jump to navigation

Walking Down The Street in New York – Revisited January 30, 2009

Posted by Robert in Humor, Not Political, Social Commentary, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
Fools!  You should have left home earlier!

Fools! You should have left home earlier!

In one of the earlier posts on this blog, I made an attempt to give some helpful hints to would-be visitors of the fine city of New York, in order to make their trip here more enjoyable.

Specifically, I gave insight on how best to navigate the sidewalks and get to where you’re going without A: Killing Yourself and B: Pissing off the locals.

I felt that I covered the topic in a fair manner and hadn’t thought much about it since I had originally written it.  Then today I was emailed by wordpress and asked to approve a comment from a Fred Berkins in California.  This is the comment.

one could also argue that if you are arriving late to work everyday (whether that be because of tourists or not), then you need to set off earlier.

As for the comparison to driving down the road, it’s not really the same is it. It is illegal to stop in the middle of the freeway, it’s not however illegal to stop in the middle of the sidewalk though.

So actually, it’s YOUR PROBLEM !


Well said, or should I say right said, Fred.   Clearly the entire city of New York is simply late all the time and should really take a collective look at their morning routines.  Maybe self evaluation is the key to making the sidewalks of this city easier to navigate.

I also appreciate your keen ability to correctly identify flaws in logic.  You’re right, sidewalks are nothing like freeways.  People can stop walking on sidewalks without fear of being pulled over.  You might also notice that instead of people driving cars on sidewalk, as they would on the freeway, they prefer more humble methods of locomotion like sneakers or loafers.   Gosh, now that I think of it there’s no helpful lines pained on sidewalks either, as there are on highways to indicate lanes and such.

Boy, thank goodness you came along Fred.  For the first time in my life I’ve seen the folly of my ways.  I should really look inward to find my happiness.  I shouldn’t expect people to adapt to their surroundings.

Because you know what they say don’t ‘cha Fred?

When in Rome,  F%*k Rome.



The Inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama – A Political Odyssey January 21, 2009

Posted by Robert in inauguration, Music, Not Political, Politics, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far


We woke well before dawn, determined to be on one of the first metro trains out of Silver Spring station.   Our plan was to get to the National Mall before 5am so that we could have great placement for the swearing in ceremony of our 44th President, Barack Hussein Obama.   We were on a mission, one we were determined to complete no matter what stood in our way.  And between the trains, people, gates, police, automobiles and the bitter cold,  it was clear very early in the day that this wasn’t going to be a walk in a national park.

Democracy gets up early.

Good Bloggers Never Sleep

The snags started almost as soon as our train pulled out of the station.   Our operator came over the PA system and pleaded with us to make sure that we didn’t block any of the doors on the DC Metro as the doors do not operate like elevator doors.  That is, they do not re-open completely if something gets in their way while closing.  They just open back up a tiny bit and then close again.  If someone repeatedly stops them from closing, the train has to be completely shut down and all passengers have to be off loaded and get on the next train.  Our operator informed us that the train directly before ours had to be off loaded because there were to many people holding the doors.   After a few minutes stopped on the tracks, he came back on and said that another train in front of us had to be off loaded as well, and we were going to be receiving all the passengers from both these trains.

Strap-hangers... or pole-grabbers as it were.

You can probably guess what happened next.   When we arrived at our next stop, not one person got off.  Instead about 3 times as many people as were already on the train attempted to board.  We were quickly filled to capacity but more still attempted to enter and proceeded to, you guessed it, block the doors.   This was the first time I realized that these strangers around us might actually be capable of getting a bit violent.  When the people who were blocking the doors refused to get off and wait till the next train, a few people shouted at them angrily.  One man said “If this train get shut down, i’m gonna knock you the (expletive deleted) out!”

Gladly, the doors did eventually close and the train began moving.  We arrived in DC a few minutes later, greeted by the most crowded station i’ve ever seen at 5 in the morning.    We made it through the throngs of people and up to the surface, greeted by the beautiful site of the Capital Building.

The Capital Before Dawn

It never even seemed like we made a conscious decisions as to which side of the capital to walk.  We just went to the right.  I now realize that the day could have turned out completely differently if we had chosen the other path.   In choosing the north side of The Mall as our entrance, we were told by several different police officers that they wouldn’t be opening the   gates into the mall until 7am.  We fount a large crowd of people waiting to walk through the tunnel onto the National Mall at 3rd and Indiana.


So there we waited, convinced that we were in the perfect spot to get on the mall in a good spot.  Boy were we mistaken.  After 7am rolled around and nothing happened, people started getting antsy.   We should have been suspicious when we couldn’t get onto The Mall  as soon as we arrived.  Everything we read from the official inauguration webpages said that the mall was open at 4am.


We stayed at that entrance until about 7:45, when we were told that they were going to begin letting people in 50 at a time.  By then there had to have been a crowd of at least 10,000 people and that might be a gross under-estimate.  After doing the math and getting almost trampled by people trying to leave the giant group of people, we decided to adjust our strategy and make our way to the south side of the National Mall.

It was a long walk around The Capital made longer by the fact that so many streets were closed to pedestrian traffic.   Then began the pattern of being told by the police that the entrance was only a few blocks away.  First it was 4th and Independence,  then 7th, then 10th, then 12th.  When we got to 14th and Independence things got very tight.  It’s a very unnerving feeling to  be on a public street that would under normal circumstances be completely open and airy and have that street become so crowded with humanity that you can only move by shuffling your feet.  Couple that with the collective desire of the entire crowd being only to get to a place where they can truly feel like they would bear witness to this historic event.    People were getting frustrated because the lack of information coming from those in uniform was surprising.  They began hoping over the barriers to the National Mall.  Some guards tried to stop them, but when there are thousands of people trying to get somewhere, there’s little you can do without coming off as overbearing. It was clear that Washington DC wanted to present an atmosphere of tight security that didn’t cross-over into something resembling marital law.





The streets became so engorged with humanity that for a second I wondered if all this trouble was worth it if we were never even going to make it into The Mall.  That’s when the crowds finally opened up and we were for the first time all day, able to see people actually being able to enter The Mall freely.  People were literally running out of the crowded streets toward the Washington Monument.  It was a moving and surreal sight.



No, you're not.


We entered the mall over 5 hours after we had set foot in DC and immediately walked to the base of the Washington Monument.  We hung around there for a bit taking photos and marveling at the sheer number of people gathered.  It became clear that we weren’t going to get a great view of any of the large screens that had been set up, so we decided to move a little further towards the front of the World War 2 Memorial.  There we stayed for the length of the inauguration ceremony.


There was plenty of love from our neighbor to the north.Many moments of the swearing in were particularly moving or memorable for me.

Any time that Barack, Michelle or either of their girls were shown on screen, the crowd would go wild.

When President Bush was mentioned or shown on the screens, the crowd would break into choruses of “Nah Nah Nah Nah. Nah Nah Nah Nah. Hey Hey Hey. Goodbye!” or “Hit The Road Jack.” Perhaps a tad juvenile yes, but still an incredible thing to witness.

Rick Warren’s invocation was heartfelt and moving in my opinion.  I was very curious to how the crowd would receive him as the decision to have him deliver the blessing was not met with overwhelming approval especially from the homosexual community.   But the crowd seemed cordial if not genuinely appreciative of his blessing.

But the main event did not disappoint.   President Obama’s oath of office was short, sweet and very moving.  Even if the secretary choose not to read the oath but recite if from memory.  The president paused several times because the secretary was incorrectly reciting the oath for him to repeat.  But it felt like a touch of imperfect humanity, something that has permeated throughout this campaign, thankfully.  It’s nice to know that  for a town that likes to take itself so seriously, events can still show their beautiful imperfections.

Obama’s speech came in at about 18 minutes.  It was very well received with the crowd, especially the parts about not sacrificing civil liberties for temporary safety or our standing as a world leader for   I’m paraphrasing of course, but it was all in there and it was nice to hear the words coming out the mouth of the president for once and not just those whom some would label as defeatist or apologist.   It really seemed like our leader’s ideals were in line with our own. At least it did for myself and those around me in The National Mall today.

Mission Accomplished

Mission Accomplished

Inauguration – We Made It January 20, 2009

Posted by Robert in Election 08, Politics, Travel.
Tags: , ,
add a comment

Well, at long last we made it. It took us about 5 hours to actually make it to the mall, but it was worth it. Just got interviewed by The News Hour with Jim Lehrer.

We’re currently standing just in front of the WWII memorial. This crowd is electric.

Inuguration Day – Waiting To Get Into The National Mall January 20, 2009

Posted by Robert in Election 08, Politics, Travel.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

It’s 5:35, and we’re on the courner of 3rd and Indiana. There are thousands of people waiting to get into the mall and no one seems to know when they’ll let us in.

Update 7:05 – still not letting us in.

Inauguration Day – Before Dawn On The DC Metro January 20, 2009

Posted by Robert in Travel.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

This train is packed to capacity before dawn. 2 trains in front of us had to be off-loaded because people were blocking the doors.

Inaguration Week – Ben’s Chili Bowl – The Ultimate DC Expirience January 20, 2009

Posted by Robert in inauguration, Not Political, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far


Well, after yesterday’s concert. We met up with friends in Silver Springs, MD and had a nice quiet evening.  After a nice long sleep-in, the discussion of what to do with our day.   Smithsonian?  Holocaust Museum? Monuments and Memorials?


With the promise of spectacularly bad-for-you food and an adventure, we decided to travel to DC’s hip and happening U-Street for a bowl of the good stuff at Ben’s Chili Bowl. Barack and his family apparently get free food here for life (also, Bill Cosby). The walls around U Street were covered with some great street art.




We arrived at Ben’s at about 3pm and were greeted by a line snaking out the front door and around the side of the building down an alley.   We asked a guy waiting in line right outside the front door how long he was waiting, and were told “about an hour and a half.”   A good follow up question should have been “Oh, and how long was the line when you started.”  But I didn’t think to ask that.


The guy right behind us in line managed to score  actual tickets to the swearing in ceremony.  He traveled from Las Vegas by himself to attend.

While waiting in line, we were constantly being approached by various people selling memorabilia and collectibles emblazoned with the president-elect’s face.  Some of the more unique offerings included an Obama figurine that was also an air freshener and  a cd of some of Obama’s speeches over original house music.   Haunting indeed.  I couldn’t resist purchasing that one.   I’ll post some of the  better tracks later.  There were also plenty of police officers around.  Like, 10 guarding the outside of 1 Chili joint, so if you had any concern that they didn’t have enough security in DC, I think they have things covered.

We’re so close to the front of the line we can taste it.


We finally made it into Ben’s after about 2 and a half hours outside.  My feet were frozen and by then it was dark out, but the atmosphere and aromas that permeated that place were well worth the wait.   The juke box was blasting old soul music and the entire staff was friendly and singing along to everything.   The guy at the door was doing a good job of keeping the line moving, and  the people behind the counter kept things going smoothly.   I ordered on large chili with cheddar to eat in, and  2 to go.   Those are coming back to Jersey for reverse engineering.

Even after all that waiting and my feet being so cold that I put my gloves on over my socks, it was so worth it.   We could have done anything today.  We probably could have hit plenty of sites in the 4 plus hours we spent waiting for and eating chili.  But somehow, it just fit the day.





Thanks Ben’s.


The Inauguration Concert – We Are One January 19, 2009

Posted by Robert in Election 08, inauguration, Music, Politics, Social Commentary, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment


It was cold, dusty and there were several people who would have fit in better in the parking lot of a Dave Matthews concert, but for a proud Obamite like myself, it was Woodstock.

We arrived at about 11:30 and the National Mall was packed already.

There’s one at every show.

Steve Carell

That kid’s chin is ready for change.


Marine One?

So it would appear.

Security was tight, but very polite and not oppressive.  Snipers?

US Boarder Patrol.  They must have pulled every uniformed officer into DC.

DC’s Finest.

The American Communist Party.

These guys were popular.

Later we realized that they were probably playing this because George Lucas was in the front row.  Seriously.

“That was good chanting everybody!”  Thanks Elmo.

Lots. Of. People.

Garth sorta brought the house down.  “American Pie” into “Shout”

U2 – Pride In The Name Of Love, one day before Dr. King’s birthday.

U2 – City of Blinding Lights

Pete Seger and Bruce Springsteen – This Land is Your Land.  The whole crowd was singing along.  This was one of the more moving parts of the day for me.

Someone decided that Beyonce got to do the finale.  Ah well, I would have given it to Pete and Bruce.

Smilin’ Joe Biden’s Speech.

Barack’s speech.  He’s just warming up for Tuesday.

The streets out of The National Mall were absolutely packed to the gills with people.

We’ve arrived! January 18, 2009

Posted by Robert in Election 08, Politics, Travel.
Tags: , , ,
1 comment so far

Well, we made it to DC. After a wonderful day in Baltimore we woke up this morning and headed to silver springs to take the metro to dc.

The national mall is packed full of people anticipating the concert today. All in all everyone is in great spirits. There are a couple of people who keep getting mad that people are walking so close to their blankets on the ground, but they back off when you remind them that this is public space and they are not mayor.

Security is tight but not oppressive. They searched all bags and made you open your coats. Their are armed plain clothes officers around but nothing that I wouldn’t consider overkill.

Inconsiderate August 13, 2008

Posted by Robert in Not Political, Social Commentary, Travel.
Tags: ,

Lady, this isn’t your living room. There are people on this train who would like a seat.

You stay classy, lady on the train with your shoes off.

Update: Yes, I did take this picture myself.  No, I did not ask her what her political affiliation was.  I won’t venture a guess because I’ve certainly met people capable of doing this on both sides of the spectrum.

V-A-C-A-TION, In the Summertime! August 13, 2008

Posted by Robert in Election 08, Politics, Social Commentary, Travel.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
1 comment so far

Well it looks like the current pet complaint coming from the increasingly desperate voice of the neo-conservative blog-o-sphere is that Barack Obama should feel bad about taking a vacation with his family right in the middle of this heated race for the white house.

Wait a minute,  I’m confused.  Isn’t the Republican party the party of family values?  Aren’t they the ones that are supposed to be the stalwart protectors of all that is right and good and wholesome?  Why the hell would they object to this?  He’s doing what any good father would. He decided that even in the middle of all this hullabaloo, he is not going to let his wife or children feel that they have taken permanent backseat.

This also comes as quite the surprise as the same people criticizing Barack for taking this vacation are the same ones who support a President who has spent more of his time in office on holiday than any other, not to mention a nominee that has been absent for more congressional votes than any other senator.  So it looks like if McCain get’s elected, we can rest assured that he’ll take it easy.

Hey people.  Last time I checked taking a vacation was a really, really American thing to do.  Elvis did it all the time. Spending quality time with your family even when you’re going through literally the most stressful job interview on the planet seems like something that someone with their priorities straight, would do.  The neo-con’s goal is to demonize (warning NSFW) this man with claims that he’s “Not-American Enough” or “Not Experienced Enough” but time and time again he’s demonstrated a kind of grace and foresight that you cannot learn or pretend to possess.

A few photos courtesy of Huffington Post:

Obama wears Crocs?

Obama wears Crocs?

It's so smug to love your children.

It's so smug to love your children.

Who does he think he is?

Who does he think he is?