Monday, December 12, 2005

Gravel crunches under my feet, a pebble is in my shoe, God I hate DC. I’ve been to the National Mall before, many times, in fact, but this was a new experience: the National Book Fair. Tents line the Mall and huge pavilions are full of authors, readers and books for sale. It seems odd they’d choose the same weekend as a rather large anti-war demonstration, but such is bureaucracy I suppose, they never get things quite right.
The Mall itself is occupied mostly by older people and families with young children. Characters from books like, Arthur frolic about with kids as people pass by with their free posters and C-SPAN “Book-TV” tote-bags. Rain starts to fall, and quickly the posters become umbrellas as well as advertisements. I make my way down to the end of the Mall and sit on the Capitol Steps. I see DC before me: white, neoclassical buildings and monuments springing from the ground, museums lining the mall, and people. This is one of the few things I respect about the city, its drawing power. Washington never seems so complete as when there’s a crowd, the large promenades are given meaning by the masses, who voice their thoughts and opinions.
I stroll down the Mall again, this time I make it all the way to the Washington Monument, where a free concert is being held to promote the protest. I sat in the grass and listened to Joan Baez strum her guitar and carry us all back to the sixties. A threw up a peace sign and found myself on one of the huge monitors for a moment, what a shock, a tie-dye t-shirt and a peace sign and now I’m a hippie on national television.
Another band was making its way onstage as I walked off to the Metro. The system was packed, people wanted to know how to get to Greenbelt, where nearly every bus was parked, and the Metro employees looked more than a little miffed at having to tell seemingly every middle-aged woman with a fanny pack that their stop was at the very end of the Green line, as noted on every system map. It took me fifteen minutes to get from the mezzanine down to the trains, cutting through tourists and trying my best to disassociate myself from them; I guess this is the price I pay for freedom of speech.

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