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Dispatch From D.C.: Tuesday's View From The Cheap(er) Seats

By Tankboy in News on Jan 23, 2009 7:00PM

Not all of us had prime seating to Tuesday's swearing in ceremony, and in our case we secured tickets for the Silver Section from our Congressman the good ol' fashioned way ... via lottery. We heard many folks in the same area were denied entry, and even though we only arrived about 30 minutes before the ceremonies began we were able to utilize our skills at crowd navigation and "looking like we belonged" to find our way to our designated section. Communication between security and the crowd was non-existent, which is probably why there were so many snafus regarding general entry.

Once inside we found lots of room to wander the crowd and take in the smiles around us. We were struck, though, that even though the crowd was so much larger than the one in Grant Park on election night, the energy level was much lower. Whereas Grant Park was an emotional affair, this crowd seemed to be in attendance to just be a part of history, and to merely bear witness to a moment that many hope will signal a turning point for our nation.

And now we'd like to offer a few scattered observations about D.C. in general...

  • The couple of days we were there, D.C. was a city of lines. Everywhere there were lines. We were lucky enough to find ourselves near the front when most of them formed, but we did spend a lot of time in lines...
  • We saw a live taping of the Slate Political Gabfest Monday afternoon, and the smart repartee between Slate's John Dickerson, David Plotz, and Emily Bazelon made us wish more journalistic discussion occurred in that manner.
  • People will slap the Obama name on anything and try and sell it. The most egregious offense along those lines? Obama Air Fresheners. (Although in retrospect we do regret not picking upa few to give out as gifts.)
  • The Inauguration Committee planned a nice ceremony but failed when it came to providing an exit strategy on Tuesday. Gridlocked crowds tore down fencing, scaled walls, and surged toward Metro stations that were inexplicably closed. At some points it began to feel like a zombie move ... just as you thought you had reached salvation and were about to get home you'd turn a corner and discover NO! DISASTER! NO EXIT!
  • Speaking of the Metro, their trains have carpeting and cushions on the seats. And the riders talk to each other! Don't worry though, we understand it's not always that way and once the out-of-towners like us left everyone went back to scowling at each other during their morning commute.
  • If you're ever in D.C. visit Wonderland Ballroom ... the staff is cool, the drinks are cheap, and the people actually dance to the rock and/or roll! It reminded us of Bucktown's Dannny's circa 1996 when it was still basically a 2-floor house party 7 nights a week.
  • Finally, if you're in D.C., visit Arlington National Cemetery. It's a reality check we think everyone needs to fully appreciate what people in the armed forces are willing to sacrifice for you and me.

Finally, thanks to all the D.C. residents who not only put up with all us tourists, but actually reached out to make our time there as enjoyable as it could be in a city straining under the flood of new bodies.