Technical issues aside (you get what you get when you post every twenty years), I was finally able to merge the paper and the computer to post the drawings from last Monday’s event. Momentary cyber-defeat conquered, the day was better than I had hoped. I feared the cold, inaccurate numbers, police barriers, and all the things that made the last inauguration so special. But alas, this time around was a success. Many thanks to Jeff and Marissa again for hosting my 7 hour visit/nap as I tried to make this event a little better planned. I arrived in Baltimore about the time the whistle was blown and the Ravens won their slot in the Super Bowl next weekend. If I hadn’t known everyone was inside watching the game I would have gotten in my car and returned home. Celebratory fireworks sounded like Revolutionary war battles over every hill. Sorry I missed you Madison and Alex, next time I’ll come down earlier.
Having been in D.C. the week before I had asked every person who would stop if they knew anything about the days events. I talked to museum volunteer’s (thank you, you were all very nice even though you should have said that’s not what you were there for), police officer’s (thank you, I never thought I would see the President, but you have no idea where I was last time), and the hotel concierge’s (thank you too, sorry I didn’t stay again but you helped me plot my course). That said, and my apologies to you all, I didn’t trust a word of it. Like I said, last time I was in Virginia. Nothing worked out the last time. Of course I had never been to D.C. nor a presidential inauguration, let alone that inauguration. But that was the last time. This was a new chapter. So as I drove out of Baltimore towards the Greenbelt Metro station, nearly an hour later than I had wanted to, with two cliff bars and a 12 oz bottle of OJ to last me the remainder of the day (thank you Marissa for the bagel), my heart sunk when I ended up in bumper to bumper traffic 10 minutes from the station. This is worse I thought. I left late and I got caught in the masses, I’ll never get there, it was for nothing, I’ll be in the Potomic River again…wait…what did the radio guy say, oh, just an accident, now I feel bad. I was back on the road. There would be nothing in my way for the next 7.5 hours. Of course I stood in the same spot for about 5 of that, but still. In 2009, people were sitting in my lap within three stations, tens of thousands of people got off the train at L’Enfant to blocked exits. In 2013, the metro seemed lighter than a normal rush hour, exits were opened when we got there and not a single person waited to get outside. All the info I learned the week before proved to be correct. My apologies once again for my cynicism I entered the mall with a lovely woman who told me that she ditched her tour group last time and got grief for it so she came alone this time. I felt bad as I told her I was here to work, as she seemed more comfortable having someone to talk to. But she was bobbing and weaving to get up front. I needed a little space to draw. No need to be in the mosh-pit.
It took a while for the crowd to pack in around me. I got a few looks, one reporter started taking shots of me then moved on, a few random people were not happy that I was looking at them, but all in all everyone was really excited and a few asked to be drawn. It had to be about 7 AM when I claimed my spot. I wasn’t exactly sure how long I was good for—battling a cold, minimal food and no drink since the OJ was now gone. But I had tons of pencils, crayons and supplies—my priorities were in order. Large and small groups started laying out blankets and just about when everyone was set for their 3 hour snooze until the events began, volunteers came around to tell everyone to get up for safety. I have to say I thought the crowd was pretty tame all things considered. It was chilly (NOT COLD), people had driven many hours, and they had to sit and wait for hours. There was no real discontent. Some moved, some did not.
The first thing I noticed being closer, it makes a huge difference when you can actually see what is going on. I didn’t like the idea of the Jumbotrons the last time, and since I could barely see them then, or hear any of them (I was in Virginia remember), they were more of a distracting tease then a feeling of participation. This time around I had a relatively close seat just off center. I turned around to see where I was the last time, above, and it felt so far away. The only thing blocking my ant sized view of each speaker and the President was the camera and stand that fed the Jumbotrons.
The crowds filled in and over time, minus the parties in lawn chairs, the masses started to move like rats. At one point I heard someone say to their family, “What, you want me to pick everything up so I can be 2 feet closer?” They did. Most people did. Those that I drew when I turned to look back at the Washington Monument were in front of me a half hour later. Constantly moving and readjusting. Filling the one or two empty spots with three or four people. Never getting too far, but enjoying the game none the less.
It was funny to witness the younger kids range of excitement. Not the children, but the 8-14 crowd. In ten or twenty years they will be telling friends and family where they were on January 21, 2013, but today, they wanted to sleep until the action started. Elder family members would laugh as they caught me drawing the overly-bundled (it wasn’t that cold) masses of their family huddled together.
The moment the cavalcade appeared on the big screens the crowd went nuts. Everyone was cheering and waving. The day was actually beginning. And then the waiting resumed.
It’s hard to say how long it was before anything happened again. When the President appeared on screen for the first time the capitol disappeared behind a sea of flags. It was at that point you realized how many people were there and just how big a moment it was. There was something very special about what was happening.
One by one the dignitaries, stateswomen, and statesmen made their way out onto the balcony. Eventually President Obama appeared again on the Jumbotron after making what seems like a very long trek through the passages of the capital (maybe that’s why it take so long to get things done). Our re-elected president made his entrance (or exit if you really think about) in front of the onlookers. Flags waved again.
The ceremony went rather fast. In fact, a little too fast. Charles Schumer felt a little too excited to be the MC. He needed to pause a bit and warm up the crowd (still, it wasn’t that cold). I have to admit I had to watch the whole thing on YouTube again just to make sure I knew what happened when. Vice-President Biden was sworn in before I could even sharpen my pencil. The President followed in swift succession. I felt bad for James Taylor. The collective sigh of half a million people when Schumer said musical performer…James Taylor, well, sounds pretty bad from the center of it. (Sorry James, Beyoncé was the star of the day). I only hope he couldn’t hear it. I don’t think it was meant in any disrespect, expectations are simply expectations.
The crowd quieted as the President took his oath. After about 30 seconds flags waved once again. Lamar Alexander made a nice speech earlier that stressed the transfer of power and the importance George Washington stated of electing subsequent presidents without the nation falling to pieces. Months, or more like years, of political rhetoric all seemed to wash away as democracy took center stage that morning.
By the time Beyoncé was introduced some of the crowd had started making their way out. She finished the ceremony with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Whether she canned it or not, there is no denying Beyoncé can sing. The fact that Schumer is looking for an apology is kind of crazy. It’s not like she was auto-tuned or some other act was behind a curtain singing in her place. This was not a moment to risk any kind of error.
Nest time I am goign to try and get a seat in the parade bleachers, but I will be sure to bring more than 2 cliff bars. Thanks to everyone who kept the day moving. You were all great