The Hope-ocalypse

So… I know that I’m a week late in posting this, but initially, I was plain-ass exhausted, and since getting caught up on my rest, I’ve been struggling with what to say that hasn’t already been said. It became clear almost immediately that the media was covering inauguration weekend in minute detail, and, really, it was pretty much what it looked like on television — cold and crowded, patriotic and inspirational. It has made blogging about it seem fairly pointless, until I decided to just give up on my original plan to go over what I did point by point. Instead, I’m just going to offer some random recollections, impressions, and experiences.

In no particular order:

» The crowds, both on Sunday and Tuesday, were amazingly polite, considerate, and calm. Space was at a premium, but there was (at least where I was) surprisingly little of the surging and crushing that I’ve experienced at concerts and sporting events. There was also no fighting or harsh words — in fact, there appeared to be no frayed tempers at all. The one time my fellow concert-watchers and I were jostled out of position by a gaggle of fur-clad ladies, all we managed was an eye-roll, grin, and shrug.

» It turns out that, when one is standing outside for four or five hours, 40 degrees does not, ultimately, feel appreciably warmer than 25 degrees. It’s just freaking cold. It’s because of the not-moving, though, much more than the temperature. As soon as any kind of walking came into play, we warmed up immediately.

» I think unofficial inaugural balls are the way to go. As far as I’ve been told, the official ones involve no food, long lines for any sort of beverage, little-to-no dancing by guests, and a lot of waiting for the President and First Lady to arrive. (I’ve not been to one, so can’t vouch for the veracity of that characterization, though I’ve heard it from more than one person.) The Hill Ball, on the other hand, didn’t have a presidential visit, but it was a ton of fun — with plenty of snacks and drinks, and a great swing band so guests could dance. Oh… it also had an Obama cardboard cutout — the Faux-bama, as I’ve come to call it — so we could have inauguration-appropriate photo ops.

» Being part of the people on the Mall singing along to “This Land is Your Land” and “America the Beautiful” was more patriotic, emotional and awe-inspiring than it looked on HBO.

» The flag-waving during the inauguration, on the other hand, was way cooler on tv.

» I narrowly avoided a trip into the “purple tunnel of doom” as Julia, Michael, and I almost went that way to circumvent the crowd at (I think) the silver ticket gate. We ended up finding another way around the bottleneck, and I am tremendously grateful. I am not especially claustrophobic, but I think being stuck in a traffic tunnel for hours would have changed that. We did, however, venture underground a bit farther on, when we cut through the passages beneath the Sackler Gallery and through the International Gallery, to come out the front door of the Freer Gallery — right on the Mall, next to the Smithsonian Castle. This is how we ended up in our good spot by the Natural History Museum, rather than back by the Washington Monument with all the other locals who opted not to get there at 7:00 a.m.

» My fellow-heathen friends and I did a little jump for joy when President Obama mentioned “nonbelievers” in his listing of the religious persuasions of the American people. I sincerely can’t recall a time when those of us on the low end of the belief-system scale got such prominent recognition. It’s hard to express why this was so meaningful, other than to say that, in an era where the terms “people of faith” and “faith-based initiatives” have often been used as shorthand for ideal American-ness, it was nice to hear that my conflicted feelings about a higher power might no longer be used to make me feel like a bad citizen.

» I had no idea that trying to stay warm was so unbelievably tiring. I was more worn out at the end of the weekend than at any time I can recall. I also had an exceedingly chapped face, despite the balaclava. Between the exhaustion and skin damage, I actually looked every bit of my almost-38 years for most of last week. It was not, at all, cool.

» I want to know why Garth Brooks got to sing more songs than Bruce Springsteen, who is (obviously) way, way better.

» Dropping a glove liner in a crowd of 1.8 million means it’s gone forever — instantly. This is especially frustrating when it happens early in the day, and is one half of a pair of brand-new, $35, thinsulate liners that fit my tiny hands perfectly.

» We came upon a “Mission Accomplished” banner behind the Freer Gallery when we were leaving, with the “Os” replaced with the Obama logo (that red, white, and blue sunbursty-looking thing). Perhaps not the most gracious of signs to bring, but we found it hilarious, and posed for pictures with it.

And, speaking of photos (see my nice segue there?) I’ve pasted in my Flickr slideshow below. I can’t get it to show the captions, though, so if you’re inclined to see them, click on the slideshow to display the links and then click on “Your Inauguration Set” at the top of the slideshow. That should take you into Flickr, where you can click through the photos individually.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Update: Here’s a direct link for the slideshow: I forget that embeddable objects can be pretty tetchy about browser compatibility. If you use this link, the captions can be displayed by using the “show info” link in the upper right.

20/365: Inauguration Day

Barack Obama takes the oath of office...
January 20: Barack Obama takes the oath of office...
... and flag-waving, patriotic joy erupts along the Mall.
... and flag-waving, patriotic joy erupts along the Mall.

Today’s entry in my 2009 photo-a-day project.

More on my Inauguration Day experiences tomorrow, once it’s all had time to settle in.