Saturday, September 4, 2010

8/28 Diary, Part I, On the Road to Washington

[Note: My wife and I attended Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally in D.C. this past weekend and I thought it important to provide some notes from the experience. ]

I first heard about the Restoring Honor Rally Glenn Beck planned for 8/28 probably in April. My first thought was, good grief, Washington, D.C. in August? He’s gotta be kidding! But then, my wife got wind of it. We talked it over for a good month or so and finally decided it was important that there be a good crowd for this, so we made reservations to go.

Why did we go? During to countdown to the Rally, all four months of it, we had little idea of what to expect, Beck didn’t release many details in advance. We did know the program was themed around his understanding of the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity and that he vowed it wouldn’t be political; it would be about returning the country to it’s traditional values. And that’s why we went. We felt it important to stand in favor of such things; it was a tremendous gamble on Beck’s part to put the thing on; if it failed, if few people showed up, the so called elites running the country could claim a real victory for their progressive agenda. That would be terrible. We were a little afraid, in fact, that many people would not make the trip, given the time and the condition of the economy. We decided we could go, thanks to a bank of air miles, and so we would; we would try to do our part to make sure it didn’t fail.

So, we waited four months for the day of departure to arrive.

On the Road – We made our reservations to fly out on Thursday, 8/26 on the United direct flight from COS to Washington, Dulles Airport. The eve of the big day came, we set the alarms early, packed and went to bed. We got up, got breakfast and until 6:00 AM everything went strictly to plan. We were congratulating ourselves that we were better prepared and things were going more smoothly than any trip we had ever taken. Then the lights went out. I finished my shower and shaved in darkness. I wondered if this was an omen. Anyway, we got the bags out to the car and headed to the airport, thinking the power would come on soon and everything would be fine.

We got there, a parking lot shuttle followed us from our arrival in the Long Term Parking area and picked us right up. Seemed we were back on track. We got through security with no issue and got to the gate quickly.

It’s hard to describe time spent in a modern airport. There is the unrelenting sameness about airports these days that seems at times both welcome and oppressive. It’s welcome because you feel like you are entering familiar territory in the sometimes over whelming experience that is travel these days. It’s oppressive because it’s easy to forget just exactly what town you are in; except in matters of scale, one airport looks almost exactly like another airport, no matter the city or state. It’s also hard for an old-timer like myself not to remember that it didn’t use to be like that; airports in different cities each had their own character and were part of the landscape to which they belonged. They reflected the area around them. Now, due mostly I guess, to changes in technology and the regulatory quest to try to guarantee absolute safety, no matter the cost, entering an airport is like entering some sort of isolation capsule where you are completely cut off, once past security screening, from anything or any influence from the outside. Is this a good thing? I don’t know.

It’s hard not to notice, too, that even the cast of characters at most airports is nearly identical. At the screening area, there is the inevitable poor soul, usually some middle aged, infrequent traveler from Milwaukee, who tries to pack all sorts of liquids and gel into his/her carry-on baggage, resulting in the full force of the TSA coming down on their heads in the never-ending effort to trap terrorists and confiscate any possible explosive contraband. There is the elderly couple overwhelmed by the whole experience, wearing the famous deer in the headlights expressions. I can’t help but feel for them. There is the jaded, withdrawn teenager or college student, completely absorbed with their iPod, smart phone, or what ever the gadget of the moment is. And there is the business traveler, the one who makes their living doing this, week in and week out, checking email or writing important memos on laptops plugged into the wall. They were all there this morning too. As for me, I pulled out my most recent discovery, my Kindle, and opened a book by Richard O’Kane, The Patrols of the American Submarine, Wahoo.

I always try to bring a book of military history with me when I have to take an airplane some where. They aren’t heavy reading, but still serve as a periodic reminder that human beings, maybe especially Americans, are capable of great courage and self-sacrifice in the pursuit of what is right and good. O’Kane’s book fit the bill perfectly. The Kindle makes it possible to carry many books, both for the flight and for reading after arrival, without weighing down your carry on bag to at or beyond my declining physical limits. It’s a god send as I hate to be without a selection of books to read.  My Kindle will spoil me.

The flight itself, even though it was roughly three hours on a small commuter jet, wasn’t uncomfortable. It was, in fact, bearable. What else can be said, or even wished for these days? I congratulate United Airlines for being a rather customer oriented air carrier and doing their best to provide a pleasant experience under difficult circumstances.

On arrival, we headed for baggage claim, collected our bags and headed for the advertised shuttle which would take us to the West Falls Church Metro stop where we could catch a train and, we hoped, land reasonably close to our hotel at a reasonable hour. This worked out close to plan.

So, here we were in Washington, D.C., awaiting the big day.

[To be continued]

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