Category Archives: DC

This is what democracy looks like

Sometimes democracy looks like a long line of people waiting for an overflowing porta-potty.

When we went to vote on November 8 (yes, Mr. President, we did in fact vote), my husband and I dragged our daughters out of bed and to the polls with us. We even pulled them into the voting booth. We told them they were witnessing history as we filled in the oval for our first female president.

Like much of the country, we were stunned and crushed as the results rolled in. Not because a woman lost. But because the man who won was an openly racist, sexist bully. A man whose main goal in life, besides enriching himself, was seemingly to find people who had so very little, and convince them that their enemy was others who had even less. A man whose go-to response for any provocation, however, slight, was to behave in a way that most of us wouldn’t have tolerated in our toddlers. The people telling us to give him a chance had missed the point. Regardless of his future actions, the fact that a person could be elected in spite of this behavior — or, worse yet, because of it — made us realize we didn’t live in the kind of world that we’d thought we had.

Ready for the road

So we decided to march, and witness a different kind of history. To show the world, and ourselves, and our children, that we are not alone, but part of an army.

It wasn’t the easiest trip. We drove late into the night through remote parts of Pennsylvania (having chosen an alternate longer route to avoid traffic in the major cities on the coast). It was raining and foggy, and everything was complicated by trying to drive two minivans in caravan. After arrival, Wendy and I had to go out again to attempt to secure Metro cards. We are two of the most directionally-challenged people on the planet, and Wendy’s cell phone that provided navigation was about to die, and the first station we went to had no clear place to park and then turned out to be closed. By the time we got back (victorious!) it was near to 1am.

Tyra and Riley even managed to bring posters on the bus ride!

We shouldn’t complain, though, because our friend Tyra and her daughter Riley had to take a 12-hour bus ride up from Georgia. The bus left an hour and a half late, and then they had to catch the Metro from DC to Bethesda, and then they WALKED a mile and a half, at midnight, carrying all their stuff, to the house.

But these are not the things we’ll remember. By now just about everyone has heard what the march was like — the crowds, the love and solidarity, the energy and inspiring speeches and funny signs. So here are a few other things that will stay with me.

It’s the bond with my long-time mom friends — Wendy, Judy, Tyra, and Susan. We realized that we’d all met in a class about sustainable parenting back when our kids were babies and toddlers. How great it is that we’re all still working together for the same cause, more than 10 years later, and that some of those same kids are now engaged young adults who are marching by our sides.

And those same kids, who were up past midnight, and smiling and ready to go by 7am. They stood in crowds and cold through several hours of speeches, with nothing but granola bars to sustain them, all without a word of complaint.

It’s Wendy’s eighteen-year-old son Sam, who voted for the first time this year — and chose to give up his weekend to join a group of ten women and girls, marching through DC in his pink hat and being helpful to everyone. And his friend Haley, who jumped in a van with a bunch of people she’d never met because she wanted so much to make her voice heard.

It’s those who made the trip possible even though they didn’t attend themselves. My generous friend Kathleen and her family, who opened their lovely home to a bunch of people who were mostly strangers. Our friend Heather, who made us hats. Our husbands, who held down the fort at home and welcomed us warmly on our return.

It’s the woman working in the Grosvenor metro station the night before the march. She’d probably had a very long day, dealing with scores of out-of-towners who didn’t know what they were doing. She can’t have been too excited to see two people jump out of a car with NH license plates past midnight and run toward the ticket machine, with confused expressions and several half-used Metro cards clutched in our hands. But she greeted us with a smile and walked us through our lengthy transaction with cheerfulness and patience. And then she turned around and did the same thing for the two people who rushed in five minutes after we did.

It’s her co-workers who were on duty the night of the march, greeting train after crowded train with claps and shouts of “thank you!” as throngs of marchers streamed out onto the platform.

It’s the other marchers on that train, which was the most crowded place I’ve ever been in my life. Instead of glaring and grumbling, people chatted and helped each other. When someone left the train, the entire car gave them a big cheer like they were a rock star leaving the stage after a concert.

And the woman restocking the restroom in a highway rest area the day after the march. The whole rest area was overwhelmed with marchers, and probably had been since early that morning. She undoubtedly had had a tough day — but she smiled and chatted and cheered with the long line of women waiting for an open stall.

Even those crowds and long lines, in the streets and in the subway and at the rest stop. Those things meant that the march was a tremendous success, and that was more important than a little delay or discomfort.

And most of all: it’s the fact that it was totally unspoiled by conflict.

Think about that. Over half a million people crammed into a few city blocks. Women and men, eighty-year-olds and college students, rich and poor, black and brown and white, gay and straight, urbanites and farmers — all wedged together in a giant mass of humanity. We were sleep-deprived and travel-weary, hungry and cold, footsore, dehydrated and desperately needing to pee. And yet there was not a single violent incident or arrest.

Instead, there were people looking out for each other. Yelling back to the people behind them to tell them a step was approaching. Climbing a tree so as to direct people around a low fence that was impeding progress to the street. Supporting those who stumbled and helping those who needed a leg up. Swapping stories and smiles and Metro maps. And knowing without a doubt that they will not be fighting alone.

 

Day 33 – Dude, where’s our car?

Washington, DC

 We had a lazy start today, which I think we probably needed.  The kids were having a great time eating pancakes and playing with their new friends, and Bob and I were enjoying a comfortable bed, showers, a reliable internet connection, and friends to talk to.  (Interestingly, both friends we’ve stayed with on this trip were the ones who introduced us.  Kathleen, Colleen, and I were good friends in college, and during junior year they studied abroad in Russia on the same program as Bob.  We met when he came to visit them our senior year.)
Our announcement that it was time to go see monuments was met with a distinct lack of enthusiasm, in fact.  Nevertheless, we hopped in our cars and began a caravan to the city.  Kathleen was kind enough to call us from the road and give us a guided tour of all the sites we were passing, including a lot of embassies and eventually the White House.
Downtown Washington is really beautiful, with everything pristine and perfectly manicured.  Apparently parking lots and/or garages are not sufficiently picturesque, because we discovered 
parking is a major issue.  In the midst of one of the biggest tourist attractions in the country (the Mall, the monuments, the Smithsonian, etc.), pretty much the only option seems to be on-street parking, which is limited and only lasts two hours.  Eventually we managed to find a couple of spots along the Potomac and close to the Lincoln Memorial (which Zoe later admitted to me she did find very cool, despite her earlier resistance to “monuments”).
That’s them, in the spinning car.
In our second search for parking, we found a spot right in front of the Museum of Natural History, and Bob actually managed to parallel park the van very competently.  We were very proud of ourselves.  (Note: this is foreshadowing.  If this were a film ominous music would be playing here.)
The Museum of Natural History is very large and information-dense, and we had to make a pretty high-level pass with all the little ones (despite the fact that Zoe wanted to stop and read every sign).  Lanie takes a dim view of museums that don’t have the word “Children’s” in the title (apart from the City Museum, of course), and much of the crowd were eager to get to our next stop – ice cream and the carousel on the Mall.

When it was time to leave, we wandered back toward the car, until we eventually noticed that (1) we were now past the museum, and (2) there were no longer any cars parked on the street.  Closer inspection of the sign that we’d blown past revealed that there was no parking from 4-6:30pm.  This was not our happiest moment.  Luckily we were able to get a little humor from the situation when Bob called the number on the sign and we learned that they don’t actually tow cars to a lot, but instead just tow them to a random “nearby street” – and no, the man on the phone did not in fact know which nearby street now contained our car.  Quite a system!  Too dispirited to randomly walk the streets in search of our car, we waited half an hour until the towing company figured out where it was.
The place where our car should be
Just to add insult to injury, two tickets — one for the
parking violation and one for the towing.  As though
they were separate offenses.
Send donations to: Jen & Bob Pavlik, 4 Pinecrest Ln,
Durham, NH  03824.
The night ended on a higher note with a nice takeout BBQ dinner at Kathleen and Daniel’s, with a special guest appearance from our good friend Ken – who, even though he’s a hip, single, TV-industry type, was enough of a sport to drive out to Bethesda and eat dinner with 6 young children so he could see us.  Ken gave me a very cool gift – a CD upon which he’d recreated a mix tape that he and I had made 20 years ago, in the summer of 1992.  Remember mix tapes?  A lost art.  He and I even snuck out for a beer after the kids were in bed.
***
From Bob:
I have many really good ideas that I often just throw out there for people to use to make their fortunes.  One I’ll throw out right now.  It’s a company that gives demographic data based on t-shirt logos seen at various high-traffic areas.  Someone must be interested in knowing which NFL franchise captures the most shirt space at Mount Rushmore or which corporate logos get the most walking billboard time in Times Square. I came up with this idea at Disney World.  It’s a good place to people watch.  Why not get paid for it?  Go ahead, knock yourselves out.
                For this trip, I have eight or so shirts and four logos among them.   Two are on the oldest pieces of clothing in my entire wardrobe, I think.  There’s the black Malerba’s Bail Bonds shirt given to me by my good friend Dee Dee Sonsini (whose grandfather played on a bocce team underwritten by said company).  The other is a maroon shirt with a big silver star on it and the words “Central Star – Central Avenue School, Naugatuck, CT.”  It was given to me by a lady who brought a bunch of kids to my office one a week for a while when I was a newspaper editor.  I helped them with their school newspaper.  Both of them prove conclusively that they made better t-shirts in the late 80s and early 90s than they do now.  They’ve gotten a lot of wear, but they don’t get many comments from people who behold them.
                The newest logo shirt in my suitcase is one that I just got for Father’s Day.  It has a stair car on it and it says, “Watch out for hop-ons!”  Some blog readers may get the reference.  A youngish park ranger in a Grand Teton visitors’ center got it.  She was the only one on the trip so far.
                The most recognized shirt I’ve got with me is shiny blue with a red stripe at the collar, and has the logo of the US Soccer Federation on it. It was given to me a few years ago, and I treasure it.  I also try to wear it on particularly patriotic occasions, such as today’s trip to the nation’s capital.  Just about every time I’ve worn it this trip, someone has commented on it.  In Custer State Park it led to a nice conversation with a high school soccer coach from Wisconsin. (I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but this guy gave me a pretty solid warning to be careful of bears in Yellowstone.  I’m just remembering it right now. He wasn’t scary bear lady or anything, but for those who have commented on my bear paranoia, this guy may have planted the seeds of my cautious approach in Wyoming.)
                Also, there was a fellow who worked at the YMCA camp who said he had a jersey from the year after the year the national team’s journey looked like mine.  He is big fan of US soccer and also a season ticket holder for the Columbus Crew of the MLS.   Later that day, there were the two ladies in Rocky Mountain National Park who noticed my shirt when we passed on the trail.  They asked me if the US women won their gold medal game.  The Columbus Crew man told me they had so I passed that along to the hikers, who were very happy.
                One surprising place where no one commented on my shirt was St. Louis, which I had always heard was a center for the sport in this country.  It might be that everyone was looking at all the other things in the City Museum and didn’t notice me. 
                Today, wearing the red, white and blue at the Smithsonian today, I was approached by a man who asked me if I knew who Sunil Gulati is.  Of course, you may also know that this is the name of the president of the US Soccer Federation.  This man sat behind Sunil Gulati in high school and says Gulati was a good forward on the soccer field despite being small in stature.  Had I known then what I know now (I just looked up Gulati on Wikipidia to get the spelling of his name), I would have commented to the Smithsonian man about the quality of the high school team Gulati played on.  I played against them several times in my own soccer career.  Guliati went to Cheshire High School in Cheshire, CT (according to Wikipedia).  Our paths did not cross on the field, however.  He is 12 years older to me (also according to Wikipedia).
                Aside from this Cheshirite Smithsonian man, we were pretty anonymous in DC.  There is a lot going on here — rangers and Park Service here and everything.  We got our own personal audio tour of Embassy Row and the environs from Kathleen, who works in DC and knows. The embassies we saw were too many to list, but some impressive ones were Togo, Indonesia, and, especially, Ivory Coast.  Many of the diplomats in side these buildings were wearing their own national team jerseys.  It was like a car ride through the World Cup. 
                I am left now only to lament that we did not return to our van a little earlier.  The tow truck driver and/or parking code enforcement officer might have mistaken me for Carlos Bocanegra and torn up the ticket.

Patriotic popsicles