Thursday, January 22, 2009

Peaceful Transition - Part II

So here I am all in my spot, with 2 million of my closest compatriots, and the ceremony begins. I was right near speakers so even though I could mostly just see the top of the capitol building and the backs of people's heads, I could hear everything well. Loved the music, wished I could have seen the goof during the President's oath. My friends tell me that the televised version didn't pick up much sound from the crowd, but there were so many moments of spontaneous reactions that you just had to be there to understand. Just as the program got to the President's oath of office, there was a low, steady "yes we can, yes we can, yes we can" - I'm tearing up just recalling it now.
Lots of m-hmms and amens during his speech, people around me sniffling and a husband who wiped a tear from his wife's cheek. Then, too, moments when all 2 million were completely silent - even the children on parents' shoulders were still and mesmerized.

Then, when the program ended and the crowd started to disburse, up popped the helicopter carrying the former President Bush (I asked Jeff to clarify for me - it's not called Marine 1 anymore, since it wasn't carrying the current president) and those around me broke into a spontaneous "na na na na, na na na na, hey hey hey Goodbye..."

Goodbye, indeed.

So now the throngs of people had to get out of the district and everyone tried to get on the train at exactly the same time - nope, that wasn't going to work. The station we had come in on had closed but I had arranged to meet my niece back there and figure out a plan. Cell phone service, as we had been warned, was overtaxed and calling or texting was really difficult. My niece and I were about 20 feet apart at the meetup point but couldn't find each other for a long time - finally we were able to connect by phone and found one another. As it turned out, every spot along the mall from the Capitol, where I was, to the Washington Monument closed so after walking all the way back to the end of the mall, she ended up finding a coffee cafe on the L'Enfant train station/shopping mall and she stayed nice and warm, sipping coffee and enjoying a muffin, still able to hear the entire inaugural program. We decided to walk back from the Capitol South train station to see if L'Enfant was open (bumped into - literally - John Oliver from the Daily Show on the way - looking concerned that his camera crew couldn't stay together in the mobs) and found thousands thinking the same thing. We decided to find food and a restroom in the shopping center and still the crowds of people were kind and gentle and patient. Got a sandwich and got into line (by line I mean the hundreds of people filling the entire shopping center corridor that lead to the escalator down to the train) and prepared to wait. And wait. Most of the stores were closed, except Radio Shack for some reason, and the hallway got really warm. Then someone fainted. A little while later, someone else fainted. A nurse who was in the crowd helped both, then started advising (yelling at) everyone to take off coats and hats to avoid overheating. I wondered if anyone was (1) communicating with the metro station to open and prioritize getting this crowd onto the train (2) thought about turning on the air conditioning and (3) was prepared in case people panicked thinking we were under terrorist attack. In the 2 1/2 hours we were in the hallway, no one had cell service and a total of 4 people hit the floor. The reaction from the crowd was to help each other off with their coats, share juice and water they had and continue to be kind and patient. Unbelievable.
Line moved forward, we all got on the train (got to sit down, even) and then we (all of us on the train) just sat back and collectivey shared how remarkable the day was. And our optimism for the future.
Arriving back at my sister's house, she had dialed up and I got to see a photo of what the mall looked like - amazing.
At Dulles the next morning, I was watching the news and hearing the day called a "lovefest" and "Woodstock moment" - I wouldn't presume to give it a label, but it was truly something extraordinary and I was privileged to be a part of it.

I've never been more proud of my country.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Peaceful Transition - Part I

Back home, exhausted and elated. I hope I can capture how much magic I just witnessed.

Woke at 3 a.m. on Tuesday for what would normally be a 35 minute ride to the train station from my sister's house. After a nearly 4 hour ride (stopping more than riding), we were boarding the Metro for the commute from Vienna, VA into DC. The radio station was providing moment to moment updates on the status of the trains and parking lots and reported over 100,000 riders had been picked up by 6 a.m. Along the route, we met with so many different people, all sharing where they were from and how excited they were to be making this trip for this day. Despite the traffic and crowded train, all were cooperative and friendly. I got to chat with a man from Sacramento who was carrying a tuxedo - I had to ask - and he shared, almost sheepishly, that he would be attending a gala - and just grinned from ear to ear, as though he couldn't believe it himself. At each stop, there would be a discussion about how full the train was and how no more could fit, yet every time the door opened, we all welcomed some new riders and pulled them in - there was always room for more.

Along the way we were hearing that different stations were closing, then opening, in an effort to control the crowding so we were never sure until the last moment of where we would get off. Ultimately we were able to get off at the stop where my ticket instructed me and here's where it started to get a little weird. I had a silver ticket and got into the silver ticket line, which was actually a huge gathering of people, taking up about a city block. Ahead we could see a big structure that said it was the silver gate and the crowd moved steadily forward. Pretty soon, though, we started hearing that the gate was closed and no more people would be allowed in, despite the fact they all had tickets (I'm talking about a huge number of people) - some turned around and started looking for other places to watch. I decided to break ranks and walk up to the front (it was unbelievable that this was a completely unstructured line with no barriers or adult supervision, yet everyone stayed orderly and cooperative - even when it started to look like things weren't going as they should). I navigated my way to the gate, learned that it was true - no more people would be admitted - and the people in the line started waving their tickets and chanting "let us in, let us in". Moments later, the crowd moved forward a little, then a little bit more and pretty soon we found ourselves on the mall, in the open space we were supposed to be in anyway, but without the hassle of a security gate. Power to the people!
A really lot of people...

I'll have to finish the story tomorrow - I don't want this post to get really long and boring and, honestly, I'm really tired... More to come, I Promise.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Presidential Inauguration Trip

Arrived at Dulles late morning -

My next-seat neighbor on the plane plays football for the Washington Redskins - didn't get his name but I'm guessing he's not very good since he was flying coach and had the squishy middle seat (he was waaaay too big for it). The guy with the window seat was all impressed about football guy until I said yeah, so what, I have a ticket for the inauguration... I was the coolest traveler in the row.

Tried to figure out which guy was the Air Marshal - didn't see any obvious signs of firearms, but there was someone near the front who was trying to look inconspicuous. Arrived safely, got on the shuttle to the main terminal and saw an actor whose name I have no idea but he's a short, scruffy guy who was the ex-husband on that sitcom that Cybill Shepard did after Moonlighting. I bet Fred knows. He was sitting across from me on the shuttle and looked at me like he was expecting me to recognize him - I did, but I didn't...

O.K. - Inauguration stuff - my sister brought me to the Vienna, VA metro station so I could just pop in and get the fare pass for tomorrow and the popping in turned into 2 1/2 hours waiting in line to get to the vending machine to buy it. On the upside - I got to hang with the jolliest folks from all around the country and a young guy from Germany, too. A couple from Hawaii came from buying their passes and called out to see if there were others from their home state and when 2 young women answered, they were given the two extra fare passes the couple had purchased to keep others from having to wait in line! Also met a really nice lady selling newspapers who promised that they were commemorative and a bargain since they were 50 cents today, but would be worth $5.00 by the weekend. And I shared my tissues, since everyone had runny noses 'cause of the cold weather. Good thing I brought extra in case of tears tomorrow.

My neice will be taking the day off and coming with me tomorrow, even though I have a ticket and she doesn't. It'll be good, since she's young and I can make her carry all the junk I want to buy. We decided that we should probably get to the train station by 4:30 a.m. tomorrow, so I have to go to sleep right now. Very excited.

On My Way

Here I am at the eerily-quiet airport - taking advantage of it, since the news keeps suggesting that I'll be crushed in a stampede trying to get to see the president take the oath.
I'm not worried - I'm planning to be patient and am going to wear comfortable shoes and seventeen layers of clothing, so Ill be just fine.

I'll be in DC in a couple of hours - there the quiet will end. I'm still trying to keep my idealistic attitude, though. I know I'm seeing history in person and understand it'll be a little bumpy. I'm feeling like a new day is dawning - in so many ways - and I'm optimistic for what the future holds.

Aren't you?

Friday, January 16, 2009

This Week

So, this week started with my beloved boss announcing his resignation. I don't yet have words for this - I'm one of those blessed few who really like my boss, my job, going to work on Monday morning. So I spent the rest of the week with my peers mourning our collective loss, dealing with my personal fears and preparing for the worst.

Just then, while I'm wasting company time by checking friends blogs and personal e-mails, I get a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity... and guess what!

I have a ticket to the Presidential Inauguration!

Seriously - slogging my way through microeconomics (and thanks to all who tolerated me through that) paid off - it's my professor who had the extra ticket and offered it and my timing was right and I never do spontaneous things like this and, anyway, I'm flying to DC Monday morning! I'm so looking forward to being part of this historical event. I was remembering election night and seeing that sea of people in Chicago who were so jubilant and hopeful - I want to be part of that on Tuesday! And don't I have the most wonderful husband who encouraged me to go without him!

So stay tuned - I promise to keep y'all updated and will take lots of pictures. And I have information just in on google talk from a classmate that Union Station is selling Barack Obama flip-flops! They'll be all the rage on the Cape this summer, I'm sure!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lazy Sunday

We had a day today that we never have... a day off. No commitments, a minor snowstorm, a full refrigerator and wine on hand and no homework!

Got up in the wee hours just so I could go back to bed later. Came across a biography of Allen Ginsberg on LOGO (nope, I'm not gay - that channel just seems to have the most interesting programming in the middle of the night). Anyway - saw film of the 1960-whatever protest at the Democratic convention in Chicago and I had never heard the story of Ginsberg "ohm-ing" everyone into being calm. So I started to wonder why that had never caught on - like in the mall during the Christmas rush, or Filene's during the wedding gown basement sale. Or during wars and stuff. I have to think about this more... I have just the person at work to use this on.

Also - got to snuggle up with a cookbook Fred gave me for Christmas - all about improvisational cooking - hey Fred - she actually recommends bacon mayonnaise! Wow!

At the end of the day - laundry done, Christmas tree undecorated (I know, but we only just put it up a couple of days before Christmas!), well rested, freshly manicured and without guilt for slacking off. I need to do this again next Sunday!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

New Year!

The menu at the restaurant last night was appropriately titled "Good riddance to 2008" and while there are so, so many reasons to run screaming away from this past year, we had lots of wonderful experiences and things to be grateful for. I always look forward to the end of the year reflection and hopes and promises of the year to come - here's what came to mind for me in the last few days.

  • I'm happy to be a student again and like that I've challenged myself to do something really hard;
  • I've learned that there are things that are harder for me than for other people (see above) but I'm o.k. with those things because I know there are other things I have to offer;
  • We're becoming familiar with our second home and community - we've been so welcomed this year in a new place and have been blessed to get to know so many wonderful people;
  • Steve Wood isn't scary at all;
  • I would like to spend more time on creative things and I'm going to try to do that this year (I like taking pictures and my short game is suffering from my shift in focus to grad school);
  • Microeconomics taught me that we need to eat more vegetables so one of my new creative things is going to be learning to cook more vegetables;
  • I'm glad I learned something from microeconomics because I can't draw a cost curve for sh*t;
  • It's good to have other people to rely on sometimes;
  • It's o.k. too to have people who sometimes disappoint me so I can teach myself to focus more on the good;
  • I love being married to my husband;
  • I should stop being afraid to sing out loud;
  • Psyched to have a new president with so much promise;
  • A little gray hair is perfectly fine at my age;
  • Ice storms have something to teach (besides we should buy a generator);
  • 2009 will be be best year ever, dontcha think?