Inauguration Diary – January 20

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6:00 AM – Duane stealthily got dressed and left for work doing the camera and wiring over at Lafayette Park where a lot of network anchors were set up.

6:30 AM Claudia and I got up and felt pretty good about going to the mall with the crowds. We put lots of layers on plus woolly hats and socks and I felt like a little kid in a snow suit. Weather says it is 20 degrees and should warm up a bit with the sun out.

7:30 AM We decided to head over to the Washington Monument as a large indicator of exactly where we were when we look at photos. Its about two miles from our hotel. We set out walking with a latte and bagel and had a shopping bag filled with hand-warmers, a piece of tarp to sit on, my camera and some newspaper and we walked about a mile.

8:30 AM Halfway to where we were going we saw one of those pedicabs and he knew the best place to get into the mall and pedaled us the rest of the way. There was not a huge crowd where we went in and no security but really the Washington Monument is almost a mile from where the important people were and another mile to the Lincoln Monument.

We went to a portapotty and then walked for a while till we found a good spot where we could see one of the big TV screens and was on a slight incline so we could see over people’s heads. We put newspaper down and then the tarp over it giving us a place to sit without literally freezing our butts off. We were around mostly young people. There were lots of parents with their college age children. I was really glad there were not babies or young children on our hill. But we did see lots of entire families walking around before and after the inauguration, so they must of gotten the memo and went to a different place.
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9:30 AM Claudia had to go to the bathroom again and set off into the thick crowd. I thought she was never going to find me or work her way back to me so I gave her place on the tarp to some kids from University of Maryland. Believe it or not she did come back and we all sat on the tarp since it was warmer that way. I passed out hand-warmers to all my tarp mates and they were a big hit. We were really quite alright with the cold since we dressed well and the sun started to come out which helped.

10:00 AM They played the Sunday Inaugural concert show for us while we waited -which was nice. I had already seen it twice and it was still great the third time. The hill was getting really thick, I heard that given the amount of space on the mall that if each person had 4 square feet then there would be one million people. If each person had two square feet then there would be two million people. So that’s about what it was and it was amazing that everyone was so chill with the circumstances and the wait and everyone was talking together young and old. Apparently, it was good that we did not get tickets to the inauguration since the lines to get in up front were atrocious and some of them got stuck in the tunnel of doom under the mall. Sometimes its good to be part of the great unwashed.

10:30 I don’t need to report on the ceremony itself. You probably saw it yourself if you are interested enough to be reading this. I will say it was moving and everyone was quiet as in church. That is, except when the young people on Washington Monument hill booed when Bush/Cheney were introduced. Not good form. Obama has set an amazing example of not needing to go there with people with whom you do not share a viewpoint. In fact, he did not join into guffaws by Bidden about the gaffe by Chief Justice Roberts during the oath. I liked Obama’s speech. Afterwards, the talking heads were saying there weren’t any quotable moments in Obama’s inaugural address. I thought it was an important speech in that it set a definite break from the past and issued in a new global Era. It was extremely inclusive of race religion or lack thereof and of other countries of the world. In a moment our world reputation has been given another opportunity. The poem at the end…mmmm well lets not go there. I will only say I didn’t get it.

12:15 the poet started speaking and everyone started walking out of the mall. This was a little dicey since the openings to the mall were rather narrow due to the security fencing, the huge rows of portapotties and the cement barricades. It took about 45 minutes t get out of the park and then the roads and sidewalks were completely filled with people walking for about five blocks. You could not go to the left or the right since the roads were blocked off. But again, people were very good to each other and patient with the circumstances.

1:30 PM- Eventually , we got free of the crowds and went to look for Duane at Lafayette Park but he was way too busy monitoring cameras that were on the Obamas as they watched the parade.

2:30 PM – We finally reached our favorite restaurant, Matchbox, in time for a late lunch and something to drink . Our personal restaurateur, Perry Smith, had a table waiting. We sat next to two young women, a recent med school graduate and a lawyer turned stylist from New York City and spent the entire lunch laughing and getting to know each other. This kind of thing has been happening since we got to town.

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4:30 PM – Time for a short rest before the ball tonight.

7:30 PM- Dressed and ready for the evening. We go to the lobby only to find that there are no cabs available and that the streets were all closed off all over the place so the only cabs that were available were stuck in gridlock. This was not just a problem for us but there were people in ball gowns riding the metro or walking. Claudia and I thought we had an answer with our friend the pedicab. So we hopped in and and asked to go to 1333 H Street where we were going to the Hill Street Ball. So we got to the address here and it was some strange office building. Those pedicab drivers were imported from New York and we all got a Washington DC geography that the city is oriented around a grid with four sectors, which means there is a 1333 H street NW and 1333 H street NE. Whoops. After asking around, we found out it would be difficult to get there and then once there nearly impossible to get home later without walking a mile and a half back to the hotel. That doesn’t sound far, but after I walked home from the ball the night before in evening clothes it was not on my to do list.

8:00 We hopped into a cab, in front of may other finely dressed people going to balls that the cab driver could not take them to since the roads were blocked off. Luckily our hotel was a straight shot down H street which was at the moment open.  We decided to forgo our swing dance ball in the Northeast H street in favor of a drink at Matchbox before going back to the hotel ( two blocks). The cab driver got us almost there when the road was closed and then I figured out how Obama was going to make it to ten balls that evening with the traffic what it was. The method was that as soon as he got to one ball the police would close off all of the streets leading to the route he would need to make it to the next ball. By the time he had finished his dance and shaken a few hands the  roads would be cleared and his motorcade would be on its way to the next one. When Claudia and I got out of the gridlocked  cab and started walking the short distance to matchbox, we caught the motorcade with Obama’s in the Beast, driving by to ball number four.

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10:00 PM – Dead tired. Walked back to the hotel and watched the Obamas at the balls on TV and Duane finally got off work and hung out for a bit before we turned off the lights early and crashed.