I flew out to DC the Saturday before the inauguration and stayed with some step-cousins I don’t know very well for the first night. I got to their house around midnight (always a fine time to show up for folks you don’t know well) and my cousin Patty was awake (turns out she’s a bit of a night owl). We stayed up until about 2:30am talking and getting to know each other, which turned out to be really nice. She’s an artist and her work focuses around Day of the Dead iconography. While we were talking, she was customizing/decorating a jean jacket. It was very cool.
Hooked up with Shoshanna the next day and moved to her cousin’s house, which was only a few blocks from the subway. We decided to go to the Inauguration concert and took the train to the Smithsonian station and pretty much as soon as we got out, it was Obamamania. Basically, it looked like if you didn’t have at least one Obama button, you weren’t allowed into the city (many people had lots of them. I was wearing my Obama Pride button to represent). We walked to the Lincoln Memorial (those monuments really do something to me – even on the cab ride into town the first night, seeing the monuments & the capitol really tear me up a little). It was somewhat crowded there and got very crowded the closer we got to the concert. Keep in mind that we were pretty mushed together and we were a mile away from the concert! There were people in all the trees and lots of large video screens, so we could see & hear what was going on. Garth Brooks was performing when we arrived and was followed by Stevie Wonder (doing music from the 70s when he was a great artist as opposed to what he did in the 80s) and U2. It was pretty incredible – the energy was intense. Everyone was super happy and friendly and dancing.
And of course, there were tons of Obama items for sale. Everything from shirts (duh) to bandanas, head wraps, buttons, hot sauce, car air fresheners, and so on.
We wandered by the media area and MSNBC had a really nice setup, but what mostly amused me by them was that they had two life size cardboard Baracks & they were taking people’s pictures with them. At first I thought it was someone’s smart way to make a few bucks, but for some reason, MSNBC was doing this (for free) and there was a huge line of folks waiting to get their picture taken with Barry.
The next day we wandered around, picked up some souvenirs (the air fresheners were the only souvenir I got), took pictures at the sculpture garden at the Hirschhorn Museum (which we got lost trying to find because I listened to some dopey software that got Seventh St SW mixed up with Seventh St NW – which is very very different), wandered around the mall where there were thousands of people just milling around, stalked Anderson Cooper, took pix at the Capitol and just generally soaked up the atmosphere.
Tuesday was the inauguration itself. We had 2 of the 5,000 tickets that had been made available for bleachers for the parade but we had been told that the secure area where the bleachers were would be closed off once 350,000 people were admitted and that having tickets would not get you in after that point.
So, we were out of the house by 6:45am, picked up both breakfast & lunch and on the subway where we were packed in with lots of friendly strangers. Everyone was in a good mood but it was super crowded.
We made it to the security area by 7:15am or so, figured out how to cut to the front part of the line and eventually made our way through security, where we were patted down by army men. The crowd was singing “nah nah nah nah, nah nah nah nah, hey hey, good bye!” which was seriously entertaining.
We got seats on the top row of our assigned bleachers and basically hung out there for 10 hours. It was around 27 degrees and with wind chill, it felt like 12. We had a lot of clothing on and had hot packet thingys for our hands and feet but it was the coldest I have ever been. We had plenty of room and were able to sit and stand and stretch, which most people couldn’t do as they were packed in by the crowd and had to just stand there. Buying those tix on Craigslist was incredibly worth it.
We had brought a blanket for our legs (it was a crappy one, but it was something), inflatable neck rests to sit on (which worked out so well), water, sandwiches, etc. We were pretty prepared but it was oh so cold. They started playing tunes over the loudspeaker and everyone got up and started dancing, which was mightly amusing and also a good way to warm up. What was funny is that they kept playing the same 8 or 9 songs the entire 9 hours we were waiting for the parade. I can’t figure out why they went through the hassle to get songs to play but only 9 of them. But we danced along with the crowd for about 6 hours – mostly just to keep moving.
Somehow I doubt that they played either Chaka Khan or James Brown at either of GWB’s inaugurations.
During the swearing in ceremony, they piped in NPR so that we could hear what was happening. Everyone was incredibly quiet and attentive and when they asked the crowd at the Mall to stand, everyone in the bleachers stood up and participated in that way, which was really sweet since we were a few miles away from the ceremony. I was the only one in my area who booed when they announced Rick Warren, which was probably in poor taste, but I had to express my displeasure. I behaved during his talk (which irritated me not because of anything gay, but because it was so focused on religion. I feel that this type of ceremony calls for a non-denominational type talk, but clearly he disagrees.)
The parade didn’t start until almost 5pm, so basically we were there for the entire day – sunup, sunshine, sunset. Barack was in a limo (see my pix) but luckily he was on the same side as me so I got a few pix of him and Malia. Basically, once he went by, thousands of people just bailed out from the parade. I felt bad for the kids who had come to march in the parade, but I was so friggin’ cold and miserable at that point (felt like if someone stepped on my foot, my toes would break off), that we hid out in a CVS for about an hour, then tried to watch some more of the parade and finally, just headed home.
Suffice it to say that after being home for an hour, I touched the back of my legs and they were still super cold.
Missed my return flight home the next day because DCA is not the abbreviation for Dulles airport – it’s the abbreviation for Reagan/National Airport. Spent that night with the step-cousins, which was lovely and headed home on Thursday instead (thank you American Airlines).
So, it wasn’t an exciting, adventure kind of trip – it was an incredible, I can’t believe I was there, what a great energy kind of trip. Totally glad I went though.