Archive for the ‘Walks around the White House’ Category

No more count downs – this is Inauguration Day! I joined over 1 million other folks this morning as we all made our way down to the Capital and the Mall. It was 9 degrees (counting wind chill factor) when I left home.

Surprisingly the Metro ride in was lighter than expected, however the fact it didn’t stop at key stations made getting to the Inauguration interesting. A holder of a “silver” ticket (different colors allowed you to stand at varying lengths from the Inauguration Ceremony) and silver was right beyond the Capital Hill Reflecting Pool. However, Metro fooled me, it didn’t stop at Federal Central but continued to Capital Hill, where we all got out and started walking – volunteers pointing us to a route which we discovered later, was wrong.

There appeared to be many lines for silver ticket holders that wrapped around buildings, thru alleyways or stood still as minutes ticked by. Small in height, I tagged along with a group of guys at least a foot taller then me and found there were three “Chris’s” in the group, making conversation immediately humorous and easy. We started placing bets if the 90 minutes we had before the swearing in was going to be enough to get in our designated spot. Before long talk we were choosing to either go to a pub and watch with beer in hand, or go to the Mall, no ticket needed and try to stand in front of one of those large jumbo-trons.

Just as were about to flip the coin, the line suddenly started moving and we walked what we estimated was over 3 miles til we finally got to the security check point. We went into double-time and finally arrived with minutes to spare. Saying “farewell”, I found a good spot, able to see relatively clearly one of the jumbo-trons and able to actually see the podium Obama would be sworn in on with my binoculars!! My new neighbors were chatty and a not-so-small party atmosphere prevailed.

The crowd was intense, we decided if we all bent our knees slightly we could sit on the person behind us. The mood extremely cheerful, knowledgeable about politics, representative of generations, some of whom had traversed this route on their way to hear Martin Luther King. Folks cried at various points, the sense of we have a chance in the air. I don’t know if the TV captured the audience cheers or jeers, but there were plenty. Cheers, chants of OBAMA and “We can Change” broke out when any of the Obama or Biden family appeared or others like Carter and the Clintons.

When Laura Bush and Mrs. Cheney appeared the crowd grew silent, but seemingly respectful, however when Bush and Cheney (in wheel chair from hurting his back while moving boxes yesterday) appeared there was a huge “BOO” that went on for some time. Then that song that sometimes is played in sports arena, “na na na, hey hey hey, kiss him goodbye etc.” went through the crowd. . . I later asked someone if they could hear either cheers or boos on TV and they said only the cheers. Hmmm. 

For all that walking and waiting, the ceremonies seemed short – but no less powerful. Aretha Frankin’s singing was masterful, she never looses her touch. When Yoyo Ma and Isaak Perlman started playing there was a silence so profound you could have heard a pin drop, amongst over a million people no less, as we watched the white doves take flight. 

The swearing in ceremony went quickly and the sound was off kilter during Obama’s Inaugural speech. It was one of those where he’d speak and seconds later we could hear his words. I will read or listen to his actual speech later, but the emotions that ran so high, cheerful, generous and hopeful never dimmed. I’ll never forget it. If you haven’t seen any of the day, C-Span is showing activities.

Leaving, walking the miles again towards the Metro, I passed the Native American Museum and paused to listen. They were drumming in ceremony to honor the Inauguration and listening to that, watching the Capital and the crowds still smiling after hours on their feet in the freezing cold – it almost felt like a blessing being bestowed on our nation. Let’s hope it brings the new administration the grace, strength, honesty, beauty and peace the music evoked.

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Bleachers ready for Inauguration Day

If you live or work any where near D.C., I suggest you come on in now, take a walk right down Pennsylvania Ave, wave to those on the bleachers, or even sit on them yourself, right in front of the White House.

You won’t have to leave home at 1am (the current recommended time) to get downtown in time for the opening ceremony (starts at 9am) as it only take minutes to walk from the Metro and you don’t have to go through the 13 checkpoints that will be up and running Jan 20th.

If you choose to sit on the bleachers right across from the White House, you can see right into the closed off section that will house the presidential party, watch the parade of humanity going by, gualk at the few protesters present and even chat with still friendly tourists. The sun is shinning, the temperature a decent 40+ degrees (it’s estimated to be in the twenty’s next week) and go grab a sandwich at any one of the coffee shops near by without waiting in line.

And all for free… of course you won’t get the excitement of being in D.C. during one of its most historic moments either. . .

UPDATE: recent article about tickets, and a place to try to get them, stubhub.com for for between $US375 and $US3563

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First day of the higher parking/metro rates to get from the outskirts in to D.C. Also the first day of what for most will be a full work week, something most folks in this town haven’t had since before Christmas. So, I came early to beat the crowds…only to find that I  had the easiest time finding a parking place since summer and had an empty seat next to me most of the way in — unheard of usually.

 Hmmm…was it cause and effect of the rate increases? Were people sleeping in longer or taking one last day off before weeks of no holidays appeared on the horizon? Or was it the fact that the weather was predicted to be in the 60’s, and in fact is 68 degrees at this moment.

As for the latter impact, I just came back from walking at lunch. Within minutes I had my coat off and on the 7th of Jan in Wash DC, actually got a bit of a sunburn. Went past Lafayette Park, beyond & around the White House, back to the office, about 40 minutes of serious people watching.

 I’m not ashamed to admit that I enjoyed all those wonderful bodies being flaunted in the sun. Of course at this time of year, only those men with the best abs were showing off, but that worked for me. The rest were dressed in the drab work clothes (black, black everywhere) that denotes “city professionals”, showing a lot more of the effects of holiday treats than we realized. Women runners were in evidence too, but most seemed to be T-shirt covered, wonder if showing pale skin was a worry. In some respects, DC is like LA, there’s a lot of judgement based on how you look.

Security higher than normal. Maybe the lure of the sun was as strong for them as well — or what’s in the news causing higher alerts — or maybe the “man” was about to be on the move. When that’s the case, everything gets tightened down and the locals start complaining how you just can’t move in this #$*& town when the P’s being transported.

Tomorrow the temps are supposed to be even higher. Maybe even a T-shirt for me?!

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A little excitement in this neck of the woods yesterday. Apparently a fire broke out in a “utility closet” at the Eisenhower Executive Office, right next to the White House. A woman interviewed on the news last night said it all, “Probably was Cheney sneaking a cigarette. Some young secretary, though, will ‘take one for the team’ so he won’t be blamed”…

On my walk this morning I asked Thomas about it. His observation, “There was an overload of fire and police there, most who sat in their cars, running the engines to keep warm. They blocked off the whole area for hours for what was a lot of smoke and little fire – what a waste.” Was he referring to government in general one wonders. He and Sofia were shivering as it’s a bit cold out. I asked him if he wanted to borrow my scarf but he said he was fine.  The sun was beginning to peer over the WH, steam gently rising from our voices. Maybe tomorrow I should bring coffee.

On my third trip around the park I passed a couple of Japanese tourists who asked me where the WH was as they stood right in front of it. For a split second I thought of my dad, who once while standing at the top of the World Trade Tower in NYC, overheard some Spanish tourists wondering what Staten Island was. Dad, who speaks Spanish, leaned over and said, “Alcatraz”.  I wish he was here as I couldn’t think fast enough and simply, silently, pointed to the building. Next time I’ll have an answer ready, any ideas?

Oh yeah, remember the man sitting on the park bench with 1800’s clothes on? What really was striking was his top hat, it definitely looked like an Abe Lincoln kind of thing. He had on evening attire, including white scarf and spit-polished shoes, and I was too new to the Park to dare intrude on his solitude and ask what’s up. Yesterday I did go to see the play, A Christmas Carol, and Ebenezer Scrooge was wearing the same hat! Different men, but if I ever see my guy again, I’ll have to cross the great “stranger” divide and inquire.

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I started walking recently (for the proverbial health improvement reasons) and discovered Lafayette Park next to the White House to be the perfect half hour trek for my “before work 1/2 hour of exercise”. It’s been about a month now and I find I discover something new almost daily as long as I closely observe this microcosm of D.C.

They maintain the park beautifully, albeit rather nosily with leaf blowers going. They also clean the street & office buildings that are on the east/west sides of the WH (or is it the north/south — I can never get my directions right). The definition of “street” needs to be re-written for these as they have now been totally blocked off and only security or other approved vehicles are allowed. Of course, a part of Penn Ave is also closed off, so in this very hectic city, you actually have a little oasis of semi-quiet, mostly breathable air in which to walk.

 The park itself has been in a constant state of construction or repair or whatever is going on behind those green temporary barriers since I’ve started ambling. Having seen different flowers at different times of the year, I assume some of them are actually gardening related. It’s all a bit dormant now, given its winter status, but still interesting enough to provide new tidbits for observation – of the people kind for now anyway.

I know I have seen Senators, Congress people and other “important” individuals, however, I can’t recognize most of them for beans, thus I tend not to get excited about anyone. But for those I do recognize, (Clinton as in Mister, Kerry before he lost, and someone else I can’t remember right now), it does make the heart beat a little faster as I know I’m looking at history. Maybe it’s a good thing I don’t recognize others since I don’t think my heart would beat faster for any Republican I saw…or if it did, it would be for different reasons.

I have met Thomas and his dog Sofia who sit in the one protest spot right in front of the WH. We haven’t had much conversation yet, but he did mention he has been arrested numerous times – the latest attempt trying to say he violated some kind of camping law. It got so much press, he said, that the right to free speech folks raised such a “ruckus, that they’ve let me pretty much alone since”.  More conversations to come I think. I chat with him on my fourth and final tour of the park before I leave and head-off to work.

I thought I would start keeping a blog of my walking, calling it “Views from a White House Outsider” as I’m physically outside of the WH every morning. If I ever get to go inside, why, I’ll have to start a new post. Next time, I’ll cover the man sitting on the park bench in full evening gear – of the 1800’s.

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