Monday, November 8, 2010

Washington, DC and a Rally for Sanity

I'll start off by saying that this trip was one adventure after the next from start to finish and we were able to get the great shots below thanks to A. and his boss' awesome (and way expensive) digital camera.

Flying Out From JFK

So maybe we were running a little too on time for A.'s liking (and maybe it was partly my fault), but as always I left all the worrying to him.When he gets anxious, I have to keep the cool, calm and collected vibe 'cause God forbid we both start freaking out. Luckily, everything went through smoothly and before long we were buckling into our seats and all smiles about our little getaway.

While we were waiting on the tarmac, the TVs came on and we started flipping through the news channels, most of which were reporting live about the escorted Emirates plane that had just JFK. A few minutes in, we look out the window to our right and what do we see? That same plane slowly making it's way off the runway surrounded by a fleet of blinking lights. At that point, official only suspected that the aircraft could be carrying explosives in two packages sent from Yemen and meant to be delivered to two synagogues in Chicago. A. and I kept watching our tiny screens and then looking out our window, our eyes wide with curiosity and growing nervousness (for me anyway). We took off some minutes after that, but kept tabs on the news until we finally learned that the aircraft did in fact hold explosives. Needless to say it was surreal to watch the news developing in front of you and playing out right outside your window. For a while I was scared I'd see something I'd never be able to forget and still, I just couldn't stop staring. A., on the other hand, wondered if the whole thing wasn't a political stunt to begin with.


I should step back now and give a brief history on how the rally supposedly came to be and why A. booked this trip the minute it was announced. It's safe to say that is this man's beloved site, a place where members post content, links, pics and such and then up- or down-vote submissions to create a cool (and addicting) guide to what's new and hot on the web. If you ever come across a popular page, site, news, anything that's been making the rounds, it's safe to say that it appeared on Reddit long before it reached you. Before the rally, I didn't really understand A.'s obsession, but now I see the good things that can result when those redditors mobilize.

After Glen Beck's DC rally last August, a redditor posted about a vision he couldn't shake off: a counter-rally hosted by Stephen Colbert. The idea quickly gathered up votes and momentum until a strategy developed: grab Colbert's attention through his favorite charity, Within the first 48 hours the organization received $200,000 from Reddit users and in the 46 days that followed that number went up to $400,000+. Obviously that got some attention and the rally was announced. Even though Jon Stewart and Colbert say this had been in the works since March and didn't give Reddit credit for the idea, Colbert still sent his sincere thanks to all who donated and Reddit is just happy to have been a part of it.

Friday Night Meet-Up

After we checked out our hotel room at the Hilton in Arlington, VA, A. and I met up with some other redditors in the lobby (one guy scored a bunch of rooms to offer us at a discount) to go make rally signs together. We set up shop in a mall bar and went to town with the poster boards and markers supplied by another lovely redditor. Our sign was a joint effort: he came up with the words, I made it happen. As geeky as the whole encounter sounds (and was), I have to say that everyone was incredibly nice. This goes for the entire trip and everyone we met over the weekend. It was just a bunch of cool people from around the country, happy to participate and have a great time. I guess I won't give A. too much crap for spending so much time scrolling through that damn site now. Maybe.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear

We left for the National Mall around 8 am and the train station was already filling up with rally goers and signs. Once we arrived in DC a half hour later, you could feel the energy around you. Masses were coming in from all sides, music booming from the speakers and the weather was perfect: a bright and sunny 60-something degrees. Once I caught sight of the Washington Monument piercing the sky and the Capitol Building looming ahead of us, I squealed, "We're really here!" and ran off towards the crowd.

An estimated 215,000 people gathered on the mall that day and we were lucky enough to have secured great spots in the first penned-off area with a small group of redditors. (Those guys were awesome, by the way. One even brought along spoons and a jar of Nutella!) The pre-show started on the jumbo-trons at 10:30 with taped musical guests and clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report chronicling how the rally came to be. At noon, The Roots took the stage, soon accompanied by John Legend. Other musical guests included Sheryl Crow with Kid Rock, Tony Bennett, The O'Jays ("Love Train") and others. There was even an odd battle between Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, and Ozzy Osbourne that was cacophonous to say the least and would've been awesome if it ended in a mash-up of the two, but alas, that didn't happen.

A couple skits dragged on a bit too long, but for the most part I was rolling. Colbert stayed in character the entire time leaving Stewart to be the sole voice of reason. The high point? Stewart's "Moment of Sincerity," a moving speech that came straight from the heart. No gimmicks, just earnestness. At that moment, I realized how lucky and proud I was to be standing there listening to him speak to us, hundreds of thousands from all walks of life, with unique experiences and viewpoints all rallying for the same thing: reason.

Like many others, I can't bear to watch the news when all they promote is fear and anxiety. I don't want to be bombarded with all the badness that's supposedly seeping through the world. Yes, there are troubles, but are they really as bad as we hear they are? Instead of messages of dispair, maybe it'd be best to share how we are or could be thriving. Give us solutions, not more problems. We are a people constantly under attack not by terrorists and bombs, but by sensationalized stories blaring through the airwaves. No wonder we're so hypersensitive and guarded; we're too terrified to see the similarities and the good that lies in the person beside us. "You know, in 15 years I'll be able to tell my kids, 'I was there when Jon Stewart gave his Let's Be Reasonable speech,'" A. said over dinner that night. And I hope by then those kids will have felt some impact from it.

Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
Jon Stewart - Moment of Sincerity
Rally to Restore Sainty and/or FearThe Daily ShowThe Colbert Report

The Monuments

Like I mentioned in my previous post, I'd only been to DC once in the sixth grade and cannot for the life of me remember anything about it. This is why, although we were dead tired from standing around for 6.5 hours, I just needed to walk what felt like 5,000 miles (but really only two) across the National Mall to see the Smithsonian, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial and finally the Vietnam Memorial. We even saw a bit of the White House along the way, but alas, from afar. We were just too pooped to walk any more, but still we had another Reddit party to get to at Dupont Circle...1.5 miles away. We stopped along the way for dinner at Nooshi, a noodle and sushi restaurant that made me miss Republic a wee bit (we ate there on Halloween though) before continuing our journey, hanging out for a bit and then calling it a night. I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow, but was woken up much too quickly after.

Returning Home

It seems that A. and I can't manage flights without some sort of close call excitement. This time we owe it all to our bus driver, a nice young lady with a twang in her voice and a lovely penchant for NOT KNOWING WHERE THE DAMN AIRPORT IS LOCATED! I mean seriously, you'd think the driver in charge of taking a bunch of people somewhere would at least know how to get there, but apparently not. It was wrong turns after missed exits and time was just ticking right by. I was actually in my own little world (read: nodding off) for most of the ride and didn't even think we were in trouble until I caught A.'s face from across the aisle. "We're f---ed!" he mouthed. Indeed. After we finally reached Dulles International Airport (albeit at the wrong drop-off area), someone asked the bus driver if she could just let us off.

"Why sure!" she replied all too sweetly. "Where would you like to get off?"
"RIGHT HERE!" we all cried out in unison.

And oh the running we did. We ran along the sidewalk, we dashed to the nearest kiosk and tried to get our boarding passes, but it was too late - we'd missed the cut-off time. Thank goodness for the lady at the counter and her shortcut to the special security line. Otherwise, we wouldn't have made it into the plane with only a single minute to spare. The doors were locked as soon as we reached our seat. Curse words of frustration were pouring out of A. the whole way there, but once we were safely buckled in, we just looked at each other and laughed, still breathless from our sprint to the gate. We made it somehow, but then again cool, calm, collected me knew we would anyway.


  1. Lucky duck!!! We were able to see some coverage over here, but you know, it's just not the same. Hugs!

  2. Sounds like you had a good... If exhausting... trip! :)

  3. Good gosh - thats enough excitement for at least.. a month!


    And I am 1000% behind you with the "give us some good news and knock off the fear mongery". I am so jaded that I think our government makes all this crap up just to increase our taxes and their power.

  4. queenie jeannie, we were definitely lucky to have had such great spots considering how many people attended the rally. I still can't get over some of those aerial shots.

    toriz, Oh it was so much fun. I'd do it again in a heartbeat even with all the stress and close calls. A. makes such an awesome travel buddy.

    intense guy, a month? HA! I think we were already trying to figure out what's next as soon as we arrived. (We have a Christmas trip to LA on the horizon.) And there could something to your theory there, who knows?


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