My reasoning went something like this: If I'm gonna live a life where I take a Greyhound from New York to Charlotte for a wrestling convention, wait on line for two hours to get a picture with Corey Haim, and head out in a vicious rainstorm to see Dustin Diamond do stand-up, then I'm gonna need a really good reason why I shouldn't attend the inauguration of Barack Obama.
Distance wasn't really a factor, since D.C. was only about four-and-a-half hours away.
Transportation was a similar nonissue, as there are plenty of buses and trains that head into D.C. every day. And, all things considered, the price of such transport was pretty reasonable
The weather? Well, yeah, that would be rough. But I spent my college years in a city where a walk from one end of the campus to the other could leave you crying as the winds pried open every tear duct you had. So I was prepared for that and was well-versed in the art of layering.
So, knowing full well what I was getting into, and with a place to crash Monday night (thanks, Ellis family!), there was in fact no good reason not to bear witness to one of the more historic days in the nation's history. Even though, much like my good buddy Alan Jackson, I'm not a real political guy, I'd been to Clinton's first inauguration, with a bus full of guys in high school I didn't like (one of whom put a battery in my mouth when I fell asleep on the bus), and had memories of how cool that was (despite getting lost afterward). I had the feeling Obama's day, and being among the potential millions of deliriously overjoyed on the Mall, might be a touch cooler.
That's how I got to Washington.
There are people better versed in political history and, indeed, more invested in President Obama's political career who can fully explain the import of the day. But what I can do, aside from show you pictures, is tell you the following:
* The thunderous sound of millions of gloved hands clapping during pauses in Obama's address is a sound I will never forget.
* If you're going to stand in sub-freezing cold for five hours, you oughta do it with one million people whose sheer collective joy will get you through those moments when you can't feel your toes and your right leg starts shaking involuntarily.
* You should see the sun rise behind the Washington Monument. It's kinda cool.
* It's also cool to walk through the I-395 tunnel.
* Even after spending five hours essentially in the same spot, even after bobbing and weaving through the mobs exiting from the Mall, even after standing amid hundreds of disgruntled mass transit users waiting to be let into Union Station (and getting in with about ten minutes to spare before our train headed out of town), I have no problem saying that there is no place I would have rather been on January 20, 2009, than on the Mall, watching America take a firm, confident step forward.
As I was figuring out all the transit particulars last week and making sure we had a solid plan about where we were going and when, my mind wandered to thoughts of my friends' kids and how, when they grow up, it won't be a strange idea that an African American can be president. There won't be discussions about whether certain groups would let that happen. Because it did happen. The doubts of the past have been erased. And I was there when that officially changed. Pretty cool.
Good luck, Mr. President. And thanks for the party.
Back view of the Capitol on Inaugural Eve:
The Capitol, ready to go:
Representing the state of New Jersey:
Morning has broken:
Calisthenics with Garth Brooks, via his performance of "Shout" at Sunday's concert, which played on the screens before the ceremony began:
Not dead, just resting:
A nation records:
Statue of Liberty (2009 Remix):
I kept my headlights off:
Let this be a lesson, future bootleg t-shirt makers: Even in the new America, you're still gonna need to know how to spell.