Long before the bailouts, the stimulus package, the $3 trillion budget, the drawdown in
Wasn’t that enough? Not for this guy. I was on my way to the inauguration of our 44th President in
Chapter 1: Take You Down to
My colleague Nnennaya and I from Congressman Nadler’s Office took the 10AM bus Monday morning, January 19th. After tuning into Tin Hat Trio’s Helium and Elvis Costello’s Spike amongst other albums, I arrived at a packed Metro Station. Having lived in
Does this look reasonable to you?
But soon enough I was at Matt Volner’s 6 person apartment in
Our friend, actor-writer-dancer Brandt Adams, was also there working on a multimedia project/play about history, politics, and racism that took him all across the South, interviewing folks, gauging reactions to our first black president, and seeing touchstones of the civil rights movement. Really interesting stuff.
After a night of talking with new friends and old, and eating delicious Korean food (promptly followed by Pepto Bismol chewing tablets), I was ready for bed. But between having to wake up before dawn, and the hard floor taking a toll on the old back, I roiled in frustration that I had a full day ahead of me with no sleep.
Chapter 2: A Dark Morning
No one should wake before dawn except for fishermen. And ice fishermen. I wouldn’t wish that upon my worst enemy. Okay, maybe a few people from 4th grade. And maybe Shredder. But that’s about it.
And yet, here I was putting on my 14 layers (thermals, 2 pants, 3 pairs of socks, 2 shirts, sweatshirt, winter coat, scarf, gloves, boots) before heading to the subway. And it was crazy. The streets were packed with people, some walking all the way to the Capital. Meanwhile, the Metro was a mob scene. When the first car came, we pushed our way through the doors, and had just enough room to stand and breathe. Don’t forget, there were 8 more stops, and we were all going to the same place. Worse yet, I had to make a transfer. Pummeling through L’Enfant Plaza, I prayed to not be trampled upon like that 1979 Who Concert in Cincinnati. Or that dude from Wal-Mart after Thanksgiving.
After an hour submerged underground, I gasped for air on the escalator ride up. I was on my way to the Congressman’s office in the
Chapter 3: The Great Ticket Journey
This is the real steak and potatoes of the story (although I no longer eat red meat: Check out The Omnivore’s Dilemma). I was in possession of a blue ticket, giving me access to a standing section not far from the stage. Here’s a map:
But as I eased my way onto the Blue line, I found myself in a sea of people, with the Capital building nowhere in sight. Imagine my confusion. No one knew which line was which, where they started and ended, or how to get through security. There was no one of authority to give direction, and the others around me were even more perplexed. It was an absolute mess.
After 30 minutes of standing in the exact same place, I decided that, at this rate, I would miss the inauguration, standing just outside the theater of history. How would I face my peers back in
Looking at the map, the plan was to use my Congressional ID to cut through the
To my disappointment, the guards announced “
Which is how I ended up in the very front of the
Yeah. That’s right. Walking down a pathway, cops yelled “Hold up your ticket!” I blended quietly into the middle of the crowd, holding up the backside of my ticket. Preparing a speech for the guard that would catch me, and with my hand on a quarter to call Uncle Robbie for potential legal representation, I was suddenly being escorted into a seated section. Bewildered, in one final obstacle, the ushers were checking tickets before seating guests. I was screwed, I knew it. Yet tenaciously I waited in line, and before I knew it I was seated front and center. Was that it? Was I home free?
YES! YES I WAS! REJOICE!
It seemed at a certain point the guards figured you couldn’t get this far without an orange ticket. Jay-Z, Jamie Fox and
Soon enough the crowd roared as a series of limousines made their way to Capital Hill. And you know how the rest of the ceremony turned out. Wheelchair Cheney lurking, Bush in denial, Justice Roberts fumbling, Obama speaking with grace.
After that, I just barely made the train and hosted a surprisingly packed show at the Bowery Poetry Club with my band, Reuben Chess of Quintus, comedians from Living Liberally, blogger Robert George and comedian Grant Gordon.
But how was it to be there? Emotionally? Physically? Danny tell me more!!
Well, here’s what I’ll say. All in all, it was a logistical nightmare. It was a battle getting down to DC, a battle spending the night, a battle getting into the ceremony, and a battle to get the hell out. That being said, I was a witness to American history. Like millions of others, I see the best parts of myself in Barack Obama: smart, confident, mature, relaxed, and of course, Kenyan.
Being in that crowd, I could sense the electricity, but to be perfectly honest, sitting in the front section took me out of the excitement a bit. As warm and comfortable as I was, I didn’t hear the roars or see the faces I would have liked to amongst the throngs of people. I felt perched and privileged. It was a feeling I didn’t like. Then again, as you know, I was lucky to get in at all, and I saw and heard the ceremony with such clarity. While I didn’t think it was Obama’s best speech, it was an elegant and beautiful moment, captivating the hearts and minds of Americans everywhere. And I now have an experience in common with 2 million people I’ve never met. Strangely enough, the only time I got particularly emotional was when Joe Biden took his oath. This was really happening. My kind of people were taking control of my country.
Meanwhile, I was right. All my colleagues had blue tickets, and I was the only one to get in. Days later, we learned that thousands didn’t get in. Like the old Yiddish expression (that doesn’t exist) says, “You don’t schmooze, you lose.” And to add icing on the cake, I went back and found my money clip. It was a great day for America.
Here's some more pics: (Gay Couple protesting Rick Warren)