Thursday, November 11, 2010

11th Hour, 11th Day, 11th Month

Today, 11 Nov, is Veteran's Day in the United States.  (Elsewhere in many other countries, it is Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.)  I implore you to immediately drop what you're doing and go thank a veteran in your life.  Hell, go out and find a random veteran to thank.  (Veterans in the DC area, you've been put on alert for my presence.)  Take him or her to Outback for a blooming onion.

The origin of the holiday not only in the United States but the world over is signing of the armistice to end the major hostilities of World War I.  For many other countries, such as the members of the former British Empire, France, Germany, and Belgium (can't forget those plucky Belgians), the day definitely has a large focus on the First World War.  For the United States, due to the somewhat limited engagement it had during the war, it doesn't ring too much with the national conscience.  Nevertheless, it was a major conflict that Americans gave their lives to.

Which brings me to the main driving point: Where is the memorial for the WWI veterans and casualties?  We've got one for WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.  What about the doughboys who went over with General John "Blackjack" Pershing?  What about the US Marines who got trapped in Belleau Wood?  Don't they deserve some sort of memorial among the other veterans?  Such was the concern raised by the last veteran of WWI in the United States.

Technically, there is a memorial to the veterans of WWI on the mall, but it's a bit off the beaten path.
Okay, really off the beaten path.
The DC War Memorial was erected in honor of its 26,000 citizens who served in WWI.  On it are the names of each life the conflict took from DC.  Its seclusion is unfortunate and yet poignant in the same way, a way of signifying the unfortunate status befallen upon many WWI veterans who never really got the legacy they deserved in the national consciousness.  I had never heard of the monument and found it by accident as I was moseying my way around the National Mall between the various other more notable memorials.

There has been a push to rededicate the memorial to honor all veterans and casualties of WWI.  Now while a part of me wishes they would have the same treatment the WWII memorial has been afforded, on the other hand, it would be nice to have more people at least know about the memorial dedicated to the people who served in WWI, if only to make sure no one forgets them.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Run Through the Jungle

Washington DC, being the nation's capital, will every so often attract hordes of people for some sort of event or another.  Sometimes I couldn't care less.  However, this weekend was the weekend of the Rally to Restore Sanity/March Keep Fear Alive, created and devised by Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, respectfully.  I thought to myself, "Okay, that sounds neat.  I can totally roll with that.  Jon Stewart is a funny guy from New Jersey and Steven Colbert is a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast, two things I can support.  What's there not to like?"  Oh lord, was I in for a surprise...

What I attended was something less than the experience my friends did to watch the Obama inauguration in the cold on a television.  I didn't get to even see the damned thing on a television.  Instead, I got to take pictures of clever signs.

The theme of the rally.
Now, granted, it wasn't that horrible of a time, as I was with friends as we milled around on the mall getting that exercise that cubicle jockeys are deprived.  Nevertheless, I'm sure we would've had a bit more fun sitting around watching it on the television with a few drinks.

The day started off innocently enough.  I woke up a bit rough from the night before, as a few friends had rolled into town and I decided to go out and hang out with them for a bit while they were in town.  So I was a bit weary as my friends gave me a friendly morning text and phone call.

After I straighted myself out and made sure I put on non-stained clothing, I trudged out my door and went to the metro station with my friends.  It was a bit packed, but I was fully expecting the crowd level at the station.  It was an event, and I've seen somewhat similar crowds around when there's some sort of other event in DC. I can deal.
I also found Waldo.  Hell yeah.
However, once we got on the metro, you could sense that things were going to be fairly tight, if you will.  It was pretty packed once we rolled through a couple of metro stops, such that people on the platform figured they'd just wait for the next train instead of getting a deep tissue massage on my abdomen from a stranger's elbow.
First person view of having a deep-tissue massage on the Metro.
So we finally get off at the metro in downtown DC and make our way slowly through the crowds and such to the rally area.
But I did see some helpful signs along the way.
We finally get there and start seeing the crowds pile up a bit.  Okay, perhaps more than a bit.
Picture definition of "crowds piling up a bit."
It got pretty crazy.  The crew of people and I tried valiantly to find some sort of spot in the horde worthwhile enough to camp out in and get a halfway decent view of the event.  We wandered our way up towards what we believed to be the front of the stage.  In reality, however, we had no real idea that was where we were headed.  I was perfectly happy to follow the crowd if it brought me to any combination of coffee, food, and napping cots.
I also would've have settled for a bowl of pho.
Despite our best efforts, we could not wade into a better vantage point.  Every point we tried getting a view of the actions, we were thwarted by a combination of distance and the sheer thickness of the crowds.  Nevertheless, we trekked on through the morass of humanity that flooded the mall.
"Morass of humanity."
We finally decided on a spot that was semi-close enough to the stage and a screen that it was almost tolerable.  (Key word there is "almost," if for some reason the italicized text doesn't show.)  However, we still were fairly far from the stage and thus could barely hear what was going on and could barely see the stage or the screen.

Now what really irked me while I was standing there was seeing the vast swatches of empty space in front of me prime for the taken.  Prime for the taking, that is, if there weren't metal fences in front of me giving me the internal organ deep tissue massage of a lifetime.  So while we were herded on the outside looking in, there was plenty of empty space ripe and ready for the taking...right in freaking front of us.
Empty space waiting to be utilized.
What the heck were they trying to do with that free space?  Now I heard the explanation that it was for just in case something happened that the appropriate authorities could get there in time.  Of course, I heard this explanation as I was trapped in between a crowd of at least eight or nine deep and a metal fence.  I'm sure the authorities would've had a fun time getting to me.  But of course, I was one of the commoners on the outside.  Why would they care?

It got fairly contentious.  One woman decided that the fence was not enough to hold her back and slipped through.  The people working the "concession stand" in front of us caught her and immediately called over the police.  Naturally, the crowd started booing and started voicing their displeasure.  One of the guys next to me started getting into it with the concession stand workers and it got fairly heated.  I do believe that the phrase "Stop snitching" was uttered.  I had to explain to one of the people with me what it meant.

We eventually decided the value of our time standing there and watching what we believe were Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert on the stage (it also could have been marionette puppets for all we know) wasn't worth it, so we decided to go around and look at signs.
I guess he gave up too.
Probably could've found the latter a bit easier that day.

The best view of the stage we got...from behind.
We eventually left and made a stop at one of my compatriot's relative's place for luggage.  After a brief respite to rest our tired legs and to wet our parched throats, we decided to hop on the Metro for what would be a fairly easy ride home to rest some more and prep for the Halloween festivities we would be attending that night.

Of course, it was anything but fairly easy.  Apparently it was a record-setting day for the Metro and Comedy Central declined to fork over $29,000 for extra service (while the Marine Corps Marathon organizers gladly paid that amount, mind you).  As such, we were stuck on the platform for an eternity, watching full trains of Metro cars roll by with little to no hope of squeezing ourselves and the luggage with us in there without creating a few broken ribs and earning the ire of a few people.  We also saw a few trains roll in that were not taking passengers as it was somehow their terminal stop.  The collective morale and willpower of the group was whittled down.  After a few of the full trains rolled by, there was a collective chant from our group of "USA! USA! USA!"  The Rally to Restore Sanity at this point became a rally to frustrate and irritate us.

One of the guys with us had the bright idea to go to a station down the line and board there.  After watching a few more full trains roll by, we take him up on his idea.  The plan works and we manage to get on a train four stops south of our original position.  At this point, I've been broken down.  I probably would've agreed to most anything if it got me home.  It got so bad that somewhere along the way, I exclaimed with glee "OH MY GOD IT'S GUMBY!" when I saw someone dressed as Gumby get on the Metro.  It was that sad.
I was ready to make him my lord savior at that point.
We manage to make it back home with enough time to grab some Chik-fil-a (god that was the best chicken sandwich I've ever had in my life), get some residual Halloween stuff, and get ready for the night's festivities.  I was just glad the whole ordeal was over and was ready to just forget the entire ordeal, including the four hours spent on the Metro.

And an hour and a half later, we were dressed in our Halloween costumes...back on the Metro.

While I could gripe on and on about the mishandling of the entire thing by the crack team at Comedy Central and the basic meaninglessness of the entire thing, all in all, it was a good time spent with some fun people and good friends.  I'm sure we all bonded as we herded from place to place while I made snide remarks and witty comments every few yards.

That or my friends are looking to push me on the Metro tracks on the way back from another major DC event.
They look like good sports, right?  Right guys?