Second, I learned that it's freakin exhausting to fight crowds in order to walk miles in order to stand in the cold for hours in order to fight more crowds to walk even more miles to public transportation to take one home. I was officially zombified by the end of Tuesday, and then Wednesday I had to drag my ass up in order to drive back to NYC.
So I'm back in NYC at my bro's abode and my flight doesn't leave until 8 pm, and I have officially nothing on the agenda for today. I can't tell you how happy that makes me!
So, where do I begin? Let's start with the concert on Sunday. When I first arrived in downtown DC, the signs of impending massive doings were already evident. There was a strong military presence which might have been unnerving except that all of the soldiers looked so cheerful. I followed the stream of people towards the Washington Monument, wondering where the massive crowds might be.
When I got over the hill and could see the Mall, the crowds became evident, massed in front of the security tent. A combination of friendly volunteers and very serious security forces were ordering people to "openyourcoatsremoveanythingaroundyournecktakeoutallelectronicdevices andTURNTHEMONc'monpeoplemovemovemove!" It was crazier than airport security, but I will say the line moved very quickly.
The Mall in winter has a bleak, frigid beauty to it, like walking through a Weyeth painting. In the Northwest winter means different shades of green than the summer shades of green, but the Mall is a hundred different shades of brown and grey. Ducks congregate on the ice, taking turns paddling in the unfrozen spots of ponds. For some reason, every third person, and every child, walking by the icy ponds felt compelled to step a foot out on to the ice, to prove that it was indeed frozen.
Despite dire warnings of bathroom related doom, there were porta potties everywhere. There were more porta potties than I saw during the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk, which believe me is saying something. Over the next few days, I became quite a conniseur of porta potties. You learn to take your coat off before you enter (not enough room to take it off once inside without dragging it through something biological). You learn to double check for TP. I soon gave up trying to find ones with "clean" seats (there were none), relying instead on my yoga chair position to hover above the hole. I even learned to prefer the honey buckets with the sliding lock, as opposed to the ones that flip around in a circle, as the flippy ones come open too easily.
My experience at the concert was the usual sort of outdoor concert experience, made more interesting by the fact that it was freezing cold, and in fact got colder as the day wore on. I spent about an hour in line to buy a hotdog and some chips. I joined the mad throng mobbing the hot chocolate vendor.
I have mixed feelings about the concert itself. I think that it was very "made for tv", and I understand a lot of people who watched it on tv thought it was awesome. The pacing of the show (music, someone famous talking, music, politician talking, music, more famous people talking) was definately better suited for teevee than for the enjoyment of the thousands of people there in the cold.
Having been to plenty of lalapalooza/bumbershoot type things, I recognize that it takes a certain pace and organization to keep a large crowd engaged. You need to have music playing the whole time...before the show you play recordings of whatever gets people's moods up: Beatles or Snoop Dog or whatever. At the "Presidential Committee Official Welcoming Event", they did show videos on the jumbo trons, very message oriented, hitting on the "We Are One" theme of the event, but they didn't show them continuously, leaving the crowd long periods of time of just milling about in the freezing, a mood killer if ever there was one.
When the event started, with the invocation by Gene Robinson, the speakers didn't fully kick in, leaving those of us near the back aware that something was going on, but unable to fully hear.
There were some high points, I will not argue that. Watching the official United States of America helicopters zoom over head, knowing they contained Obama and Biden, was electrifying, especially when one (for the sake of me telling the story, it was Obama's) actually buzzed the crowd, circling the mall and flying straight over the reflecting pool.
Knowing I was in the same square mile radius as Denzel Washington, whee! I've been within the same square mile radius as Obama, U2 and Bruce Springsteen before, but now I can add Denzel AND Tom Hanks to the list. Springsteen's The Rising was an amazing opening to the concert. Despite it having been almost overplayed for a while there, it is a beautiful and poignant song and it brought home to me (oh, ok, I'll get cheesy) the resiliancy of our country, and how awesome, in the true meaning of the word, it is to be able to turn this page in our history.
The best performer, aside from Bruce, was, suprising to me, Garth Brooks. He sang a medley of American Pie and Shout which really got the crowd moving and jumping and singing along. Whether it was the fact that the artists themselves were overawed by the experience they were having, or the tightly controlled pacing of the show, Brooks was the only one who really just reached out and rocked the crowd. Even U2 was very somber and staid in their performance. I understand their choice of 2nd song, after Pride they played City of Blinding Lights, was a request by the President Elect. Lord knows, if Obama asks for it, play it, but boy the crowd sure would have liked a Beautiful Day or I Will Follow or something that rocked and which everyone knows the words! (I actually love the song City of Blinding Lights, but for this occasion, it didn't feel right.)
Getting home after the concert was an adventure, which I should have taken as a pre-lesson for Tuesday. The Metro stations were mobbed. I walked to the closest one and found a long line just to enter, so I decided to walk to one further down the line, only to find that one literally mobbed. It was the first time of the day that I actually had an "oh Jesus I can't handle this" moment, so I ended up walking back to the first station. By that time the line had cleared some, and I only had to wait for 3 trains before I could get on to get back to Virginia.
KMTT has posted some of my video from the concert that day, which you can find here . Check out the very last video, that's the Garth Brooks portion of the concert.