About a month before the election, way back in like, October, I was like, “Dad, book a hotel. He’s going to win it!” So Dad booked the little Days Inn for $140 a night and we waited. Obviously, I was right, and didn’t jinx the election, so that’s where we stayed on Monday night where people were then asked to pay triple for the same room. Bus loads of people crammed into tiny rooms, I just couldn’t help but inwardly crow over. And then there were rumors of $100,000 hotel packages throughout the city as well…people coming from all over the world to witness live, the most watched television event in history: The inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama, first black President of the Unites States of America.
Welcome, First Family. Welcome, new administration. Welcome, shaft of light in the mud of despair.
My favorite part of going to D.C.? The self-appointed crowd comedians who kept everyone’s spirits jovial where in other circumstances, the irritability of having 10,000 of your closest friends invading your personal space at any given moment, may have erupted into mayhem and violence.
A couple of my favorites just because of the surrounding crowd’s reactions, really:
Somewhere in Texas there is a village that will be getting back its idiot!
At the throng of people waiting two hours to go fifteen yards through the security check point for people with Blue Tickets, “I need all the white people in the middle to be more aggressive!
It was touch and go at security. Parts of the crowd were shouting ‘Let Us In!’ and ‘Yes We Can!’ And then thousands of people pushing on all sides…and I can’t really describe it other than this… not unlike a particularly difficult turd making its way through the lower intestines, until we finally surfaced into the wide open, with considerably more fresh air on the other side. And of course you had a few haters who were trying to bulldoze over babies and people in wheel chairs. Literally.
I’ll spare you all the drama surrounding travel. A round trip eighteen hour trip stuffed as Passenger #6 in the back of a van decked out in Tuskegee Airmen paraphernalia, well, is what it is. The Metro, as you can imagine, was crammed full of crumpled, cold, exhausted, but still spirited people. The main road arteries were convoluted with drivers because all of the side roads had been shut off.
My sister and I were steeped in people for most of the trip, having scored Blue Section tix, and left Poohbear and the friends of the family who also came along, to try and navigate our way past the stop that the Metro forced us off on. We walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked through Middle Earth, two little lost Hobbits, beneath buildings, round and around blocks and crowds of folk pulsing along the parade route. I suspect that Pooh and the others had the better experience having found a jolly restaurant full of DCers who were eating and laughing and watching the debacle we were in the thick of, on big screens. And of course, Dad shows up on the Jumbo-tron, sitting amongst the Tuskegee Airmen he was a guest of.
I wouldn’t have wanted to be anywhere else. On MLK Jr. Day, I had the pleasure of reading with about 15 of my Cave Canem compatriots at the Historic Sumner School, followed by an intense discussion of poetic inspiration, the difference between poetry and song, Elizabeth Alexander as the Inaugural Poet (talk about the ultimate job you’d be a fool to turn down and a fool to try and tackle…particularly after the paramount Inaugural Poem, ‘On the Pulse of Morning,’ by Maya Angelou), two of my aunts, my uncle and cousin showed up.
That was nice. Driving around wedged in the back of Uncle Hilliard’s Navigator for three hours wrangling traffic was kinda not cozy, but spending time with family was worth it.
So was all the physical trauma of cold and long walking/standing distances we endured. You know, you see the photos of marches and movements and such in DC all the time, but this was our opportunity to participate. What will I tell the grandkids? Ohhh, that they should care about their history because I helped make it. That I was there, barefoot, walking on glass backward for eight miles in 2 degree weather to see Obama take the oath. (You know how it’s an inherited duty to guilt trip your progeny.)
I still haven’t absorbed it all. Especially when you can barely make out Aretha’s hat on the screens. Somewhere between the roar and the size of the crowd, I think I was hyperventilating a little. I heard later you could see us from space. The energy was just crackling all throughout the mall and not one arrest! It was crazy though because right after Obama’s speech, the three thousand folks standing in my area all decided to leave at the same time so, there I was back, in the lower intestines of humanity, being squeezed towards the Metro, before hearing Elizabeth Alexander’s poem or the benediction.
On that note, I heard that Jon Stewart or somebody lampooned Elizabeth Alexander afterward with something along the lines of, “How do you get rid of 2 million people after an Inauguration?” and cut to a photo of Elizabeth. Having been workshopped by her, knowing her reputation and work, I think that the job she did was admirable. Below is the actual text of the poem sent straight from the source herself. The literary world is sort of at an impasse on how they’ve received it. Some love it, for some it was too prosy, etc. I guess that’s up to the
So, here’s a link to the poem: poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/20545 and here’s a pretty fair critique by Joel Dias-Porter, I thought, if you’re of that ilk: msplinks.com/MDFodHRwOi8vd3d3LnJlbmVnYWRlc2Jsb2cuYmxvZ3Nwb3QuY29tLw==
In any case, we survived Mission Inauguration. I’ve gotten it out of my system. Next time we see him being sworn in, party at my house! Oh, and big ups to the ‘Crazy Chicken Shack’ close to our hotel that was owned and run by an Asian family and served soul food. Did not know that lo mein and shrimp fried rice were now in that category next to barbecued chicken, collard greens, cornbread, and fried catfish sandwiches, but I’m a believer now, that’s for certain.