The cherry blossoms are almost gone…and with them, the crowds.
The District has been suffocating with people stampeding around the Tidal Basin trying to grab that perfect cherry blossom shot. I’m of a split mind about cherry blossom season. On one end it’s a pain in the ass, traffic is constantly gridlocked and sidewalks are choked. But, there’s also something terrific about the scene…I mean aside from the blossoms.
The people watching is unparalleled. Dense waves of humanity jockey for position on a four-foot wide swath of concrete ringing the water. Strollers teeter on the edge of disaster with parents lost in the spell of the blossoms. Lines for bathrooms span entire memorials. Ice cream and snack vendors become outposts of sustenance.
Every year I sit somewhere on the Tidal Basin just to watch people as they watch the blossoms…totally not creepy, at all. But, in the process I’ve come up with a categorization of blossom purveyors. There are many types, but I’ve chosen six…and, naturally, I’ve chosen Walking Dead characters to best emphasize the point (not that the Cherry Blossom festival is like the zombie apocalypse (or is it?)):
The Shanes: you see it in their eyes, the subsurface homicidal rage ready to boil over at any moment. The screaming babies, the amateur photographer trying to get that “perfect” shot (even though it’s, like, noon), the millennial locals who insist on jogging around the Tidal Basin in spite of the 100,000 people in their way, the parking lot that is otherwise Independence Avenue, the cyclists who pedal through crowded memorials. It all comes together into a perfect bowl of rage soup. It’s miraculous that one of these types hasn’t gone Hulk and started throwing people into the basin indiscriminately.
The Dales: they’re irritatingly patient. They will take 15 minutes to set up the perfect shot, framing a fully formed branch of blossoms around the Jefferson Memorial. The picture will look amazing…but in the process pedestrian traffic will have backed up from FDR to the Lantern. They know you’re waiting, but pretend not to know. And when you finally do push past, instead of confrontation you’ll get a smile, a tip of the cap and some comment to the effect of “this really is a gorgeous day, enjoy” and that will make you feel really bad about being angry with the guy in the first place.
The Ricks: they are the dads with a plan. They have seven different escape routes to the car planned in their heads (the car, btw is parked at a Metro station because they know there’s no parking within 20 square miles of the Tidal Basin). They know how to push a family of six through the crowds like Lebron driving through the lane. And in a moment of crisis they’ll thrive, like when little Carl is about to piss himself because there are 600 people in line for the bathroom, the Rick will just take the kid to the front of the line and stare down, into oblivion, anyone who has anything to say about it.
The Carols: pretty much the same as the Ricks, but a little more well-thought out. The stroller/purse/backpack will be stocked with everything from spare diapers to carefully drawn maps highlighting the location of every picturesque cherry blossom. She may seem naive and oblivious to the threats around her, but that fanny pack is merely a decoy. If you’re bicycle wheel so much as touches a corner of her picnic blanket she’ll throw you in the Potomac.
The Governors: park rangers, cops and maybe the occasional tour guide drunk on power. They’ll personally escort you to Guantanamo Bay if you take a cherry blossom off a tree.
The Beths: her head’s a little in the clouds. She’ll probably smell every blossom from MLK to Jefferson. There’s a distinct possibility that she’ll play guitar and sing under a random, but picturesque bough of blossoms. Her aimless zigzagging from tree to tree is maddening to the flow of traffic. She’s no doubt separated from the rest of her group, who are trying to text her…except cell service on the Tidal Basin during peak bloom is as elusive as an open patch of grass.
It really is a circus of humanity that’s just a lot of fun to soak in…and the cherry blossoms are pretty nice too. And, here are some half-assed cherry blossom photos: