Today I got out my audio recorder to use for a project involving a crocodile in my bathtub (more on that in a week or two). There were already some tracks on the memory card that I had never taken off, so when I went to play back today’s audio I was suddenly listening to the sound of my cat (who died in 2011) purring. Followed, bizarrely, by my sister talking to my niece about taking Woof Woof (stuffed dog?) with her (niece, not sister) to go pee-pee. Followed, even more bizarrely, by a man on a loudspeaker (with folk guitar in the background), laughing maniacally and saying, “We control your horizontal. We control your vertical. We give you that which is, was, will be.”*
I couldn’t figure out what I was listening to, or how it got on my recorder, and it was a little bit creepy. After a few moments I realized I must have recorded him when I was out photographing an event during one of my periods of playing at photojournalism (which for a while also involved some attempts at getting audio to go with the pictures). The timestamp on the audio file was April 25, 2010, which meant nothing to me, but I checked my photo catalog for that date and found my pictures from the Climate Rally held on the National Mall on Earth Day.
When I looked at the pictures it started to come back to me. I had arrived around 9:15 that morning, when things had barely gotten going and there were a few dozen people milling around. Off to the side was a man in his 20s or 30s wearing dress pants and shoes, clean white button-down shirt, tie, and dark sunglasses, with an American flag stuck in his hair and a battery-powered loudspeaker in his hand, talking about Jesus. The speaker was more interesting than your average person haranguing strangers about Jesus: he had a bit of an improvised poetic style, and was also listening to what was happening on stage and referencing it in his patter.
I recorded audio and took pictures of him at a few different times while I was there. By 12:15 I was done with the event; I can’t remember if I had somewhere else to be or was just bored with it. There were still fewer than 200 people there at that point, and the headline acts hadn’t come out yet. Apparently I really missed out, because eventually the sun came out and the rally got interesting, and, according to some reports, “tens of thousands” of people were there.
My pictures from the three hours I was there are uninteresting–so uninteresting that they’ve been languishing in my “to be reviewed” backlog ever since, totally forgotten. As I flipped through them today I had the audio playing in the background, and I found it a little haunting and strangely compelling–the speaker’s monologue interwoven with the music from the stage and contrasted against the rest of what was going on. So I’m posting it here as an audio slideshow for your consideration. It’s maybe a little long at just over seven minutes, and each picture is in front of you for too long because I didn’t have enough to select from, but still you might find it interesting if you put yourself in the right frame of mind and listen.
Plus there’s a guy with a cat on a leash.
I should just mention that I’m not trying to make any sort of statement about the Climate Rally itself here–it’s just that that’s what was going on while the guy was speaking, so I put the pictures in for context and to give you something to look at while you’re listening. I don’t know whether he was trying to make some larger point; whether he came out that day specifically for the rally or just decided to go preach on the Mall and the rally happened to be there. I don’t know this or anything else about him because I never talked to him to get his story, and for that reason I haven’t included any pictures of him other than the one above. Including more (identifiable) pictures of him felt like an invasion of his privacy (even though he was speaking in a public place), or maybe like co-opting him into my little art project. If I were actually a photojournalist I could have made a story about him, but instead this is a story about me listening to him, four and a half years after the fact.
Oh, and because it seems wrong to let a post go by without making fun of someone or something, here’s the official Earth Day Menu of the food being offered by Guest Services (authorized concessioner for the rally):
I know there are limits to what you can efficiently and cost-effectively serve to large crowds, but didn’t someone think that this sort of rally might attract a lot of people who are vegetarian, or at least interested in healthy eating? Apparently not, because there are three choices on the menu: hot dogs, chicken tenders, and pulled pork barbecue. Also, just to nit-pick, I like that they included the accent in “à la carte” but missed the apostrophe in “Nations [sic] Capital.”