The past 24 hours have been intense. Monday night we went to the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Gala, thrown by the Texas State Association at this awesome hotel called the Gaylord in National Harbor, MD (interesting tidbit, there's a whole part of Maryland that's South of where we live in the VA. Huh).
The party was a sprawling, slightly confusing hootenanny. First, it stretched across four or five rooms, I think. There was a main room, a room upstairs, a stage below that was shaped like a barn, yet another room, and a secret hidden room somewhere where the corporate sponsors had a super swanky surf and turf dinner-- that started an hour later than it was supposed to and cut into the "general" gala.
Interestingly, they didn't tell us any of this. Upon arriving at the hotel, we had to go through metal detectors, check your coat, exchange your ticket for a bracelet (the paper type you get at festivals and the like), and then hang out in an area, where we were banned from the rest of the hotel for a while (except for some random room where a really loud and awful country band was playing, and a small, very slow drink stand in the basement, where wine was $9 glass. Then, after half an hour waiting to buy the drink that once they let us in, it's an open bar.
The weirdest thing was that to get to three of the rooms, you had to pass through an entryway where teenagers dressed like little Texas-flagged monsters and semi-offensively trashy cowboy cheerleaders cheered as you walked through. When I realized what they were doing, we actually turned around and waited for a bigger group to go in. It was strange. Yay! You're old enough to legally drink! Good for you! Whaaaa...?
But after that, the party was fun, the food was very good, and the vibe got better and less strange as the evening went on. In comparison to the Latino Gala, the dresses and hair weren't as nice, and Ugly Betty's dad wasn't there. But who was in attendance instead?
The astronauts from the last Endeavour mission and Denzel Washington.
Real live astronauts! And let me explain to you in one word how much better looking Denzel is in real life: Yeowza. He's handsome.
Funny aside, a friend of mine that I'd gotten separated from went running past when he came on stage, and she yelled back, "Gotta go-- it's my second husband!" Denzel spoke about the troops and Texas, and it was really sweet.
Yesterday, the Human Male and I ended up on the Mall for the Inauguration. It wasn't really intentional. Basically what happened is that a couple of days ago I found out that the parade, which I planned on attending instead of the Inauguration, started at 2:30P, even though the gates opened at 7A. The concert at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday had people waiting in line by 7A, when the show didn't start until much later in the afternoon. I decided it was too cold and not worth waiting all day to see a parade. So we decided to just head into DC first thing in the morning, see how the vibe was, and get some Chicago-style hot dogs from Sticky Fingers.
We woke up at 4:30A and caught a 6A shuttle into DC to beat the big crowds. The trip took substantially longer than on a normal day (52 minutes, as opposed to the regular 15 with traffic, tops), but it was completely painless, and we saw a huge motorcade go by-- the motorcycles even had sidecars. The busdriver dropped us off on a corner a couple blocks away from the Mall, and we were immediately greeted by Inaugural Volunteers, who were happier than Mouseketeers.
"GOOD MORNING, and welcome to DC! Going to the Mall?" they all asked chipperly.
"I guess so!" we answered, not nearly as cheerful or coherent at pre-7A as they.
So that's how we ended up at the Inauguration. Our position was great-- we were four Jumbotrons back, in between the Natural History Museum and the Smithsonian's castle. We had a clear view of the gorgeous sunrise over the Capitol. We sat next to a fantastic woman named Adrienne, a DC local originally from California; a hilarious brother and sister who I think grew up near the area, but the sister lives in California now; and several generations of a wonderful family who I believe were locals. We watched the Mall go from pretty busy to packed, as the spots in front of us fill in and spill out a mile behind us.
Standing in the cold for six hours was pretty rough, but we had Oprah, Gail, and John Cusak Jumbotron spottings, playing "What the hell is Jay-Z wearing on his head, and do he and President Bush Sr. shop at the same hat store?" for a bit, wondering why so many people were wearing fur, and making many Girly-Man comments when Arnold Schwarzenegger was shown to keep us entertained. Though I must say, the vibe alone was more than adequate.
There's nothing much I can add to the throngs of news reports on the event, but I can concur. I read early this morning that the feeling was much like DC's Mardi Gras, but with less beads and no exposed skin. And I agree-- it was ebullient. People were just so kind and excited, so willing to make sure you were warm enough and that you had a snack to eat. I swear, I haven't heard that much laughter since I moved from Chicago.
When the program started, it was a very special place to be. Aretha Franklin (and her glorious hat) were amazing and got everyone cheering, and apparently Yo-Yo Ma has a HUGE cult following-- very loud cheers for him (I unconsciously gave him the bullhorns myself). The piece his group played was beyond words-- it reverberated off Smithonians so beautifully, and hearing it while viewing the gorgeous Capitol....it was stunning beyond words.
I'm pretty sure everyone heard the speeches, and again, there's nothing that I can add that hasn't been said already. The thing that struck me the most about the event was how proud everyone there was to be an American. For so long, "American" has almost been a dirty word, or it's uncool to say that you dig the U.S. I have to say, I became far more patriotic after I moved to DC, in a sense that I feel much more protective of it in terms of traditions and making sure our different ways of life are understood and respected (mainly by those in power, who I feel lose touch easily with those they represent when they live in a postcard city and have so many advantages in it). It just felt like the people who were there felt the same-- they love their country, faults and all, and want to get it back on track in all the ways that it's gone off, and want to do it together. People waved their flags in joy and pride of their country, for who we are, for who their neighbors are, for all we can accomplish. There was a lot of love in DC yesterday-- everyone was family, as we should be every day.
I'm extremely grateful that I had all of these great experiences in the past week, but by last night I was definitely ready for the show to be over, to get back into normal life and start focusing on things in my daily life. For example, my job and little Alice. I feel like she's been getting neglected with all of our time out of the house over the past few days. I mean, we actually went to the dog store without her while running errands on Monday to save time. Can I tell you how guilty I feel? There is no amount of reception empanadas I could've brought home to her to make up for it.
I'm looking forward to this weekend, which will be spent in TV pants, watching TV for 48 hours, and snuggling with the dog. Until I can do that, here are some Alice-enhanced pictures of this week's events.
Alice considering chewing the big boot:
Alice uncertain about the cowgirls:
Alice spending quality time drooling over Denzel:
Alice with a guy with the big hair at the Inauguration: