The Day Before The Big Day

[ Posted Monday, January 19th, 2009 – 19:18 UTC ]

Just back from our dry run down on the Mall in Washington, D.C. The atmosphere is electric. The scene is one of thousands upon thousands of people aimlessly milling about, waiting for tomorrow to come. We've all been desperately waiting for this particular tomorrow to come for a long time, and now that it's almost here the celebratory joy is palpable.

I have to apologize if this post is a bit disjointed, as it is closer to a stream-of-consciousness blog than I am used to writing. Can we spend all day on our feet and then come home and write it all down for you to read? Yes we can!

So while it won't be as focused and polished as usual, here are my initial impressions after spending the day scoping out the preparations for the big day tomorrow.


The DC Metro seems to be prepared for the onslaught. So far, so good. We'll see how smoothly things go at four o'clock tomorrow morning, but today things are running smoothly. The Metro will likely be overwhelmed tomorrow, and even today the lines for the farecard machines were astoundingly long. But I've got my farecard (with Obama's face on it!), so I'm not worried about that aspect.


We arrive south of the Mall. People are everywhere, and so are the vendors. Obama products of every shape and description are for sale on every street corner. I do my bit to stimulate the economy by purchasing some. Well, OK, a lot, actually. The economy needs it, right? For the most part, however, the products are pretty standard fare. Very few quirky or amusing products seem to be for sale. Where are the "I was too drunk to remember the Inauguration" T-shirts and their ilk?


I see my first bank of portable bathrooms. It is amazing. I've been to some large gatherings of people in my day, and I have never seen this many Porta-Potties in one place before. And this is merely one bank of toilets, among dozens (if not hundreds) of such groupings. Hopefully it will prove to be enough for tomorrow.


We grab a bite to eat in a secluded eatery that seems to be completely off the radar for the madding crowds. I will not divulge the location of such, until Wednesday -- just in case I need a bite tomorrow and don't have two hours to wait in line.


Ironic note of the day: A large line of enormous SUVs, parked in front of the Environmental Protection Agency. A better comment on the short-sightedness of both the Bush administration and Detroit simply could not be imagined.


We walk in (after a surprisingly short stand in line) to the Smithsonian American History museum. Like all Smithsonian museums, entrance is free to the public (the best little-known secret of D.C.). This museum has recently undergone a renovation which lasted months, and is brand-spanking new inside. From having grown up here and visited this museum many times as a child, I have to say I'm kind of underwhelmed at the new look. It seems like less stuff in the same space, plus they got rid of the pendulum, which was one of the coolest features (at least from the point of view of an elementary school student, which I was at the time). They have also quarantined the Star Spangled Banner in its own room – with its own long and slow-moving line. We skip seeing the flag (I've seen it before) and wander around the rest of the museum for a while. New stuff I haven't seen before: Julia Childs' kitchen, C3PO, and Seinfeld's puffy shirt. Old favorites which are missing: Fonzie's leather jacket, Archie Bunker’s chair... and the pendulum. Bring back the pendulum!


We stroll back onto the Mall. Finally, we find the quirky product I have been waiting for -- candidate condoms! McCain condoms ("Old but not expired"), Obama condoms ("Use with good judgement" [sic]), and -- the best-seller, according to the vendor, Palin condoms ("When abortion is not an option"). At three for ten bucks, an outrageous price, but for novelty value, absolutely priceless!


As the sun slowly sets over the Lincoln Memorial, we head back to the Metro. We have scoped the area out, managed to squeeze a museum visit in, and must now go home to sleep.


Since I am pretty low down on the journalistic totem pole, I have to admit that I have been refused all press credentials and all access to official Inauguration events. Including -- this is the one that hurts the most (et tu, Brute?) -- access to the Huffington Post event tonight at the Newseum. Sigh. Write your congressman today to express your outrage (especially if her name is Dianne Feinstein... ahem). What this means, however, is that we will be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed VERY early tomorrow morning. Which hopefully means we will get standing room some place short of Virginia to see Barack Obama's actual swearing-in tomorrow.


The Metro starts at 4:00 A.M. tomorrow morning. Barring any unforeseen events, we will be on the first Obama-bound train at that time. But don't look for blog entries until a bit later in the day....


[Program Note: I have got to get some sleep here, so I will not be posting photos from the Inauguration until later. When I get the time, I will upload them for all to enjoy, I promise.]



-- Chris Weigant


2 Comments on “The Day Before The Big Day”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Do you suppose Senator Feinstein would listen to me?

    The pendulum is one of the more vivid memories I have of the American History Museum. And, as I recall, 'ole Glory used to be lowered several times throughout the day in the main section of the museum where you enter...why would they want to hide it away in a separate room?

    You're posts are already starting to pique my interest in making another trip to DC...sometime in August, I should can't get too hot or humid for me!

  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Elizabeth -


    When people ask me the two biggest reasons I live in California now instead of near DC, I always answer "February... and August."

    Seeing as how I just went back for an OUTDOOR event one week from February, though, perhaps I better just stifle myself (no Archie Bunker chair??) so to speak.

    The flag is in its own room because hanging on the wall was ripping it apart, in essence. They restored it (some corporation... Nike?... footed the bill because Congress was too cheap to come up with a few million) and now it's on a table, at a very slight angle, in a controlled-atmosphere room, which you view through glass. I guess that part's OK, since they do need to preserve it, but the line was a bit annoying. I bet on a regular day the line wouldn't have been so intense, to be fair. Anyone who hasn't seen the flag our national anthem was written about... or visited Ft. McHenry, for that matter, should take the time to do so if ever given the chance. That flag is BIG and IMPRESSIVE AS HELL.

    But seriously, I should register "" or something. This needs a crusade. That pendulum was cool.

    About Feinstein, nah, but if you ever get Arianna's address, let her know. I was bummed.


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