I see the sign
They don't keep statistics on this sort of thing, but I bet this is the first time that anyone has turned a Four Seasons hot tub into a beer cooler. I can't afford a room at the Four Seasons, but my friend secured these tony Georgetown digs at a bargain rate. And, for the sake of showing off our welfare status, I shoulder a 30-rack of Bud Light cans through the lobby and fill our bath with seashell-shaped ice chips as a first order of business.

I'm sure there are other rally-goers in the hotel, but not one of the guests whom I speak with in the spa or elevator is heading to today's rager. In fact, some resent my participation, like the friendly DC attorney and his apparent mistress, who chide me in the lobby: "If you really are a liberal, then you might want to use the back door. A guy like you should be ashamed to stay here."

They're probably right. Still, I'm not embarrassed to have the bellhop whistle down a taxi for us. Within minutes, my friend and I are in the thick of it, roasting yet another tampon that, when held vertically against the sky, appears to be the same size as the Washington Monument before us. Some costumed revelers join us, and I'm delighted to share my joint with Beetlejuice, a human omelet, and sexy Sarah Palin.

110_rally_main
KALEIDOSCOPE: While some strained to catch a glimpse of Stewart or Colbert, the real show was the crowd itself.

At first I'm apprehensive about attendance. By 10 am at Glenn Beck's Restoring Honor rally last August, this place already looked like Captain America's fetish room, with several hundred thousand similar outfits creating the appearance of a marching army. On Saturday, the Mall fills late as cars and buses break through the Beltway traffic, and by noon Stewart's kaleidoscopic troops reach from the monument to the reflecting pool like a double rainbow. It's a beautiful flash of full-on intensity, but what does it mean?

The conflicting ingredients make for a pleasantly surprising net outcome. Unlike when pro-choicers troll gay-rights rallies to shamelessly hawk their own hype, the tangled messages out here don't subtract from the sum outcome. Outliers like 9/11 Truthers — who specialize in leeching onto bigger movements — are lost in the madness; if there are legit Tea Partiers here, I can't tell them from the faux loons with tea bags stapled to their Uncle Sam hats. With that said, if I had to choose between the two Americas — one represented at Restoring Honor, where attendees mostly wore similar flag gear, and another on display here, where Wu-Tang fans stand side-by-side with retired CIA analysts and soft-spoken lefties — then I pledge my allegiance to the latter. The sinners are much more fun.

Near the carousel, Hare Krishnas and a Lady Gaga impersonator unite in song, presumably out of a mutual affection for repetitive anthems. A group of young firemen from Philly poses with them, hoisting Gaga in the air as I snap a picture. To my left there are Chilean miners; to my right I hear teenage minors chanting, "The drinking age is too damn high." I consider buying the kids beers at the concession stand, but the line is too damn long.

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