A Front Row Seat To Change

23 01 2009

You could smell the change in the air...or maybe that was just marijuana"

I know what you are thinking, you didn’t come to The Annexation to read about politics. You came to have your mind blown by incredible sports satire with the possibility of a masturbation reference or two. Well guess what asshat, some things are more important than why Jeff Kent is retiring or which NFL coach just got canned. Some stories supersede athletics and vile analogies. So, if you were hoping for an article about Kurt Warner’s spikey-haired wife reappearing at this year’s Super Bowl, or a story about why Mark “Dirty” Sanchez will be a bust in the NFL like his mentor Matt “Beer Bong” Leinhart, you might be disappointed today. Funny story though, this is my sports blog and I can write about whatever the hell I want. If you don’t like it, you can take your ungrateful attitude over to www.withleather.com. (Here’s where I quickly realize this blog only has three dedicated readers.) Sorry, I take it back. Please stay, I promise I’ll write about sports with metaphors about pooping in the next article.

Let me start by saying, waking up before 8:00a.m. is something I try my damnedest not to do. There are few things that are worth getting up before the sun rises. Unless you’re expecting presents under a Christmas tree, or trying to duck out of the hotel room before the hooker wakes up, waking up before sunrise is a terrible idea. Alarms even sound different when they go off before 8:00a.m. They make this screeching, high pitched noise…like fingernails on a chalkboard or the sound of hundreds of crying babies. When you open your eyes and see a blurry 6:00a.m. coming out of your asshole of an alarm clock, it can honestly make you sick to your stomach.

On this morning, however, the sound of 6:00a.m. somehow didn’t make me want to kill a kitten. I slid out of bed and felt proud of myself for being up so early. You know that feeling when you know you’re going to be early for something? It’s kind of like saying a big “screw you” to all those people who will be stuck in traffic or waiting in line. Well, that pride lasted a solid two minutes until I flipped on CNN. Thinking I was the only person out of two million who had the bright idea of “beating the rush,” I quickly learned that I was in fact an idiot. By 6:15a.m., half of the Mall was already full. That means that nearly one million people woke up EARLIER and said a big “screw you” to me.

Before our two and a half mile walk to the Capitol began, we stacked on about 37 layers of clothing, 10 to 15 hand warmers, lip balm, two pairs of gloves and three pairs of socks. I felt like the little brother in A Christmas Story, remember when he can’t lift his arms because he’s stuck in too many damn layers? Picture that kid with a Steelers beanie on, that was me.

Surprisingly, our long trek down to the Mall didn’t seem too cold, or too long. Every street corner and sidewalk was lined with thousands of people fighting the cold with good spirits. We were colder than a polar bear’s toenails, but no one really seemed to mind. By the time we got to the lower street numbers near 3rd street, we followed a large crowd heading into a street tunnel. Walking into that tunnel, there was no exit in sight. The only thing you could see were thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder, wall to wall, walking into an abyss. At that point, however, we all said fuck it and followed the crowd.

It was at this moment that I realized how different this crowd was. We’ve all been through large crowds at sporting events or large concerts, but there was a different vibe amongst these people. Thousands of people were smiling, chanting and waving American flags through the bitter, winter air. Strangers were rubbing against each other in the large stack of people, but it bothered no one. There was no pushing, shoving and aggravation to be found. We all were excited to be a part of history.

After an exceptional amount of weaving in between people and a barrage of “excuse me”, we made our way to our specified ticketed area. People with tickets were separated by color. Our silver ticket granted us access to the very front portion of the Mall, just behind the Capitol Reflecting Pool. By the time we made it through security (they checked bags and waistbands) we set up shop in the very center of the first block of the Mall. With the crowd, the lines and the two and a half mile walk, we finally sat down at 9:15a.m. For you non-math wiz people out there, that’s nearly three hours.

With no food in our bodies and no water around us, people still found energy to scream, chant and continue to wave their flags. Among the 22 jumbo trons set up throughout the Mall, we sat just behind the first one. Our energy was exuded when the jumbo trons would portray famous celebrities, congressmen and Senators who were up in the bleacher area. They’d show Beyonce and Jay-Z, Ted Kennedy, John Cusak (thought that was pretty damn random) Denzel Washington and Leonardo DiCaprio. With each face they’d show, the crowd would start shouting.

Have you ever seen what 2 million people looks like? I’ve been in stadiums with nearly 100,000 spectators  and thought to myself “holy shit that’s a lot of people.” But 2 million? Imagine you’re at the beach, you look out at the ocean and all you can see is water. Now picture the ocean is filled with people. That’s what it looked like when I turned around. It was literally a sea of people. Cold and excited people.

One of the funniest moments of the morning was the reaction 2 million people gave President Bush as he appeared on 22 jumbo trons. I expected a massive collection of boos, hisses and maybe a few things thrown at the TV screens. The reaction, however, was laughter. No one booed, screamed or threw trash. People just laughed at him, like a joke.  This was Bush’s coups de gras, and all we could do was laugh.

After nearly two hours of standing around, just about the time my hand warmers cooled off, the announcer introduced President Elect Barack Obama. When he finished shaking hands and kissing babies, he met Chief Justice John “I can’t memorize my lines” Roberts at the podium. Apparently someone forgot to inform Roberts that today was Inauguration day. You know, January 20th! The day that’s been on his calendar for the past four fucking years! As Obama placed his hand on the Lincoln Bible, Roberts started off the Oath of Office as if he were a nervous actor trying to remember his sole line in a movie. Obama, being the genius that he is, smiled and corrected the stammering idiot. (Some people have been saying Roberts messed this up on purpose because Obama did not support his seat to the Supreme Court. To that I say: “I fucking hope not!” I can only hope that our highest ranking judge in America does not hold grudges or pass “judgements” on people based on hearsay. That might defeat the whole purpose of innocent until proven guilty.

Then came the very moment we had all gathered to see. “The Moment” as CNN so eloquently called it (wanking motion) was “President Elect” becoming “President Barack Obama.” When the words “So help me God” were spoken, the crowd erupted into a sea of waving flags, cheers, hugs, high fives and tears. White, Black, Latino, Asian, none of that mattered. People were coming together like I’ve had never seen before. For those few minutes, none of us were strangers. Peace, love and camaraderie engulfed the Mall like a scene out of Forrest Gump, minus the whole Jenny running through the reflecting pool thing.

Before President Obama’s speech, I could not help but imagine what it would be like to stand at that podium and see 2 million people instantly go silent. The fact that he did not pass out with anxiety was already a victory in my mind. Just as Obama has done with speeches in the past, he mustered up the confidence and self-control to tee up his speech and once again knock it out of the park.

The crowd fell absolutely silent for those 10 minutes. We clutched onto the people we love, some even grabbed onto strangers. We starred incessantly at the jumbo tron, tears streaming as we all realized the importance of where we were and what we were witnessing. It was a feeling a will never forget, the kind where you close your eyes and whisper to yourself  “I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life.” Kind of like when you lose your virginity, except this lasted more than five minutes.

The thing that gave us all  goosebumps, besides the 18 degree air, was the reason why so many people had descended upon the same place. They all wanted to be a part of something much larger than themselves.  More than just being a part of history, but also to soak in how far our country has come. Because whether you voted for him or not, Barack Obama represents the growth of our nation, from where we have come as  individuals, to the future cultivation of our country.

More to come soon, just keep refreshing. Don’t pretent like you don’t refresh this site every hour on the hour anyways. Sorry for the length of this article, ladies, I know you don’t mind the length. Eh, get it? Length? Fine, I’ll shut up now.