Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Inauguration Day

Four years ago, I joined two million people to welcome our new President, Barack Obama.  I remember waking up super early, taking the surprisingly uncrowded metro to Chinatown and walking down to the Mall with Toni and her friend Chad.  I lucked into getting an extra purple ticket from Toni (the tickets were like gold 4 years ago).  The day was bitterly cold, but the jubilance (and shared body heat) of the crowd kept us warm.  Despite having these golden tickets, we endured the typical Washington security SNAFUs, getting onto the Capitol grounds only after the ceremony had already started.

A few of the enduring images from our peaceful transition of power include the dozens of people perched on statues, in trees, and on top of port-a-pottys to get a better view; the President flubbing the oath; and crowd chanting "NaNaNaNa, NaNaNaNa, Hey, Hey, Good-bye" to W as Marine One took a final lap around Mall.  On our trek home, citizens streamed out of the I-395 tunnel like scenes from the Zombie Apocalypse. Finding myself living in DC again, I felt compelled to return again.  Like in film, the sequel did not live up the original, but I still enjoyed the spectacle.

I snagged a pair of tickets from a friend of a friend's fiancee (yes, this is how things work in DC).  This time, we literally had golden tickets, but our view was no where near as good.  Four years ago, I was on the Capitol grounds, 200-300 yards from the President.  This time, we were between 3rd and 4th street, several blocks from the dais.  On the plus side, the security situation was greatly improved.  We left my house around 745 and were in our section by 9.  The downside is that we had several hours to wait before the ceremony started.  We passed most of the time talking with a group of high school students from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, who we later realized were likely born in 1996.  One of the kids called me "Sir" in a way that indicated he clearly thought I was more like his parents than I was him.  For the first time since my birthday, I finally felt 30.

I enjoyed seeing all of the pomp and circumstance that I missed last time.  As each group arrived to the stage, I would point out politicians to Sara on  the Jumbotron.  I finally explained to Sara how this was my red carpet and she tolerated my political fawning.  Sadly, the largest cheer from the crowd came when Jay-Z and Beyonce appeared on the screen.  Pretty sure their cheer was even louder than the President's.  That was definitely not true four years ago.

I liked Obama's speech, loved hearing James Taylor ("who's that, he's pretty good" says one of the teenage girls behind me), chuckled about how much Chuck Schumer tried to steal the spotlight, and laughed at the poem.  The crowd was much quieter this year than last time.  Despite the valiant efforts of one of the teenage boys from Cedar Rapids, chants of "USA" or "Obama" quickly fell flat.  But, the weather was mostly nice and the people were all pleasant.

After the ceremony, Sara and I made our way to her work, where they were having a large Inauguration Party.  Their building is basically next to the Capitol (CBS News films from their roof).  Although I am glad we went to the Mall, we were likely closer from her building than with our tickets.  The food at the party was fantastic, especially the carving stations and the dessert bar.  Met some of her co-workers and watched the start of the Inaugural Parade before we made our way back home.  All in all, a fine day.

Me and Sara on the Mall

View of Capitol with full zoom
View of Capitol from Sara's office

Sara and me overlooking the Capitol

View of the Parade from Sara's work.

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