• Day 255: Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear… of Candy

    Date: 2010.10.30 | Category: Uncategorized | Tags:

    What can you say about a journey to Washington D.C. to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear (view from our perch at left this morning) that began a week ago with a fall off the entire wagon?

    The rally, at least, was no joke.

    Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert may not have kept me on the wagon but they did restore me to sanity. After more than five years living abroad and coming perilously close to joining other expats in denigrating America, I felt my own shaky patriotism snap back in business today.

    Some memorable moments among many:  Ozzy Osbourne and Yusuf Islam aka Cat Stevens doing, of all things, a bit, the Roots’ Cap’n Kirk’s blistering guitar,  Stephen Colbert’s Chilean-style emergence from the “fear bunker,” Father Guido Sarducci listing world religions and asking God for a sign as to which was the valid one,  the abrupt arrival of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, all of us doing the Wave on the Mall, jumping up and down and laughing “like a mad scientist” on cue from the Mythbusters.

    My favorite bit? R2D2′s dignified appearance and brazen roll over Stewart’s foot.

    I emailed a friend:  It surpassed all my expectations.  I thought it would just be fun but whatever you saw on TV or read online, you’ve got to know how amazing it was from the ground. Three hours of great music and laughing out loud, executed guerrilla-style by scary-smart people.  Blue skies, perfect weather and an Independence Day-style view of the U.S. Capitol in the distance.  I don’t want to write about it, read about it – or watch a thousand pundits talk about it.  I’m just glad I was there. It was a highlight of my life.  It was not something to watch from afar on a screen and cynically deconstruct from the safety of an iMac. I feel weary about even being a reporter today, knowing the thousands of other writers weighing in at the same time, grinding down the experience to a fine nothingness. I bet I’ll be embarrassed for expressing my enthusiasm and how moved I was at times and how clever it seemed to me — if I start reading all the reviews.


    For some reason, I focused on Tony Bennett’s suit and crisp orange tie  and pocket handkerchief when he came out at the end to sing “America the Beautiful.”  The lyrics were on the giant TelePrompter, like every last second of the three-hour event.  It had all gone so unbelievably smoothly.   Try doing deft political satire in a superhero cape and in front of a giant hand puppet (Colbert) and singing off-key (Stewart) in a Stars and Stripes fleece jacket in front of an estimated 215,00 people and see how well you pull it off.

    So when it came to 84-year-old Bennett, I worried that being old, he might blow it.  I was worried more for him than us.  His aura of utter professionalism, beautiful suit and 20th-century class made him seem more vulnerable to me.

    I know he is the ultimate in old pros. I still wondered what this meant to him, what it’s like to be one of many performers on the roster at a show like this, waiting backstage for your small moment. Tony delivered.  Of course he did, he’s Tony Bennett. This was probably just another gig for him.  He’s possibly the last person to get rattled.

    It’s why I love show people so much – they give me so much hope.  To me they’re as vital as neurosurgeons.   I admire them so much more than reporters or critics.  There is just no comparison.  I could never pull off what they did today, I can only praise, criticize or analyze it.  Those talents always come up so short to me when you contrast it to the O’Jays in their white suits stepping out onto the “Love Train.”  It was a gift not to be a reporter, critic or pundit today.

    I’d rather not report, then, my fall off the wagon that coincided with my trip back to the U.S.  I want the rally glow to stick…

    I landed at JFK last week and lasted one day… I discovered some old leftover Kudos granola chocolate chip bars in the refrigerator in my apartment and ate them. I also ate a few M&Ms I found in the vegetable drawer.  Hard fall off a Year Without Candy.  I’m not proud.  I was so disciplined for so long.

    Why did I do it? I don’t know.  A couple days later at a reunion party thrown by an old friend for a lot of us ex-MSNBC people, I freely ate potato chips and cheese.   Total fall off the Dukan diet.

    I was going to get right back on the no-candy, full Dukan diet horse, but it was time to hop the train to D.C. to the rally.  I forgot to pack warm clothes, forgot we were going to get up at the crack of dawn (below in the pitch dark) to get to the National Mall, forgot to buy some good food.

    I had to layer up, feeling like a Slavic peasant woman, while others wore attractive hats fit to go caribou hunting with Sarah Palin.  But we got a great place to stand, just a few feet away from the stage.

    All there was to eat were Zone and Clif bars, basically candy bars.  I ate them.  But if there’s any bright side to falling off the wagon, it’s that the bars seemed too sweet to me.  And I didn’t succumb to the big glazed doughnuts being sold just a few feet away from our perch.

    Like so many people on the Mall, we stuck around afterwards, sitting on the steps of the Smithsonian Air and Space museum – then took a pedicab to a restaurant on the water.

    It was a great day.  My plan is to return to my Year Without Candy tomorrow and write these six past days off as field research.   So far, my inner scientist says it’s much easier to fall off the wagon than I thought.  But no lashes for me.  I won’t stone myself.  I think I will get right back on track of No Candy tomorrow.  In fact I threw out every bit candy back in my New York apartment.

    Tomorrow’s another day.  But to get back to today for a moment.

    I wasn’t sure I was going to like Stewart’s big (12 minutes) speech at the end because the rally had walked such a high wire between comedy and message, and I was afraid he would come off as preachy.

    “I can’t control what people think this was. I can only tell you my intentions. This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith or people of activism, or to look down our noses at the heartland or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are, and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times.”

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