Inauguration weekend journal: libraries, lines, press and pics

As I write this, I’m sitting in a cramped library in the heart of Georgetown. Libraries here are not like Duke’s. They’re more like a doctor’s waiting room; long rows of chairs line every wall and corridor and everyone is talking as loud as he wants.

What are they talking about? Mostly upcoming school projects, actually. These D.C. college kids have been given Tuesday off (and some even Wednesday) in honor of the Inauguration, but for some reason they still pack their libraries to work on schoolwork. Perhaps they’re getting it out of the way in anticipation of a very long Tuesday—in a way, I am, too.

The group of students with whom I’ve spent the last few days is a diverse one. In one small apartment, you’ll find half a dozen Georgetown students from all over the country, my two UNC-attending co-road-trippers, and me.

Many of us tried to see the big concert yesterday, but apparently arriving 90 minutes early wasn’t good enough. We waited in a long line for an hour before it suddenly dissipated in several seconds. We still don’t know why it happened, but suspect it has something to do with security checkpoints closing unannounced.

The area surrounding the National Mall was a very peaceful, yet crowded, one, but it was also poorly organized. I would estimate 50,000 people stood in various lines with us, only to have thousands more cut their lines.

There was no police force helping us understand where to go or keeping us in neat lines. There were no signs or event organizers showing us the way. There was only bitter cold, a complete lack of cellphone reception and $5 hot pretzels. We eventually just turned back, along with many thousands, but are thankful for our failed dry run. Because of that mishap, we have decided to wake up at 6am on Inauguration Day and will surely be there to watch history being made.

Everyone here has a camera. I have my iPhone, others in my group have their small pocket PowerShots, and many, many people have big ol’ lenses strapped to their expensive Nikon cameras. Press people abound, but not all are “official.” They ride around on what appear to be scooter/rickshaw combination vehicles, snapping photos as they roll by. And of course, there are so many videographers. There are hippies, there are network TV wannabes, there are men and women from the streets of D.C. and L.A, and they are nearly all amateurs with no press credentials. We’ll see if these sorts of people will be allowed full access to the main event.


I wrote this post for my Reporting Public Policy course at Duke University. Susan Tifft, my professor, asked anyone going to the Inauguration to write a bit about our experiences, making sure to touch on the press a bit.

Also of note: Rosario Dawson appears towards the top of this post in a picture I took earlier today. I don’t think it’ll be the last celebrity I see this weekend—there are tons in town. Though it might be the last one I see at Five Guys.

All photos licensed via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 by me.

Where the heck is Ron Paul?

Gail Collins, the funniest New York Times columnist, and former editor of the whole Editorial Page, wrote an end-of-the-year quiz. Though it is, as usual, filled with her own commentary about TARP, Bush, questionable governers and pop culture, it also does have its facts straight. Here’s the most fun part of the quiz. Good luck!

Match the presidential candidates:

  1. John McCain
  2. John Edwards
  3. Dennis Kucinich
  4. Mitt Romney
  5. Rudy Giuliani
  6. Fred Thompson
  7. Mike Huckabee
  8. Hillary Clinton
  9. Mike Gravel
  10. Chris Dodd

A) Urged an auditorium full of high school students to avoid alcohol and stick with marijuana.

B) Hired a campaign videographer who filmed him vowing not to behave like a Ken doll.

C) Took a cellphone call from his wife in the middle of a speech.

D) Carried a copy of the Constitution and a bag of organic tea in his pocket.

E) Drove to Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof of the car.

F) In a single year as governor, accepted gifts that included a discount card from Wendy’s, $48,000 in clothing and a chain saw.

G) Campaign ad said: “I was raised on pinochle and the American dream.”

H) Moved entire family to Iowa and enrolled the kids in school in an attempt to win the caucuses. Came in seventh, behind uncommitted.

I) Told a convention of bikers that he wished his wife would enter the Miss Buffalo Chip beauty contest.

J) Taking over Bill O’Reilly’s radio slot.

Answers in the comments.

Please understand that holding the dearest people in my life hostage is not something I take lightly. It’s risky, expensive, and technically illegal, but sometimes you have to listen to your inner McNulty and take justice into your own hands.

Besides, the show is so fucking good. (It’s all connected!) I’ve told you this day after day, year after year, and you all ignored it, preferring to watch American Idol and Wife Swap. I mean, Jesus Christ. Wife Swap?

From McSweeney’s. This humorous very brief essay really puts the “got” into “you’ve got to watch ‘The Wire.’” Sometimes I wish I were more effective at getting people to watch the show. It really is the best show ever.

“ The institution of marriage is simply too far out of sync with the realities of human relationships. ”

from Steve Pavlina, the goofy advice-dealing-self-help-guru-whose-ideas-often-make-too-much-sense. He has recently decided, with the agreement of his wife of over a decade, to begin living a polyamorous lifestyle — one that lets a person grow emotionally and physically intimate with many partners.

He makes a good point about traditional marriage in the (long) article. Scroll to the “Monogamy” and “Marriage” subheads to read a bit more about it.

One thing I find especially interesting about this whole new life goal of his is that he refuses to make any deeper connection between polyamory and polygamy. But there is a pretty strong similarity between the two; in fact, his very own words expose it. He believes traditional marriage is “out of sync with the realities of human relationships,” and because the “marriage” part of polygamy is the only major thing separating it from polyamory, in his mind, there really isn’t much difference between the two.

This should be fun to watch. While you wait for the drama to unfold, you must read his series of posts on his experience with polyphasic sleeping — they’re fascinating and very well-written.

“I compare the marching to performing arts, like maybe a ballet. It was very musically- and art-based, and I am not musically and art based. I’m sports- and TV-based.” Falser words have never been spoken.

—Do Jews wring their hands too much? I didn’t notice a great deal of Christian angst over Ken Lay.

—I wonder if the people in Ken Lay’s church wrung their hands. Since Judaism is not a religion, but more like a religious family, bound by strong communal ties, Jews are more likely than Christians to feel pride or shame in the actions of other Jews. You don’t get strong bonds without a degree of identification. That is why the foolishness in other people’s families doesn’t embarrass us.

from an interview between The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg and David Wolpe, one of the “greatest American rabbis,” about the recent Madoff situation and a potential excommunication. Goldberg authors a really great blog over at The Atlantic.

“ Nearly every blogger I spoke to agreed with this sentiment. If you’re trying to gain an audience, you can’t afford to worry over every sentence as if it were … see, I was going to spend 15 minutes thinking of a hilarious and deeply insightful simile there, but, damn it, I’m in blogging mode and need to move on. ”

from Slate’s “How to Blog.” Sorry, readers, but I actually think it is important to spend the time to come up with quality, polished, and (gasp!) proofread content.