Inauguration Day!

I have to admit, after such a long election cycle, I was a little “over” Barack Obama, and he hadn’t even been sworn in yet. For the past month, I had been going back and forth, back and forth, about attending the inauguration. I hadn’t been able to score tickets, but they were putting Jumbotrons out on the mall so people could go downtown and watch. I knew crowds would be so bad that the only way I’d get to the mall was to walk the three miles.

Normally not too bad, but the weather was for the mid 20s (which is unbelievably cold for the DC region) and I can’t handle the DC crowds on the 4th of July and this would be much, much worse. Plus, the predictions. 6 hours to wait for metro. Bring your own toilet paper and a sandwich. 4 million people sandwiched downtown. I couldn’t tell if this was the Inauguration or the zombie apocalypse. Barricading myself in the house and watching the whole thing on TV was sounding like a very attractive option.

Then, I remembered that my toes tend to freeze and lose feeling on a regular basis, like just hanging around the house. Spending all day outside in freezing temps? I’d need to find some new socks. And I’d need new mittens, as my gloves wouldn’t cut it.

But, when my grandchildren ask me where  I was that day, did I really want to answer that it was too cold and too much of a hassle, so I watched it on TV while still wearing my pajamas? Lame.

It changed on Saturday morning. I was listening to Morning Edition on NPR and they were interviewing will.i.am, talking about the song and video he did to Obama’s “Yes, We Can” speech. Listening to that song again, just snatches played through the interview reminded me of the fire I had early last summer, before the primaries, before the general, before my political ADD tuned out and focused on other things. It reminded me of the hope I felt before the public decided that “Yes, we did” because apparently, once Obama won, all of our problems were solved.

We haven’t done anything yet. We’ve barely begun, but Yes, We Can.

And yes, I could brave the elements and walk my ass down to the National Mall and be a part of history.

On Sunday, they started closing the bridges between Arlington and the District. We also started noticing a definite increase in helicopter activity. (Living near the Pentagon, you get used to a certain amount of helicopters buzzing your house, but this was getting insane.) My husband Dan’s blackberry went off all day, giving updates to how messed up traffic and metro stops were with the concert on the mall.

Last night, some friends and I went downtown just to see what was going on. There was a free children’s concert in Chinatown, featuring the Jonas Brothers, Hannah Montana, and others so it was CRAZY. Lots of small children running around, tons of tables set up and people on street corners selling every piece of Obama memorabilia imaginable. (One of the oddest being a poster of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. shaking hands. I was actually impressed at how well it was Photoshopped.)  Restaurants were packed, but sadly the ones with the longest lines weren’t awesome DC places, but rather the Hard Rock Cafe and Ruby Tuesday.

We then walked down Pennsylvania Avenue and saw lots of people all dressed up for the many balls tonight but as we got closer to the parade route, it was strangely quiet. There were very few people on the street besides the crews setting up bleachers and fences and walls. There were rows and rows and rows of Port-o-Potties and the only sounds were police sirens and helicopters. It was surreal. The Mall was similarly quiet, until we saw a crowd of people. When we went down to see what was going on, Anderson Cooper was being mobbed, taking pictures with everyone who wanted one.

Then, it was a metro ride home with locals’ normal complaints about tourists…

This morning was cold. While I knew we lived three miles from the Lincoln Memorial and that Fort Meyer would be closed to civilians, I didn’t put 2 and 2 together that if we couldn’t  walk through base, then the memorial was A LOT further away than three miles… luckily, there was a special bus that would come a few blocks from us and then shuttle us to the mall. Hooray!

At 9, some friends came over and we bundled up. Dan threw the ingredients for a stew into the crockpot, turned it on,  and we headed out. The special bus was supposed to come every 5-10 minutes. After 30 minutes of waiting, with no bus in sight, we saw an empty cab. Now, all the bridges were closed, but most were open to buses and taxis. We thought trying to get a cab would be insane, but there one was! We went over the 14th street bridge (which is a highway) but… all the exits were closed. There was no way to get OFF the highway. So, the cab dropped us off at a blocked exit and we walked in off the exit, towards the 12th street tunnel. It was weird. Walking across a highway with no one on it except some military? Over a frozen river? It screamed zombie movie to me. Then we came to the tunnel–lots of parked Atlantic City police cars and State Troopers from Kentucky.

But then we just saw a river of people coming towards the mall, to where we were headed. Then there was another river, and another. People smiling, taking pictures.

We found a spot on the mall, standing above the 12th street tunnell, between the Washington Monument and the Capitol, with a sometimes view of a Jumbotron (lots of people, means sometimes a tall person stands in front of you and you can’t see.)

Lots of Aaron Copeland playing. The crowd cheered when Teddy Kennedy appeared on screen and cheered for the Clintons, then booed for Clarence Thomas and President Bush.  Lots of Obama shirts and signs. Lots of American Flags. Someone had a Flat Stanley, which made the children’s librarian in me cheer. My mom called to see where I was. My cousin’s daughter called to see if I was there. My friends texted me. There was a camera on a crane near us, which sometimes blocked the Jumbotron, but we all cheered and waved when it swooped by us. We talked to the people around us, some who had been there since dawn. It was a party.

A party with performances by Aretha Franklin, and Yo Yo Ma!

There were so many speakers around us, there was some sound delay and echoes, so it was hard to understand anything. I’ll have to rewatch Obama’s speech, because I do not know what he said.

After he spoke people left, trying to get to the parade (even though I hear the gates were closed at 11:30 this morning). I stayed for the poem, I was excited for that poem. We then walked to 14th street, caught in the crowd, hanging onto each other’s jackets to not lose each other. We walked over the bridge, back over the frozen river, with other people, though not the rivers of people from earlier, small streams of people heading home, looking for warmth. Once we hit Virginia, near Route 1, we scrambled down an embankment, and found another cab to take us the rest of the way, our legs frozen and leaden, our toes feeling like they were about to fall off.

We ate the delicious stew and watched the rest of the festivities on TV, and as the parade was delayed by 2.5 hours (it’s still happening now, as I write this) I think we made the right call on that one, because I can now feel my toes. Dan’s blackberry keeps buzzing with dire warnings of 10 block lines from the metro stations. It is dark now, and the parade is still going.

As I said earlier, I am tired of people saying  “Yes, We Did” for I feel we have only taken the first step towards doing this, towards fixing our country. I am dismayed by the “Barack  Obama: The Chosen One” sweatshirts I saw today. President Obama is a man–an inspiring man, a great man, but a man. He is not a God. We will not wake up tomorrow to a fixed country, but only one step closer to trying to fix our country. It will be a long and hard journey.

I was even more dismayed by those who booed President Bush. I am no fan of the former president, but to boo the outgoing President at the Inauguration is poor form and not part of the America I hope we’re working towards.  It saddened me.

But, to close with part of the poem Elizabeth Alexander read today,

Some live by “Love thy neighbor as thy self.”

Others by first do no harm, or take no more than you need.

What if the mightiest word is love, love beyond marital, filial, national. Love that casts a widening pool of light. Love with no need to preempt grievance.

In today’s sharp sparkle, this winter air, anything can be made, any sentence begun.

-posted by Jennie

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14 Responses to Inauguration Day!

  1. I noticed your president was already beginning to take credit for things Bush did. We are going to turn Iraq back over to the Iraqi people, he said. But if Senator Obama had had his way, Iraq would continue being ruled by its brutal dictator Saddam Hussain. It is only because of George W. Bush that Iraq CAN be returned to its citizens or that it can be said to have “citizens.” Formerly Iraq was composed of the ruler and the ruled. “Citizenry” has come thanks to George Bush.

    President Obama enters office with the most blank and vague resume of any man in American history. One hopes (not meaning to be ironic) that he will succeed. But certainly there is little substance to pin that hope upon other than his cult of celebrity.

    I have a literary quote of my own — from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Every hero becomes a bore at last.” Time will tell whether Obama’s presidency will produce anything beyond his much praised rhetoric.

  2. Kevin says:

    That’s a really weird comment considering this post is about the inauguration, America’s quadrennial celebration of itself, its political process, and its newly elected leader, and hardly at all about the man at the center of that celebration. If you’d like to refute a post about the qualifications of President Obama, I’d gladly write one so you could do just that. Otherwise, I declare bad form: you’ll have plenty of opportunities to declaim against President Obama during his inevitable mistakes; for now, why spoil the party? I’d even be on board with criticism of his speech or choice of cabinet, neither of which were commented above in the post either, but the above comment is merely bitter.

    And if you’re going to be quoting someone about the failings of heroes, you could at least be culturally relevant: “You either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain.” —Harvey Dent

  3. Kevin,

    Would that your criteria had applied when President Bush was inaugurated. Will it apply when the next Republican president comes into office?

    Meanwhile, I have no interest in criticizing Obama (who hasn’t done anything to criticize except make a hubristic speech). I wish him well. I’m with President Bush on this, too. I love my country and want an American president to succeed — as long as he respects the principles of American freedom.

    And I will not jump to criticize Obama for inevitable human error. Republicans are not the ones who expect a president to be god. God is God.

    So I wish him well. And the author of this blog was there at the historic moment which was thrilling I suppose. So I wish this author well, too. (Would that be you?) Hopefully, Obama will turn out well. It remains to be seen.

    Cheers, ANF

  4. Jennie says:

    ANF–

    Geek Buffet is a multi-author blog, while Kevin is an author on this blog, I wrote this particular point. Kevin’s point was that your first comment was nothing more than Bush-supporting Obama-bashing, which was only vaguely related to the post you commented on. It comes across like you just wanted to vent and found the first forum that mentioned some keywords without actually reading the post in question.
    While I’m sure this happened with Bush as well, and will continue to happen with future presidents, it is still bad form.

    Your follow up comment also makes no sense. What ‘criteria’? All he said was keep your comments relevant to the post!

    My post was about how this weekend changed the city I live in. It was about cold, crowds, helicopters, and how walking across deserted highways makes me feel like I’m starring in a zombie movie. Your comment was on policy and experience, which had nothing to do with anything I discussed.

    One thing I hoped Obama’s election would do is help raise the level of political discourse in this country, sadly, it seems that this will not happen. One dream dead before Inauguration Day was even over.

    Jennie

  5. Amanda says:

    Jennie,

    Kudos to you for braving the cold and crowds to go and see history being made!

    I didn’t go to the Election Night celebration in Chicago, which I feel kinda stupid about now, considering it was 70 degrees out that day! But, I know how much I hate crowds and how much I like being perched on the couch with my laptop and CNN on election night, so it may have been for the better.

    Don’t sweat the haters 🙂

    -AW

  6. Jennie,

    So as to avoid “raining on your parade,” I’ll let this be my last comment. But do note your own rhetoric: “One dream dead before Inauguration Day was even over.”

    Dreams “die” when we wake up. What we find upon waking is called reality. Anything worth doing takes time and work. In real life things don’t happen instantly, and events have actual causes. Real life problems are not solved by chanting slogans.

    If you voted for Obama because he was going to magically make life wonderful, then you’ll have to adjust your expectations toward something more realistic. But before Obama was even a candidate, life in America was and remains pretty darn good — no matter how rude one finds rhetoric on the average blog.

    At least we have freedom of speech. Look at it like that. The former president’s wife made a very sage observation that was mostly ignored in the hype of pre-inauguration. When her husband had shoes thrown at him by an Egyptian reporter in Iraq, she noted that “it demonstrates how the Iraqi people feel more free to express themselves.” (I paraphrase.) Consider what would have become of anyone who had thrown a shoe at Saddam Hussein. (You are aware that Hussein had his own son-in-law murdered.)

    Actually, I join former President Bush in wishing the new president well. But I am not a member of Obama’s cult. I hold him to the same standards as any of his predecessors. So, time will tell.

    Best wishes, ANF

  7. Jennie says:

    Sorry ANF, you missed my tone.

    My comment about raising the level of discourse and the dream dying was a failed cheap shot about the fact that on a post about logistics, the first comment was unrelated and just inelegant bitching.

    But your assumptions on my political beliefs and ideals greatly amused me. It’s been a rough morning, so thank you for the laugh.

    Feel free to keep commenting, I really don’t mind, I just wish you’d say something that was relevant to the post, and not just rehashing various hot button issues that are not being discussed here by anyone but you. I did not want to discuss war and policy, which is why I am not responding to those parts of your comments. My feelings and opinions on these issues are much too nuanced for a blog post. Also, living in a land of government employees, NGOs, and think tanks, I talk about these issues with people from all sides of the debate way too often. That is why my post was not about such issues, it did not talk about content, but rather form. I chose to do this on purpose because this is the type of discussion I very much did NOT want to have.

    You want to talk about content and that’s fine, but maybe a blog post about content would be better? Instead of hijacking the comments section to fit your own needs?

  8. Jenn says:

    Hi Jennie–

    I also ended up walking over the 14th St bridge. Do you have any pictures (or know where I could find some) of the mass exodus into Virginia?

    What a great day.

    Thanks!

    Jenn

  9. Cassy says:

    I watched all day on TV! It was like SuperBowl here, snacks and all. I wished I could have gone to DC, though I know I would have been a wreck – cold and hurting feet. In a way, it felt like we were there, CNN covered it well. Anyway, for many reasons, the day was special to me.

    BTW, what did you think of Alexander’s poem? I had also been looking forward to it. I plan to use it in a lesson this week with my 4th graders.

  10. kidsilkhaze says:

    Due to the difficulties in understanding it, due to the number of speakers, all a bit off of one another, I wasn’t sure what I feel about it at the time. However, when I got home, I read the transcription and just loved it.

  11. teachergirl says:

    Wow. Booed a sitting President and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. At an inauguration. Awe inspiring indeed.

  12. kidsilkhaze says:

    Yeah, WAY TO STAY KLASSY AMERICA! I was horrified and saddened by the booing.

  13. guyintheblackhat says:

    I saw the Inauguration far from D.C. – in the main theater of Amherst Cinema in Amherst, MA – but the crowd there still had their favorites. It was also touching to hear liberal western Mass. types spontaneously break out into patriotic songs such as “America the Beautiful” and such. This was a moment of catharsis that few events in recent history can hope to match. It seems only natural that merchandisers – MLK shaking Obama’s hand and all – want to cash in on this awe-inspiring well of emotion. It appears that, under the Bush administration (but I’d actually trace it back to the Republican congressional coup in 1994), we were no longer living in the country we were told about in grade school. Now our childhood promises made about our country have been re-affirmed.

  14. Roy Huggins says:

    I think if any future generations are interested in where I was when Obama was inaugurated (not sure if they will be, but who knows…) I’m sure I’ll be talking more about the fantasticness of the Internet than anything else. I made my living writing software for the Internet for about 7 years starting in 1999 but I generally took it for granted. When me and a bunch of other Americans who are currently working in Japan were able to watch the inauguration without significant time delay or other logistical problems via video stream put out by the Senate’s inauguration committee, it was a beautiful example of how the modern world is so much smaller than it used to be even just when I was a teenager (about 15 years ago.) We chanted things like “please don’t get shot” when Obama got out of his car, we didn’t boo Bush but we all clearly didn’t like him. We thought that Mrs. Obama’s dress looked unfortunately like the curtains hanging behind the TV. And for us it was almost 3am when Obama left the stage. The next work day was rough but luckily, because it is now a small world, our coworkers knew why we were up and were understanding (at least mine were.)

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