“I’ll hook you up, ” said my buddy as he exited the holiday party. The buddy in question is close with President Obama and was heavily involved with inauguration planning. I hadn’t really considered attending any of the hoopla, but with family in the area and a place to crash, I figured it’d be worth the trip up to D.C. to check out some of the festivities.
First on the agenda was the Kids’ Inaugural Concert. Hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, the concert was arranged to honor military families’ children. The idea is admirable. Sadly, the music and performances on offer were not. Usher began things by dancing around and yelling, “Yeah!”, over and over. There was heavy bass and not in a good way. More like an overpowering, fuzzy, uncomfortable way. After Usher’s antics, some guys named Far East Movement did their best (worst?) Black Eyed Peas imitation, Mindless Behavior put on a confusing display of synced dancing, and iLuminate danced around in illuminated suits. At the end, Katy Perry came out in her Wonder Woman-inspired leotard with her crew of dancers and had the kids screaming. The odd and disconcerning thing about the whole event was the amount of songs about love. And not the lovey-dovey type of love you’d expect at a kids concert. No, the majority of the songs were simply ill-disguised inuendos about that other type of love. Thankfully, there was the Chicago Soul Children’s Choir along with two guys called Black Violin to save the night. They were pretty impressive with their rendition of “Come Together”.
I took the day off Sunday in preparation for Monday morning. I met my sister at the Metro station and we headed down to Gallery Place. Once downtown, we entered the fray as the masses made their way to the Mall. We waited about 45 minutes in line to get through security. Every electronic device had to be turned on. Word of advice: Don’t get behind the family with four phones, four cameras, an iPad, a video camera, and a Kindle. Once through security we followed the signs to our section. We made it close to our section but could go no further. There were loads of people already there in front of us. It was 9:30am and the ceremony was set to begin at 11:30am.
We assessed out situation. It wasn’t ideal. The primary villain was a massive tree that blocked our view of the podium. Suddenly, people started running. They were moving forward as barriers were opened by the Homeland Security/U.S. Park Police/D.C. Police/Metro Transit Police/U.S. Capitol Police/Secret Service/Smithsonian Police officers in the area. The problem was, the gates were not near us. We were trapped behind a barrier. A few people climbed over the barrier and joined the surging throngs. “Let’s do it,” I said to me sister. I linked my hands, gave her a boost, and she was over. I followed, thinking to myself, “God, I’m getting old,” as my wrists screamed in agony under the weight of my frame. Thankfully, I made it over and we landed in a much improved location at the end of the Capitol lawn.
We could see! We saw James Taylor play guitar and heard him sing. He’s not quite Sweet Baby James anymore. More like Scratchy Old Man James. Regardless, his rendition of “America the Beautiful” was nice and brief. We saw and heard Kelly Clarkson sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee”, and we saw and heard Vice President Joe Biden and President Obama take their oathes and Obama give his speech. The speech was solid. I enjoyed the shout out to the Stonewall Uprising and how, “…our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.” I thought that was pretty cool.
After he was done, we were done, too. We did not see Beyoncé NOT sing the National Anthem, but we heard the recording as we headed to the Navy Yard Metro stop and away from the huddled masses. It was time for a nap.