Sunday, January 18, 2009

Inauguration Stage is Set

So, today we ventured out into D.C. again to see a museum or two and get a feel for where we might best go and stand for the Inaugural parade on Tuesday.

Of course, nothing is 'normal' right now here in the Capitol.  It is most interesting for me to see how the security for the event is being put in place.  In a city where high security has been the norm since 2001, there is the sense that they really know what they are doing.  In spite of the massive re-arrangment of streets and sidewalks; in spite of the thousands of feet of fences and people-railings; in spite of the police, who seem to be everywhere at once, standing, driving, watching us as we and they go by, there is no sense of fear or oppression.  Cold though it was, there was a lively crowd out on the Mall even on a Sunday.

We had planned to visit the Spy Museum, but it was closed due to a water leak (?) so, taking advantage of Washington's cultural abundance, we simply crossed the street and went to the National Portrait Gallery.  Here we saw, among other things, the famous 'unfinished' Gilbert Stuart paintings of GW (the original, thank you very much) and his wife; plus the portraits of all the Presidents up through GW (yes, the second one).  This was a delightful and in many ways an unexpected exercise in patriotism, for I found proud to consider the accomplishments and to take in the images of all the most famous and even the not-so-famous men and women who have helped make this country what it is today.

Next, we walked up to the Capitol, where I was thrilled to see all the people smiling, laughing and taking pictures of each other in front of the Inauguration stand.  We did our share of the same.  They've set up perimeters so that we will not be able to pass through the same area two days hence, but for now it was possible to get up close and explore.  They must have ten thousand chairs set up in front of the stand itself, and if you looked back you could see where the other 230,000 ticket holders will get to stand.  They will have a good view, but come Tuesday, if you are at the back, you might as well watch on one of the 'jumbotrons' they are setting up all down the Mall.

It is obvious that they are familiar with how to deal with large crowds securely here in D.C, for there is no shortage of evidence that this is going to be a special week.  The first thing you'll notice is an army of port-o-potties lining almost every street leading up to the Mall, and many more thousands on the Mall itself.  Concrete barriers are ubitquitous as well, on every corner near a Federal building, so you have to walk around them.  The police are everywhere as well, in key positions and in what seems like every other car on the street.  Every ten minutes or so, sirens erupt and lights flash as another VIP is escorted to his oh-so-very-important event, and those citizens follish enough to bring in their cars are slowly being pushed out of the city center, an action which will leave naught but the police and taxis on the streets come Tuesday.

The souvenir stands, which no doubt are present in even the slowest of times here, are also everywhere, and there are even more storefronts that have opened up just to sell as many mugs, keychains, t-shirts, caps, plates, shoes, shot glasses and many more products that I can't even recall.  I haven't bought my Obama stuff yet, but I certainly plan to.  I mean, why not?  Is there ever a better time to buy a souvenir than when you are a tourist?  We found a comic shop in Union Station that will have some of the new Spiderman comicbook on Wednesday, so that may be the souvenir I get.  A shirt or hat wouldn't be out of the question either.

Now,  we don't plan to go to the ceremony but hope to get a good view to see the new President anyway.  If we play our cards right, we might get to see him as he joins the Inaugural parade up Pennsylvania Avenue.  It's a little hard to tell, right now, just where we will stand and what we will see.  One thing seems certain, though.  The people at home will defintely get the best view and remain the warmest, but the people here will share and excitement and energy that none of us will soon forget.  Already I can feel it building, I can see it on every face and hear it in our voices.  It's like Graduation.   Everyone in attendance is proud and happy to be there in celebration of a shared accomplishment.


Anonymous said...

They are even talking about Obama in China. Jeff and I were at the Ooshan Square today and I heard their cute little pronunciation of O-Bama in the tea shop. It remains to be seen if we will be able to see it on the tv in our hospital room. Please don't bring home t-shirts! Just post lots of pics!!!!


Nora said...

Hey Philip , just took my first visit to your blog this afternoon while Lili was having her therapy and got sucked in for about an hour and a half. And I just scratched the surface!
Can't wait to hear more details about your inaugural experience and to chat in person when you get back. Got to watch the HBO piece covering the Sunday concert on the mall last night. Was genuinely moved just sitting by myself in my living room- can only imagine what it must be like to be there amidst the throngs in person. Keep on posting.
There with you guys in spirit!