Tuesday, January 20, 2009

From the Periphery



Last night as I struggled to get to Dupont Circle for the the saging ritual, pushing my way through crowds around Union Station that made me feel more like I was in Calcutta than Washington DC, I suddenly understood how gravely I had underestimated what it was going to be like to have all these people in town.

OMG.



This morning, people began streaming down Tennessee Avenue on their way to the mall at about 6:00 a.m.. By the time I left the house, around 8:30, it was already too late. We tried, my roommates and I, but got stuck in a crowd so dense that all of us began to get a little bit panicky. So we backed off, thinking maybe a strategic shift to the other side of the Capitol might be a better approach. Not so much, it turned out.

There were a lot of people here today. Millions. Can you imagine? We tried for two hours to push our way onto the mall. It was amazing, humbling, and completely futile.

Finally we gave up, went into the Dubliner across from Union Station and had a drink. At 10:30 a.m. The bar was full of fellow celebrants who likewise could not get to the mall. The scene was cheerful and warm. It felt right to be surrounded by other inaugural celebrants, but not too many. Everyone was having a drink. At 10:30. Wow.



After that, we walked home. It was the reasonable decision. I guess we could have continued to bang our heads against the brick wall of that huge crowd, but for what? I didn't want to spend the day today feeling claustrophobic and miserable. I wanted to celebrate. On our walk home we ran into many fellow citizens of Capitol Hill, all of whom had surrendered to reality as well. Hammer was completely correct when he said today was the day to step aside and make room for the visitors to the city. But do I listen to him? Apparently not.

I'm not complaining. In fact, it was a relief to be at home again, to watch that amazing inaugural speech, that incredible truth telling and call to action, from the warmth and comfort of the house on Tennessee Avenue.

It was a serious speech. I'm glad I was sitting down when I heard it.

OK. The day unfolded differently than I expected. So? What else is new? The important thing is that Obama is our president. Thank God!

41 comments:

Drive-thru said...

I am at work and I could not hear the speech on line. I was lucky to see president Obama take the oath of office though I was watching CNN live from 10:30..the internet was very slow and I lost the connection many times..I guess millions were watching on line..
I will watch the inauguration speech tonight when I go home.

A new era of hope and change just started!

Butternut Squash said...

Hoooooray!

tut-tut said...

An amazing inauguration; truly. The speech, the poem, the benediction.

Reya Mellicker said...

Even the invocation was great.

Just me said...

Even with all the craziness, it must be amazing to be in DC right now. Just the energy!

I watched the speech with a room full of eighth graders and struggled not to tear up through quite a bit of it. I hope for successes, growth and integrity in this presidential term.

Yes we can.

Angela said...

I was alone at home today, feeling sick with a bad cold, so I got myself a blanket and sat on the sofa to watch the WHOLE ceremony on CNN! Oh yes, I was touched, and I`m not even an American!! Congratulations to your new president! (Oh, THAT`s why I could not see you in the crowd, Reya!)

willow said...

Me, too! I wondered why we couldn't see you in the crowd! :)Sorry it wasn't the experience you anticipated, but the massive crowds waving their flags in the mall was absolutely thrilling to see on TV!!!

Robbin'sMama said...

I have watched it all on TV. I have really enjoyed keeping up with your pictures you posted. The crowds were so amazing. Those people spent so much time and effort just to be there for this historical day.

tam said...

oh you so did the right thing. What a speech. What a cool benediction. Gosh i hope the masses are kind to your city and don't leave a lot of litter. Oh, i'm afraid there are the things i think of, but i don't believe such a thought is inconsistent with the general spirit of it all? Lots to discuss, but for now, enjoy the afterglow and the fact that you don't have house guests.

Bee said...

Reya, I was thinking of you (often) as I watched the Inauguration. I knew you were there SOMEWHERE in that crowded city! (BTW, the BBC coverage kept panning to the swell of the crowd. You almost could not believe that each little "pixel" was a person.)

So what were people drinking at 10:30 am? Was there an Obama cocktail?

I was incredibly lucky about timing, and got to see the entire ceremony sandwiched between school runs. I liked the sober tone of his address, and the poem, and Aretha in her marvellous hat, and I especially liked the prayers. I'm not religious at all (understatement), but I want to put us all -- and especially Obama -- into some higher power's care. Most of all, I am craving a message of unity -- and I felt like we all got that.

Lori ann said...

yes! thank god! reya, its so exciting to hear all about it from you, i was like Angela, looking out for you! good to hear you are safe from the crowd crush. And your photos give me goosebumbs, thanks.
xxx lori

Auntie, aka cagny said...

OMG is right!
At work we watched it on the computers (before they all crashed) and the view of all that humanity in DC just blew me away.

Lover of Life said...

We are watching your great city from the warmth of our homes, but we are with you. We are celebrating with all of you and all the people on the Mall.

Cheers! Hope and healing - let it begin.

Hammer said...

It's okay, I don't listen to you enough either. Kinda balances it all out.

But "Hammeer"?

Spell-check, dah-ling. Spell-check...

Normalcy with be restored to our fair town soon enough. Until then, just raise a glass at the corner pub and wish everyone safe travels home.

The Family Julz said...

I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog recently; it's lovely, and, what timing! Thank you for the recap of our monumental day.

scarlethue said...

I ran home from work at 10:45 my time so that I could watch it live. Amazing. Perlman and Yo Yo Ma's piece was so beautiful; it led perfectly into the somber and yet hopeful speech our new President made. This is going to be hard 4 (hopefully 8!) years with difficult questions asked and choices made, but it's something this country needs to go through together. I'm ready!

Coffee Messiah said...

Thanks for the rundown, and like you, that big a crowd can be daunting.

I watched the swearing in at lunch at work, via CNN, and 2 co-workers, out of 22 in our area.

You can already guess it's a red state, but indy-anna did vote overall for Obama.

Amazing and good riddance to gw!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

I can only imagine how dense the area must be. I have been watching this on television both in tears & laughter. Thanks for the photos.

Lynne said...

You probably have the best seat at home anyway, but it would be exciting to really be there.

I loved how he got out of the limo and walked ... twice! It made him seem so reachable, so real.

The speech was great and so was the benediction.

Your photos are a real benediction as well. How beautiful!

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

The beginning of the benediction brought tears to my eyes. He used the lines from "Lift Every Voice" which is the Negro National Anthem. Even though I am white this song never ceases to stir my emotions!

Carolyn said...

Up at 6 a.m. wrapped in a blanket around the fire, watching, listening, crying, smiling. We felt the energy and the shift in the universe! Thank you so much for sharing Reya. Blessings to all on this day of days!
Smiles to all!

Reya Mellicker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Reya Mellicker said...

Hammeer? Clearly the encounter with 2 million people, even from the periphery, rendered me senseless. I'll go now and fix the typo.

Sheesh.

Even though I didn't make it onto the mall, I did feel I was really there. Just not squished into the mass of humanity. I've never been great at running with the herd, even for something as monumental as this. Lesson learned!

Reya Mellicker said...

Aretha's hat was marvelous, and thanks Tam for the validation, and Angela! I hope you're soon on the mend.

And yes I loved the tone of the speech. It was such a relief to hear our new president tell the truth, name what's really going on instead of surfing on the high tide of the inauguration or pretending everything's going to be fine.

He told the truth, then told us to wake up, grow up, and get to work.

All I can say is WOW.

Angel Helen said...

Oh I wish I had heard that speech. I like Obama, I hope he is a force for good in the world. Oh, and how do I follow your blog? I can't find a button for it!

Washington Cube said...

I have to agree with Hammah. I knew it would be a zoo on so many levels, starting with transportation. Luckily, you could foot it. I have friends who live not too far from you, Reya. They left at 8:30 a.m., hit barricades, redirected, more blockage, and more, then finally gave up and went over to the Hawk and Dove.

My favorite moment? When Tom Brokaw noted that Cheney looked like Dr. Strangelove in the wheelchair. Priceless.

Ronda Laveen said...

Great reporting! I kept checking for my update.

And Hammeer,it is okay not to use spell-ch(i)ck once in a while. But only once in a while. After all, she was worn down, tired, crushed and maybe a little bit buzzed by the time she made it home. But she DID bring us the goods.

Reya Mellicker said...

CUBE! OMG. I didn't hear that. That is perfection (Cheney as Dr. Strangelove.)

Reya Mellicker said...

Scarlethue: I, too, LOVED the John Williams piece and yes I too am ready. Scared but ready.

Reya Mellicker said...

Ken Burns (on Keith Olbermann) just said that with Obama's inauguration, the Civil War is finally over.

Who said that first??

ArtSparker said...

A good beginning.

Hammer said...

I have to disagree (althugh I suspect Ken was talking in tasty TV soundbites and most likely knows better.) It's a permanent wound that we need. One that, though it persists, ultimately does more good than harm in contemporary times (even though the harm's easier to see, and the aspects that have become the most twisted & perverted are among the most visible of all.)

Barb Mann said...

Wow! What a day! What an inauguration! Why wasn't this a holiday so everybody could watch (or be there)? Oh, yeah, it's because we've never had an inauguration quite like this before. I feel like I have an emotional hangover, and I can only imagine what it felt like to have been in that truly amazing crowd. Blessings for all of us, and especially for our new, wonderful President.
'Bye, 'bye, Bush. Don't come back real soon, hear?

Miranda said...

Janelle and I went out to find a television (since neither of us have one) and watched with a whole lot of other folk. And on my drive home all the tiny little tin shack dukas (shops) had little huddles of people around, watching. Amazing!

We thought of you of course and every other person we saw on the tele we said "look Reya"

Janelle said...

man it looked freeeeeeeeeezing. miranda and i were looking for you on the TV. it was AMAZING. the whole thing. my god that man can speak...phew! he is incredible. what a task lies ahead of you all...wow. xxx j

Helen said...

We listened to the ceremony, lead-up and lead-out on radio. It was the most wonderful couple of hours. Sorry to the patient who had to wait while the oath was taken. Sorry you didn't get any closer but it must have been wonderful to see so many people wishing to be a part of the day. Long live the President, may honor and respect return to this great land.

Catherine said...

hopefully,Obama will bring changes to the better economy immediately....

Gary said...

Yippee! We did it. I watched the speech with my students at school which was really amazing. The adults in the room all had tears in their eyes (including me) and the kids were so invested. A wonderful experience.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

well that explains why I couldn't see you yesterday (oh yeah, that was going to happen)

but periphery or in the center it was still FANTASTIC!!!!

hope to talk with you while I'm here (maybe even see you)....I think it may take me a day or two to recover.

Reya Mellicker said...

Hammer - we need to go have a drink, talk about whether or not wounds are needed. I disagree - vehemently. Wounds are inevitable, but what we always need is healing and memory, not wounding.

It wasn't a sound bite, btw - Ken Burns was being interviewed by Keith Olbermann. Beautiful interview and I don't even really like Burns's work, though I respect him. I'll email you the link.

I'm still flyin' high on yesterday. Oh yeah!

UN JOUR DANS VOTRE VIE said...

I watched the live telecast of the inauguration...and slept at about 3am APAC time....was trying to get a glimpse of you taking pictures...