The 2009 Inauguration festivities started for me on 1/17 with the DNC cocktail at the American History museum. We were told to come early because this party, unlike all of the other Washington parties, had an open bar and decent food causing it fill up very fast. It was true. The food was amazing and the drinks were free. No big deal for me since I don't drink alcohol anyway, but the venue was awesome. We got to see Howard Dean speak at the event and we were able to walk around parts of the museum during the party. The First Lady's exhibit was the perfect way to add to my excitement of the occasion. Seeing all the dresses collected made me realize the significance of the inauguration. In the displays were dresses from Martha Washington and Abigail Adams! And Mary Lincoln's waist must have measured only about 14 inches! Portraits and photos of the first ladies lined the walls, ending with Michelle Obama, already up 3 days before the actual swearing in.
The second night was the Hawaii cocktail on the roof of the Hay Adams Hotel. I was a bit worried about how a bunch of Hawaiians would survive a night on a roof top in 20°F weather but of course it was well tented and the heat was blasting in so hard that I nearly burnt my ankles standing in front of the vent posing for a photo. It was more like a roof top sauna with all the big men dripping with sweat in their shirts rolled up to the elbows, but the mood was joyous and full of aloha. Jonathan Cruz was the local entertainment flown in from Hawaii along with tropical flowers, lei's and, of course, there was plenty of good food ( the Hawaiian measure of a good party ). We hung out with Lisa Ling and her husband Paul all evening and took photos with Maya Soetoro-Ng, Barack's sister. The highlight of my evening was seeing my former classmate, Billy Kenoi, who got kicked out at 7th grade and is now the mayor of the Big Island!
Monday night we attended the Pearl Gala and Green Ball, our first attempt to party hop in DC. The food at the Pearl Ball was good, too, but I wasn't able to eat anything because I was too busy taking pictures and doing interviews for the Hawaiian news stations. After we left the Pearl Gala we tried to take a cab to the Green Ball on the other side of the mall. With all of the road closures and tight security it was impossible for us to get there by car. So we had the driver drop us off at the metro and took the subway. It was a bit awkward in black tie and gown and getting up the escalator proved treacherous as I nearly fell tripping on my gown, but everyone was very nice in the metro, complimenting us on how great we looked. I guess black tie is normal on the subways during the inaugurations. We finally got there in time to see Maroon 5 perform and had a wonderful evening despite my aching feet. Thank goodness we had VIP access where we could sit down.
The next morning we got up at 8:00 and left by 9:00 to get to the mall for the inauguration. I wanted to get up earlier but Mitch insisted that we would be fine with our exclusive VIP purple tickets. We found the street that led to the entrance for the purple ticket holders and it was 4 blocks long. And I don't mean single file! It was shoulder to shoulder packed with people and ambulances trying to squeeze through the crowds as well. There were times when I could literally pick up my feet and still be held up by the crowd. Imagine that for 4 blocks! Apparently there were 50,000 VIP purple ticket holders. The crowds were anxious but not violent by any means. Nonetheless, I developed a strategy to jump on top of one of the cars next to us should a stampede break out, rather than on the scafolding on the other side. I had visions of the scaffolding collapsing under the weight of everybody trying to climb on, but that's just my neurotic tendencies peeking out again. After about 30 minutes of waiting in the crowd we bumped into ( or rather, pressed up against ) an older couple who, holding silver tickets, told us that they just came from another gate for purple ticket holders on the next block so we tried our luck there. The crowd was much better but still about 30 people deep when we got there.
There must have been about 2000 people all trying to get through a security gate about 5 feet wide. They would only allow 50 people at a time as not to clog up the metal detectors and body searches. I had my doubts about us getting in before the ceremony was over, but we finally did just as they introduced Biden.
When we got to our area we were able to hop over the wall that divided us from the section in front and there was tons of room there. We watched the rest of the inauguration from about 75 yards away. Everyone looked like tiny chipmunks from where we stood but we could see the arm movements and stuff as it was all happening. It was an amazing moment.
Later that night we made the decision to stick to one ball after the fiasco the evening before. We chose to stay at the Obama Home State Ball, where we met up with our friends Lisa Ling and Paul Song and blew off the Creative Coalition Ball and Spike Lee after party. There we get to witness Barrack and Michelle's first dance and watched John Cruz perform with Jack Johnson. The food was pretty horrible and the drinks were cash bar, but worst of all, there were no chairs to sit on at all! The Hawaiian in me came out after about 45 minutes when the shoes came off. But I wasn't the only one. Lisa Ling and some other Hawaiian women walked around with shoes in their hands too. We didn't stay long at the ball. Besides my aching feet I wasn't feeling good and had developed a fever.
I didn't bother to buy any souvenirs while I was in DC but I did manage to pick up one hell of a flu on my trip. Still recovering from that. But it was all worth it just to say, "I was there!" |
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