My good friend Heath (aka "Funny Uncle Heath) Druzin has taken a major leap in his reporting career, from the rugged American West to the somewhat wilder west of Iraq. He recently started a year-long reporting gig with Stars and Stripes (the preferred newspaper for America's military) as an embedded reporter in Iraq. He'll also be reporting from Afghanistan later on during his contract.
His insights so far have included a lament for the woeful lack of beer in embedded units, the interminable "hurry up and wait" atmosphere, and the culinary delights of chow halls.
If you'll permit me a moment of sappiness (save the snark, Heath), I've always been impressed by Heath's determination and neverending curiosity. Though I and all our friends worry and think about him daily (I won't even mention what his poor mother is probably going through), I'm impressed by his dedication to this position and I know that he'll leave his mark on the cannon of Iraq (and later, Afghanistan) war journalism that's currently in the works.
So, upon his insistence, I've added him to my friends' blogroll. Honestly, I should've done this much sooner, but I've become a pretty delinquent blogger of late, so please enjoy.
This picture is taken on U Street at roughly 2:30 a.m. when I ran into Dave, Vahan's roommate. At this point, Karin and I were going on pure adrenaline.
Finally, something interesting to post about. Something truly Washingtonian. Something that made yesterday one of the greatest days of my life. Though on the one hand it seemed there was no stopping the Obama momentum, until the moment CNN called the election for him, I can honestly say I've never felt jubilation quite like that before. Nor have I ever felt so proud of my country and my countrymen.
My evening of election celebration all happened on U Street, Washington's historically black neighborhood, U Street. We started off at Ben's Chili Bowl, a landmark half smoke joint that's been around for 50 years. Until now, only one person famously could eat free at Ben's: Bill Cosby. After yesterday, that rule was amended to include the Obama family. Can't wait to see little Sasha and Malia stopping by for a snack! U Street is also the epicenter of DC's jazz clubs, including the one where Duke Ellington used to play and where we watched Barack Obama become the 44th president. Bohemian Caverns had three levels of bars, TVs, and a bounce house to keep us entertained. A friend was DJing and we kept dancing as the numbers got better and better.
Around 11 p.m., when they finally named him President, the bartenders popped the champagne, soaking everyone in the vicinity, including yours truly, who also snagged a full glass and a beer from a particularly jubilant photographer who'd snuck behind the bar. We stuck around for McCain's extremely gracious (I thought) concession, did a little boogaloo, listened in rapt silence to the man in whom we now entrust all our hope, then quickly headed to the streets.
Already they'd stopped traffic at 11th and U, right outside Bohemian Caverns and just two blocks from my place. Strangers hugged strangers, high-fives were had all around, and the downpour that started around midnight couldn't dampen the dancing and chanting. The crowd swelled and stretched along U to 14th Street, where a drum circle took over one corner, and revelers in trees and on bus tops waved American flags and intermittently chanted, "U-S-A!" and "Yes we did!"
Word spread that a crowd was forming at the White House, but Karin, Mona and I stayed put at 14th Street, where we joined a conga line and slapped high-fives with everyone around. Every time we spotted a friend in the crowd (which was pretty often) we embraced, screamed, and jumped up and down in circles. A Marine in his uniform stood up on a newspaper box chanting "Yes we did!" as everyone around him clamored to hug him and applaud him.
What may have been the most moving was seeing all the African-Americans with tears streaming down their cheeks and everyone (white, black, Latino, Asian, gay, straight) hugging them and each other. It brought tears to my own eyes and goosebumps all over. And hokey though it sounds, I couldn't stop thinking to myself, "We, as a country, have come a long way."
We kept going until about 2:30 when Karin and I slowly started trudging back to 11th Street, and when our tired feet reminded us that our jeans were now soaked from dancing in the rain-streaked streets. We stood at the corner of 11th and U watching the impromptu parade continue to gather steam. When we saw there was no chance this party was going to let up, we walked back up to our apartment, collapsed in the living room and watch Obama's speech replayed on CNN, before finally crawling into bed.
My only regret is that I let Vahan borrow my camera this week for his trip to Hong Kong. Thankfully my friends got numerous shots and this YouTube video of 14 and U Streets will show you just exactly what we did last night.