A Somewhat Magical Night of Mixed Metaphors

We left our intrepid group approaching the Convention Center on their way to an inaugural ball. . . .

"Extra ticket?" whispered a bedecked woman furtively out of the corner of her mouth as we passed. Since she sported an updo instead of a baseball cap, it took me a second to realize what she wanted, but by then we were getting patted down in security, sending our little, glittery evening bags through the metal detectors, and finally walking through the doors.

We passed the bomb-sniffing dogs and approached the coat check, mindful of its dangers. (The Washington Post reported, "At Reagan's 1985 inauguration, a seriously logjammed coat room resulted in Mink-gate. Several guests' outerwear went missing, including [an] $8,000 fur. . . ." ).

Would there be a Mink-gate reenactment with my TJ Maxx wool coat? My mother in law took no chances. Earlier that day, she sewed nametags into all of our outerwear, even though there was nary a fur among us. We took our coat chits and headed into the ball room where 1,000 of our closest friends had started to celebrate... or, at least, line up to buy drink tickets. Some of the guests--not us--had paid (well) upwards of $1,000 and still had to shell out for drinks.

We walked by a group of chairs filled with decidedly un-festive people typing at their computers. My first party also attended by the press corps. We chatted them up, hoping for some information about the arrival of the Obamas. "Our ball was bumped," we were told. "The parade ran late, so their ETA is now 11:30 p.m."
Guess we didn't have to rush after all. We got in line to buy a lot of drink tickets, and proceeded to work our way through them.

It was like being at the wedding of someone you don't know very well. Few people danced, although--as at most weddings--there were three little boys who slid around the dance floor and tried their best break dancing moves. The Bidens made an appearance on a little stage, and the crowd roared (it was the Biden States ball, after all). Joe thanked everyone for their support, pledged his undying allegiance to Delaware and Pennsylvania, and kidded that he couldn't dance. He was right. They swayed for about three minutes and disappeared behind the curtain.

By then, the drink tickets had done their work and it seemed that the Obama's arrival had to be imminent. The room got louder, people started dancing a bit, and some started angling for a good spot next to the stage.

"This is stupid, this is stupid, this is stupid," I was thinking as I stood in line for rubber pasta. Then, I noticed some sort of color guard and a brass band setting up. The news swept the room: "They're here!” A crush of people rushed to the front. I flat-out ran up to the balcony, where I would have a chance of seeing.

The emcee announced "Ladies and Gentlemen, I present Barack H. Obama, the President of the United States of America!" Hail to the Chief played. Barack and Michelle entered. And, in that instant, it became a great night.

They paused, center stage, and the women mentally approved Michelle's dress (she looked lovely in person, although the pictures weren't so flattering). President Obama thanked everyone, told us to enjoy that evening because the work started tomorrow and then said, "Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to dance with my wife." And they did, and they seemed to really enjoy it, even though it was probably their 10th dance to "At Last" that evening.

After they disappeared behind the curtain, noise level went up again. Everyone was exhilarated by the sighting. People started exiting. Mindful of our babysitters who had to work the next day, we took one spin around the dance floor and headed out to see what had become of our coats. Thankfully, we had no problems. It had to be the nametags.

We trooped out into the freezing air and promptly turned into pumpkins. The streets were full of formally attired and very cold people who were all headed towards the metro or trying to find a taxi. We headed to the Metro and waited... and waited... a train came but we couldn't squeeze on, so we waited 20 minutes more. Then we had to transfer, with another long wait. You get the idea.

Despite the wait, the lines, the crowds, and the sheer number of used drink tickets, everyone remained in a good mood. It felt like America won the World Series. Holy Cow!

January 20, 2009

O, long-awaited January 20! What a day you were.

In the days leading up to the Inauguration, lofty discussions about policies and political appointments gave way to logistics. The challenge: how to get into and around DC when all the bridges over the Potomac River and all of the downtown area were closed to cars.

High heels and formal gowns entered the equation when Greg announced that a friend of his had four tickets to the Biden States ball and that we and his parents were going.

In the end, Greg and I walked four miles home from Sunday's concert over the closed bridges and deserted highways. Quicker than waiting in a thousand-person line for the Metro. Yesterday, I decided not to subject Baby C to the crowds and freezing temperatures. We had an open house breakfast for Greg, his parents, and some friends who were heading downtown, then I watched history unfold on TV. Baby C obligingly napped through President (!) Obama's speech and Rev. Lowery's right-on benediction. Then, it was time to think of the ball.

A ball conjures images of Cinderella and magic. And, from start to finish, it was sort of a Cinderella experience--minus the fairy godmother. Forty minutes before the doors opened, I was covered in yogurt and chasing my naked baby down the hall before she could pee on the carpet. We somehow got her down to sleep, I squeezed into an old gown, and we called a cab to take us into DC. The taxi we called didn't show, but we found one down the street at the Halal Meat Shop parking lot. (There are advantages to living up the street from the Halal Meat Shop. Good lamb, and plentiful taxies.)

Even Cinderella's magical pumpkin coach probably couldn't have gotten through the closures that night. Military Humvees blocked road after road. We grew anxious. The Obamas were supposed to make an early appearance at our ball—we didn’t want to miss them. After an hour of painstaking navigation, we finally made our way to the Convention Center where six of the ten official balls were underway.

... and she's waking up. More later.

We Interrupt this Mommy Blog

Live. . .
From D.C. . .
It's Inauguration Week!

It the eight years we've lived down here, I've never seen the city so excited. Actually, I've rarely seen the city excited at all; my chief complaint is that D.C. lacks electricity in the air. Well, today I stand corrected.

Greg's parents are visiting, which means that we have two captive babysitters. Basking in the glow of their adoring attention, Baby C barely managed to wave and blow me a kiss as I said goodbye to her. Then, Greg and I headed OUT to the National Mall to see President Elect Obama and the We are One Inauguration Concert. (And to see U2, who happened to be playing.)

Since most of the roads downtown and bridges across the Potomac were closed, we hopped on the Metro. You know you don't get out enough when a ride on public transit excites you. "Oooh, Greg, look! All the station lights are different! When did they change those?" Greg wasn't sure. "Oooh, look, Greg - when did they change the 'No Food' signs?" Greg didn't know, but I think he was relieved when I stopped loudly pointing out the Metro's capital improvements and turned my attention to the exuberant crowd.

Most folks were headed downtown to the concert, and everyone was laughing and talking with their fellow riders. Everyone. That people were talking at all was unusual (Metro transforms ordinary people into silent, dour and sallow passengers), and that they were chatting across racial lines even more so. We traded tips on where to get off with the family next to us and poured out of the station into a city eerily empty of traffic but strumming with foot traffic. (Interestingly, most people stuck to the sidewalks even though the roads were closed.)

The Mall was packed, but people were cool. No pushing and shoving. Screens were placed down the length of the Mall down to the Capitol building. We arrived too late to get through the security checkpoints in front of the stage at the Lincoln Memorial, so we joined the crowd in front of the Washington Memorial and gazed up at the (surprisingly small) jumbotron screen.

The Boss kicked us off, sounding good and scruffy. Movie stars read inspiring quotes between the sets. Someone let Josh Grobin sing. I'm embarrassed to say that Garth Brooks was one of the best performers and got everyone a little bit louder now with his rendition of Shout and American Pie. Stevie Wonder, Usher, John Mellencamp, Pete Seeger, Miss Mary J. Blige—all sounded great.

There was a sweet little old lady in front of us who had a pink scarf tied over her ears and under her chin. When Shakira came on stage, the little old lady gleefully cried out, "Oh, I love Shakira!"

For me, a diehard U2 fan, the highlight was Edge, Bono and the boys singing my favorite song, which commemorates Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Pride (in the Name of Love). Judging from the fact that I was the only person in the vicinity singing and raising my fist in support of the good fight, there were not a lot of U2 fans around me. Or perhaps they just get out more than me. Probably that. I’m pretty sure Bono and I shared some significant eye contact through the jumbotron.

All in all, it was almost like a two-hour sing-along on the Mall. People were unabashedly emotional, earnest, and polite. When Barack Obama took the stage, the crowd stilled. Then erupted. We are ready.

New Year, New Name?

Much as we enjoyed the holidays and hated to see them end, the first day back to our normal routine brings a little relief. Greg and I un-decorated last night, although the pine needles embedded in the floor cracks remain, as do the nail holes in the bannister where I hung up a garland. These little scars make a house a home, right? Or do I need to vaccuum again?

I'm thinking that Baby C may be outgrowing her blog moniker. She's getting to be such a big girl, toddling about with her Charlie-Chaplin-like gait and typing furiously on my new Ipod (albeit while sucking on the pacifier she's managed to find). Stay tuned...