This was the blog from March 2007 to January 09. I failed to stop complaining about politics and religion, as you will see. There was a period when I tried to review or at least list every film I saw, which was fun, but quickly became a chore. (I do see a lot of films) Below are some favorites from this blog, and the archive listing...
What was more exciting in D.C.? Getting to see Barack Obama's Inauguration, or realizing that after it was over, I DID still have the use of all my toes? That I hadn't lost even one to frostbite? Truly it was a great day.
The Metro that day, starting at 6:15 AM - and every yard of the journey to the Mall - was jam-packed. And not just at Superbowl or Last-Stones-Concert-For Real-This-Time levels, but Fleeing Refugee levels. Never before have I seen such a mass of humanity. Imagine Deep Impact, but instead of mortal panic over the falling sky, everyone is grinning at one another, slapping perfect strangers on the back, as proud as they've been in years, and joining in silly chants (I say O, you say Bama, O! BAMA! O! BAMA! went one such call and response - originating from the jock faction, no doubt) You could partially decide what direction you might want to go, but for the most part, you went where the mob took you.
If I was the sort to be panicky about these things, getting out of the train station might have been a good time to have a complete melt-down. Up there with my worst fears is being caught in just such a mob once city services shut down at the End of the World. But everything was orderly - if grindingly slow.
We'd planned and planned all weekend - McFall, Kepler, Mary, Lisabeth and I - on what was the best route to take, and where to make our stand for the day. The Post assured us that non-ticketed personages such as ourselves - groundlings, if you will - would be able to see the Oath-taking or the parade; but not both. Many of the streets surrounding the Mall and Capitol were closed not only to car traffic, but pedestrians. We went with the Oath, and L'Enfant station. But the planning continued, and continued, even with no new information. When I detected speculation beginning anew on the train that morning - when a local wiseacre overheard our plans and began naysaying and revising them for us - I took quick action to close all tiresome debate.
I was dressed mostly appropriately, well aware that my Chicago-acquired immunity to cold was long gone after nearly five years in L.A. I do not have exact figures but I estimate the temperature might have been somewhere around 1000 below, not including wind chill. All I know is that a breeze nearly killed me on the train platform. So it was a shock. Earlier in the weekend we had abandoned some sight-seeing plans to go on a search for long-underwear; all of which was nearly gone, I might add, the shelves at both Target and R.E.I. having been ransacked.
So we basically were like astronauts. Everywhere we went in D.C. was a sort of extra-vehicular trip - we had to be completely sealed, and because of the crowds and the extreme unlikelihood of finding any place to stop for food / drink, we had to pack it all with us.
What a grand day it was. We found a spot very near a Jumbotron on the Mall, and in short order things were tight. Hot chocolate and dogs were fetched. There was much cheering of minor politicians, and when the cameras cut to any kind of motorcade, people began yelling.
And yes, there was some booing. Not as much as you might think, (and not at whom you might think, either - Joe Lieberman actually received the biggest negative reaction in my section. Because what was there really to do but shake your head as Cheney was rolled out in full Blofeldian attire?) and although it is certainly not decorous on such a day, it was also our right. It turns out that eight years of being told you're a liberal jackass tends to bottle it up in some people. I did not join in the Na-na-na-na hey-hey-hey good-byes, but I did very conspicuously give the Retarded Moose (outstretched hands, left thumb touching left ear, right thumb touching nose, wiggle fingers slightly) at Marine One as it took its petulant cargo back to Crawford to begin the brush-clearing season.
We were almost the whole Mall away from Ami, who was in a decidedly different class of patriot that day. (We have actually spotted her in the famous Gigapan photo) All weekend I'd received texts of the luminaries she came into contact with: Sting, Will.I.Am, Cheryl Crowe, Marisa Tomei, the Clintons, George Lucas (damn you, honey), Arianna... who am I missing? There is a satellite picture of where we stood but technology is not advanced enough to pick us out with detail.
We laughed, we teared up, we screamed, we slapped our gloves together with the delight of the day. I saw an African-American family wheeling their beaming grandmother onto the Metro - to show her something she probably hadn't thought she'd live to see. I saw about a billion cameras and cell phones. I saw friends linger in the inhuman cold to pick trash up from the frozen ground before they left. I stood in the Rotunda for the first time, and was close enough to Jefferson's books to touch them. Enormous crowds of people, and no fights or angry cops. We got home and collapsed.
Other fun on the trip: Tortoise and some of the Mekons at the Big Shoulders Ball, at Black Cat; the Burlesque show at Palace of Wonders, va-va-voom; McFall's themed days for each of us! (Kepler's: The Capitol and Folger Shakespeare Library; Mine: Sleeping late, Rock Band on XBox [It was as cold as hell outside, people, did I mention that?], a bad horror movie, and Potbellies; Mary: The Mormon Temple); our evolving Studs Terkel impression (Butcher of HOGS! Stacker of WHEAT! Rider of TRAINS!); and visiting Eastern Market and Georgetown. Fantastic time - I'll never forget it.
Note to movies: Let us call a moratorium on the naked people crumpled up in the fetal position and crying desperately in their tub as the shower runs. I have last seen this depicted in the trailer for Two Lovers, which features Joaquin Phoenix in his last role before going on to focus on his music, plus Gwyneth Paltrow, plus Gwyneth Paltrow's luxuriant hair.
I look on this display of privy-based emotionality the same way I do the hero splashing his face in the sink then staring pensively at his own reflection in the mirror. WHO AM I ANYWAY?!? Folks, I just don't buy it. I'm not saying I've never wept uncontrollably in the bathroom in the second act, but I've had the good conservation sense to at least stop the water from running.
Note to people who call Governor Blagojevich crazy: All right, but if he's so crazy, then how about convicting him of something. Until that happens he may as well be the smartest politician in the world - look at what he's gotten away with.
A pledge to Time Warner cable: I will never patronize any business for which you have placed an ad banner on my DVR listings guide.
A Humiliating Episode: Landmark Theatres in Westwood is a typical corporate edifice: the home office spends millions to build another shining temple of an outpost, complete with all the gleaming corporate identifiers, branding, and point-of-purchase placements. And as they walked away a well-paid Chief Executive Someone snapped his fingers and said "You know what we forgot? STAFF! We forgot to train any staff!"
Another Executive thinks for a second, then replies. "That's OK! Having erected this beautiful store, truly a monument to our market share, why would it be additionally necessary to spend any resources on training people to run it? We'll just hire any kid off the street!"
And so they did.
A sort of lopsided emphasis pervades the entire Landmark experience - they have their kids expansively, unnecessarily introduce the movies like emcees of old, but then no one is at the concession counter to take your order. (Or, four kids are there, but no one makes eye contact) They have a sleek and gorgeous bar built right in - but no liquor license to bring a beer in the theatre. They get the best selection of independent movies on the west side - then they design their theatres with a giant light in the hallway that spills onto the screen every time the door is opened. They have movie-related books and gourmet concessions, but in one theatre the seats don't even square up with the screen. Criminy!
On Sunday Ami dressed down one of the Landmark "concierges" - not a manager, but older than the other shifty urchins, so therefore a person of some authority - over the lack of any attention at the popcorn counter. So thorough was the upbraiding - his umbrella was stripped, his bowler punched through, his carnation ripped in twain - that even our fellow patrons delighted to the tale when we related it to each other later in our seats. Truly, this man walked away with his ass in hand, most likely to the nearest ass-reattachment center.
However, we had not brought in any water, so I was then dispatched - humiliatingly - to that same counter that we had just declared unfit. I was not even allowed to turn my nose up or maintain a boycott for ten minutes before I was sent back to patronize them. The urchin at the counter didn't even bother to smirk at my weakness - she'd known what the score was. It is difficult to maintain a haughty disapproval of the same person you have just requested Milk Duds from.