Thursday, January 15, 2009

Headed to Inauguration

I am leaving Friday night, by AMTRAK from Atlanta to be a part of the Inaugural crowd. This will be my 7th inauguration. I went first in 1977 to attend Georgia's own Jimmy Carter, and was there when the crowd surged when he and Rosalyn decided to walk down Penn. Ave. I went to Reagan 1 (1981) but stayed here for the Reagan 2 (1985) due to my brother's illness. The weather caused it to be cancelled due to 7 degree weather (I just verified that). That was the coldest inauguration on record or in recent times.

Bush in 1989 was the George to George event, the 200th anniversary of Geo. Washington's first inaugural and a lot was made of the names.

Clinton 1 in 1993 was a big change of power after 12 years of Republicans and what I like about going is feeling the sweep of power change, but peaceful. No matter how bad the campaign, or how close or low the vote totals, things just go on.

Clinton 2 in 1997 was not as well attended and second ones are not as much to see. I like the parade and all the people and the souvenirs available. I actually got tickets to sit in the bleachers for the parade for Clinton 2 in 1997.

For George W. Bush 1 in 2001 a friend Dr. Thomas Wade went with me and we stayed in the Hotel Washington downtown, a different experience. His son and daughter-in-law were also up there and we met up with them as well. The weather was not so good, so we didn't sit it out outside. Secret Service made us shut the window. But I went to an Inaugural Gala at the Museum of Natural History, tux and all. That was the Pennsylvania state event and someone asked me the clan (klan?) represented by my plaid cummerbund and bow tie. I told them we didn't discuss clan/klan affiliations down South. He went to one of the Inaugural Balls somewhere in town. We met the head of the DAR on the train who was from Mississippi, and some other interesting folks.

I did not go to Bush, G. W. no 2 in 2005. So that is my saga. Looking forward to my visit with Sconyers family, with whom I stayed with on most of the inaugural visits starting in 1989 I think it was,and other times. Will have to post my experiences on my return, as I am not taking laptop with me. KEN


  1. Hi Ken,we met on the train,sitting together in the dining car. I sent this report to my friends who are all awaiting my account of the inauguration,

    I thought I’d be late to board my train to Washington DC. Anicia and I forgot the time chatting away and had to rush to the Amtrak station and as what usually happens in these situations, traffic was at a snail’s pace on 17th St. We debated whether to detour to Bishop’s St, as I had only minutes to spare. But it cleared after the Cirque du Soleil crowd made the turn on Market St., and I’m on my way to witness the most anticipated Presidential inauguration in history.

    The train was sold out. I couldn’t get a sleeping berth when I made my reservation as soon as Obama clinched the elections. Air was costing over $600 RT vs Amtrak coach $331.50, a 13 hr 49 min overnight journey from Atlanta to Washington DC. The Crescent line originates from New Orleans and ends in NYC. When the train stopped at Union Station in DC everyone got off except 9 who were continuing the trip to New York.
    This is only my second trip on Amtrak, the first was 10 years ago to Meridian MS with a bunch of girlfriends on a gambling jaunt to the Silver Slipper Indian Casino. I quickly found out that the people on board did not pay the same price for their seats, and just like the airlines, train fares have pricing games that test your cunning in order to get the lowest fare. Naturally I wasn’t amused to learn that the woman next to me paid $148 RT and the couple across the aisle from AL paid $225 each for theirs, and I thought I got a deal already with a senior discount.

    But never mind that. The people on board were in celebratory mood. It’s like we’ve known each other before. Everyone had a story about why they are going to the inauguration, and there was a young reporter there from the Atlanta Journal/Constitution with his microphone and camera to record these stories. I sat across the dining table with a woman and her 8-year-old nephew, his mother is in Iraq, and he’s hoping that Obama will end the war so his mom could come home, and he’s also working hard in school because he wants to go to college and be like Barack. The gentleman next to me walked in the Million Man March and was a volunteer and financial contributor in the Obama campaign, going door to door registering voters, and he has one of the coveted inaugural tickets. He was profoundly touched and in near tears as he recounted these. A couple from New Orleans had tickets to the Southern Ball, one of the events with a scheduled Obama drop in. Our conversation drifted to the Mardi Gras and the husband happens to be the president of the Zulu Krewe, and he promised to take care of me should I decide to be in New Orleans on February 24. It’s amazing how interesting people are and how open they were on this occasion. A white gentleman in our dining table is a retired state historian, his department canvasses historic houses and places and evaluates them for the historic registry. He had been in every inauguration since Jimmy Carter, and he said he has not ever seen it like this. He gave me his blog, and he also writes a genealogy column for the AJC. For my Element neighbors it would be of interest that he knows Rodney Cook personally and I found that out after I gave my speech about the grotesque eyesore that is the Millenium Gate of Atlantic Station.

    On the eve of the inauguration, we checked our Metro stop and traced our way to the recently opened Newseum, where we had tickets to view the swearing in and parade in the comforts of a climate controlled environment with easy access to bathrooms and food sources. Still, I was hoping to get tickets to the grounds at the last minute, close to the stage to witness the swearing in in person. Jacki who had standing section Silver tickets obtained from Craig’s list sellers for $150, was trying to get me one. The price had gone up to $300 and I wasn’t interested, and days earlier, it was even unthinkable that someone offered Alex $20K for a premium space in the seated section.

    We bundled up in layers, it will be 29 degrees, made sure we covered our heads with a hat or cloche, packed our chemical hand warmers,and carried protein bar provisions in our pockets, and started out at the gates at 7 AM. It was standing room only at the Bethesda metro station but we got in without any trouble.At my stop at Judiciary Square, we were herded in only one direction, contrary to my rehearsed route. Jacki lost her Silver ticket, and got separated from her company, but reported later that she fell in with a lucky group and had good viewing points for the ceremony. I wasn’t so lucky. I marched with legions in the 3rd St. tunnel, from Judiciary, starting in darkness, and emerging eons later in the mouth of I-495 in broad daylight. But the legions were in a party mood, there was cheering and singing in the tunnel. There was no police or National guard in sight for all the thousands marching in the tunnel, we were just following the inertia of the crowd, but nobody minded. Finally there was someone to ask when we began to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I needed directions to the Newseum so I can stake my viewing turf. Three hours later having been sent around in circles ending in barricaded streets, I couldn’t cross to the other side of the mall to get to the Newseum. I was swept in a mass of insulated bulky bodies to the Washington monument end of the mall, so far from my intended destination, dwarfed by giant Black men and smothered by fur encased big Black women, when the moment in history arrived. I witnessed it in a stamp sized jumbotron in the distance behind the steel barricades on Jefferson and 12th St, zealously kept intact by National guards Culp and Butler. They were gracious though in taking our cameras and shooting our picture in the crowd. When it was over, Culp and Butler had strict orders not to let anyone cross the barricades to the wide open street to exit, when it appeared to all of us that that was the most expedient way to go. The side exit was gridlocked, and nobody could move. Whether real or not women were making drama, fainting, gasping, shouting medical emergency. Still they were not allowed to cross the barricade, instead the medics were called to their position to administer aid. When it seemed like we were beginning to feel like prisoners, and Culp and Butler could not give us any alternatives, 2 young men figured out that they could create an exit if they removed some porta potties hemming us on one side. And so they lifted 2 aside, positioned themselves on the roof and directed our exit. At the L’Enfant Metro station, the surge took 40 minutes to disperse into the trains and back to homes to watch the historic event replayed on their flat screen TV’s. I gave up on the parade, I was on the wrong side of the tracks.

  2. Metty
    you can now read my full blog account, long, of the inauguration, and I cross-referenced you.