Tuesday, January 20, 2009
dr. hussein-love or how i learned to stop worrying and love the obam (lessons i learned among the two million)
For many people, dreams of attending Inauguration were limited to that fanciful moment on Election Night. You know, when you saw those nearly a million jubilant people at Hyde Park, and Oprah leaning on some guy's shoulder and then somehow stretching it into, like, three subsequent episodes of her show. And you wanted to be at Inauguration -- before realizing it would cost tons of money and 3000 miles of travel and endless days of surfing the couches of people you haven't spoken to in years.
So you did the smart thing. You stayed in your progressive, safe, Pacific Northwestern city and watched Inauguration within proximity to a toilet and out of the proximity of angry Southern schoolteachers who acted like they freaking owned the National Mall (true story).
To all of you who decided to stay home and have your I-Day negotiated by a well-dressed Campbell Brown and increasingly trashed Diane Sawyer, I respect you. But I also pity you. Because Inauguration was awesome.
There is something about embarking on an unsafe, terrifying pilgrimage, about wearing two pairs of tights and fluffy socks, two pairs of scarves and four hand warmers and still feeling numb, about traveling 3000 miles and not knowing whether or not you will be turned away at the last minute and end up pathetically watching Inauguration on DC-area CNN -- impetuous youth! -- that makes it completely worth it when everything works out. Especially when it was all utter dumb luck, not to mention my mother's friend Monica kindly giving me her frequent flyer miles so I could make an aristocratic tour of the Eastern Seaboard.
Plus, you all know that I made a down payment on being the coolest grandmother ever. I mean, I was there. Years from now, I'll be the grandmother with Inauguration stories and campy "I heart Michelle" official Inauguration merchandise that I keep in a drawer and dangle in front of my children's children when I want more attention. And the other one will be baking cookies. It won't even be a contest. Derisive snort.
Lessons your mother never told you about the Mall:
1. Inauguration brings out the worst in everyone. Everyone. It doesn't matter if you are in a wheelchair or with a young child. You will be elbowed in the face if someone near you thinks it will allow them to see one more square inch of the Obama children's custom-made J Crew coats on the Jumbotron.
2. You don't have to worry about going to the bathroom if your system is frozen in shock.
3. Choosing an opening blessing is always a crap shoot. Sorry, Obama. None of us knew that in addition to being a homophobe, Rick Warren would enunciate your daughters' names with terrifying, savage clarity ("Ma-LI-a.....and SaSHHHHHa!") That I turned around for the blessing burns his words into my mind most particularly.
4. Where's Clinton? is possibly the most fun game ever. Was she going to come in with the senators? The cabinet? The former presidents? Who was she going to come in with?? It was a fun way to pass the time during the extended shots of Beyonce chatting it up on the Jumbotron. Ps -- the answer is on the arm of Bill Clinton, with extended vicarious "this could have all been mine.." glances around the stage.
5. Leaving places are far more terrifying than going places. Human nature really, really ran its course. You know how you take your time at a restaurant chatting and trying to find the cheapest house wine and filling up on bread, but you always manage to 'have to go to the bathroom' when the check arrives? It was kind of like that, because at the first line of poetry people were shoving their way out of the National Mall like it was a dine-and-dash convention.
Washington DC may have broken records for squeezing the most people ever onto on the National Mall and the metro, but they did it at the expense of figuring out how to get all those people out. They let us ticketless yahoos fend for ourselves. There was this whole "fuck you, we have a luncheon to get to!" imperiousness to it. Clearly no one on the Inauguration committee cared that 2 million people had no idea where they were and literally two exits from which to leave.
6. If that first dance did not melt your heart, you have no soul. My favorite moment of the evening: talking shop aka Inauguration at a local pub. The President and First Lady take the stage for their first dance at the neighborhood ball (this neighborhood, by the way, consists of Beyonce, Puff Daddy, Jay-Z, Alecia Keys, Shakira, Mariah Carey, and a fairly creepy hosting stint by Private Practice's Kate Walsh). And everybody stops, puts down their beers, and dreamily stared at the first couple. I loved that moment. The unembarrassed, vicarious pleasure we all took in what Michelle and Barack have.
7. Just because you are sworn in as President, it does not mean that your evening won't end up some horrific version Groundhog Day. I did the tally: ten balls, one dress....and one increasingly Muzaq version of "At Last" by Etta James. Ten times. On a stage. With hundreds of people hooting and hollering and taping you on their camera phones. It was completely fucked up and degrading. I guess Inaugural balls now = mosh pits with hundreds of Iphones and Razrs capturing your every move.
So it was a great day. I was literally in the thick -- roughly between the reflecting pool and the National Monument, halfway up and halfway in. But it ended up not mattering whether I could see the Jumbotron with clarity. It was Obama's voice bouncing across mall, echoing between the Smithsonian Castle and Capitol building. During his speech, I turned around again -- not in protest, but to observe those around me. Hundreds of thousands of flags waving and running noses and handwarmers and tears. It was amazing to be a part of -- impossible to escape from, but amazing to be a part of.
And not to worry: I'll deconstruct how all my friends live better than I do in more expensive cities in a subsequent post.
Posted by procrastsensation at 8:19 PM