I've been back from Armenia for a week, diving into the usual old ways of living, navigating the same old familiar ways around the city. It's been very refreshing to return to a developed-world hotspot like Manhattan, where my biggest gripe is not with chronic unemployment, urban blight, or the oppressive legacy of communism, but rather the fact that sometimes my ipod mixes up album covers and shows the wrong artwork when a song is playing. This really makes me angry, and I'm sure it's equally aggravating to live in a country without infrastructure, or to be a subsistence farmer. I'm sure of it.
Jet lag kicked my ass both going to and returning from Yerevan. After a solid 18 hour journey from Armenia to my apartment, I didn't really sleep that night, and instead took an involuntary nap when I went to see a matinee showing of "Sweeney Todd" by myself the next day. I really liked the movie, and the songs were about as good as musical theater gets, although I wonder if I would have liked it more had I stayed awake through it.
One awesome thing about coming back has been the frenzy of political activity going on here. We woke up early in Armenia to watch the Iowa returns and to see Obama deliver one of the most inspirational speeches I can remember. And everyone has been buzzing over New Hampshire, when Hillary let herself actually be human for a moment and became as real and genuine and admirable and honest (and presidential) as she has ever seemed, and my friend John McCain basically tarred and feathered Mitt Romney, but then proceeded to give the most boring, soporific speech I have ever heard. If I could not stay awake for "Sweeney Todd," McCain's acceptance speech made me pass out directly onto the coffee table, where I lay unconscious for three days until I was reasonably sure he had either shut up or been wheeled away by one of his aides, staring down at his text and muttering about entitlement reform.
I've been devouring all the political commentary I can get, waiting for the newsweeklies to arrive each Monday with pages and pages of analysis, commentary, predictions, schadenfreude and glee, checking the blogs and newspapers incessantly all day to chart the course of whatever debate, scandal, or teapot-tempest has captured the media's attention. This is an exciting time, with so many people engaged in the political process, and so many of us lucky enough to have the chance to participate. With only a moment's hesitation I actually registered as a Democrat so I can vote in the primary here on February 5th. I definitely don't consider myself a Democrat, but I will dress up as Susan B. Anthony to stake my claim in this thing. This is democracy! This is America! And after a couple weeks away in a strange and unsettling place, I love it all more than ever, when I can actually stay awake for it.