D.C. Dispatch 1 – Gearing, Cheering, and Beering up for Inauguration

I’m ransacking my apartment for vitals needed on this inaugural whistle-stop shimmy down to Washington. This sort of rogue day-and-a-half accommodation-less adventure mostly just calls for vagabond basics such as gum and deodorant (as opposed to toothpaste and soap), but there’s still important gear to remember.

Twenty years ago, I’d probably be toting nothing but a pocketful of pens and a noseful of marching powder. But this is hardly 1989; due to heavy police presence I’ll be relying on legal stimulants, and due to major multimedia advancements I’ll be packing three tape recorders, two bite-sized camcorders, one laptop, and a pair of cell phones.

Of course, mental preparation is also important. So, while I’ve been primarily consumed by scandalous local politics since returning from election night in Chicago, I spent the past few days catching up on matters national. Here’s a brief summary of what my trusty tube tells me:

CNN and MSNBC are reporting that despite some conservative stubbornness, many Republicans are actually excited about inaugural festivities. Meanwhile, Fox News keeps pushing this Karl Rove quote: “President-elect Barack Obama is about to discover that it’s easier to campaign than it is to govern.”

I’m not sure how to interpret all the cable coverage (other than to play Captain Obvious and remind that most is either boorish or boring). But in all fairness, the news cycle surrounding Obama and inauguration hasn’t all been vapid, repetitive, and useless. Just all the stuff on television has.

For anyone who cares deeply about policy and issues (I think they call you nerds and wonks), I recommend this Boston Globe article about realistic expectations for the incoming administration; and this comprehensive David Sanger joint about Obama’s titanic “to do” list. Everyone else should continue tuning in right here.

News of my inauguration trek has invited one of two responses: either people are jealous, or they call me foolish for plunging into the abyss. Some of my friends (or at least those who didn’t stupidly ask “Why are you going to Washington?”) have come at me with both.

Everyone also wants to know what balls (as in galas) – or, more specifically, which “official events” – I’ll be crashing. For them I don’t have glamorous answers; I’m fairly certain that I’m on the list for Russell Simmons’ black tie shindig, but, if that’s “official,” then I sure as hell don’t want to be there.

Like I told my friend Adam, who very kindly offered me a damn good price on up-front inauguration tickets, I’m not going to D.C. to hobnob with the “haves.” I hate to get corny; but, as this Obama guy has inferred on several occasions, this moment belongs to the “have-nots.”

I don’t detest the so-called “mainstream media,” but, no matter how hard they try in between interviews with Tom Hanks and Bono, they’re clearly disconnected with average Joes and everyday Jeromes. Don't believe me? Just look at how most pundits dress and comb their domes, then analyze their campaign coverage.

Unlike the clowns who spent all weekend tugging Vice-President elect Joe Biden’s junk because he takes the Amtrak back-and-forth to work, I’ll deliver the perspective of someone who does not believe that a politician who drops about $250/day on round-trip Acela tickets should qualify as a proletariat poster boy.

Which brings me back to why I’m rolling to the capitol: while the peaceful pandemonium would be covered just fine if I stayed in Boston, I’m determined to paint pictures that reflect this inauguration’s unofficial side; from cats like me who will be homeless for the night to locals who are homeless every night.

This is about the people who will be eating pre-packaged sandwiches on the National Mall, and for everyone I meet in diners, barrooms, and on the train ride down and bus trip back. I can’t tell all of their stories, but I can reach deeper than the generic sound snacks that folks cough up with news cameras in their faces.

My pre-departure spiels are generally obnoxious; and maybe this one teetered to that side. But while I initially prepared a tirade about how unfortunate it will be to watch political pedestrians get their hearts shattered once they see how tough it is to force change through bureaucratic gauntlets, I’m checking some skepticism ahead of time.

Instead of being nasty now and teary-eyed on Tuesday, I’ll just smash beers and get sentimental from the get-go. Let the Bud Light bottles that I’m smuggling aboard Amtrak to save dough pop like Moet magnums in Lil Wayne’s Jacuzzi. It’s time to party; spite and details can wait until Wednesday, when, as Fox News keeps reminding us, the honeymoon will be over.

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