Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama's inauguration, an inspiring pain in the ass

"Well, at least getting there. Having a standing room ticket to the inauguration didn't seem to help a whole lot of people get into the national mall. I arrived with my purple ticket at the closest open metro station, Chinatown, around 9am. The station was so full people didn't have enough room to get off the train. The escalator I was on got too full and broke. Two blocks form the purple ticket holders' gate a mass of people was inexplicably stuck at the intersection of First and D. Two concrete barriers that you could easily walk around were keeping thousands of people in a very tight space. I stood there like a sardine for almost two hours...some people passed out, others vomited. Somehow they managed to drive an ambulance through the middle of the crowd, squeezing us even tighter. Jesse Jackson and his entourage squeezed through...I only got a picture of the back of his head. I have it on good authority that Al Sharpton also made an appearance in our mob just before I got there.

Just as inexplicable as the mob itself, I got pushed five feet and everything opened up. I was greeted by another mob, apparently waiting in line for the purple gate. Funny thing is, the gate was locked and wasn't letting anyone in. People were pissed. There were people who had been waiting there since 5 and 6 in the morning, and they were standing in the same place I was. They randomly chanted "let us in!" and, for some reason, "Purple! Purple!" Finally, at 11:30, just as the ceremony was beginning, an entrance about 100 feet from where everyone was lined up opened and something like three thousand people tried to squeeze through an entrance about ten feet wide, awesome. Apparently I was lucky. Word is, a whole lot of purple ticket holders never got in. Some people claimed they were turned away, but my hunch is that that's bullshit. Mostly, people were sick of being sardines and once 11 o'clock rolled around, people gave up and tried to find a nearby bar to watch the inauguration on tv. But, then again, Facebook tells another story. The day after, already a dozen groups popped up, some of my favorites: "Purple Inaugural Ticket Holders for Truth;" "Purple Ticket Holder Conspiracy Group;" and "Purple Ticket Holders: No We Didn't."

Security was mostly a joke, but at least there were metal detectors. I'm told some Silver ticket holders rushed their gate and hopped over the fence without being screened. I ran from the security check to the ticketed area and caught the tail end of Biden's swearing-in. I had a good ticket on the Capitol lawn inside the wall, but it was impossible to see anything. The two jumbotron screens were strategically placed behind trees and Obama looked like an ant. None of that really mattered though, being there was cool enough. There was a lot of nodding heads and "yeah, that's right!" during Obama's speech. People seemed to really like it when he talked about not compromising ideals for expediency's sake, or something along those lines (ouch, Mr. Bush). And while I recognize that my continued belief that Obama is going to save the world is naïve, being hunkered down next to a whole bunch of Kenyans somehow convinced me that he could pull it off (something to do with international support, I dunno).

The sound for Obama's inaugural address was good, but everything else was impossible to hear from where I was standing. I ended up watching it all over again on C-Span (that is, YouTube) after I got home. Funny thing, on tv, when Obama thanked Bush for his service to the country, all you hear is applause. On the Capitol lawn, and certainly what Bush heard, was more a mix of applause and booing...mostly booing. Come on now, really? I felt it cheapened the moment.

With all that said, it was awesome. More or less having come to political maturity during the Bush administration, it was really exhilarating to be around so many people that were actually excited about a president. My friend Jason, also a purple ticket holder, cried at the swearing-in. My friend Sandy, wandering around the Washington Monument, partook in random stranger hugging (apparently, booing Bush was louder back there too). And 7th St from Chinatown to the mall practically turned into an independent economy of poorly made Obama kitsch almost over night, and people are actually buying this crap! Fantastic, I say." - Abel Kerevel.

Since I managed to score a few tickets to the inauguration for my brother, I asked him to write up a little piece on his experience for the blog. I'll be in DC on Friday, maybe I'll be able to score some discounted Obama merch?