I had watched Taking Woodstock, the charming movie based on the charming memoir about the guy who brought the Woodstock festival to Max Yasgur's farm despite the town freaking out, earlier that week; and much of the wonderful background in the latter half of the film is this stretch of an endless march of people walking to the festival.
So we walked, and walked, as any tourists might, except with the strange security that came from not needing directions. The flow of the crowd was enough to say where we should go. There were costumed people, there were people giving out signs for those who hadn't brought their own (either to take or just to hold up and get photographed with), there were people handing out flyers for their own side causes, there were people holding buttons with the circle-slash ``No'' sign over a kangaroo silhouette. This drew our attention. It was Amnesty International, protesting the Guanatanamo kangaroo courts. Good.
Remarkably despite the continuing flow of people (and this two hours before the scheduled start) the streets weren't completely blocked to car traffic, although crossing guards were getting slightly testy at pedestrians not paying attention to the signals. I thanked one guard as we passed, since I figured she wasn't going to be thanked quite enough for the hard day of work involved. Somewhere around the National Archives the streams of people assembled into this Amazon River-like mass, of people wielding signs proclaiming ``I LIKE PIE'' or something written in Futurama Alien-ish, or ``You can pry my apostrophe's from my cold, dead hand's'', ``Moderation or Death'', ``Paranoids For Fear'', and a universe of other such works.
I did check my phone a few times, as my father had said he'd try to call and we'd see if it were at all possible to meet up with him, my uncle, and whoever else from that party might be along. It would be impossible to specifically meet anyone you didn't link up with, but the real mystery was that my father hadn't called at all.
We got past the wall of port-a-potties and onto actual mall territory, somewhere just east of the Museum of Natural History/Air and Space Museum line of longitude, and not far off one of the giant screens set up to relay whatever was going on at the stage. I could even see the stage, although only the higher parts, above the crowd. For a while we tried walking forwards, getting into denser yet nearer crowds, but this wasn't a very good strategy. We weren't getting close enough to see things of interest but we were getting close enough to be too wrapped up in people. We walked back, away, hoping to get behind the giant screen's level, but by the time we reached that point security had cordoned off the line there. We were as far from a screen as we could get, really, unless we went to the enormous space sprawling toward the Washington Monument, but on the bright side we actually had enough space to walk around some, and in good moments get a line of sight toward one of the screens. (Here as often happens I had an advantage on bunny_hugger, who had a much harder time seeing anything.)
Much of the time before the rally started was dedicated to people taking photographs of each other's signs; bunny_hugger's friends were particularly popular with a ``VOLDEMORT/PALIN 2012'' sign the runaway winner in our vicinity. The other, ``I CAN HAS DEMOCRACEH?'', was liked, except by one elderly woman who had apparently never heard of LOLcats and seemed offended that we had introduced the concept to her life.
bunny_hugger had brought a rabbit puppet, and thought about making a sign along the lines of ``LEAVE WAR TO BUNNIES'' --- tying in to the fear side of things, as an important part of Stephen Colbert's character is his belief that Watership Down is factual and rabbits are at war --- but she'd not brought anything to make it. I did have my notepad, though, and I took a sheet off the perforated roll, folded it several times to make it stiff enough to pass for a sign, and made an appropriate protest sign including itself a little drawing of bunnies holding protest signs for that ``hey, no recursing'' effect. Unfortunately we didn't have anything to affix the sign to the puppet. With some searching of our bags we found ... well, we had some paperclips, including binder clips, and when we put all that together we could still not get the sign to stay affixed to the puppet.
As the starting moment approached, I realized I still hadn't heard from my father. And that I was at something really remarkable, something novel and different. I got out my iPad, and connected to Twitter, to send out my third tweet ever, announcing where I was and what I was doing. It would turn out a friend from college was also at the rally, although we missed each other.
Trivia: John J Pershing was jumped over 862 more senior officers when Theodore Roosevelt made him a brigadier general in 1906. Source: Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour,Joseph E Persico.
Currently Reading: Contested Waters: A Social History Of Swimming Pools In America, Jeff Wiltse.