Saturday, January 26, 2013

President 44

Now that all of those "other" online news sources - CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post - have wrapped up their coverage, it's time for me to give you my exclusive take of the 2nd Inauguration of our 44th President. Those other blogs may have all-access, interviews, expert historians, but did they watch a guy almost fall out of a tree, hug a stranger or wear 17 layers of clothing and dehydrate themselves all morning in an effort to avoid a Porta-Potty? I think not.

This past Monday, I got to go to the Inauguration with nearly one million of my closest friends (flu shot, don't fail me now!) My mom - once again - graced our nation's capital with her presence in order to witness the historic day. But, before I get to Inauguration Day itself, let me tell you about the amazing weekend we had leading up to it. (Pace yourselves. This one's a doozy.)

The weekend kicked off on Friday night when I went to the gallery opening of M Central, a cool pop-up warehouse space on H Street NE. M Central was the "millennial basecamp" for Inauguration weekend and hosted several events for young professionals and thought-leaders. I was excited to get to see the space and the incredible art. (Be sure to checkout their facebook page for highlights from the weekend.) My friend Anna went with me and once we had our fill of art, we headed to The Big Board for a drink, a bar I was told had board games. I'd never been there before but, clearly, I was game. (PUN INTENDED. Nailed it.)

The Big Board has a great vibe but, I have to admit that when Anna and I walked in, there was not a board game in sight. Perhaps that was a good thing because who wants to get kicked out for being riled up over Connect Four?  We found two spots at the bar and were told by the bartender "our drink prices work like stocks, so just follow the pricing on the ticker on the TV." Oh great, because if there's one thing I understand perfectly it's the stock market. Genius business model because I blindly order my beer(s) without having any comprehension of what my final bill would be. It ended being a great spot and a fun night. (I still don't understand my bill though.)

Fast forward to Sunday (Saturday mostly involved hanging out with Baby Charlie, obviously) when I joined family and friends for brunch at Founding Farmers. I know I say this about a lot of restaurants in DC but - AMAZING. Seriously good brunch. Founding Farmers is actually co-owned by a collective of family farmers across the country meaning, the food is fresh, the recipes are unique,  and I could have sat there all day. We started with mimosas (natch) then ordered the popcorn of the day, grilled ciabatta, and fresh melt-in-your-mouth beignets with raspberry, chocolate and caramel sauces. And those were just our appetizers. I kid you not. (I should add that there were eight of us.) I had the skillet eggs with artichokes and sundried tomatoes for my main course. Mmmmm. 

After that meal, we decided we better walk to our next destination. Our route just happened to take us along the Inaugural parade route, already decked out for the next day's festivities. It was exciting to see everything set up and preparations taking place. 
The Presidential Reviewing Stand
That afternoon we went to a special MLK Day service at New York Avenue Presbyterian Church. I don't use the term "special" lightly. Those two hours were definitely two of my favorite hours from my time in this fine city. New York Avenue hosted other churches from varying denominations and racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. The service was highly focused on gospel music but also featured a call-to-action sermon. New York Avenue Presbyterian Church is one full of history and I was struck by the thought that I was sitting in a church - in the pew behind where President Abraham Lincoln once sat - celebrating Martin Luther King Day, just one day before witnessing our country inaugurate our first black president for the second time. It was a powerful afternoon. After the service, we were feeling patriotic and excited for the next day. 

So, here we are at the big day. You still with me? That was a lot of build up - did you really read this far? Now you know a bit of what it was like waiting for the inauguration to begin...for almost five hours.  (I hope it didn't take you five hours to read the first part of this post. Bless your heart.)

My mom and I stayed at Patty's house in Alexandria so that we could all get up (crazy) early and head into the District together. My cousin Annie lives near the Capitol and was planning on meeting us there. We had tickets to the green standing section but still needed to get there early to stake out our spot. 

Patty, having gone to the last inauguration, warned us of how cold it would be standing for 7 hours outside so we all wore meticulously-selected wardrobes. We were ready to go, dressed in our 17 layers of clothing carrying bottles of water (which we were to drink sparingly or risk Porta-Pottydom), granola bars, and basic necessities like cash, chapstick, and an ID. Did I mention we stuffed everything into our pockets so that we wouldn't have to carry bags? To say that this was my most chic and attractive moment would be one of the biggest lies I've ever told. But, let's be honest, who looks cool in their warmest gear? (I would later learn the answer to that rhetorical question is "Beyonce and Jay-Z." And also, "Malia and Sasha.")

Weighed down in clothing and bulging pockets, we hopped the metro at 6:15am and were on our way. Though it wasn't unbearable packed, the train was about 70% full and only got more crowded as we got closer to our destination. 
Mom and Patty on the train at 6:15am. 
I hadn't factored in the train ride when I layered up in all the clothes I own so, not only was I a giant marshmallow with hat-hair but I was also sweating - awesome. Seriously fellas, get in line. 

For as chaotic as the morning could've been, things seemed to go relatively smoothly. We easily found our "green ticket" security line and were greeted by cheerful, helpful volunteers along the way. We had our bags checked (but, ironically never our tickets) and were told that we couldn't take in tomatoes or apples. That's not something I'm making up, you guys. That's what we were told. For throwing, maybe? Call me crazy but, I think the kind of person who would throw something at the President during the inauguration is the kind of person who wouldn't limit his or her options to specific types of produce. 

Actually, he's the kind of guy who would climb a tree. That's right, the "green section" was the section that played host to a gentleman 40 feet up in a tree, holding an anti-abortion sign and yelling throughout the entire ceremony. The entire ceremony. Ironically, during the prayer he yelled how we should all repent to God for being babykillers and supporters of the Anti-Christ. Hmm..I seemed to have missed the "I LOVE the Anti-Christ" buttons in the official inaugural store. Now, I'm all for the freedom of speech but would've appreciated it if he'd exercised that right before and after the ceremony. He yelled throughout the swearing-in and the President's speech. The only time he didn't  yell was during Beyonce's (live?) performance. That woman is a force - she can silence anyone. 

While many took pictures of him being chased further up the tree by police, or nearly falling (which could have killed people below him), I have no pictures to post. I refused to watch him or pay him any mind. He was not why I was there. 
In fact, I've already given him enough real estate on this post so, where was I?
Mom and I about to go through security. Capitol in the background.
We got through security and moved as close to the front of our section as we could. I've never been so packed in with people and I've been to numerous boy band concerts and day-after-Thanksgiving sales so, that says a lot. There we stood, for four hours, waiting for the day's events to begin. Yes it was cold and yes our backs started to hurt but the people around us were wonderful and we were all soon fast-friends, sharing in one another's excitement for the day. 

Every so often our section would erupt in cheers - we were about 12 people deep from the walkway by the seated area - and the tall folks in front (because that's where tall folks should be) would holler back "we're cheering for Kerry Washington!" or "Here comes [insert name of celebrity or politician who has good seats]." 

At one point we all cheered and the woman beside me yelled, "Who are we cheering for now?!" A gentleman hollered back "John Mayer!" To which the lady muttered, "Huh? We are? Oh." She was my favorite. She was also the woman who at every pause in the prayer would say, "And, Laaaawd, we pray for that fooooool in-the-tree!" 

While we were crammed in like sardines, there was no pushing or fighting for a spot. In fact there was a lot of cozy, inadvertent cuddling. We "hugged" total strangers, lest we fall straining to see the Capitol steps or the poorly-placed jumbotron. 
All my friends.
At most times, I could see neither the jumbotron nor the Capitol steps but just stood listening, taking it all in. While we were on the grounds of the Capitol, close to all the action, 75% of our view was of the back of the press stands. But that was ok. From the children's choir that kicked us off to the moving (albeit long) poem to the words of the President himself, I was just glad to be there to witness it all first-hand. 

Now, I know you've been dying for my opinion on Beyonce-gate. That's probably why you've been reading at all. Sadly, friends, I have no answer for you. While I heard the whole performance, I only saw glimpses of the screen when the tall gentleman in front of me sporadically moved his toboggan-covered head.  My opinion is that, if she did lip-sync to a pre-recorded track then that's slightly disappointing. However, Beyonce can still pre-record a track far better than I ever could so who am I to throw stones? Or tomatoes or apples. 

Although it was exhausting, I'm glad I went to the Inauguration. There are moments of that ceremony and words from President Obama's speech that I will never forget. I was proud to stand there all morning, not just because I support the man in office, but because a presidential inauguration is an important moment in American history - no matter who is taking the oath - and I got to be there. 

When the ceremony concluded we headed back towards Eastern Market for lunch as we dared not even try to board the Metro with all one million of our friends. 

Plus, what better way to celebrate a moment in American history than with beer and homemade pop-tarts at Ted's Bulletin... 

Go America!

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