind us was getting restive. The chant was going up, "Start-the-March! Start-the-March! Start-the-March!"

The problem, as far as we could see it, was that the Liberal Media had blocked 15th Street, besotted as they were by their access to the March Celebs -- my good pals, Cindy and Jesse and Joan. As the crowd began to press forward dangerously, Cindy turned around and said, in her best crowd-control voice, "We're starting in two minutes!"


Strictest honesty demands I say, I don't know if it was me or Xtcfan who took the pic -- we were trading the camera back and forth depending on our relative vantage points, but it was my camera, anyway. But, man, check this picture out!

Here's another one, seconds later. Jesse turned around, asked to borrow a sign he could be photographed waving. How I wish the Flying Spaghetti Monster lady had been available.

Eventually the cops led the Celebs away, presumably to remove the object of the MSM's curiosity so the deal could get started. The next thing that caught the eye was this thing, an astonishingly effective bit of theater:

This was an amazingly powerful device, the brainchild of another mother whose child had died in Iraq: A piece of string, 3,000 feet long, with a single page of 8.5 x 11 paper for each American soldier who'd died in Iraq. Name, photograph, rank and serial number. It took thousands of volunteers to march it all the way through the parade route -- apparently spontaneously; the piece had been on display on the Washington Monument grounds when someone suggested parading it through the streets.

Think about 3,000 feet of dead soldiers. Ever flown a kite, gotten it out to the standard 500-foot length that kite-string is sold in?

Six of those.

Street Theater:

Street Thespians: Wallace Shawn and lovely lady-friend. They couldn't have been nicer when Xtcfan did a little (entirely merited) fawning. I was sorely tempted to ask him to say that the Iraq War was "Simply In-con-Thieve-able!" into my little pocket recorder, but thought better of it.

Finally, the guy who started it all. After a nice chat over some hot chocolate and pretzels, we all realized that the war was just a big misunderstanding, and and that the troops will be home next week. I was expecting a big jerk, but you know? He was actually a Real Nice Guy. We're gonna have a beer next time I'm in town.


Neil Shakespeare said...

Great report, Neddie! Best I've seen. Wayta go! Thanks much.

XTCfan said...

Basically, what he said. It was a fun day, very inspiring, and quite frankly I'm a bit pissed about the media coverage that I've seen of it so far. Many of the articles (even in the Canadian press! ... check out their choice of picture -- that young lady sure looks threatened by that scary shouting radical, doesn't she?) and end with a pronounced spin, mentioning the counter-demonstrators and finishing up with a quote from one of them. Well, Ned and I looked for them, and their numbers were negligable, to say the least. We only encountered one religious-kook group, who were (during our time there) pretty effectively countered by a crowd chant of "Who would Jesus bomb?"

I will add that, because of my aggressiveness in crowds, I was in front of Ned while we were in the Sheehan/Jackson coterie, and remember snapping those pix; I regret that I missed the opportunity to take a photo of Cindy S. sniffing her underarm, in comic demonstration of how close and sweaty we all were, and that I missed the shot of the cop -- who, I swear to FSM, looked just like Dick Cheney -- telling CS and JJ they needed to move so the crowd could proceed.

The other thing that got to me was the vast diversity of the crowd. Yes, there was the usual assortment of patchouli-smelling hippies and (as Ned called them) "trustafarians," and if you look in the papers or online no doubt most of the pictures will focus on these "radicals," but the majority of the crowd was made up of Regular Folk, including lots of older people who had obviously done this before. I would have loved to have been able to sit down with them and ask for a compare-and-contrast.

Wally Shawn was indeed most gracious about my bit of entirely merited fawning ... the funny thing about the encounter was that he was just walking along with the rest of us, blending in just fine until Ned pointed him out to me. I tried to gush quietly, so as not to attact attention.

Kevin Wolf said...

Great report from both Neddie and xtcfan, and great pix. Coverage here in Boston has ranged from none to ho-hum - did the people writing these reports actually go to the event?

The Viscount LaCarte said...


You guys rule.

The Viscount

blue girl said...

Today Fox News reported the approx. # of people who attended: 100,000 as they ONLY showed footage of people being dragged through the streets by cops as they were being arrested while they read their report of the #s....

..haven't seen any other coverage...

Matt said...

Amazing post, Neddie. You are a veritable Zelig!

Some of my thoughts on the day, with pictures, are here.

somegirl said...

wow thanks for the great post. i'm just sorry that i missed seeing fellow flying spaghetti monster devotees.

eRobin said...

Great photos and reporting. You got the photo of the day for sure with Cindy Sheehan. My write up and some pix are here.

Anonymous said...

I was with the DC quakers - met some quakers from your neck of the woods, Neddie - there are still a bunch a them out there.