2009-01-21

Inauguration Recap

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So Obamapalooza has come to an end, and most people are leaving the district and returning to where they came from. This city swelled to the gills over the past week bringing about many interesting results. I'll do my best to capture the first hand sentiment of my experiences here.

The differences started becoming obvious on Friday when a normal trip past DC fixture Ben's Chili Bowl showed a line around the block. Ben's is basically a chili dog restaurant that has survived years of change in the U street neighborhood of DC. The reason for the line around the block during the daytime was that Obama visited Ben's with Mayor Fenty a week prior. While the restaurant has had a sign posted since November that the Obama family eats for free, Barry O insisted on paying.

Obama at Ben's Chili Bowl

The next interaction I had with the crowds was on Sunday morning when I went for a run on the national mall and around the monuments. Throngs of people had gathered more than six hours before the "We Are One" concert at the Lincoln Memorial, which was shown on HBO. It featured many top notch musicians (U2, Beyonce, Garth Brooks??) peforming, intermixed with other celebrities giving short speeches. If you didn't see it, it was pretty neat. I ran to the capital and looked at the viewing setup, for which I held a ticket. I even checked out the view from where I would be on the capital lawn Tuesday morning (this would be some interesting foreshadowing).

It was pretty impressive running around the area where literally millions of people would congregate in a couple days. On a side note, there were rows of hundreds of porta cans lined up, which reminded me of an event that goes on at the Preakness horse race every year entitled "The Running of the Porta Potties."

Monday was a day to celebrate the work of Dr. King and the progress we have made towards equality in our country. It was also a day for the Texas Inaugural Ball called "Black Tie and Boots." This event, held at the Gaylord Hotel in Maryland had over 10,000 guests, and performers such as Cross Canadian Ragweed, Kevin Fowler, Charlie Robison, and other Texas country music artists. There were also speeches from our two senators, Kay Bailey Hutchison and Big Jon Cornyn, as well as an appearance by Denzel Washington. I'm pretty sure it was the only event in town where people took black tie to mean bolo tie. This event was extremely well put on, and if you get the chance I would strongly encourage you to go to it at some point in your life.

I returned to my house at around 3am from BT&B, only to wake up at 5am to head to the capital for the inauguration. Being the roommate of the guy who runs a segway shop in town, we zipped from our house (very nerdily, of course) on segways into the downtown area which was already crawling with people. He had secured us tickets to the "purple" area, which was on the capital lawn. We were herded into an underground traffic tunnel to wait to be screened by security.

Unfortunately, four hours later, we had not moved far, were still stuck in the tunnel, and informed that the police had given up trying to control the crowds. People who simply walked up at 10am went straight to the gates, bypassing the tunnel people who thought they were waiting in a security line. We got released from the tunnel and got closer to the gates, right as the presidential motorcade cruised by, meaning the gates had to close. This situation was aptly named the Purple Tunnel of Doom, which has a dedicated Facebook group now.

While this made me upset, I did not rally my efforts behind our President for the past year, and I live in DC, meaning I had time to segway back home to my warm house to catch it on tv. What really broke my heart was seeing the sight of an elderly african american woman in a wheelchair with tears streaming down her face as she realized that the pinnacle moment of shaking discrimination that she likely has faced in her life would be spent in a dangerously uncontrolled mob rather than in a ticketed area. She would worry more about getting home safe then pride welling up inside her as she witnessed history first hand. What a shame.

It seemed like my inauguration festivities were over when I got a call Tuesday evening to put the tux back on and head to the Southern States inaugural ball. This was one of ten "official" balls, which means that the President and VP attend at some point.

Before 44 arrived, fortune smiled upon me, and led me to run into Evander "Real Deal" Holyfield, who's Mike Tyson bitten ear looks just as gross as you would think. The VIP section was adorned with celebs, of which I spotted Emmitt Smith and Alonzo Mourning. Biden arrived around midnight, and Barry O showed up about ten minutes later (Pictures of all 3 to come later). Both gave speeches and shared a dance with their wives before bouncing to their next ball. Barack gave a short and to the point speech, but ended it with a line that somebody in his staff cleverly assembled. He said, "Now I'm going to dance with the one that brung me, my wife Michelle. She does everything I do, except backwards and in heels." Solid.

In full disclosure, I did not vote for Barack Obama, and I do not agree with him on all of his policies. However, he certainly has my full support because I believe he is a genuine man, and is very deliberate in thinking things through instead of reacting with emotion. The positive emotion in the air brought about during this inauguration was unlike anything I have seen, and is very encouraging for this country. Best of luck Mr. President. You throw a great party, but you have a laundry list of items that now lie on your desk.

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