Another Journey Begins at the Tabard

It was just a coincidence that we stayed in the Tabard Inn in Washington the night before the 2020 Women’s March. A Middle Ages hostelry by that same name in Southwark, London was a popular starting point for pilgrimages to Canterbury and was indeed the starting point for the pilgrims in Geoffrey Chaucer’s, The Canterbury Tales

And as in Chaucer’s story, our weekend was organized around meeting with people who told us their tales—in this case, old friends and relatives. A Friday dinner with cousins in Gettysburg, a pre-march breakfast with another cousin, a post-march late lunch with friends from upstate New York and then drinks with other friends from Baltimore—closing it out Sunday meeting a nephew for brunch. If our friend Steve Miller had made it, we would have even had a Miller’s Tale. 

Sandwiched in between was the march, an upbeat gathering that mostly distracted us from the chilly, sometimes drizzly weather that day. I had an SLR camera around my neck, an iPhone in my pocket and a sign in my hand, juggling between documenter and participant—a common approach in this march. 

Here’s a taste of the Women’s March in Washington, Jan. 18, 2020.
OMG—it’s Tracey!

Our biggest surprise came right off the bat, while milling about prior to the march. I moved in to photograph an eye-catching sign, when the person holding it called my name. It was Tracey Stamatel, our friend from Glens Falls, who is married to Tom, one of my best friends from high school. We shared our astonishment at happenstance and agreed to meet for a late lunch. 

We carried pretty great signs designed by my wife, Claire, and people often stopped us to take a photo. You know, like we were celebrities. One side of my sign depicted the president as Ronald McDonald, standing under a sign designed to look like the familiar restaurant’s, but phrased, “Donald’s, more than 15,000 lies told.” It was especially popular when we stopped in front of a McDonald’s Restaurant along the route. 

That’s Claire with two of the signs she designed, in front of a McDonald’s.

Many signs, chants and drumbeats later, the progression emptied into Lafayette Square across the street from the White House, and the marchers transitioned back to tourists and residents. They (and we) posed for photos holding their signs with the White House as a backdrop, engaged with the more hard core protesters who camp out in the park, and listened to a group of eccentrically dressed singers belt out popular songs that were refreshed with anti-Trump lyrics.

I didn’t catch the name of this a cappella group in Washington’s Lafayette Square singing popular songs with lyrics altered to remind us that Donald Trump is still the president.

Some marchers continued on to the Trump International Hotel, where loud chants like, “Lock him up,” rose up occasionally. Here I saw the only aggressive anti-march actions I encountered. (A number of anti-abortion protesters appeared along the route, but either protested silently or with the sort of non-stop, mindless preaching that is easy to ignore.) Here at the Trump Hotel, an anti-protestor was video recording, and when I caught up with him, a woman was telling him not to use the interview he’d apparently done with a 15 year-old girl (her daughter?). He was loudly and gleefully calling her a “retard,” insisting that he had the right to use any footage he shot in a public place. He seemed to enjoy flaunting the boorish behavior our president often employs. A number of people came to the woman’s defense, and we moved on. 

Not long after that we abandoned the dwindling masses and took a cab to our afternoon lunch. The march we’d made didn’t feel as bold as the one in 2017, when so many came out so soon after the president’s inauguration. This year, the president was to be called out officially in an impeachment trial just a few days after the event. And come November, he’ll be tested again by a general election. With those dates inked on the calendar, the 2020 Women’s March felt more like what Chaucer might have called a prologue. 

Randy Rainbow Makes Show Tunes Great Again

In the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 20, there was a new twist in the Trump whistleblower scandal. The Wall Street Journal reported that in a recent phone call the U.S. president pressured the Ukrainian head of state eight times to investigate the Ukrainian business dealings of Hunter Biden, the son of Trump’s potential 2020 presidential opponent Joe Biden. 

On our way that night to the Kodak Theatre on the Ridge to see Randy Rainbow, who has made a name for himself by posting parody songs about Donald Trump’s crazy ride in the White House, we speculated on whether this latest scandal would be part of the show. No parody song about it yet, we predicted, but probably a mention. 

We were wrong. There was no mention. And frankly, I was disappointed. I’d come to the show straight from riding my exercise bike to the latest breaking news from Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room. Randy’s show felt like when I tuned into the Late Show after a day of wacky Trump revelations only to find that Colbert is on vacation and tonight’s show was filmed three months ago. It’s funny, but it’s not the fix I’m looking for. 

Perhaps it’s unfair to judge a show based on whether or not it provides your personal fix. Randy Rainbow’s song parodies were, like his YouTube posts, spot on. “There is nothing like a wall,” sung to the tune of “There is Nothing Like a Dame.” Someday we’ll find it, the Russian connection,” to the tune of “The Rainbow Connection.” “Super callous fragile ego extra braggadocios,” to “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” “Rudy and the Beast” to “Beauty and the Beast.” They go on and on.

Fittingly for our data-driven era, his show mixed his live performance with big-screen video, sometimes timing voiceovers to work with his live music, sometimes edited to make Randy appear to be interviewing the Orange One. In those, he’s an endearing character with a great sense of comic timing. Onstage he’s also a bit of a whirling dervish, changing his costume frequently from black tie to red sequins to ruby slippers. 

But how do you keep your song parodies current with the never-ending onslaught of misbehaviors and scandals that spew from this real estate magnate turned president? It’s a difficult assignment, but Randy doesn’t back down. In a Q&A session with the audience he said he turns his videos around in 48 hours—all the writing, arranging, recording, editing and posting. Whew! 

Of course, that level of timeliness is pretty much impossible when you’re on the road. Rainbow had a reasonable solution, arranging his parodies in somewhat chronological order to give a sort of history of the Trump presidency, building up to the most recent atrocities. His latest, posted Aug. 29, played on Trump’s Aug, 21 retweet of praise that Israeli Jews “love him like the second coming of God,” set to the tune of Jesus Christ Superstar: “Cheeto Christ, Cheeto Christ. He’s like if Jesus was pumpkin spiced.”

It was funny, but my inner Situation Room needed more. Not that I’d given up on finding the Russian connection, it was just that, at this moment, I was hot on the Ukraine. Sorry Randy. You can write that off as my problem. You know, and the nation’s.