Friday, January 23, 2009

Inaugurate This

Washington, DC and I generally have not gotten on well in the past six years. Sure, I've gotten a decent career out of it, and I have a pretty slammin' apartment (which I'm thisclose to not being able to afford, but whatevs), but I've never really taken to it. It's like a bad arranged marriage. "Don't worry, it will provide for you, and you'll learn to love it." Wrong, wrong, wrong. Unlike when I lived in NYC, and London to a degree, I never really woke up and said "Holy crap, I LIVE here, and it's awesome, and I really wouldn't rather be anywhere else."

Until this weekend. For the first time in six years, I'm really REALLY glad I was in DC for the past few days.

Yes, I'm a card-carrying Democrat, and my politics fall generally to the left of center, but I really believe that over the past few days, it was hard for anybody not to get caught up in the generally good mood that's been enveloping our nation's capital. Everybody's partying, all the tourists are excited, and I can't even hate them for standing on the left side of the Metro escalator. Much. With all the parties, the whole city's felt like a suburban neighborhood on prom night. All week long.

Witness what happened this past Sunday during the concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Despite my usually stellar logistical prowess, I wound up stranded and on my lonesome among half a million people by the reflecting pool. I had arranged to meet my friends at a very clear location, and I even had a big rainbow-colored umbrella to mark my location. A RAINBOW-COLORED UMBRELLA. DAMMIT, I'M GOOD. But I did not count on security sealing off the entrance before they could arrive. And there was little to no cell phone reception, so I was pretty much screwed. There really was only one solution...

Find the nearest group of Jamaicans, and freakin' party. A nice family let me and my stupid umbrella stand with them so I could see the Jumbotron, and they were psyched. We danced to Stevie Wonder and Springsteen and U2, and had a blast. My camera battery died, but somewhere in Kingston there are many pictures of a happy little white girl in a McNabb jersey and green and silver eye makeup losing her mind to Bono. I take a certain comfort in that. The most equalizing moment: Garth Brooks' cover of "Shout." A middle-aged country singer covered a Motown staple for a mostly young, very diverse, crowd, and owned it. And it was cool. One love...

I dashed away after Obama's speech to catch the second half of the NFC Championship, but really, the less said about that, the better. Go Steelers.

And then there was Inauguration Day. I live 20 minutes walking distance from the Mall, and I'm not afraid of getting up early, so I figured I had this locked down. But, again, if there's anything that can trump Shepherd Logistics, it's the most unprecedented show of security ever seen in Washington, DC. Despite setting out before 8 am, my friend Linda, her pal Merry and I unwittingly began a 3-hour odyssey in 20-degree temperatures just to get on the freakin' Mall. We waited 2 hours in security just to be told we actually shouldn't have gone through security, and were trapped on the parade route. We had to head back the way we came, and tried to stay one numbered street ahead of the Metropolitan Police before they kept arbitrarily closing them. By 11 am, we succeeded.

Much like the concert, the crowd here was very friendly, very diverse, and very excited. They were, it must be said, also very partisan, but for the most part, they were very polite. We watched the guests arrive on the big screen, and everybody was very respectful when John McCain came on screen. It was only when Joe Lieberman came on screen, that the first boos started. Eff that guy, apparently. And, of course, they were very vocal when Bush came on screen. Unfortunate, yes. Disrespectful? Arguably. Surprising? Dude, come on.

When Obama finished taking the oath, it was like Times Square on New Year's Eve. Strangers were hugging, couples were making out, dudes were high-fiving, people were crying...look, I don't know what you think of the guy, but if you weren't moved by that, your heart is officially two sizes too small. Or you're my ex. Same diff.

It did take a while for us to beat a retreat, and we saw the helicopter taking the Bushes away from Washington fly over our heads. Would you like to imagine what THAT ride was like? I'd like to imagine it was a bit like the last scene in The Graduate. George and Laura...sitting awkwardly next to each other in silence...not really looking at each other...Simon and Garfunkel coming over the soundtrack...Hello darkness, my old friend... I'd like to think that, so I will.

So that's how it went here. AND I got quoted in USA Today and the Bucks County Courier Times! I've done better networking on my days off than I have in months of work! Yes, I can!

I took some video, too. A word or two on the video: I had had three hours of sleep, hence the horrifying dark circles under my eyes. At times my voice sounds like I'm on the verge of tears. I am not. It was just ridiculously cold. I also seem to report some major discrepancies in the time that elapsed. For the record: Left the house at 7:50, arrived at the 14th Street gate at 8:00 am, waited in security for over an hour, was told to turn back at 9:15 (not "a quarter of nine" as was cold, man), reached the Mall around 10:00 am, found a decent spot to stand close to 11:00 am. Three hours.

But this doesn't mean DC and I are getting back together. This was just a breakup fling. One for the road. Because after all, this place is trying to kill me, and that's not grounds for a stable relationship.