With no further adieu, here's my Inauguration Day, in semi-chronological order.
TicketMaster - Last week, my plan was to cop a train downtown sometime Tuesday morning, and get as close as possible. I knew I wouldn't be able to see anything, but how could I live with myself after missing the Million Man March for a job interview (for a job I didn't get) with IBM in the same town on the same day? Missing history-in-the-making is just inexcusable when you live only a few Metro stops away. Anyways, my wife's brother who does some consulting work with the SCLC (more on Dr. Lowery later) got four Yellow Zone tickets last week and when his daughters couldn't make it, asked me and AverageSis to roll with him and his wife. Lovely. Note to all single brothers: Marry UP.
Getting There - The Yellow Zone gates opened at 8am, so I figured we'd traipse in there around 9. Wrong! AverageBrotherInLaw wanted us in line at 4am! I thought this Negro was out of his mind, but he did have the tickets so what was I gonna do, sleep in? We easily rolled into Soufeas' DC around 3:30am, parked by AverageMomInLaw's and bypassed the bus/Metro route in took a cab instead. $12 and 20 minutes later, we were in line, just to the North of the Capitol, and there were only about 50 people in front of us.
It's So Coooold In DC - One thing I refuse to do anymore is moan and whine about cold weather. This is a direct result of having spent last Winter in the Twin Cities, where it was routinely negative 45 with the wild chill factored in. DC feels like Cancun by comparison. I put on triple layers of everything, Manned-Up and toughed it out, as we waited nearly 3 1/2 hours in 20 degree weather just to get to our seats. A few Au Bon Pain runs to Union Station, and some of those HandWarmers things they sell at Home Depot helped.
The Best Seat In The House - Once the Yellow Zone gates opened (earlier than expected at 7:30am), we went through a very routine security check (like TSA, but even easier) and made our way to our seats in the expansive Section
The ticketed sections in front of the Capitol were probably 50% black, if not a majority, which I imagine must be an Inaugural first of sorts. Looking back at the
Homeland Insecurity - Okay, here's the really funny thing. Once we got inside out color coded, ticketed area, there was virtually no security. The seats were first-come first seat, and they didn't even bother checking your zone ticket once you cleared security. There were some Naval officers who served as "Ushers", but these folks did jack squat. People routinely got out of their seats and milled about taking photos, walked in and out of different zones, and even stole each other's seats. Once the ceremony started, these "Ushers" did nothing to stop the dozens of
Post-Racial America - The crowd was frozen, but festive. Folks of all hues willingly volunteered to assist with photo-taking, sang and chanted, and generally got along just fine, despite The Infamous AverageSis Assault. And wouldn't you know it, the inevitable happened. Anytime you have a mass of black folks dressed to the nines in floor length mink furs, you know what's next: The Electric Slide. I saw this spontaneously break out dozens of times as we awaited the start of the program. And yeah, white folks were joining in, and yeah, they were messing up the steps. Nobody cared though.
"Hey, Ain't That..." - When you get somewhere extra early, this means you've got lots of time to burn. After we'd taken every conceivable combination of wife/husband/brother/sister photo available, the fact that we still had another 3 hours to burn before the ceremony started became evident. So, we started keeping tabs on the other folks as they filed in and tried to see if there were any famous faces in the crowd. Ex-Batman "star" Val Kilmer was the first such person to walk by our section, and he played the "accessible celeb who wants to be amongst the people" role, posing for photos and signing sigs. But it was obvious that he didn't want to sit with the Yellow Zone riff raff and was waiting for "his people" to get him moved into the Green Zone. This never happened, and dude (after about a hour of walking back and forth) relented and sat down. Waaay behind us. I almost felt bad for him, but I know the Green Zone "Insider's Seats" were allocated based on how much these folks gave/how big a star they were. Apparently it's been a long time since Batman. Sorry Val.
Get Me Outta Here, I'm A Celebrity! - After awhile, ABL and I got antsy and started walking around the Section 11 (which prolly contained 10,000 seats alone) to see who else was around. In no time we ran into Common (nice guy), Tracee Ellis Ross (looks better on TV), Bill Bellamy, Evander Holyfield (sitting waaaay in the back and apparently not happy about it), Stephen Spielberg (nice guy, who oddly had to also sit in the back), Alicia Keys (far away, I only got a glimpse of her), Bill Cosby (also seen from afar), Wyclef (sitting just in front of us in the Green Zone) and finally.. brace yourselves fellas... Halle Berry. She was dressed down (hat, big shades, no makeup), but well, it's Halle Berry. Do you ladies realize how many male-male debates/discussions have begun with the words "Well, what if Halle Berry...." over the years? She was too far from the aisle for me to ask for a photo (and she had well-disguised security, something few other celebs had), but this still made my day. 50 years from now, my kids will ask me about Inaug Day, and all I'll say is "Good Lawd, Halle Berry!!!!". And the funny thing: we had far better seats than any of these people, who reportedly contributed a minimum of $50,000 for their tickets. Next time, these folks need to write some bigger campaign contribution checks, or wake up earlier.
The Progam Begins - Eventually, the public address announcer tells everyone to sit the hell down and the program begins. The A-List celebs (the ones who really kicked in during the election) are brought in through the Capitol entrance and seated somewhere even closer than the Green Zone. When Will.I.Am appears on the Jumbotron (the stage is so high up you can't really make out anyone) I look at Wyclef and he has the same wistful expression on his face that Aaron Hall likely has when he sees an R. Kelly video (not that video, all his others). Aretha Franklin comes out to sing and maaannnnn, does she sound awful. Hang it up, Reet-Reet.
Introducing... - Finally, the politricians and dignitaries begin to file in. This entails literally introducing every elected official in town, every appointed official in town, and everyone who used to be one of the aforementioned. And yeah, it gets boring quickly. I want to go back and find Halle Berry again, but well, am I sitting with my wife after all. Speaking of wives, Bill and Hillary Clinton are shown (locker room style) walking around inside the Capitol before they come out, and boy do they look unhappy. You can literally smell the hatred. Then, as they are introduced and appear outside the Capitol, Bill paints on his confident smirk, and Hillary does that stoopid open-mouthed "Hi!" gesture to nobody in particular. It's clear that they both wanted this day to go differently. I almost feel sorry for them. Okay, maybe not.
Stay Out The Bushes - I immediately noticed a trend of the PA announcer "bundling" the announcements of certain people they'd know would likely get booed with a bunch of other folks to kind of buffer the response. They did this with Daddy Bush, who still got a smattering of boos. Ditto for Chaney, who came out in a wheelchair that I'm thoroughly convinced as a sympathy ploy. But when Bush Jr. came out, it was undeniable, lots of folks expressed their displeasure. I don't like either Bush, but booing them at this point is just uncouth. Let it ride. Still, you could peep the discomfort on GW's face. It was like "man, so this is how I'm goin out, huh?" I almost feel sorry for him. Okay, maybe not.
The Magic Negro Arrives - The Obama kids, GramObama, Michelle, and finally Barack reach the stage. The applause is more than cordial, but hardly the reception of a "rock star". I made this same observation when I went to that pre-election rally in suburban Virginia a few months back. Two times I've seen Obama, and none of that "Oh My God!", crying, and falling out nonsense from the crowd. People were sensible, and proud, but not even remotely fanatical. The reception wasn't a dead as a Redskins game, but it wasn't as hyped as Cameron Indoor Stadium either. In short, people were reasonable. I'm starting to wonder it all the superficial "Obamania" crap was just a conservative media creation to undermine Barack Obama's substance and the fact that his followers might actually be thinking adults, rather than mindless sheep. Just a thought. Oddly, after he takes the oath (nice job bumbling, Justice Roberts) I start hearing mini "explosions" all around The Mall. This lasts for like 2 minutes. Perhaps it was fireworks, I still have no idea, but the sh*t was pretty eerie.
Speech! Speech! - The speech was good, but not incredibly memorable. If nothing else, to me, it seemed like he was talking to the world, rather than just Americans. He let the terrorists know we would outlast them at their own game. He let the GOP know he was The HNIC, and if they f*cked with him anymore, there would be consequences and repercussions. He let America know that the 8-year old sh*t sandwich George Bush (who winced the entire time) made wasn't getting fixed anytime soon, and to dial back on the expectations. It was a speech far more strategic than visionary, which made since because he's The President Of The United States now, not a candidate vying for the gig. Listening to Conservative chatters decry the lack of "soaring rhetoric", when that's the very argument they used to paint him as "an empty suit short on substance" during the campaign is just hilarious. Stop hatin', it's bad for your blood pressure.
Lowery's Salt - We caught another cab from Union Station and were back at my MomInLaws less than 30 minutes after the Obama speech. We left during that dreadfully boring poem that proceeded SCLC head honcho Joseph Lowery's invocation. Some are unhappy with Lowery's "white/right" statement that ended his short speech. Fall back, folks. The man's 88 years old and has truly lived through some sh*t that would make most of us cry. Let him have his moment.
Upstaged - Watching the post-inaugural festivities from a warm living room, I too was concerned when reports had Ted Kennedy and Bob Byrd both collapsing at a luncheon. Then, when I heard they were okay, I'm thinking "damn, here we are on the greatest day evar for Black Americans, and a white dude just has to steal a brotha's shine!" Of course this leads to the Inaugural Parade being delayed by an hour and a rash of CPT and "they late cause' Michelle had a hot iron accident" jokes. Eventually, they join the parade route and all's lovely.
A Message For All The Haters - Obama is the President. Palin isn't. McCain isn't. Reagan isn't. Obama is. If you really care about the wellbeing of our country more than the fact that your guy lost, fall in line and wish this man the best for all our good. In short, Get down or lay down!
The Aftermath/Question - Obama has his work cut out for him, but if expectations are out of control, it's nobody's fault but ours. The guy has repeatedly asked people to fall back and give him time to do his thing. I say the honeymoon lasts 6 months with America as a whole, and 2 years with Black folks, even shorter if something bad happens with/to Michelle. What say ye?