Washington DC shut down yesterday for the Washington Nationals’ World Series parade down Constitution Avenue.
One month ago I was in the hospital, in the Intensive care ward. I thought there was a real chance I was going to be mostly blind for the rest of my life. Yesterday, I was at the a World Series parade. I moved between between tears and overwhelming happiness from the moment I stepped off the Metro.
The parade was more than just a celebration of the team’s victory over the Houston Astros. It was a celebration of the organization (the broadcasters and front office staff) and local baseball (various Little Leagues and the Nationals Youth Academy in Anacostia) as well as the city itself, from politicians to libraries, the police and the fire department (including the Washington DC Fire Department Pipe and Drum band), and even the military.
I took a lot of photos. Over 400 photos. Last night I went through them, culling them down to 60, cropping and resizing them, and from those 60 I selected a handful for this post. (I’d share the full 60, but Facebook no longer allows photo albums to be shared publicly for some reason that probably makes sense to them and none to its users.)
When I stepped from the Navy Memorial-Archives Metro stop on the Green Line, I was surrounded by street vendors hocking bootleg merchandise. I passed up on the t-shirts and the posters and the pennants and even the vuvuzelas, at least for the moment.
After the parade, when the vendors were trying to sell anything they hadn’t sold and most of them were selling their leftover t-shirts for five dollars apiece, then I bought two. (One I think is actually a kids size.) Before the parade, people were walking along the fences handing out souvenirs like signs, rally towels, pom-poms, and thundersticks. I also had a Ziploc baggie on me (for my three o’clock pills), and I grabbed some of the confetti that was shot off as the trophy passed and stuffed it into the baggie.
I took up a position along the fence outside of the National Gallery of Art, across the street from the (former?) Newseum. There was already a decent sized crowd, red caps and shirts and hoodies as far as the eye could see.
The parade began with a color guard.
I could not tell you who were on most of the buses.
The Nationals’ radio announcers, Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegler, made appearances, riding in open-top convertibles. I’m not sure where the television crew was; they may have been on the buses. To be honest, I was more excited to see Charlie and Dave than Bob and F.P.
Several Little Leagues in the Washington area, and the Nationals Youth Academy in Anacostia across the river from RFK, got their moment in the spotlight between the buses and the VIPs..
Local Little League organizations also marched in the parade. I was standing near a mother whose children and husband were part of one. Another was the Mamie Johnson Little League, named after the female Negro League pitcher who lived in the Washington area in the later years of her life and was drafted by the Washington Nationals in a special 2008 draft for former Negro League players.
Anthony Rendon soaked up the crowd’s chants of “MVP! MVP! MVP!”
Damn them, I even cheered for Elmo, the red devil himself. Damn their eyes!
Of course Sean Doolittle rode the bullpen cart. Of course Sean Doolittle wielded his lightsaber. I, and Natsdom, wouldn’t have had it any other way.
A World Series parade would not have been complete with an appearance by the Racing Presidents.
The Washington Fire Department Pipes and Drums band made an appearance.
As did the Budweiser Clydesdales… and a team right behind them to shovel the horse shit off on Constitution Avenue, which they had to do right where I was standing.
And, of course, the United States Marine Band.
When the bus carrying Aaron Barrett passed, I cheered loudly, shouting, as I did in Harrisburg this year when he pitched, “The Bear! The Bear!” When I saw the picture he posted on Twitter Thursday morning of him holding the World Series trophy, thinking of the adversity he faced and the struggle he went through to pitch again — basically, the bones in his elbow exploded — I cried. As Gandalf reminds us, “Do not fear to weep, for not all tears are evil,” and I was genuinely excited for him.
An hour and fifteen minutes after the leading edge of the parade passed the National Gallery of Art, the final bus, bearing the World Series trophy with Ryan Zimmerman and manager Davey Martinez, approached.
The World Series trophy and the National League trophy were taken off the bus and shown to the crowd.
Behind the bus, cannons shot red confetti into the crowd.
As the parade passed, many people began making their way up Constitution Avenue to the site of the ceremony. I was sort of nearing the limits of my energy, not to mention my feet were pretty numb, so I went for a walk about to kill some time before making my way back to the Metro and, eventually, home.
A group of Bible-thumping, sign-carrying, Jesus freaks were preaching to an indifferent crowd along 7th Street NW, between Constitution and Pennsylvania. I’d seen them in the crowd earlier, not to mention one I saw well before the parade on the Constitution Avenue side of the Nationals Gallery of Art who looked a bit like Jared Leto who was shouting about how Jesus came with a sword.
I had a brief meeting with a high school classmate a few blocks to the north. She and her family were in town for the parade, I hadn’t seen her in almost thirty years — I’ve attended no reunions and have only been back to West Virginia once, nearly fourteen years ago — and when she said on Facebook that she was going to be there I sent her a message and told her to text me. The namesake of our high school, Philip Pendleton Barbour, is buried in Washington, DC; I located his grave in 2017, interesting wearing the same Washington Nationals baseball cap I wore to the parade. That cap, the 2017 Stars & Stripes cap, sweat-stained and battered as it was, was the one I had with me when I was in the hospital, so I stuck with that cap throughout the postseason as my personal rally cap. The only reason I wore it the day I went into the hospital was that I was wearing a blue polo shirt that day and I wanted to wear a contrasting hat.
I milled about Constitution Avenue for another half an hour or so, then made my way back to the very crowded and overwhelmed Navy-Archives Metro station. Somehow I timed it exactly right, as I was able to not only get on a Greenbelt-bound train immediately, but I was also able to claim a seat in a relatively uncrowded car. (Always go to the train ends, that’s my Metro strategy.) A few stops later a woman took the other seat, and she and I talked for several stops, until Fort Totten. She and her husband had come to DC from Milwaukee for a sightseeing vacation that they’d planned months in advance, only as it turned out it was also the weekend of the World Series parade. We talked about the Brewers, and I said I thought the Brewers have a good shot the next two or three years.
It could not have been a nicer day in DC. It could have been warmer — I don’t believe it topped fifty degrees, and the trees and the National Gallery of Art blocked the sun after two — but it wasn’t windy, the sky was crystal clear, and it was bright. And surrounded by tens of thousands of “my people,” as I put it on Twitter (ie., Nationals fandom), I could not have been happier. And no sunburn, unlike the last time I spent the Saturday before Election Day near the National Mall.
The trip home was uneventful, and when I stopped at the Weis Market near the apartment the cashier commented on my Nationals hat and hoodie, and when I told him that I’d just come from the World Series parade, his eyes widened and he went, “Oh, wow.”
I’m glad I went. I wasn’t sure I was going to because lately I get fatigued and my legs hurt when I walk, but everything about the day proved I made the right choice and, except for here and there, my legs held up just fine. (Though I really did need the seat on the Metro back to Greenbelt.) The parade was, as my boss said to my on Friday, “a once in a lifetime event.” The 2019 Washington Nationals were 12 games under .500 in the middle of May. They stayed in the fight. They finished the fight.
When I think about where I was on October 2nd I am so glad I got to see and experience this.