The difference between Inauguration 2009 and its equivalent eight years ago was so vast that it’s hard to know where to start. The entire public mood of the city inverted — we endured mobs of party-goers instead of protesters, and did so with joy and consideration (locals would almost line up to give visitors a patient description of how to get a pass for the subway). The mood was infectious — I bet that even the Republicans were smiling.
In 2001, the Bush crowd moved in like an occupying army, and we were the conquered population — I remember seeing women lined up for a 2001 Western-themed event, with their Dallas hair and too much makeup, and seeing them as utterly out of place in our scruffy/nerdy little town (most of us DON’T live in swank Georgetown or Upper Northwest). The Obamans were different, since they WERE us, at least culturally and politically (DC voted for Obama by about a 10-to-one margin), and in plenty of cases stayed with us while they were here (my neighborhood haunts were packed; it was damn hard to get a cup of coffee in the morning without a painful wait).
The emotional high point was of course the Inauguration itself, which I watched with friends on the (covered, heated) roofdeck of an Adams Morgan restaurant — celebratory shots all around, and we could see Bush’s helicopter fly away from the Mall from where we stood. He probably heard us cheering two miles off, over the din of the engines and the blades…
And the parties — well, I think I hit 11 different events from Thursday through Tuesday, only paying entry fees twice and enjoying open bars at least half the time (a most civilized arrangement). And I got to see DMC (of Run DMC) and Ludacris on Sunday night for free, plus met or re-met a ton of fun, smart and interesting people all weekend long. Thank god it’s over; I’m not sure my system could handle another few days like those. Now, back to work…and we ALL have plenty to do.