the chinatown bus from washington dc pulled into the bustle and glowing alleys of new york’s chinatown. i got my bags and watched the buzz of people, bags and flowers in hand, preparations for the new year of the ox well under way, burnishing the whole night scene a brilliant red gold.
i was in dc for the inauguration of president barack obama. climbed a pillar in the war memorial on the mall to take in the jumbotrons with a million other folks. do you know that people cheered and wept when the helicopter carrying bush out of dc arched overhead?
from the mall: helicopter carries bush out of dc (image: roopa singh)
inauguration day on the mall: she wasn't selling a damn thing (image: roopa singh)
here are some inauguration reflections, now that i’ve had a chance to download:
1. inauguration of self: people flocked to dc and the mall in multi-hued droves not just to celebrate the new president, but to celebrate themselves. here’s how you could tell: spontaneous connection. every metro ride, every time i was at the mall, i heard strangers talking to each other with warmth, jubilation, and trust. a warm sun of intimacy shone throughout the city, as though we were all at the wedding of close, close friends.
2. inaugurate life: why do we say we’re sitting “in front” of the tv, when in actual effect, we hide behind the tv? during inauguration, people showed a unique degree of willingness to experience life firsthand, and not just through the tv. a demographic of generally mid-western and southern, generally older, generally black, generally women was representing lovely in fur and obama gear. they were navigating a generally new city. walking for miles. standing for hours. in the cold. with little to no direction by way of bullhorns or informed dc city officials. getting this up close and personal with life is a real leap for many americans.
u street obama mural (image: roopa singh)
3. artists for president: cultural artists are canaries in the mine for so many things. gentrification, a hunger for multi-culturalism. musicians lead through conveying energy, not through asking anyone to chose a side. in many ways inagural dc felt like the biggest sporting event in town, and the home team just won! so i thought the inauguration concert set a great tone, above all, flies music. our true bald eagle. (side note: can we vote for no more tethered eagle moments, so awkward and not a little ominous.)
4. come on people: most folks don’t know how to act when it comes to public transportation, even the glossy dc metro system. surging crowds + utter ignorance about subway systems = people getting their limbs hit, people falling onto tracks. come on people, how’s the country supposed to compete in a slumdog millionaire world when its a minor crises to get on a underground train?
inauguration for sale: inaugurALE (image: roopa singh)
5. inauguration for sale: now that i’m back in new york, i kinda miss the kajillion advertisements co-opting inauguration that are plastered all over dc. a bear billed as “inaugurALE” covered every bus stop. a mexican restaurant’s sign read, “obamanos!” ikea dominated the metro system with cheesy plays on policy, “education reform now. start with a billy bookshelf.” it was like the capitalist version of cuba’s countless road signs, “patria o muerte!,” and “hasta la victoria siempre.” in a capitalist democracy, the moment of the sale is in bed with the moment of visibility. visibility, images, and words then engender an opportunity for unity. in cuba, the ads sell political narrative. in dc, the ads sell items, brands, and co-opt a barely born political narrative. but at least those dc ads give nod to the political landscape. in nyc, its nothing but the sell, sell, sell
detail from busboys and poets menu (image: roopa singh)
6. to busboys and poets-much love and a lil advice: (shout out to busboys and poets owner/operator for checking in with me, i’m feeling the love.) i LOVE busboys and poets. hip, daring, revolutionary book store, performance space, a dream come true. except, the last time i ate there i got sick for two days off the food. i know the kitchen was super busy during inauguration week, but getting sick is not cool. a couple convos ive had with dc folks confirms a general sense that the food there is aiiiight. honestly, busboys is the shiz-nit for people watching, book perusing, ambiance soaking, event partaking, so i’d go to busboys for drinks and appetizers and call it a perfect night.
7. celebrity sightings: luminaries all over the place. i wasn’t even trying and i got up close and personal with mc lyte and senator dennis kucinich. and every time a stretch limo pulled up outside of bens chili bowl, the name “beyonce” skipped like a flat pebble over the crowded lake of mouths. the masses were so hungry for a celebrity sighting, one woman was prompted to start singing john legend’s “we’re just ordinary people, we don’t know which way to go.”
all in all, inauguration in dc was a blast. this post goes out to all the folks that didn’t get a chance to go. savor the taste, and i know you were there in spirit.
stay tuned for more,