January 2009

Anyone who knows me knows I love nothing more then some kicking street art. So, when I saw the following last night, to say I melted is a bit of an understatment:

Wicked awesome.


So there’s been this big storm that you may or may not be aware of. Out here in Boston, it wasn’t actually too bad, except for the bucketing rain that turned the fresh snow into inches and inches of mucky sleet, and then the freezing of that sleet overnight. This morning, I myself ate it on some black ice trying to get to work. But at least I’m not this poor guy (shown here in midswoop):

Check out the full sequence at Boston.com. Ouch.

I hope that the irony of that safety cone in the background isn’t lost, by the by.

(Thanks to Liz for the link!)

…Which is to say, concerts in the Boston area that I’m gonna be at, and that you should be at too.

Murder by Death

February 7th, at the Middle East Downstairs. I adore this band. Their brand of pseudo-country rock can only be described one way– music to drink whisky to. At this show they’ll be performing the entirety of the albums “Who Will Remain and What Will be Left of Them?” and “Red of Tooth and Claw”. Twill be an epic site indeed.

Los Campesinos!

Febuary 13th, at the Paradise, with Titus Andronicus. These guys are loud, mercurial, and just a ton of fun. I’m gonna go ahead and say: expect to move your ass at this show.

Alela Dane

Febuary 26th, an the Paradise, with Blitzen Trapper. Technically, Dane’s opening for the aforementioned band, but I know why I’m gonna be there. Girl has just the kind of rural, spirited pipes I love.

Cut Copy

March 22nd, at the House of Blues, with Matt&Kim and Knightlife. I know I know, the House of Blues. I don’t like it either. But how can you say no to such a funky, electronic, eclectic, and above all Australian bunch of gents?

The Mountain Goats

March 25th, at the Somerville Theater. Yeah, that’s right. And it’s apparently supposed to just be John Darnielle with (very, very) limited back up. If you adore early 90’s indie superheros the way I do, I have a feeling you don’t even need to be reading this right now.

So I received this in the mail a couple months ago, and finally got around to scanning it for your viewing pleasure.

I can’t imagine an issues I care less about, and the amount of passion the author obviously has for this cracks my shit up.

First page of the diatribe.

First page of the diatribe.

I’m a little unsure what exactly the “wacko division” of the Las Vegas Mob has to do with anything – apparently, trying to get someone to go all Oswald on the president has a serious link to fixing sports games. But, OMG there’s POISONERS and CAR THEIVES! I’m glad it only took this guy 5 years to figure out that the mob employs undesireables.

Second page of the diatribe.

Second page of the diatribe.

So, um, really? It’s totally time to stop the mob. They have contacts at airports that will enable them to poison you better. Also, I love this metric for the cars of the CIA: white for good, black for evil, red for control, green for money, blue for sanity, and yellow for minor sin. Are the colors assigned according to what the CIA is investigating? Or to the nature of the operative? “Hey Chuck, I saw you leave the bar with that girl…looks like you’re in the Yellow car today!”

Third page of the diatribe.

Third page of the diatribe.

We absolutely should stock the gaming commission with ex-Navy SEALS. Why has no-one thought of this before?

So, in conclusion, sure, mob activity is not good and gambling fixing isn’t a great thing either. But, as someone who doesn’t gamble, go to Vegas or particularly care about the decisions that athletes make behind closed doors, I can’t really take this thing seriously. Not even factoring in the healthy dose of paranoia and just weirdness evident.

However, what a great idea for an Unknown Armies game!

Walking down 11th Street, all the way from T to the mall, it all began to come together. The closer we came to the Mall that bitterly cold morning, the more people there were. It was if the entire district, the entire region, had been tipped into a funnel, and once we got to 3rd and Louisiana, where the first entrance for Silver Ticket holders (that oh so elite group of scores of thousands), it became clear that that funnel had a very small spout, indeed.
We circumnavigated the Capital, making a second approach from the South—but again, the crowd could not be escaped. One line we walked past was over 7 blocks long, wrapping and writhing around buildings and blocks. Absurd, yes, but better then the unorganized masses that were seen elsewhere.
Once we finally broke through, we were rewarded with the opportunity to wait in the cold (and goddamn, was it ever cold) for two hours before the ceremony started. The weather wasn’t so bad when you moved, when you had to push through crowds. But just standing there, waiting, awkwardly shifting from foot to foot, it began to take it’s toll. Later, once it was time to disperse, I could barely walk. My feet were frozen stiff, and the joints in my hips stiffer, and I got a pretty good idea of what arthritis is like—or, at least, close enough for me to not want anything to do with it.
So we stood, and watched the jumbo-tron, with the Capital dome poking tentatively over the screen. There were celebrity sightings (Jay-Z! Beyonce! P Diddy! Dustin Hoffman?) to precede the politician sightings, and the crowd passed the time watching them, floating larger then life—as always—above us. A few dignitaries drew catcalls and boos: Lieberman, Cheney, Bush—sad, I thought. This should be a day of pomp and circumstance, dignity and respect, not bitterness and resentment.
Yes, I don’t like Bush, and I never did. He ignored real threats to send us to war on a personal vendetta, he abused the Constitution, the bill of rights, he told my friends and relations that they couldn’t marry the people that they love and he did it all in blissful ignorance of a financial system with roots rotting in un-fecund soil. But he’s gone now.
Inauguration Day is a new beginning, a new awakening. A chance to turn away from the past if we like and look out at the future and say, “Yes, we will do better, we must do better!” What, I wonder, is gained by hating a waning man, to focusing on the things that have gone wrong and not on what can go right?
But of course, all of that stopped once the man himself came on stage: B-Rock, Barry O’Bomber, the Obamanator. But he was not jubilant, not full of levity and elation. No, he was respectful, dignified—proud. So proud. One wonders what he thought, looking out from that podium, on millions of people.
It is enough to frighten most, just the prospect of a crowd. But he was strong, noble. And when he spoke, the mood changed, the tone shifted, and everything was different. He was not there to celebrate (not yet), not there to pat himself on the back, or his supporters. No. He was there to tell us the truth, that things were bad, perhaps getting worse. That the challenges we face in the next few years are serious, more so perhaps then any time before.
But he was there to meet them. To stare them in the eye, and krinkle his forehead and send them back the way they came. To climb atop them and use them as a stepping stone to—Well. No one knows. But a step up, not a push, or a slide, or a fall. He was there to say that America may have lost it’s way, but that was no excuse to keep wandering in the woods, there to say that though things have been bad, that they will be better, they must be better.
And I blinked my eyes, and everything was solid again.

Later on, after a long afternoons rest, recovering from the bacchanalian celebrations and the crush of humanity, we found ourselves at a concert. The Dresden Dolls, Talib Kweli, Michael Franti—an inauguration party. Not a ball, no, nothing so fine, but a celebration none the less.
And a celebration it was. It has been a long time since I can say that I’ve been in a space, and looked around, and not seen a single unhappy face. There was happiness, and light, and laughter, and thought, and most of all there was hope. Written on shirts and toilet stalls, spoken aloud and whispered in ears. Hope.
Not just the campaign slogan either. Yes, hope, we’ve heard. Or maybe it was a little bit of that. But even so, this was the hope fulfilled, invigorated, realized.
My cousin asked me, while we were there, if it was worth it. The expense of flying down, the uncomfortable closeness of the masses, the bitterness of the cold. I could barely reply.
Was this worth it? How can that even be a question?
Michael Franti was talking about the Inauguration, about why he was there, why he couldn’t just watch it on tv. And he said: “I don’t know why I came, I didn’t know what I was going to do—but I knew I had to be here”.

I had to be here. I had to be here. I had to.

Was there ever any doubt?

Today, as well, began with travel. We drove from outside Philly to the Maryland Transit Authority train’s terminus, and took it all the way into Union Station. Of course, it started out with just a few families, but as we went through Baltimore, BWI, the suburbs, the number of passengers kept growing. By the time we pulled in, the train was full, and it was through no small effort that we squeezed ourselves into the District.

The first sight at Union Station was a sight that would be repeated throughout the day: the crowd. People from all over this country standing in front of Metro machines, befuddledly figuring out the payment system, while at the same time orienting themselves in a city many had never seen before. And this was the morning.

As the day wore on, ore and more people flowed into the city, joining the hundreds of thousands who already live here or came early. Every street corner in the Federal Triangle was packed, every line wrapped along the block (most notably, the lines to get into the offices of Congresspeople and Senators both, as new arrivals frantically scrambled to get their hands on a precious few “silver” tickets– I, luckily enough, managed to come into some tickets from Senator Bingaman’s office that had not yet been claimed).

After lunch, we made the foolish choice of taking the Metro back up to DuPont Circle, and as soon as we descended into the South Capital station we were sucked into a morass of penguin-stepping humanity. We had been joking all day about how every media outlet had spent the past week talking about how awful and crowded the Metro was going to be, and how we couldn’t imagine who would actually dare brave it. The answer to that question, was a whole shit load of people.

Even walking back to my cousins house, off of U Street, from DuPont, I was struck by just how many people there were. These were quiet, residential neighborhoods we were walking through, but still a constant stream up and down every street.

And the best part about it, is just how ecstatic everyone is.

All day long, it’s been nothing but smiles and sunshine to counteract the gloomy weather and shadow of the past. Everyone is holding doors for each other, dropping into conversations like it’s a family reunion– black or white, doesn’t really matter (and yes, the crowd is predominantly black [at least so far], 60-70% at least. But then again, it is D.C., and then again, this is the moment of redemption– or at least something like it, from an outsiders view).

The District has grown jubilant, ebullient, it’s difficult to aside from to say that something warm has taken root in the gut of every person here, and that thing will flower come noon on the 20th. It is expectant, it is victorious, it is pacific and plantive, and it is, above all, an excuse for a party.

And so the time is drawing near. Change, then– the metamorphosis, even– is waiting to take hold of us, and flourish an unparalleled abundance. But goddamn is there a lot that needs to get done before we find that place.

So… it begins.

I left Boston today to catch a plane from Providence to Philadelphia on my way to the Capital for Inauguration. The weather in New England has been fairly awful lately (which is to say wet, cold, and windy), but we got a brief reprieve starting last night in the form of snow. Oddly enough, snow makes it warmer. Course, when it’s 5 degrees out, getting warmer isn’t exactly a challenge.

Though the snow was rather pretty, it did make my travel plans a little more difficult. Having to walk (and then drive) through snow meant I got to the Providence airport only 25 minutes before my plane was supposed to leave. But of course, conveniently enough, once I actually managed to get on the plane they announced that our flight had been delayed an hour. Fabulous.

But anyway, it’s hard to deny the feeling that’s spreading all over the East Coast (hell, the entire continent). Having traveled so much in the past month (and twice in the last 5 days), it’s odd how much the mood continues to shift as January 20th draws nearer.

This isn’t to say that everyone is walking around with words of hope on their lips and change in their hearts, wearing American Apparel/MoveOn.org Obama t-shirts and buttons– no, it’s subtler then that. People are a little quieter, their stares a little more determined, their gates a little more confident. It is clear, if nothing else, that something in the country is shifting, and everyone is comprehending and interpreting that fact in their own way.

Of course, I’m still on the periphery. The real action is about 120 miles to the south. Here was the scene earlier this month, at the “We Are One” concert held on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, with the President-elect himself looking on:


The last estimate I heard for the crowd was 750,000. Keep in mind, this is a concert. We’re still two days out from the actual inauguration. I find it hard to imagine that the number we’ll do much less then double, maybe even triple. The thought really is incredible. A crowd of upwards of two million people in the middle of a city of 600,000, on a piece of land of around 300 acres.

That, my friends, is a– well, it’s a thing, indeed.

Stay tuned.

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