Just a note—I’m writing this from a dorm room at Georgoton, where I’ve just woken up from a nap that can only be described as necessary. So yeah, there might be some typos.
Anyway, yesterday, the 19th, I started in Northstar, a ski resort at California’s Lake Tahoe. A car ride later, I caught a shuttle to the Reno, NV airport, where (after hiding my newly acquired terrible towel and making copious use of the free wifi) I set off to Baltimore. By plane. Then I hopped on the Amtrak to DC, hailed a cab, and met my friend and host Jeremy at Georgetown.
I ate a sandwich on the plane, thankful that my elders had had the foresight to pack me something to eat. Otherwise, it would have been a longer and hungrier trip than it was. As it worked out though, I arrived in Georgetown at around midnight, went to a lil’ party, left the party real quick, and began to meet my fellow inauguration goers. They were Jeremy’s floor mates, and my good friend Ilan (who was lucky enough to have a ticket but classy enough not to rub it in our faces—at least for the most part).
After a quick nap, somewhere in the 20-40 minute range, we headed off to the mall on foot. It was 3am and there were 21 of us. We were, to put it colloquially, rolling deep. We walked down by the river, bundled up in long underwear and heavy coats (although or some reason I didn’t wear a sweater—a big mistake and an obvious early sign of Obamamania.
We walked past the Watergate hotel—ugly—the bridge to Virginia—remarkably short—and the Lincoln Memorial—the most epic thing ever, especially lighted as it was. We got down to the Washington monument at a quarter to four and began the trek across the mall to where our campsite would be.
At four, we found it. In the closest non ticketed section, with a full view of the Capital Building and easy access to a Jumbotron (the first one in on the right, if you’re looking at the crowd shots). Soon, it got cold. We did the only logical thing—huddled together for warmth.
Huddling together for warmth is an interesting way of meeting new people. There seems to be a pretty strong correlation between how cold it is and how awkward it is. If my math skills haven’t failed me, I believe it’s termed an inverse relationship. After a couple hours of aborted attempts that always seemed to leave on body part or another cold, we finally managed to find a system where most of us were warm and comfortable. Thank god it didn’t snow.
For reasons that time may someday tell, we left our position of warmth and ventured into the outside world. Jeremy, a friend of his named Tony, and I all went to the bathroom. Getting back? Somewhere between hobbits to Mordor and Mike Gravel to Democratic Nomination. But we persevered.
Despite the packed crowds and seemingly insurmountable odds, we took the 2008 Presidential campaign to heart and decided that rather than abandoning out principles and staying where the crowd had taken, YES WE COULD find our blankets and friends. We were right. It just took a while. And in the process my feet got incredibly cold.
To be honest, the next few hours were a blur. I drifted in an out of sleep for one of them, ate a lot of beef jerky, and thought my toes were going to freeze off. I finally managed to finagle myself some blanket and took another quick nap, once again in the 20-40 minute range. The cold woke me up. Soon, I was stuffing newspaper in my shoes to get some insulation and looking anxiously at my (poorly functioning) cell phone. Action didn’t start for another four hours!
Slowly but surely, the event drew closer and closer. It was symbolic—the final freezing night before the new day, the suffering and misery of Bush before the warmth and happiness of Obama. The symbolism was pretty obvious. Unfortunately, every time I chuckled cold air came down into my lungs and made me wince on the inside.
Time dragged on. I got hungry. I got irritable. We were with one McCain supporter who for reasons unknown decided to come. He complained a lot. We all did. It was pretty cold. I guess he wanted to be a part of history.
Suddenly, they public service announcements ceased and the replay of Sunday night’s concert came over the Jumbotron. We got excited. We danced a little. It was still really cold. Soon (well, two hours later) the motorcae appeared, the choirs started singing, and the Marine Band did its thing (which, Jeremy and I noted, generally consisted of playing the repertoire of the Santa Monica High School Wind Ensemble really well—except without either Ramirez or the Polovetsian Dances. We sung along to ‘Chester’ and an infinite variety of Sousa marches.
The most interesting thing up to this point was the crowd reaction to the various dignitaries. The ambassadors all got cheers. So did the motorcade. Lieberman was the first person to get booed—even McCain got a tepid flag wave from the mall. The place went nuts for Bill and Hillary, and for Jimmy Carter. We were pretty indifferent to most, but the default reaction was applause.
Then, out came Bush and Cheney. Lusty boos. A girl in front of me was screaming and booing only to sheepishly say that she had never booed a man in a wheelchair before. I told her not to worry—Cheney isn’t human. That’s been proven many times before.
I thoroughly enjoyed booing Bush and Cheney. They looked so…pitiful. Seeing them looking at us, something inside me wanted them to know how much we hated them, how much they had come to represent everything we despised in our country and our world. So I booed. Loud.
Of course, after Bush, you can only go up. And the next person out was… Obama. But the actual ceremony I haven’t quite had the time to write about. But I will soon. Probably tomorrow.