On January 17, 2013, 11:30 a.m., every American turned on their TV’s and settled in to watch the second swearing in of President Barrack Obama. But not me. No TV screen for me; I witnessed the entire thing first hand. If you look really closely at one of the wide shots of the crowds, you can see the teeny tiny blonde dot that is presumably me. Then, later that night, I attended the Inaugural Ball and saw some of the best artists alive play.
How did this wondrous journey begin? Well, I will tell you that it was way too early and included an hour and a half long drive to LAX, which always has traffic — even at four in the morning. And, amazingly, even at a half-empty airport there will still be a twenty minute line for Starbucks, even with three other bakeries within five feet of it. But it was all made easier by how beautiful the rising sun is against the ocean, especially from an aerial view. So my flight wasn’t as miserable as I assumed it would be, but I am still not at ease flying thousands of feet in the air in a metal canister with nothing except “science” to keep me from plummeting to a fiery death. But at least everyone is quiet in the mornings because they’re just as miserable as you. There is solidarity in shared misery.
It didn’t feel like we were in D.C. when we touched down. My two friends and I wasted no time in getting to the hotel and their parents whisked us off to dinner. As we didn’t have a car and taxis were insanely expensive, we decided to walk to Chinatown for the “best noodles in D.C.” We took a detour along the parade route and saw the White House and other landmarks. My friends’ dad kept trying to persuade the security guard to let us in closer, and his pleading was endured with surprisingly good humor. When we finally got to Chinatown, we ordered a gigantic meal of noodles, dumplings, soup, various dishes, and hot tea that hit the spot after walking for an hour in fifty degree weather (I’m a California girl, so yes, that’s freezing to me.) The noodles were pretty good, though definitely not the life-changing experience the ad was selling, but everything was hot and edible, and after ten hours of layovers and snotty flight attendants, it was perfection.
One day gone, one more to go before the Inauguration. We spent the time exploring D.C. Both my companions and I had already seen all the well-traveled monuments, so we hit the museums. We visited the Newseum, which was actually pretty interesting, though the Comic section was disappointing, and then I had the best chocolate hazelnut gelato I have ever had.
In an earlier article — Summer Fun? — I reminisced about one of the life-changing mistakes I have made and guess what? I made it again! Besides the Inauguration, there was one thing I wanted to do: see the International Spy Museum. So when my friend and I found ourselves on its doorstep, I couldn’t believe it was finally happening after so long… But, just like last time, I made a stupid decision. I was supposed to go through General Admission but in a moment of confusion (and to save money), I chose their ridiculous, overhyped “interactive experience” and still didn’t get to see the main exhibits! It was an enormous disappointment and, sadly, my Bucket List remains intact. At least I had a small pick-me-up in the form of a lemon wafer and the National Portrait Gallery before returning to the hotel.
The Swearing In
In what seemed like no time at all, I was being shaken awake by my friend who was already hurriedly dressing in her warmest clothes. Her sister was too rebellious for the parkas her mom kept shoving on her and wore an outfit that would be freezing even in L.A. I honestly don’t know how she survived. I wore tights, jeans, two pairs of socks, Uggs, a sweater, a cardigan, a pea coat, gloves, and a hat–but I was still freezing!
Stupid with cold and sleep, we joined the massive crowds shuffling down to the subway stations where we were packed in like sausages, hardly any room to distinguish between friend and stinking stranger. I hoped we’d be able to breathe once we got to the surface, but no such luck. We were herded like sheep through a line probably a mile long, with various checkpoints for tickets and security. Finally we were deposited on a plastic platform with nothing left to do but sit and wait for two hours in the freezing cold. By the time the important people had arrived, I had lost all feeling in my nose and fingers. President Obama’s speech moved me and made me an even bigger fan of him and his liberalism. I found his jab at the Republicans hilarious and I admire his bravery in voicing his belief in total equality, despite income or sexual orientation. So many politicians merely hint at things, so you are left wondering which way is up. I found Obama’s honesty incredibly refreshing and it reinforced the idea that there is still an honest politician left.
Before moving on to the Ball, I would really like to advocate on behalf of Beyonce. Access Hollywood needs to back off! Would they rather her voice crack and ruin the whole thing? She was still there, it was still her voice, and it was the best rendition of the national anthem I have ever heard, so who cares if she lip-synced? As a performer, I know that cold, windy, and early are not exactly favorable singing conditions, and imagine all that with two thousand times the pressure of performing in front of your classmates where the worst thing that can happen is someone giggles. Beyonce had the entire country looking at her, not to mention the President of the United States and she was receiving the highest honor for a performer possible! So, any time Billy Bush and the Access Hollywood lemmings want to try it, then they can talk. Either way, she’s still Beyonce and she’s still amazing!
Nothing seemed to go right that night. First, my hair just wouldn’t behave! The first time I ever wanted it to be curly, it was straight! None of the cab drivers would drive within six blocks of the Convention Center (our hotel was seven), so we cut our losses and walked. Then, I had to stand in the freezing cold behind a smoker! If there is anything worse than waiting for an hour in the freezing cold in high heels with the wind messing up what little hairdo you have, it is doing all that behind some jerk who doesn’t realize that the rest of us don’t want lung cancer! Sorry, but smoking is a nasty, stupid habit and incredibly inconsiderate! He almost set a girl’s dress on fire! Next, there was a half hour long wait for coat check, which cost five dollars per item (ridiculous!) and then two flights of stairs to the actual Ball, on concrete floors, which any woman can tell you is a killer on heels. By that time my feet were throbbing and all I wanted to do was find a place to sit, but guess what? No seats! All the women were trying to be fancy and elegant, but by the end of the night, three fourths of us had taken off our shoes and the rest had taken refuge on the empty snack tables or just sat on the floor, evidently in enough pain not to give a damn about what anyone thought.
I joined their number for a short time, but when Fun came on, I just had to dive into the nearly impenetrable crowds surrounding the stage. Being slight, I was able to worm my way over to the supports, where I was not the only one with the idea to climb through. By the time Obama and Michelle came out, I had a good enough hold to risk taking some blurry, slanted, zoomed pictures of the President and First Lady dancing.
There were even more musical idols performing at the Ball. It was actually held in two separate ballrooms, so I don’t know what happened in the other one, but mine was more of a concert than anything. Alicia Keys, some guy singing in Spanish, another guy singing in Tennesseenese, Fun, Stevie Wonder, John Legend, Jennifer Hudson, and Jamie Fox all performed and it was amazing! The only other concert I’ve ever attended besides the symphony or school functions was the High School Musical Concert and I blame my Troy Bolton-obsessed friend for that one.
The Ball was amazing, though my Fairy Godmother remained absent and Prince Charming definitely did not show his face. But I saw Stevie Wonder, got pictures of Obama, found out that even in heels and a long dress I climb like a monkey–and pissed off enough people that I was completely satisfied.
I definitely got the idea that the Ball’s organizers were really hoping that we would all leave after a while. By the time the night was done, my feet were blistered and sticky with spilled, insanely expensive drinks (a cup of water was three dollars!), my dress was dusty at the hems from climbing, my hair was a total loss, and I wanted nothing more than to collapse in my hotel room and not move for the next eight hours. When those eight hours were done, we packed our things, had an amazing breakfast of the best crepes I have ever had, literally ran through the Lincoln and M.L.K. monuments, and were off to the airport. The rest of the night was a blur of slapdash homework, strange airports, my first time eating at Chipotle, and one very rude flight attendant. But then I was home at last, collapsing into my father’s arms and sleeping all the way home, where I was forced to finish my homework at gunpoint before falling asleep in a happy heap in my very own bed.
There are so many people I would like to thank for this enriching opportunity: the Alchs, who generously offered to take me and have been the best of friends with my family since I was two; my family for allowing me to go, and my mom for bringing me on a three day long shopping spree to get ready; the very patient morning shift TSA agents (who knew?); the incredibly sweet waitress at Ella’s who made my day after the disappointment of the Spy Museum; the nice cab driver who drove us from the airport to the hotel; Merriam from Connecticut at the Inaugural Ball who forced me to start having fun; my friends who put up with all my boasting; the lady at the Convention Center who found my coat; the inventors of the Kit Kat and the stress ball for getting me through the plane rides; and all the brave police officers who made that special day safe (I actually got a picture of snipers on the roof of a building by the Capitol).
But I would like to not thank some of the people who made my trip of early mornings, late nights, freezing wind, and walking way worse than it had to be. First, the guy who extremely oversold the Spy Museum interactive “activity” and made me miss out on my life dream. Then the guy who had his daughter in the green sweatshirt on his shoulders right in front of the Jumbotron, you know who you are. There were many angry people behind you, flipping you off. Also, to all those people who couldn’t distinguish between our blanket and the ground, you are inconsiderate jerks. Then there was the smoker at the ball, the taxi drivers who refused to drive us and made us walk to the Convention Center in the freezing cold, the cab drivers who made us walk back from the Convention Center in the freezing cold, and last but not least, the Westin hotel. Though the employees were nice enough, the hotel charged ridiculous prices by the minute for borrowing a computer.
But overall, my trip was a great experience that I will never forget and will always lord over my insanely jealous Democratic friends. To those of you who watched it on TV, you may have been far warmer than I, but you have never really experienced something until you have seen it firsthand. I’m so glad I witnessed this historical event. It was the trip of a lifetime! I am so grateful that I was invited by my amazing friends.
I advise anyone who cares about politics to go at least once, preferably for a president whose message you truly believe in, because only then is the frostbite worth it. But freezing wasn’t the worst part by far; no matter how stylish and popular they may be, the next time I wear heels, there’d better be an arsenal pointed at me