Yesterday I was part of something that was really massive even by DC standards. I’ve been living in the DC area since my days as a journalism student at the University of Maryland at College Park and during my student days I attended my first large protest march against the Reagan Administration’s policy towards El Salvador. Over the years I’ve attended all kinds of large scale protests and rallies. Twenty-five years ago I attended my first–and last–Fourth of July celebration on the Mall (which turned out to be the last time the Beach Boys gave a free Fourth of July concert on the Mall). I also attended a few of the Smithsonian Folklife Festivals and Smithsonian Kite Festivals on the Mall. All of these events paled compared to what I saw on the Mall.

I had an inkling that something historic was taking place when I drove my car to the Greenbelt Metro, which is the end station on the Green Line. I saw cars parked in the nearby office park while people were taking a long hike towards the Metro station. When I pulled up to the lot, not only did I saw that it was crammed to the max but I saw a very long line of people snaking from the station towards the back of the parking lot. In all the years that I have been going to marches, rallies, concerts, and other large-scale events, I have never seen anything like this before.

I decided to go to the Prince Georges Plaza station, which is two stops further in on the Green Line. The parking garage had plenty of cars but it was easier to find a parking space and get into the station.

Getting on the Metro train was another matter. I barely got on an already packed car. Throughout the ride to the Archives/Navy Memorial station, we were all packed in the car like sardines as more and more people got on the car. The good news was that everyone on the station took it in good stride. In fact, a group of people were briefly singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm", which helped calmed this small child dressed in a cute lion costume who was crying in her father’s arms at times. (The father also gave the girl sips from his bottle of Gatorade and she even held that bottle at times, which also calmed her.)

When we got off at the Archives/Navy Memorial station, we had a hard time getting out of the station since there was such a large bottleneck. When I got up to the upper level, people were trying to get downstairs back on to the platform because Metro officials had told them that someone had left a suspicious package near the exit gates and they were urging people to get back on the train and get off at the next station. (An impossible task at best.) After a few minutes, someone in my crowd yelled "LET’S STORM THE GATES!" and people began to get back to the exit gates. We were eventually let out. As for that suspicious package, I have no idea what the real story was about that and this morning’s The Washington Post didn’t mention it.

So we were walking down 7th Street, N.W. while I was shooting footage of the masses with my portable video camera for a few minutes. Then I put the camera away and I pulled out my portable sign with my jewelry that I was going to sell at that event. One guy spotted my sign and I managed to sell him four of my jewelry. Finishing the business deal got pretty gnarly with throngs of crowds walking around us while I was getting change for that guy’s $20 bill and giving him the jewelry. It was a miracle that I didn’t lose anything. Once I finished the transaction, I thought it would be more prudent to not to try to sell anything else until I got to the Mall itself and I could settle down in a spot with my portable chair (like what I did with the October 2 rally at the Lincoln Memorial).

As I crossed Constitution Avenue, N.W., the traffic of people had slowed considerably. When I finally reached the Mall, it was extremely crowded. I saw an official info booth but I wasn’t able to reach it because it was packed with so many people.The Mall on opposite sides of Constitution Ave., N.W. were packed with people and it was literally standing room only. (I saw a few adventurous people climbing up in trees and on traffic light poles in order to get a better view of the stage.) I decided to try cutting over to the other side of the Mall then walk up towards the Native American Museum. Except once I reached a certain point, I couldn’t get anywhere anymore and throngs of people were pushing to go back the way I just came.

While I was trying to push my way through the throng, I heard that Jon Stewart had just taken the stage. I looked around and I didn’t see any jumbotrons or any other giant screens. I was able to hear the audio but it wasn’t always clear. I would hear a sentence or two but sometimes the audio seemed a jumble. I heard Stephen Colbert take to the stage and, again, I could hear a sentence or two but the audio wasn’t always clear.

At one point I saw the Park Police riding their horses going right through 7th Street, N.W. while people were in the street trying to make their way to the rally. Every time a cop on horseback came through it created an even bigger bottleneck than before. The only time I was terrified that whole time was when the cops and their horses were going through because I feared that the horses would suddenly freak out, rear up on their hind legs, and acutally injuring someone. One cop actually yelled "DO NOT TOUCH THE HORSES! STAND BACK!" There were so many people that I really couldn’t see any reason why the cops were subjecting the horses to the masses like that.

After a while I just gave up and I felt a sudden desire to get out of the packed crowd. So I went into the stream of people who were pushing to go in the opposite direction and just kept on pushing my way in the people current until I got to the side of the west wing of the National Gallery of Art building on 7th Street and Constitution Avenue, N.W.

At that point I pulled out my portable chair and sat down. By that point, I heard Ozzy Osbourne play his classic hit song "Crazy Train". (In fact, it was easier to hear the music than to hear the spoken parts of the rally.) I was pretty exhausted by then and I decided to eat the lunch that I had brought with me. I was glad I packed that lunch the night before because I walked past a few food vendors on the streets and every single one of them had this atrociously long line. As I began to reach for the bottles of Cherry Diet Pepsi that I had purchased at a convenience store before I headed towards the Metro this morning, I realized that I had left the soda in my car back at the Prince Georges Plaza Metro station. So I ended up eating my lunch with nothing to drink it with.

After that, I just sat in my portable chair for the longest time while I watched the people, many of whom were decked out in costumes and holding all kinds of crazy sign parodies. (I particularly remembered a guy dressed like Abraham Lincoln holding a sign saying "Ban Guns in Theaters!" Another person held a sign that said "My Political Beliefs are Too Complex for a Sign!")

I heard The O’Jays play their 1970s hit song "Love Train" and a few people were even dancing. I pulled out my iPodTouch because I had downloaded the free official app the day before and I tried to access video feed of the rally only to discover that I couldn’t even get a clear wi-fi signal where I was. I knew that there was a Starbucks located a few blocks away near the Archives/Navy Memorial station where I could’ve gotten a free wi-fi signal but I was afraid that the place would be crowded as all hell. So I just sat there.

I was so exhausted that I didn’t even pull out my jewelry and attempt to sell anything. It didn’t help that I left my caffinated sodas behind in my car. I just couldn’t muster up the energy to sell my wares, which was one of the main reasons why I even attended this event in the first place. I began to groove to the energy of the crowds. Everyone there were peaceful and very polite to each other, which was amazing to see. I began to wonder if this is the kind of positive vibe that people who attended Woodstock back in 1969 experienced. Woodstock was a crowdfest just like yesterday’s event and people there were mostly peaceful even as they had to endure three days outdoors and it even rained heavily at one point. Most of the people who attended Woodstock tended to recount fond memories of being there, even if many of them couldn’t see or hear any of the musical acts. (Recently I saw the movie Taking Woodstock, which was a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the planning of that event.)

I’m starting to think that yesterday’s event was just like Woodstock without the mud, the rain, and the brown acid.

Sure, I could’ve forced myself to sell my wares and I personally know certain people who would get on my case for not taking advantage of the sales opportunity I had yesterday. (Fortunately my husband isn’t one of them. He wasn’t mad at me for not being a more aggressive saleswoman pursuing profit at all costs and he was completely understanding.) But I ended up enjoying myself more just experiencing the positive moment while watching people wearing goofy costumes and holding up equally goofy signs.

I was also happy because I had seen photos of aerial footage of Glenn Beck’s August 28 rally at the Lincoln Memorial and I think yesterday’s event drew an even bigger crowd than Beck ever did. This morning’s article in The Washington Post seemed to confirm my suspicions on this. My husband had watched parts of the rally at home on Comeday Central and he thought it was way bigger than Beck’s event. (I feel mildly tempted to tune into Beck’s Fox News show tomorrow either on television or online to see if he would respond to yesterday’s rally but I’m not sure if I can really stomach doing that. I currently have this enduring fantasy of Glenn Beck having a complete and total nervous breakdown over the fact that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s joint rally drew an even bigger crowd than what Beck could muster.)

To be fair, I have to admit that yesterday’s event outdrew the One Nation Together Rally at the Lincoln Memorial on October 2 as well. As I look back on that rally I think that it was inevitable that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert would outdraw Glenn Beck because both of them have larger followings than Glenn Beck. Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show alone draws a bigger audience than Glenn Beck’s show or any other political pundit on any of the three major cable news channels (Fox News, CNN, and MSNBC). To be honest, I don’t think a liberal political pundit like Keith Olbermann or Rachel Maddow could’ve pulled off a major counter-event to Glenn Beck’s August rally on the same level that Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert did.

By 2:30 p.m., I decided to take the Metro back to Maryland because I knew the rally would end at 3 p.m. and I really feared battling the majority of the people who stayed there to the bitter end. I missed the first subway train that went by because the cars were already filled to the max. Then there was an annoucement over the intercom at the station that urged people to try moving to the farthest side of the platform where they could board the front of the train. I took that advice and walked towards an area on the platform where the front of the train would stop. Sure enough, I was able to get on the next Metro train with no trouble. That car was standing room only but at least I could get on.

My car got more and more crowded as it stopped at more and more stations picking up passengers. Everyone took it in stride, just like they did on the trip going downtown.

I was glad that I had cancelled a planned appearance at the official opening for Art Outlet’s Ofrenda exhibit, even though my art is on display there. Travelling to Old Town Alexandria on the Metro would’ve been extremely difficult given the number of people using the system for the rally on the Mall. (Driving to Old Town was out of the question since that area has a shortage of parking spaces.) It’ll be interesting to see how many people actually got to that event despite the crammed Metro trains.

My husband later told me that I missed a very moving closing speech by Jon Stewart. Fortunately, I was able to see the speech for myself, thanks to YouTube.

As I headed to my church for its Mexican Ethnic Dinner around 5:30 p.m., I drove past the Greenbelt Metro station and found that many cars were still parked in the nearby office park (where many people just parked there then made the long walk to the Metro station itself). When I arrived at the Ethnic Dinner, I ran into people who were also downtown at the massive rally earlier that day. One woman ended up arriving over an hour late because she had stayed at the rally to the bitter end then had a hard time getting on the Metro trains.

The Mexican food was good. The organizer made sure that people created traditional Mexican meals that one can’t easily find in a Mexican restaurant in the United States. In other words, no one made any tacos, burritos, or gorditas. The volunteers created more complicated dishes that Mexican families fix for special occasions and were rarely served in Mexican restaurants because of the complex prep time involved.

Even though I was very careful in avoiding dishes that contained ingredients that I was allergic to, I began to feel very nauseous to the point where I ran to the bathroom and vomited. I left for home as soon as I could and I threw up a few more times when I reached my home. I tried going to bed but I kept on experiencing frequent acid reflux so I ended up sleeping sitting up on the couch downstairs for the first time since my hip replacement back in 2008. (I slept sitting up on the couch for at least two months after my hip replacement.) That was the only way I could stop spitting up everything in my mouth.

I think all the stresses over preparing for the Art Outlet show, creating new jewelry that I ended up not selling for yesterday’s rally, submitting three works of art that’s currently hanging at my church (I’ll write more about that later), my mother’s latest hospitalization, facing huge crowds at yesterday’s rally, and overeating rich unfamiliar foods at last night’s Ethnic Dinner took a physical toll on me. I ended up skipping the special Halloween service at church this morning. My husband has driven himself to the airport and he is on his way to a business trip in Florida. I’m just going to rest today, enjoy Halloween, and try to catch any videos of yesterday’s rally on the Internet.

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