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6/11/04 -- Paying Respects.

i didn't go to Reagan's funeral procession on Wednesday night after all. The weather took the decision out of my hands -- it was just brutally hot and humid, the kind of suffocating day that a newscaster in my youth described as being "like a giant dog breathing on you." Ugh. And June isn't even halfway through yet.

Although I had no interest in waiting out in the heat for hours to view Reagan lying in state at the Rotunda, on late Thursday night I stumbled across C-Span's live feed of all the people coming to view the casket. It was bizarrely addictive to watch -- all the fun of people-watching without the inconvenience of having to leave the air-conditioned house. Random observations:

  • Nothing says "I'm here to pay my respects to a late President" like a t-shirt that reads "I'M OUT OF BED -- WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT?" and ill-fitting short-shorts. Unless it's empty Dasani bottles strewn over the floor of the Rotunda. Some of the visitors seemed to be under the impression they were simply at the latest addition to the Smithsonian. The Flag-Draped Coffin branch, perhaps.
  • That being said, the overwhelming hush in the place was downright eerie. It's never that quiet in big DC buildings. Aside from the occasional fussing baby or low murmur, there was virtually no crowd noise to be heard.
  • The C-Span cameramen would occasionally single out individuals in the crowd. My favorites were the nervous-looking kids who were clearly thinking "It's late at night and there's a dead guy right over there. Mom, can we go? Like, NOW? Please?"
  • At one point, the camera captured a really young woman who was just sobbing, her face buried in her hands and her shoulders shaking. She couldn't possibly have been more than a few years old at the time Reagan left office. I wonder what it was she was mourning.
  • Most fascinating to me was the changing of the honor guard. The replacement guards marched into the Rotunda very slowly and circled around the previous guards until each member was standing behind the person from his same military branch. A slow, smart salute and then the previous guards circled into formation and marched out.

In fact, I'm going to go out on a limb and say something that's sure to get me kicked out of the Snarky Liberal club: I've been very impressed and even moved by a lot of the ceremony of the past few days. Maybe I'm just a sucker for cheap emotional pops, but I ended up watching most of the procession to the Rotunda on Wednesday night. The empty boots on the riderless horse put a lump in my throat, even if the horse seemed a little prancy and impatient. And I can't help it; my heart went out to Nancy Reagan. In almost every shot I saw of her face, she had that same numb, dazed, weary expression I think I must have had when my father died and I wanted nothing more than to be left the hell alone so I could absorb the loss in peace. I think I'm glad for her that this long week is finally over.

And I know I'm glad for me. Even as I've been interested in the pageantry this week, the bloviations and hyperbole from a fair-sized chunk of the media have been driving me nuts. The low point had to be the blowhard droning on ABC on Wednesday night about how the dome of the Rotunda showed Washington ascending to heaven, and surely the assorted senators and representatives awaiting the arrival of Reagan's coffin wanted to ascend to heaven too, and perhaps being less viciously partisan and more like Reagan would help them do that. I want to say that was Cokie Roberts, but I'm not sure. It was a really fucking stupid thing to say, in any event.

The Test Dream.

I spent Thursday night in the grip of one of my classic "unprepared" dreams. I was in yet another Web design class, and on the last day we all came in and received instructions that we were each to design and code a huge website from scratch.

And I panicked. First of all, I was using my Powerbook instead of the class computers (I don't know why; I guess I was being one of those annoying "Oooo, everyone look at me, I have a Powerbook" types I used to envy a lot) -- but I hadn't brought the power adapter and I wasn't going to have nearly enough battery power to make it through the whole exam and all the files I needed for my class would be lost forever. And then there was the small problem that I hadn't really been paying all that much attention in class the last couple of days. Some thoughtful person had set up a TV in the classroom, and the World Figure Skating Championships were being televised live during the classes ... you couldn't really expect me to learn much in an environment like that, could you? The dream went on in that vein until I woke up feeling very relieved that it was Friday.