I'd love to go, of course. It's a great, American day. But it is also crowded and, frequently, The Coldest Day In The History Of The World. It took me until at least 2004 to warm up from the 2001 Bush first inaugural. Yes, I went to that - it was my second.
I attended Clinton's second inaugural in 1997. A senior in high school, I jumped at the chance to attend through the Presidential Youth Inaugural Conference. I had that chance, in turn, from prior participation in the same group's National Young Leaders Program. Both are excellent. Both have a dress code, unlike other DC programs. For some reason, this alone elevates their stature and import - I'm convinced. Anyway . . . .
In 1997 - ah, those were the days. We were building bridges to the 21st century. We knew nothing of cigars or interns. Things were basically cool. I saw a Better Than Ezra concert on the Mall (passing up the Bill Nye show in a nearby tent - tough call, I tell you). We were treated to private showings of a play at the Kennedy Center and a reception after, replete with sparkling cider and a jazz band. There was a dinner cruz on the Potomac on a craft similar to a bateauz on the Siene - not that I knew that then. And there was an Inaugural Ball where we saw the Clintons and the Gores and Jewell and LL Cool J and, disturbingly, the Squirrel Nut Zippers (anyone remember them?).
Fast forward four years. After the shock of sitting through an election night without a winner and the court battles and the shady outcome, there wasn't much Democratic enthusiasm in DC. The upshot: super easy to get tickets to the Inauguration from Dem congressional offices. My MOC-boss's husband's ticket ended up in my hot little political nerd hands, though no on in the office could really understand why I'd want to attend.
Now, with the benefit of time, I'm not sure either. Recall, however, that in those early days of 2001, months before September, before Iraq, before WMD, before everything, we only thought he would be bad - we didn't really know yet. So I sat in the third or so row, amazingly close to the swearing-in, in a sea of Reep members, staff, and VIPs. I recall running into a college friend who worked for the then-Speaker (an R) whose face fell a full five stories when he saw me and realized he wouldn't be the only one who could say he was thiiiiis close.
It was cold that day. Really, shockingly cold. There was sleet, I think. Definitely rain and a heavy mist. Miserable. Should've taken it as a foreshadowing of things to come.
I think back on that day frequently. I've blogged it before - complete with a piece I wrote for my creative journalism class in college (explaining the very strict narrative style):
Red Line, DC Metro, January 20, 2001, 9:00am - Light glints off a silver belt buckle. A lady's fur-covered arm brushes my face. Many children talk. There are many tourists lurching and grabbing for the sticky silver poles. A man carries a white sign with red letters. Three more women in black hats carry red signs with green, dripping words. A man in a Stetson herds his gilded wife through the doors. Parents bundle their children in a blanket filled stroller. It is inauguration day. The metro slows and stops in the dark tunnel. The tourists shuffle. The commuters sigh. A girl fusses with her earmuffs. Her mother tugs at her scarf. The grandmother adjusts her rhinestone pin - shaped like the state of Texas. There is a large W in the center. The W is made of red, white, and blue jewels. The grandmother smiles.It's a very American experience, attending an Inauguration. I wish I could share it with my husband this year - but lacking the connections and the money to do it right, I think I'll just aim to make it a meaningful event via satellite here in California.
The metro doors open. The transfer station platform teems with people. Most look lost. Others look frustrated. A man wears a shirt with a donkey on it. The man is not smiling. His son, also wearing a donkey, smiles. My feet ache. It is only 9 o'clock. The air is cold. Sleet falls from the sky. The train descends into another tunnel. A group of people laugh. They are carrying large rolls of canvas. The canvas is white. Across from them sit a group of school children. They are carrying flags. Next to me sits a couple. They are talking about tickets. The women looks angry. The man looks tired. The doors open and close again. The metro driver barks instructions at the passengers. The passengers look up at the speakers in the ceiling.
A boy wears a red sweater with a blue W. The boy gets out of his seat. He points to it. An old woman lowers herself into the seat. She has a cane and a stack of leaflets. The leaflets are green. The metro stops. The lady and the girl and the boy and the old woman and all the signs and all the flags get off the train