yes, we can (watch it from the couch)
why to avoid the inauguration madness
by michelle von euw
If you’re reading this outside the nation’s capital, I have some advice for you: stay there.
I don’t mean always. Of course we would love to have you visit, and if you’re a Red Sox fan, we’ll happily welcome you to Washington on June 23, 24, or 25 for Boston’s first-ever series here against the Nationals, but it's best not to be here for the Presidential Inauguration.
Seriously. Stay home.
I promise you, you’ll have a much better view of President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama and their adorable girls from your living room than you will anywhere near the national mall. Your couch is bound to be more comfortable, and – unless your living room is located on the Arctic Circle – warmer than it will be here.
We’re in the middle of an era that features the 50-inch flat-screen HDTV with surround sound, and yet, at least four million people are expected to eschew the wonders of technology and crowd into the tiny little fragmented triangle known as Washington, D.C. for the ceremonies that will usher out George W. Bush and usher in our first Democratic president in, oh, eight years.
I know. Bill Clinton’s presidency was so, so long ago.
If you’re one of the people spending the equivalent of a year’s college tuition on a four-day rental in Reston, Virginia, I have a few questions for you.
Do you like porta-potties? Do you think it’d be fun to be the 963,456th person to use that lovely ice-cold metal toilet?
Look, I don’t mean to be the January Grinch, and I understand all that President-elect Obama represents to millions of Americans who in the face of terrorism and poverty and corruption not to mention a really crappy economy had otherwise given up faith in the political system that has led us into an unwinnable war and a soaring national debt. I’ve seen the bumper stickers: hell, Washington, D.C. has been ground zero for the “01.20.09” slogan that’s been plastered on Pintos and BMWs alike since November 3, 2004. And I certainly recognize and appreciate the more emotional and less tangible reasons people have for celebrating why this man, in particular, means so much to so many.
But, honestly. You’ll enjoy Inauguration Day so much more from your hometown, or from wherever it is you are right now, than you would from here.
Yeah, I realize when I chose to move to the nation’s capital (or more specifically, for the sake of full disclosure, two blocks from its border), there would be certain tradeoffs to living here. For example, those who live on Capitol Hill get to enjoy looking at the pretty marble buildings where our laws were made on a daily basis, but can’t actually vote for any of the men or women who work inside them.
It’s common to repeat the old adage: Washington, D.C. is a city that has all the efficiency of a southern city and all the hospitality of a northern one. Keep that in mind as you storm this town with four million of your closest friends.
There are at least 37 thousand reasons why Washington is a city like no other, a strange and often contradictory place for those of us who live here, and it's not just because we are home to some really awful sports teams. Our suburbs are located in two completely different states, we’re built on a swamp, which means that both our summers and winters can be equally heinous (pack your heaviest coats), and we are obsessed with politics. Not in the way that normal people are, but to the extreme.
Put it this way: politics is like our "Gossip Girl."
And I’ve got to tell you, the idea that millions of you will be crashing our borders to take over the thing that occupies us 24/7, it’s a little bizarre.
Like renting out a four bedroom house in a Maryland suburb a good twenty miles from the White House for the bargain price of $65,000/week bizarre. Like mulling over the possibility of letting strangers take over my two-bedroom apartment on the Metro because the amount I was offered would wipe out my student loans bizarre. Like hearing Dulles Airport described as a mere 15 minutes from D.C. to unsuspecting out-of-towners (that would be you) bizarre.
Schools are closed. Restaurants are staying open 24 hours. The local news is all Inauguration, all the time.
If you wanted to know what change in D.C. felt like, you missed it. You should have been here November 4, when the enthusiasm and the joy pushed people onto the streets, where there was spontaneous and exuberant celebration, and it was real. January 20 is going to be manufactured. The Inauguration itself has become too planned, too decided, too dictated by security and surrounded by commerce that it could hardly be worth flooding a city that’s not really equipped to accommodate you in 19-degree temperatures to catch a glimpse of an overcoat on a television screen.
I was a college freshman for Bill Clinton’s first Inauguration at a school three blocks from the White House, and of course I went. You know what I remember from that day? Being really, really cold. I can’t tell you what was said, or where I was standing when I finally caught a glimpse of the brand new first family, and I haven’t thought of that day in forever. Yes, it was cool at the time, an experience that made me feel like a Washingtonian. Maybe I’ve aged since then, or maybe I just really hate crowds and porta-potties, but I cannot even imagine wanting to be anywhere near the national mall for this one.
I plan to watch Barack Obama sworn in as our forty-fourth president from the comfort of my own couch. And I’m hoping you’ll do the same.
Originally from Boston, Michelle is a writer, editor, instructor, obsessive sports fan, loud talker, quick laugher, new mom, and chances are, she watches more television than you do. Follow her on Twitter at michellevoneuw
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1.8.09 @ 11:12a
Sweetheart, take the offer and rent your place out. A small price to pay to wipe out your student loans! Hell, you can come and stay here and watch the inauguration from MY couch.
1.9.09 @ 8:42a
Having spent one Independence Day on The Mall many. many years ago, I have some small inkling of what's about to happen. For some things (concerts, ball games), yes, obviously "being there" is part of the experience. But for better than 95% of the attendees, they'll be no more "there" than if they happened to be in any other part of DC. They won't be able to hear. They won't be able to see. And they'll be surrounded by thousands on top of thousands who are in equally frustrating circumstances, all wondering, "Well, how did I get here? (and how do I get OUT?!)"
That said, if some dope wants to pay handsomely to crash in your pad, I'd pack up the autographed baseballs, put fresh towels in the bath, and vacate. Think of it as Mr. Obama's personal economic stimulus plan for YOU.
1.9.09 @ 8:48a
I'm with Juli on this. When the universe offers you a freebie, take the damned thing. There are so very, very few of them ever offered. You can watch it all from my couch in Orlando, and afterwards go to Disney World, Universal Studios, House of Blues and Sea World before you go back.
My daughter, her husband and two daughters are going to leave the sub-tropical paradise of Palm Beach County to go see "her" president inaugurated in the snow and mess of D. C. and I'm wondering where I went wrong! I keep telling her he's not "her" president, anyway, he's "mine."
1.9.09 @ 8:50a
This is interesting. I posted a full six minutes after Russ, but his post wasn't visible when I posted mine. I'm with you, too, Russ, in case you thought I'd ignored you.
1.9.09 @ 8:55a
My experience of the second Clinton inauguration was exactly the same as your experience of the first: cold.
Except that we saw Harvey Keitel and Dr. Ruth, so that was fun, but seriously, WATCH IT FROM THE COUCH, PEOPLE. The limo has tinted windows. You won't be anywhere near him/them/it.
1.9.09 @ 7:12p
Good God, 'Chelle, RENT THE APARTMENT!!!
I feel this way about many events. If I can't get closer than 10 rows to a concert, I'm not going. Jumbotrons from the nosebleeds is not a better view than my TV set with a feed featuring multiple camera angles.
Fewer stinky people, too.
1.11.09 @ 9:30a
Come here and I agree about watching it from the couch (or, in our case, from someone else's couch). Also, rent your apartment and come stay with us!