For the entrepreneurs at 14th and W streets NW, the marchers came and left without anything but an occasional radio broadcast about jobs, peace and freedom echoing above a daily grind of street deals and hustles.
At the "no name" apartment building, where remnants of the weekend celebration were discarded syringes, "sno-seals" (for grams of cocaine) and liquor bottles, it was business as usual yesterday as men sat on steps and stood in the doorway, watching for potential customers while keeping an eye on one another's backs.
"You want to know what it's like out here?" one man asked as he stood in the apartment hallway, trying on one of an armload of new sports shirts that someone had just delivered. "Lose your job for 30 days . . . "
"Just two weeks," said the shirt salesman.
"Find spider webs in your refrigerator," intoned a third man, who said he had been unemployed more than a year. "Then go tell the man how you used to have some food. See what he say."
The tone out here was raw and the language far removed from that used during Saturday's March on Washington. No statistic on unemployment could capture the desperation and painful deterioration that joblessness had wrought on this block. No dream could change the reality that some of these people are lost forever.
"We live day to day. Future don't mean nothing out here," said a man who said he was a janitorial supervisor for the U.S. Naval Academy before being laid off. "You could go to jail at any minute, separated from your family or slam-bammed right here on the street. You have to be on top of your situation 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
In the end, they are called "discouraged workers," because they no longer look for jobs. But that doesn't mean they don't work. And although many are illiterate, that doesn't mean they can't count money like accountants.
From the back of cars, stolen portable radios and cassette players are unloaded into a bustling underground economy. It is a crude marketplace, based on social relationships, deals in untaxed cigarettes, shoplifted clothes, stolen food, and illegal drugs and sex for entertainment.
A few years ago, W Street was known by street dealers as a "closed shop," where you had to know somebody to get in on a hot deal. But as the economy worsened, street smarts and cunning filled the void created by unemployment. Even in yesterday's pouring rain, competition for customers and wholesale goods was keen.
In the view of the street dealers, there simply is no time for standing in unemployment or welfare lines. Out here on the streets, if you move, you lose. And nobody has stood in line to vote.
Perhaps no other issue is treated with such cynicism and suspicion as voting. Despite Jesse Jackson's persuasive argument that if more blacks had voted, Reagan could have been defeated, out here among the great unregistered there is a feeling of being conned.
"From a black perspective, I don't believe the white man will ever let but so many blacks get but so far," the former janitorial supervisor says. He receives enthusiastic approval from his peers, one of whom reveals a common fear inherent in this negative view when he says, "They know niggers will turn this country upside down."
Secretly, they want Jesse Jackson to run, and they actually get excited when explaining how they like the rhythmn of his speeches and his association with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. But, as if protecting themselves from being conned, they raise the spectre of the white man holding Jesse back.
"They'll let Jesse run," the man says. "But if he even looks like he might win, they'll knock him off."
"Like King," says the shirt salesman. "It would be the vote of death."
There is talk of a riot if that happened, but then an older hustler interrupts and suggests that since Jackson can't win, he shouldn't run and mess things up for Mondale.
The group pauses to think about this, but only until somebody shows up asking for cigarettes and cocaine. Then, everyone goes for his stash and gets back to business as usual.