Friday, January 30, 2009

Everything Matters - 1/30/09 - After Lunch Edition

Everything Matters – 1/30/09 – After Lunch Edition

The Republicans in Congress are crowing about the fact that while the Democratic stimulus passed the House, it did so without getting one Republican vote. And the upcoming vote in the Senate may not be any better. I think the problem is in the word stimulus itself. The Republicans are a party of old, white men. Words like stimulus, stimulate, stimulation don’t mean much to them any more. If they ever did. And the Democrats only compound this problem by calling their plan a “stimulus package”. I mean, c’mon, who is fucking Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky? Really, do you think Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah has ever gone down on a woman? Can Mormons even do that? And what about shiny-faced boy-Senator from South Carolina Lindsey Graham? You think he gets excited about baseball’s Spring Training and the words, pitchers and catchers report? Just what team does old Lindsey play for? So don’t call the Economic Stimulus Package program that any more. The Democrats would be smart to call it the Democratic Plan to Help, Aid and Save Widows, Orphans, Wounded Veterans, Puppies and Kittens. Let’s see any Republicans vote against that!

So the woman in California who gave birth to octuplets already had 6 kids. 6 would make sense if this were 200 years ago and we all lived on farms and we needed help with chores and farm work and some of those 6 might not make it. But it’s not 200 years ago, it’s 2009 and most of us don’t live on farms and we don’t need help with the chores and the harsh necessities of farm life and we have a thing called fertility drugs and for some reason this lady with 6 kids already was on them!!! I’d think if you have 6 kids and you want a whole bunch more that you probably are already on drugs, and the fertility kind wouldn’t jump out at me as to what you were taking.
So some genius doctor somewhere clearly doesn’t do his homework, like maybe ask, or even check, so, how many kids do you have right now, before we give you the pills? But now, she gets the pills and 8 babies take and she gives birth to octuplets. Now I don’t know about you but octuplets sounds like something from a horror movie. Or the American remake of a Japanese or Korean horror movie. Octuplets. Baby makes sense. One. Baby. Twins makes sense. Two. Happens with some regularity. But once you start getting into the “lets” at the end of the word – trip-lets, quadrup-lets, quintup- lets, it becomes more like “LET’S NOT DO THIS,

And the Republicans are having a field day with these octuplets in California. Seems the mother lives at home with her parents and her 6 other kids and the grandfather announced he’s going back to Iraq to get money for his giant new family. Look, we brought democracy to Iraq and she was free to come here and have 14 children, and that’s democracy in action and she has no job and no way of supporting those kids and maybe we should just shut up right now about democracy in action and freedom in Iraq. Never mind.

Boy do we need healthcare in the United States when the grandfather of the woman in California who just gave birth to octuplets, that’s 8 babies, has to GO BACK TO IRAQ FOR MONEY TO HELP SUPPORT HIS DAUGHTER’S FAMILY!!!

And seriously, how many of you when you first heard about the octuplets in California thought Bristol and Levi must be at it again!

Samantha Power just got a big job as a White House advisor on national security. The woman who shot to fame during the Democratic primary for calling Hillary Clinton a “monster” now gets to call the right people monsters – Donald Rumsfeld, the Republicans who think Guantanamo should be open forever, the Republicans who think torture is a good idea, Karl Rove, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannitty and Jack Bauer.

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell is worried that his party is becoming a “regional party”.
It already is. The red states once had a regional name. They were called the Confederate States of America.

Clearly, times have changed. If Lincoln were alive today he’d be a liberal Democrat.
He was the last Republican who believed in preserving the Union. Any Union.
The United States. The United Auto Workers. Any Union.

More than a week after the Inauguration and more and more stories are coming out about
how lax security was around the Obamas. I’m betting the Secret Service is looking at Barack and Michelle and thinking, “They look like they can handle themselves. I mean, they’re from Chicago. And uh, they are Black.”

The greatest take in renewable energy is a carnivorous lamp that cactches flies, feeds on them
and uses the energy generated through that to power LEDs. Already the Holocaust deniers are claiming that Auschwitz was simply ahead of its time – using Jews and gypsies to make the engines of the Third Reich run. Yes, the Holocaust denies have a new slogan – The Nazi Party: It wasn’t easy being Green.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Inauguration Day Memories - Part 5

1/20/09 Inauguration Day – Part 5

According to Jane’s, the British outfit that publishes yearbooks of military equipment and is looked upon as some sort of expert in the counting game – usually numbers of casualties, collateral damage, range of blood splatter and limbs lost per artillery shell/mine – 1.8 million of us were on the Mall in D.C. for the inauguration on 1/20/09. Nice of Jane’s to enter the “counting the living” business. Hopefully they weren’t just looking at photographs in their posh London offices thinking about which weapons would kill the most of those 1.8 mil most effectively.
I would think some sort of airborne pathogen but I’m no expert. As it was, on the Mall with 1.8 mil, even though it was cold, we were a living, breathing, hacking, spitting, sneezing Petri dish of
disease. I figure if I can make it through that day, in a weakened condition (no sleep, outdoors exposed to microbes and elements for far too long, etc.) then I can advertise myself in a Craigslist personal as having a gene pool to die for. Or to live for. I’d once read that people descended from folks who’d survived the Black Death had a gene mutation that left them immune to the AIDS virus. I think surviving the Mall on 1/20/09 is a close second – medically, biologically, and maybe even genetically. Among the hearty crew that day on what used to be grass were some remarkable folks. Sadly, I have lost their names and email addresses and I apologize for not getting the pictures I took of them and their loved ones to them, but I seem to remember taking it out of my fifth layer of pants, the XL blue (always representing liberalism) sweatpants as I made my way to the Metro on my way to 2AMYS, a great great Neapolitan pizza place in DC out in the NW near American University. Truly great pizza. And sorry for the lack of pictures sent right to your homes, fellow citizens, but here’s a quick rundown of who you were and what you meant to me:
Most meaningful was the black woman in her eighties (?) from Indiana known as Doctor J.
She’d been a teacher for years, all the way up to the university level, and she was there with I think 4 generations of her family to bear witness and bask in the light of history. She was feisty,
learned and battle-tested. She’d had a cross burned in her front yard years ago and figured that the true test of time being on her side was this day and this place. She was straightforward in her thinking and her speech and her gaze. Her voice neither trembled nor wavered. She was strong. She had to be. She was there for the millions who couldn’t be. Her teeth had those thick metal bands holding them tightly to the next, the sign of old-time dentistry. Her lower lip stuck out when she spoke and she looked you straight in the eye. She was mighty impressive. I told her how proud it made me to meet her and to be there with her. She very matter-of-factly said that it was equally important that people who looked like me be there as well. I quoted Sam Cooke, one of my all-time favorite singers – “It’s been a long time comin’, but I know, a change gonna come.” She gave me a quick hug and a peck on the cheek and I felt like a million bucks. I was hugged by history.
Met a young Hispanic single mother from California. She was in her early thirties with an 11 year old daughter. She was there filming with a crew from her media studies dept. from Pitzer College. She was the future. She was getting a B.A. and then going on for a Master’s and then law school to fight for father’s rights in child custody cases. Didn’t ask what her personal connection was but I was convinced by her drive and determination that she would succeed and make a difference. And her daughter would learn from her example and make a difference as well in her life. Again, it’s always in the eyes. Her eyes were clear and smart and strong and had that flash of the always learning, always questioning. She would ask a question of someone, point the camera, and then just let them talk. She let people be people. And she had a permanent smile on her face through the cold and through the hours we spent together in that small space. Terrific. When I taught in LA I always told the Mexican American girls that they were the future. Nicole Aragon, you are the future. You are also the present and I salute you.
Met a young, 25ish, South Carolina woman who’d swum competitively in college and wasn’t bothered by the cold since she’d been getting up at 5 in the pre-dawn dark for years to plunge into freezing pools of water. South Carolina is as Republican as it gets. South Carolina is the only Southern state that SENT NO SOLDIERS WHATSOEVER to fight for the Union in the Civil War. South Carolina is a tough place to be a progressive Democrat. But she is. Not so sure her boyfriend is as he’s pursuing the dollar. Within minutes I was telling her to leave him, that his soulless pursuit of Mammon would always be an obstacle in their impending marriage but she laughed and said no, he was a good person. But hey, at least her blue vote cancels out his red one. She’d lost her job teaching swimming at a YWCA somewhere in SC but she also had a perpetual smile on. The cold, the hours, the closeness, none of it mattered. We were there, we were together and Obama was our President. To quote the Cube, “It was a good day.” Jamie Adamson and the very lucky Taylor McFadden, do great things and stay progressively liberal and liberally progressive.
Met two military wives who driven up from one of the many military bases in and around DC. Could’ve been SC, NC, VA, MD, anywhere. They’d brought their 3 kids, all boys, all restless on the dirt half the time boys, up to witness history. They were late 20s, hot and lively. They bounced from foot to foot to fight the cold and they wore matching red ski parkas. Baseball caps, hair in pony-tails. They were MILFS and they knew it. They talked about how the people back at the base thought they were crazy for coming up to this. They knew tons of folks who’d voted for McCain. But they also knew how dangerous Palin was- they said they were smarter than her and they shouldn’t be President! They also said that keeping one’s own house in order should be a top priority for anyone seeking the Presidency and with Palin’s daughter getting knocked up that alone should disqualify Mom. They loved Obamas’s family unit and remarked just how happy they all were. Not seemed to be. Were. In reality. They were Moms, they could tell.
Loved them.
Family of 5 who’d come up from Georgia. Mom, dad, 3 kids – 2 girls 6 aand 10 and a boy about 12. All bundled up, never complained once about the cold. The dad and I talked about being there. He was black and he knew the south. He’d heard all the stories growing up from parents and grandparents about the way it used to be. Said it was lot different now and LOTS DIFFERENT TODAY. He couldn’t stop smiling either. The two girls weren’t all that interested but the boy was upset that he couldn’t see anything so during Obama’s swearing in I looked to the dad, he kind of nodded and I told the boy to hold his arms stiff at his sides with his elbows tucked. I lifted him up and told him to put his feet on my thighs and lean out like those carvings on the front of old sailing ships. He did so and I was able to hold him like that for about 15 seconds. Maybe. Kids are all muscle and muscle weighs more than fat and it was not easy. But he lit up and yelled out “WOW, I can see everything.” And for those 15 seconds (maybe) everything was right with his world. I put him down (dropped him is more like it, but he landed on his feet) and his Dad gave me the most real, true best handshake I’ve had in years. Not dap, not a high five but a real man’s handshake. I know it sounds silly but I will never forget that handshake at that Inauguration.
There were others. There were the seeming dozens of older black women dressed up in their fur coats. This was not a day for PETA protests. This was a day to strut, to show off and to be noticed and those black women in their fur coats were doing the job! There were the folks waving American and Canadian flags. There were the people who broke out the big plastic garbage bags as soon as Obama’s speech was over and started collecting trash. There was the mother and son who smiled so nicely for my camera. There were older white lefties who still believed in America. There were 1.8 million of us, dressed like the crowd at a January playoff game for the Steelers at Heinz Field, crying and smiling, smiling and crying, overjoyed and joyous, singing through the tears and knowing we were part of something magical that had actually happened in our lifetime. And we were there and we were going to tell everyone and we were never going to forget it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Inauguration Day - Part 4

1/20/09 Inauguration Day – Part 4

So it’s approaching 11:30 a.m. and I’ve been up for 8 HOURS ALREADY AND OUTSIDE FOR SEVEN and maybe it’s in the low 20s and amazingly I’m starting to sweat under the many many layers I’m wearing. And people are still smiling and people are still happy and the look and the talk that is shared is invariably a look or a mention of CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW FUCKING GREAT THIS IS AND HOW GREAT IT IS THAT WE ARE HERE TO SEE IT AND SHARE IN IT?! And the hours don’t matter and the cold doesn’t matter and nothing matters now except that Joe Biden is being sworn in as the Vice President and it makes sense cause if something were to happen to the PEOTUS in the few minutes before his swearing in we’d still have a President and the business of government could go on functioning as efficiently as it always has. Kind of dark and kind of scary but I imagine that’s why they do it v.p. first. And forget that bit about the business of government functioning efficiently. Yeah, that’s why we have no reasonable energy policy or no realistic health policy and every other policy we don’t have thanks to 28 years of Reagan-engineered deregulation and dismantling of government.
Anyway, joe’s sworn in, it all goes smoothly and associate justice john paul stevens does the job well, a precursor to the piss-poor job coming up. Stevens was appointed by Gerald ford and he’s been an okay justice, usually putting the law first and thus helping people. As opposed to the current chief justice, corporate punk/shill john Roberts, whose moment of infamy will come soon.
And then rick warren, the homophobic, evolution-denying pastor of a monolithic megachurch in southern California is up to deliver the invocation. It’s a prayer and it pisses me off. warren is the opposite of jesus in so many ways – he’s obese, he hates the poor and downtrodden, and he’s a right-wing ideologue. Jesus, had he been walking the Mall today would be the painfully thin (think Ramones thin), lover of the poor and downtrodden and a far-left, ultra liberal, flaming progressive. Just read what he had to say and you know he’d have a show on MSNBC on each night at 10, after the two hour block of keith and Rachel, olbermann and maddow, followed by Christ. Hardball with chris matthews, countdown with keith olbermann, the Rachel maddow show, and following all that, He says, she says, Jesus Says. I am so there. Sorry, david shuster, but this is the JC we’re talking about.
Anyway, rick warren talks interminably with a complete lack of style and in a crowd of 1.8 million, many of whom are of color, that is unforgivable. Nobody is listening and we are getting colder for the first time and then he does two things that make me want to separate church and state right then and right there for all those yahoos who think the founding fathers were Christians (they were deists!) and that america is a Christian nation (it isn’t. read the fucking constitution!).
He gives us 5 names of jesus!!! He gives us emmanuel, he gives us yehoshuah, he gives us Hay-sus, and I don’t even know what the other two are and I’m thinking about that line that the devil has many names and here’s fat, boring rick warren giving us 5 names of his god or son of or whatever (who exactly do these fellas pray to and where exactly does jesus fit into that pantheon they’ve created to appeal to those pagans two thousand years ago???) and if jesus has many names maybe he’s, you know, like the other guy… hmmmmmmmmm? Bet they won’t be talking about that one at liberty or bob jones or any of those other phony baloney colleges that actually give degrees in this stuff.
Anyway, the many names of jesus isn’t even the best part of his bit. It’s when he spits out in some weird way the names of the obama daughters that he hits the hights. SA-SHA!!!
And MA-LI-A!!! he spits out SA-SHA! Like he’s the drunken m.c. at some strip club near LAX and SA-SHA is the latest in a long line of Ukrainian teenage virgins who came to this country to become doctors but needed to make some coin so here they are stripping, prior to hooking, prior to being dissolved in the acid bath for wanting to return home cause stripping and hooking is not pre-med at UCLA. I’m convinced rick warren was an M.C. at a strip club and I want to hear the tape of him introducing DES-TINNY!!! CHAS-TITTY!!! SA-SHA!!!!!
And then it’s Obama’s turn to put his hand on the bible and he’s got lincoln’s bible and please, let’s not get into any symbolism there, and john Roberts, that dickwad of a chief justice, blows the whole ceremony by blowing the words to the swearing in. he tried to memorize the what, 5 or 6 sentences and couldn’t do it and right-wing nutjobs all over immediately thought the swearing it was invalid and I said loudly, “in the new york city public schools, in like the 3rd grade, we all had to memorize the entire preamble to the constitution. What were we, like 9, 10 maybe? And we all did it. And here’s the chief justice, the corporate apologist, a man who probably blew it cause he was never this close to a black man (okay, half black) in his entire life that he got nervous and no, Clarence Thomas, the supreme court justice WHO HAS NOT ASKED ONE QUESTION YET IN ALL HIS YEARS ON THE COURT, does not count cause I’m sure he speaks to no one and no one speaks to him. Yeah, so Roberts blows it and Roberts blows and obama’s the president and people are smiling and clapping and tears are streaming down everybody’s cheeks and we’re happy and history has been made and it is truly a wonderful moment and a wonderful sight and a great thing to have been there.
Soon, the people I shared this moment with………..

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Inauguration Day memories - Part 3

1/20/09 Inauguration Day – Part 3

So it’s 9:15 and the gates are opened at last. National Guard troops on the other side. Full cammy outfits, those cool berets, they all look like college kids or Costco employees. But they’re in charge and it’s time to listen. The crowd becomes a giant ketchup bottle, squeezing out 8 folks at a time before the squeezing stops. Amazing. Thousands of people pushing and only 8 at a time are going through. Magic. We all have numerous layers on so asking us to open our jackets is kind of absurd. There’s no pat down, they barely go through the backpacks. They ask us to take out any metal, anything with tin foil, and then we’re through aome sort of metal detection thing and handed back our keys and belts and metallic objects. All very cursory. Then I realize why – we’re going to be so far from Obama and the ticketed dignitaries so even if we did have something dangerous, WE’D ONLY BLOW UP EACH OTHER. REGULAR CITIZENS, EVERYDAY PEOPLE. ACCEPTABLE LOSSES. I started feeling like the folks killed by those drone missile we have up over Waziristan. We claimm to maybe perhaps to have gotten an Al Qaeda operative but in doing so we also killed 5 kids and 4 women and a farmer and a goatherd and the local poppy grower. I feel like them. I think we need to stop using drone missiles and killing people we’re not sure we should be killing to maybe kill the one person we want to kill. I think the problem is WANTING TO KILL ANYONE. THAT’S REVENGE AND THAT’S THE PROBLEM IN THE MIDDLE EAST IN A NUTSHELL. If we can get past revenge and towards diplomacy and talking and reconciliation, hey, who knows, we may one day beat our drone missiles into plowshares. And at this point, plowshares are better than shares of Intel or Microsoft.
Anyway, back to DC. Through the National Guard checkpoint. Oh, and while were’ talking about the Guard, a few things. When there’s a hurricane or a tornado, I love that the National Guard, like the Red Cross, is there to help. That’s their job and they do it well. But far too many young Guards people have been killed in Iraq and that’s a shame. They didn’t sign up for tour after tour in that stupid, illegal immoral war. They should be helping victims here at home of natural disasters and then going back to their lives, right here at home. And another thing, when I go to the movies, I don’t want or need the jingoistic bullshit of that horrible song Citizen Soldier by that horrible group 3 Doors Down which is just a commercial for poor kids to join up and be killed. Every time I’m at the movies and that comes on I try to go outside and make a phone call rather than be subjected to the false patriotism of that song and its images. And when it’s over I always yell out the same thing – ‘BRING ‘EM HOME.” Yes, I am the crazy guy, the lone voice in the back of the theater, yelling out BRING ‘EM HOME after the images of soldiers killing redcoats and soldiers helping fallen comrades and giving out blankets and toys to little parentless Middle-eastern kids (parentless because we killed their parents!!!). So fuck you 3 doors down and fuck citizen soldier and war is not like some stupid movie, it is real and young people and civilians get killed and we don’t need 3rd rate rock acts and some photoshop stormy skies to help sell war. It’s bad enough that people have to sit through an Adam Sandler movie. They don’t need this crap added to that. The only song I want is that dancing popcorn and soda anthem, Let’s go out to the Lobby song. And one more time, BRING ‘EM HOME.
So it’s 9:30 and I’m through the checkpoints and I’m headed the Mall with thousands of other happy happy citizens of these United States, hopefully now bluer than ever. But of course they’re not letting us go to that furthest east part of the mall for the general public, the closest part of the mall nearest the Capitol steps where you don’t need tickets. No, now they’re rerouting us to the Mall at 12th street. That’s the second of the two big blocks of the Mall open to the public. Well, nothing to do but follow the crowd and we head towards 12th street. It’s light now and the big screens are set up around the Mall so you can see what’s happening. And we’ve got more room than we all expected. The New York Times had an article about how little room we’d all have; how we’d all have trouble turning or breathing or moving and that wasn’t the case. We didn’t have room to put down a blanket and catch some rays (it was 13 degrees now) but we could move without elbowing the person next to you and without catching whatever disease they had. I was convinced I would end up, a few days later for incubation purposes, with every disease known to man – dengue fever, ebola, the flu, a cold, typhus, cold sores, whatever – because we were going to be packed in so tightly and most people don’t know what it means to sneeze or cough and cover their mouths and people tend to spit in public and I figured this was some sort of weird Petri dish for illness but I think the cold killed most of the germs and here it is Saturday evening and I haven’t had to call the CDC in Atlanta yet cause I have symptoms that include the word “buboes”. Knock on wood. I think we’re all going to be okay. And that was the overriding sentiment on the Mall. Everyone was smiling, everyone was happy, and we were freezing and uncomfortable and somehow we all felt and knew that it was all okay and it was all going to be okay. Maybe not tomorrow but the optimism that bubbled up through that crowd was palpable. You could feel the choclatey Obama-goodness through all the layers of clothing. Hope is real.
And on the big screens they showed highlights of the Concert at the Lincoln Memorial and people sang along with Bruce and Pete Seeger doing This Land is Your Land and they had the words on the screen for the hearing impaired and I thought of Garrett Morris and there we were singing at the top of our lungs. And I loved bruce’s intro of the song where he called it “maybe the best song ever written in this country” and maybe he didn’t even say maybe. It is a great song and Seeger and Springsteen even sang the verses which said negative things about railroad bulls and private property and churches and god, that song was wonderful. And they showed Bono and then they went live and there was the occasional open mic and you caught little bits of “Hey, how you doing.” From the VIP section. And the occasional announcer voice saying, “Congressman Eric Cantor” and that got boos from the more politically astute in the crowd who know his as the obstructionist Rethuglican he is. And we’re approaching the magic hour of 11:30 when we know the VP is going to be sworn in. And we’re all smiling and we’re all talking and we’re all sharing and it is so real and the day is so raw and it is life as its finest. More tomorrow.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Inauguration Day memories - part 2

1/20/09 Inauguration Day – Part 2

So I’m at the Glenmont Metro station by 4:15 a.m. on Tuesday morning. The drive over was what you’d expect at 4 in the morning – you’re the only car on the road and for a brief moment you think you’re in an M. Night Shyamalan movie or a Danny Boyle zombie movie and everyone is dead and you’re the only one left but that’s how you felt during the 8 years of Bush and that’s going to be officially over at noon today so time to get hopeful, get happy and get to the National Mall for the inauguration. Parking’s a snap even though the bottom level was fairly filled. A handful of people headed to the escalators to the Metro. Lots of “Hope you got lots of layers” and “What a great day” are exchanged. I’m down the escalator and on the Metro before I even have a chance to feel just how cold it is. (Travel note – I was smart enough to buy my Metro pass the day before in the late afternoon. The lines then were 12-15 deep at every ticket machine and I wasn’t about to first start digging for change on Tuesday morning.) The Metro was waiting there for me and there were plenty of seats. So glad the folks I was staying with lived near the end/beginning of the line. Sat next to two black women – one was striking, early 40s, Lena Horne’s gene pool with a no-nonsense air about her. Since I talk to everyone I started talking with her. She had flown out from Bakersfield and had scored tickets from a Republican Congressman who her next-door neighbor knew personally. She was a Corrections Officer and lived in an upper-middle class neighborhood. She was heartsick over the housing/foreclosure crisis and had seen what it had done to many folks in her neighborhood. But she was also big on personal accountability – banks and mortgage companies were wrong, but so were the people who took the loans to get their piece of the dream. She had worked hard her entire life and had earned everything that had come her way. And she knew that people needed help. So as tough as she was, she wanted government to help, even if it meant helping folks who’d done the wrong thing, in her estimation. The crowd in the Metro car was predominantly black (I counted 2 white faces, mine and one other) and she couldn’t get over that “a middle-aged white man” had driven 500 miles to be at the inauguration. I told her about my Bronx background and how I had grown up with diversity and how it had helped form me and my beliefs and values and how I had loved it. Told her I had gone to college in Harlem at City College. Mentioned a few of my favorite lines – mainly how post-war American culture is all Jews and Blacks (movies, music, books, Broadway, et al) and that’s the culture that was transmitted all around the world and we should be damn proud that today is the political highpoint of that cultural shift from “old white men” to ethnics and people of color. Told her I had to be there to beat witness, to feel the energy, to be counted among the thousands who were there. Getting up early was nothing. Being cold was nothing. Being generally uncomfortable for hours was nothing. A bi-racial President who looked like most of the world; a former Constitutional Law professor who inspired with words he actually wrote; a young man, a family man, who preached compassion and accountability – that was something. And I had to be there to see it just as much as she had to be there to see it. She
said I was the first white man she’d ever talked “race” with. I said I preferred “ethnic” since it was white people who put my people in cattle-cars. George Bush is a white guy. Miami Steve, Little Steven from the E-Street band and the Sopranos, he’s ethnic. Pacino, ethnic. Dick Cheney, white guy. Phillip Roth, ethnic. Donald Rumsfeld, white guy. When I told her that I wanted to be judged by the content of my character and not by the non-pigmentation of my skin, she laughed. The announced her stop – Judiciary Square – for the ticketed folks. We hugged. I couldn’t resist. I said a little too loudly, “See? Black and white can get along.” She laughed. Very few others did. Didn’t matter. It wasn’t even 5 in the morning and it was already a great day.
Next stop was Chinatown, my stop. I’d been reading for days which Metro stops would be closed, and which would get me to where I wanted to go on the Mall and Chinatown was it.
To me, for a city to be world-class it has to have a Chinatown. Because this means it has Chinese food. (This law of mine may only apply to Jews since the Old Testament story of manna from heaven, which we all know today as Kung Pao Chicken.) And DC has a Chinatown and it lets you out on 7th Street which was perfect cause I was going to head down 7th Street to the checkpoint. This would lead me right to the first part of the National Mall open to the public and right behind the last ticketed area. Things were looking good as I left the Metro and hit the street. And then the reality of bitter cold, darkness, and crowds hit. There were thousands of people out. Everybody was bigger and bulkier than they might otherwise have been because we all had layer upon layer on. We looked like the world’s worst shoplifters – simply putting on all the clothing we were stealing and then trying to walk out of the store inconspicuously. I had on the following: On my legs – thin REI thermals, another pair of REI thermals over that, a pair of dungarees, fleece pants over those, and XL sweatpants over everything. On my feet – a pair of thermal socks, insulated boots and handwarmers in the boots. My legs were warm. My feet were toasty.
Up top I had on long-sleeved REI thermals, long-sleeved Kurt Cobain style thermals over that, long-sleeved Obama Inauguration Day T-shirt that I’d gotten for donating money to and I was wearing “to represent”, hooded Miami Dolphins sweatshirt that I’d bought in Vegas years before (I hate the Dolphins, but the colors were good), blue (representing again) Patagonia fleece, and a Murphy Brown jacket that came to me somehow from my ex-wife. A pair of gloves from snowboarding and a thermal headband from REI and a Denver Broncos knit cap. I was representing Blue America, NFL America, TV America, recreational America, and consumer America and I was warm and it felt good.
At 7th Street I was in the first group of thousands that were smashed together at the first checkpoint. Some of those concrete highway barriers were there to guide us into lanes but there were too few to actually do that and we quickly became this giant amorphous mass. Friendships were made, vows were exchanged, babies were born – it was that intimate and it went on for hours. I talked to a couple from Cameroon who were thrilled to be there. They kept apologizing for their English but I told them that they spoke better English than our departing President and they laughed. None of that Japanese girl hand to the face hiding their laughter. They laughed deep and rich and real and I told them I wanted to be a stand-up comic in Cameroon because if audiences laughed like they just did, that had to be the bext feeling in the world. They said they didn’t know of any Cameroon stand-ups and I said that’s because you’ve got other things on your mind, like will you be eaten by crocodiles today and they laughed again. Note to self: look into plane fare to Cameroon and possibility of opening up a comedy club. Far inland. Not near any rivers. No shirt, no shoes, no crocodiles.
And we waited. And we shifted our weight from foot to foot, doing the freezing, god I have to pee dance. But nobody was peeing. The port-o-sans were all behind the checkpoints and they were probably already filthy. I think they’re filthy when they come off the assembly line. I think the folks who make them shit in them and pee in them to test them and then don’t clean them cause they’re port-o-sans and that’s what they’re supposed to do. Note to self: Never ever use portable toilet.
Met two women in their 60s who come in with their church group on a bus from Ohio. One had on a faux mink coat and the other had a Cleveland Browns jacket. They actually passed a small flask back and forth to take off a bit of the chill and I said that their Church must be the greatest Church ever. The woman in the Browns jacket said, “If you’re a Browns fan you always have the flask ready.” I loved them.
Helicopters kept passing overhead with their searchlights trained on the crowd. When a young guy next to me said, “WTF are they looking at?”, I answered, “A shitload of alleged perpetrators.” Huge laugh. Note to self: Start doing stand-up again but only in Black clubs.
Hours passed. Talked to everyone around me. The crowd was like those movies they show in bio class of the paramecium – the pseudopods reaching out, oozing like jelly, the amoeba body following. When someone moved, turned or shifted, the people around you all changed. You were no longer looking left and talking to the Cameroonian couple; you were now facing behind you and talking to the college kids wearing the yellow Presidential Inauguration Conference headbands. Talked to one id with a BY Terriers hockey hat. He played club hockey and we talked hockey for a while. Only natural on an pre-dawn 11 degree morning. As a hockey dad it was very natural. He and a friend of his from Penn State (God, how I hate Big 10 football) and I talked politics. Great to hear young people with articulate, progressive views. And they were with a girl from Florida who was wearing ballet slippers. When I pointed out the fact that it was 11 degrees and her feet would probably fall off before Biden was sworn in she said “I’m from Florida.” I said, “I’m from Earth but I know that the Moon has no oxygen so I’d better bring my own if I go. Did you ever hear of a little thing we call WINTER?!” She said her feet were already freezing and I told her to collect as much newspaper as she could. And somehow wrap them around your feet. I made a homeless reference and a Valley Forge reference and she actually said “Ewww.” I said she could be a slave to fashion and have no feet or she could wrap her feet in newspaper and maybe live to dance again one day. Last I saw her the two college boys were picking up newspaper for her after we got through the checkpoints. College guys will do anything to get laid, even if it means fighting homeless people for insulating material.
7 o’clock came, the checkpoints were supposed to open and we were supposed to be on our way to the Mall. Nothing. No word from the National Guard behind the metal gates.
7:30, still nothing. Crowd chanting “Let us in.” No response.
8:00, and yet more nothing. People on cellphones are finding out that other checkpoints are letting people in. WTF?! My plan to be in that first big block of free public space on the Mall, behind the last ticketed group, was in danger of failing.
8:30, I get a call on my cell. A friend, Jerry Ramirez WHO HAD FLOWN IN THAT MORNING FROM L.A. AND HAD LANDED AT DULLES AT 6:15 OR SO WAS ALREADY ON THE MALL!!! WTF???!!! He had flown in on the red-eye, landed, taken a cab to the Metro and Metroed to the south side of the Mall AND HE WAS ALREADY ON THE MALL!!! WTF??!!
9:00, still nothing and then sometime after 9:15 they opened the gates. 8 at a time. Great. 8 at a time, 2 gates, thousands of us, yeah, I’ll get to the Mall sometime in February.

Inauguration Day Memories 1/20/09 - Part 1

1/20/09 Inauguration Day

The alarm on my cellphone went off at 3:25 a.m. Luckily for this techno-peasant, there was a 12 year old at the house I was staying at in Silver Spring, MD who was able to set the alarm for me, otherwise I’d have had to stay up all night to make sure I got to the Glenmont Metro by 4:15 to assure myself of parking. Glenmont is the last stop on the Red Line and that was good news since it meant I’d probably get a parking spot and a seat. At 4 in the morning if you can’t have a warm bed and a roaring fire, a parking spot and a seat on the train are a close second. Why 4 in the morning? The media said that all Metro parking lots would be filled by 5:30, the latest. I wasn’t taking any chances. I’d driven the almost 500 miles up from Asheville, NC the day before and I wasn’t about to be driving around a strange city in the pre-dawn looking for parking. So 3:25 it was. Had a few sips of water, 3 mini-donuts left from the trip up and a handful of pumpkin seeds. Went to the bathroom any number of times. Felt like a child – nothing was happening. But I wasn’t leaving until something did. I was going to be standing at the National Mall with more than a million others. In the cold. The freezing cold. It was 11 degrees at 3:25 a.m. Not much different at 4. There might’ve been 6 thousand portable toilets on the Mall but there was no way I was going to be using any of them. I’ve seen Trainspotting. The Worst Toilet in Scotland. I figured any Andy Gump in DC on Tuesday had to be that bad. Or worse. So, yeah, I was going to be cold. I was going to be hungry. And it was going to be great.

Goodbye to Bush - 1/23/09

Ariana called him "delusional". Chris Mathews called him a tabula rasa. I call him the beady-eyed son of privilege who championed class-war with tax cuts for the wealthy while New Orleans drowned, while Iraq burned, while Afghanistan festered, while government fulfilled Reagan's prophecy and became the enemy, while religious superstition and scientific falsification ran wild, and yes, while the Twin Towers came down in New York due to his negligence, ignorance and his C-student unwillingness to read Bin Laden poised to strike in US. He was the American political legacy who gave inbred European aristocracy and further removed and further inbred ancient Egyptian nobility a bad name. He was the college cheerleader who was never good enough to play in the game who took his Dad's bat and balls and simply made the game up from his gut - spilling the guts of countless thousands on the way. He was the lifelong failure who showed us all what a big man he was. He was the least introspective man of his time. He was the least curious man of his time. He actually said last night - "You may not agree with some tough decisions I have made. But I hope you can agree that I was willing to make tough decisions." It was your job, asshole. You want praise for doing your job?! You entered the scene without a hint of class or grace. You leave having learned nothing, without a clue as to the lives led by most people on the planet, wallowing in self-pity and still not a hint, a glimmer, of class or grace. Go back to Texas, the hate-crime capitol of the United States. Fitting. Clear more brush, don't clear brush. But go. And go fuck yourself while you're going. And take the smirk off your face, finally, once and for all. You always were the joke. Go take a long look in a mirror at that smirk. It's held in place, frozen in time, a President Sardonicus for the ages. And while you're smirking, go fuck yourself one more time. Think of it as one more tough decision.