4 years ago my roommates and i scattered across the city to celebrate the inaugural, although we were bitterly disappointed (but not surprised) by who we were inaugurating. we each managed to wrangle tickets out of friends or strangers (i made friends with people in a starbucks a few weeks earlier who got me ny tickets). it was about as cold in the city as it is now, and we were just thankful to be somewhere other than our 100 year old rowhouse, which had no heat.
i stood in line to get into the inaugural with the ny people, yet we never made it past security. we stood in the snow by the riot-police van and joked about how they knew we weren't republicans by the way we looked. perhaps it was some one's kerry pin that gave it away. later that night we snuck into the bowling alley at george washington university and played a few frames before i attempted to bribe two different taxis to take me home. (the first took me half way- not enough bribe i suppose). the second, feeling sorry for a white girl living in 'that' neighborhood let me sit up front in his cab while he drove some texans to a ball, which happened to be close to my house. my roommates and i had been ridiculously bitter that they closed all the streets around our house because it made going home very unsafe that night. but this was dc, we reasoned, and nobody really cares about "those neighborhoods" anyway. we knew from experience that the dc cops would be nowhere near our neighborhood to provide protection if we had trouble walking home.
the taxi cab driver signed heavily after the ball-goers got out and turned up the radio to listen to the re-run of the inaugural address. "that m***-f***" he said, slamming his hand into the steering wheel (i'm still up front, right next to him.) i shook my head in agreement (what else was i to do) and we rode listening to bush's promises for the next 4 years, occasionally my cab driver declaring obscenities to the radio. "it's people like us" he said, "that are forgotten about in this town". and that was the feel in town that week, at least in my neighborhood- that our city was throwing a huge party for someone nobody in dc had voted for- and for people who were so far removed from the lives of those in dc.
my roommates and i had no idea we were, the next weekend, about to be forced to leave our house because we complained about the fact we had no heat. (we were told we were whiny- what should one expect from a 100 year house? but we had 4 fire places... with no flues... so it was literally snowing inside our house. i swear our refrigerator was the same temperature as our kitchen. literally, no heat.) we had no idea we were about to enter a fight with our landlord over whether or not we had a right to have heat.
yet i also had no idea that i was about to meet my husband after the whole ordeal, at a coffee shop in my new (yuppy) neighborhood.
** ** **
4 years later i have heat, a husband, and no longer live within the district of columbia. i wont be bribing taxis to take me home tomorrow night, and i wont be standing in a long line waiting to get in, since this time i felt there wasn't the same chance i'd randomly meet someone in a coffee house who had extra tickets. they are a little harder to come by this year.
4 years later the streets of dc are packed with inaugural excitement. there are porta-potties lining every sidewalk on the mall, and people selling everything imaginable with our president-to-be's face on it on every sidewalk. ("obama air-fresheners! get your obama air fresheners!") there are locals giving guided tours who seem to be a bit confused about our history "well, you see here, he was so dumb that he couldn't say no to a duel!, got himself into a little gun battle he did, and then, that's the end of the story. his name? oh, well, his name is george clemand." -murmurs of confusion among the high school students. "haha! just foolin' ya'... ya' know who i'm talkin' 'bout") and since this suppose to be an education blog, that will be my comment on dc public schools.
four years ago there was an excitement in the air from the tourists, but a feeling of separation between them and us. i remember riding a bus home and being befriended by two ladies with southern accents in large fur coats. they clearly identified me as the only other white person on the bus and decided i could help them get back to the "good" part of the city.
walking around today i did not feel that divide. everyone was smiling, everyone friendly, everyone excited with hope. for the first time in my years in dc i walked down the street and noticed people made eye contact, smiled, said hello, shared random information. color of your skin, the way you dressed, didn't seem to influence any of these incidents. i found myself in a room singing happy birthday to martin luther king at the smithsonian, and in another room at the national portrait gallery reading the emancipation proclamation beside people of all colors. i don't know how long this feeling will last- how long we can stay punch-drunk happy as a country. i hope this high will stay awhile and influence us a bit.
*i will note that this year i saw significantly less cowboy hats than 4 years ago (i only saw one today) but may have actually seen more fur coats this year than 4 years ago. (i'm sure to peta's dismay).
Thanks for sharing such a beautiful post. I've featured it on my blog as one of The Cornerstone accolades for January 2009.
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