But when Jon Stewart of The Daily Show, and his nemesis Stephen Colbert, announced that they would rally with anyone who showed up willing in DC this Saturday, in an effort to reclaim sanity for the everyday person, I knew this was something I wanted to be a part of. The idea was an apolitical rally, for people who don't usually go to rallies because they don't have strong views one way or another. One part big huge in-joke, one part very serious statement on behalf of those of us who don't make statements (except on our blogs).
So on Saturday morning, right after Monkey's last soccer game of the season - he got a trophy! they all got trophies! he was so pleased with himself! - we and a friend whose wife was out of town and desperately sorry to be missing the action headed down to the metro station to get in on the action.
And promptly turned around, because there were no parking spaces left.
B dropped us off, took the car down the road to park at the nearby supermarket, and walked back up. There was a HUGE queue of people snaking halfway round the car park up to the station entrance, but we realised to our great relief that these were people who didn't have SmartTrip cards - out-of-towners who'd made the journey this far and weren't going to let a little thing like a mile-long queue stop them partying with Jon. Good for them. We hung around near the other side of the entrance and, once B showed up again, waltzed in, pausing only to swipe our SmartTrip cards like pros.
Happily, we live at one end of a metro line, because once everyone on the platform with us had boarded, the train was pretty much full. I don't normally nurse Mabel much in public any more, but I willingly did so on the train (and later, in the station as we missed one jammed train home after another) because it was coming up to naptime, and I'm sure anyone sane would prefer a quiet nursing toddler on a crowded train to a screaming, writhing one. And in a tiny way, I felt that was the sort of thing we were rallying for, anyway: the right to not be judged by people whose business it is not.
We got out at Chinatown and as we walked down 7th Street, the traffic began to cede to the people and the view before us was just a mass of bodies.
A bit like this.
The rally had started at noon, and by the time we got there it was probably close to 1pm, so we hadn't a hope of getting onto the Mall. We got to where we could hear the loudspeakers - sort of - and basically wandered along in the throng, up one side, round the back of the stage - a strangely calm area - and down the other side a little bit, munching our packed lunch as we went, stopping to climb a tree beside a museum here and there, generally just admiring the costumes, the signs, the bonhomie, and enjoying the spectacle. Monkey was bored, but stayed put in the stroller with a sandwich to keep him occupied; Mabel napped on her dad's back for an hour or so; and there we were, at a rally.
This is the best view we got of the stage. We couldn't make out anyone on it.
A few highlights that will stay with me:
- All the lovely people we chatted to on the train, especially the ones who had come far - I met a couple from Brooklyn on the way down, and a couple from Connecticut on the way back - who were planning to drive back that night. (They say the trick is to go through Manhattan in the middle of the night.) They were the really dedicated ones, compared to those of us who just meandered over to our local station and popped downtown as we might any other Saturday. (Well, not exactly.)
- The guy trying to climb a tree who had a whole section of the crowd applauding for him.
- When the giant marijuana leaf offered to hug Monkey:
"What's that, Mummy?"
"Hmm. I think it's some kind of plant. It looks a bit like a cactus, doesn't it?"
"Why does the giant cactus want to hug me, Mummy?"
"Let's just keep going. Oh look, there's a good tree for climbing."
- People dressed as various superheroes (to Monkey's delight - we saw fully grown Spiderman, Batman, Captain America, and several others, in a cohort), a gorilla in a suit, lots of Where's Waldo/Wally-s, PacMan and Miss PacMan, and a topless lady (not a costume: actual boobies).
- When Mabel, who had woken up, decided the most fun way to use the leash was to dangle from it as her father hoisted her into the air. (I had her on a leash as soon as she was out of the Ergo: even though I'd written my cellphone number on both kids' arms before we left, I wasn't taking any chances. There are some people, apparently, who view children on leashes as cruel and unusual punishment: all I can assume is that they've never been in charge of an active toddler in a crowd. They're a godsend. And if your kid doesn't like the leash, it won't work, so if you see a leashed child walking along beside its parent, chances are they're - wait for it - perfectly happy to be there.) Anyway, Mabel was greatly enjoying being carried this way, so much so that if you tried to pick her up into your arms she'd wriggle and scream until she was put down, but once you tried to walk she'd go ragdoll again and wait to be lifted up. The people we passed thought this was hilarious, and there was nudging and pointing and giggling and I really wanted to shout, "She likes it, you know." I just pretended I wasn't with them.
- Lots of hilarious signs, none of which I can remember now. There's a good collection here. I really wanted to make ones saying "Down with this sort of thing" and "Careful now", but I don't think a lot of people there would have got the Father Ted reference.