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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

A Dark Parade On Pennsylvania Avenue

By the Queen of Free

Mayor Fenty said you could either do the swearing-in or the parade, but logistically, not both. Fiddle, dee, dee: He doesn’t know determinators very well.

Maybe it was my Inaugural seat, rows from the podium which gave me extra energy, or maybe it was the energy transfused from the Big Event itself!

Whatever it was, after the ceremony I joined throngs at the Capitol shouting as loudly as we could “good riddance” to Bush’s departing helicopter, and then I took off for Union Station to warm my toesties.

It took two trips around the station before I found a seat on a table upon which to perch with others and eat my smushed peanut butter sandwich, the likes of which have never been so welcomed.

We were thrown off and out for Inaugural ball preparations, and I made my way to the parade route where a security guy at the gates, muscular, about 30 and 5'10" or so told me to unzip my jacket.

I did.

"All the way," he said. Hhmmm...

We stood inches apart, face to face.

I unzipped the remainder of my jacket.

Immediately he put his hands inside it and moved his hands over my stomach, my sides, my back. I guess being a single woman and a senior citizen (!) made me look suspiciously like one of the female suicide bombers in Baghdad.

Stunned momentarily with my arms still held aloft I whispered: "Whoo, baby, will you do that again?"

Gathering what was left of my wits I headed for the street and found a friendly place atop a short wall at the Frances Perkins Labor Building where I joined four Chicagoans who had their own stories of the day to relate.

They had watched the swearing-in at a bar where they rushed at 11:30 a.m. with their purple tickets when they were unable to gain admittance at the security gates where they had waited three hours. Two men with purple tickets had walked to the Capitol from the Mayflower at 5:45 a.m. and never got in.

"Why didn't you take the Metro?" I asked one.

He smiled: "You know the walk was longer than we thought it would be."

Still, everyone was in a good mood, happy, jovial, and celebratory.

We waited and waited for the new (!) President Obama’s “parade” which a friend relayed by phone was delayed by Ted Kennedy’s sudden illness.

But why did the parade parade have to begin 45 minutes or so after the President’s 500 (conservative estimate) motorcade/vehicle entourage went by?

Meanwhile, a friend visiting from Tennessee was crying when she called me stranded on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue and prevented by security from crossing the parade route. Medical had thrown her out of a trailer threatening her with arrest if she didn't leave.

"My back pain medicine hadn't even kicked in," she wailed. She called from the Indian Museum where she had found respite, hoping to join the multitudes spread out in the floor there sleeping. "You ought to see them!" she sobbed.

Near the parade parade’s start in the Newseum and Canadian embassy areas (where Canadian choristers serenaded the crowd, singing the Canadian anthem, was it?)I found plenty of room at the fences to see the participants proudly march by: the high-stepping band members joyfully playing their instruments, the drum majors, the Indians on horses from Montana, the flag bearers of many nations representing the Peace Corps.

After a while darkness began its descent, and with it, even cooler temperatures which chased the few remaining onlookers away. You could not make out all the words on the banners announcing the bands. "Was that the Ohio State band?" a man next to me asked. Yes, it was.

Soon my pal Pam from Tennessee joined me, and she was all rested and refreshed from her long nap at the Indian Museum.

Sadly, when we left at 6:30 p.m. with clumps of frozen toes, few remained to see the majorettes, the contrast of the cops superimposed against the silhouettes of the Southern belles in formals (from Mississippi perhaps?), the Boy Scouts' huge flag, all the other magnificent bands, the carefully constructed flashy, glamorous floats. They were still marching by.

They also paraded in darkness for Bush’s second inaugural. Why can’t organizers do a better job?

How cold can you go?

If it’s going to be a dark parade, how about some lights so the marchers can see one foot in front of the other, and an onlooker can see a parade! That's not asking too much for a parade held once every four years, for participants from non-profits who spend hours raising money to travel, to march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the beat for a different drummer whose sound no one hears.

If a drum beats and no one hears it? What applause do they hear from streets populated only by cops protecting what?

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