Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Inauguration, Freakie-Stylie-Like, Pt. 1

1/18/09, DAY ONE:

Vincent and I, wearing our warmest gear, excitedly took Frontier Airlines to Denver, Colorado, and then quickly switched planes to head for Washington, D.C. First of all, Frontier Airlines still offers free drinks and your first piece of checked luggage is free, although we didn't check anything. Frontier rocks. They were on-time and efficient, which allowed everyone on the plane to revel in the great mood we all shared. I did most of my assigned reading for class on the plane (Six Memos for the Next Millennium), but the electric energy made it hard to concentrate.

One of the airline attendants started some call and response with us, asking, "Where you headed?"

"D.C.!" we shouted.

"To see who?"

"Obama!" we shouted back. We all applauded and cheered when the plane landed (although, that's nothing new for Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, but I digress). Even though it was 10 p.m. when we arrived, we were all amped.

A quick Metro ride got Vincent and me to the Petworth neighborhood, where our humble host, Joseph, picked us up and drove us to his home. Yes, we were two of the thousands who were staying in a "stranger's" home. Joseph was really nice, but being the paranoid Latina that I am, I couldn't sleep the first night. Not only was I worried that I might be ax murdered and I hadn't showered, but I was also anticipating seeing old friends, checking out the city, and singing, "Ding, Dong, the wicked bitch is dead," at noon two days later. I let my imagination go to ridiculous extremes until about 3 a.m., when I finally got some needed rest.

1/19/09, DAY TWO:

Vincent was starving by the time we got up. I got ready in record time, but that didn't make things easier when we got to our desired U Street neighborhood. Damn, was everything packed! I didn't care, but Vincent was ravenous. I made jokes and looked at all the beautiful D.C. people. All the ladies had their hair done, men were wearing furs, we saw preppy men in bow ties and lots of beautiful textured hair in locks and thick curls the colors of honey and paprika. I saw one blonde tourist in heels without hosiery and wondered how long that would work for her in 20 degree weather, but she looked like Blair on the 1st season of The Facts of Life, so I guess that made up for it. Everyone was stylin' to the point of camp and I loved it!

We decided to wait in line at Creme, on U Street, one of the only places that was open and serving breakfast. We waited about half an hour, but it was totally worth it. I had the Chesapeake (eggs benedict with mouth-watering crab) and Vincent had the hearty chicken and waffles. We made friends with the couple next to us - it was crowded, okay - and they offered us good advice on where to go and how to get around.

Next, I called Papi - it was his birthday on MLK Day, so I had to send some love. I left a message for Onome, and called Eric and Richard, old Kenwood acquaintances. The guys had just woken up and said they'd call back when they were ready to hang.

Vincent and I decided to head toward where the action would be taking place the next day: the Mall. We took lewd pictures of the Washington Monument, which isn't the most original thing to do, but we couldn't resist. Afterward, we wandered into the sculpture garden and found that Joan Miro had answered the Washington Monument's presence with a sculpture of his own. I'll just say that it is a more feminine version of what the Monument represents.

Our ultimate goal was the African Art Museum, which was excellent. Now, there's something you need to know about the Smithsonian Museums - they are crazy. You will get lost. You will be underground and then all of a sudden find yourself in another museum. But it will be a great museum! After looking at ancient art from the Congo, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Egypt, Madagascar, Kenya, Malawi, and Ethiopia, among others, we wandered into a few modern African American exhibits, one of which featured the work of our friend Leslie Hewitt! We were so surprised to see her there, and totally delighted! Goooo, Leslie!

The last treat was wandering into the exhibit titled, After 1968: Contemporary Artists and the Civil Rights Legacy. This photography exhibit compiles historical images of marches, riots, violence and unity within the civil rights movement in the United States. In addition to the historical photos, we also see an experimental look at African Americans in advertising, sans the logos, which creates a haunting effect and starkly shows how color is displayed for profit.

After seeing wall after wall of these images, which came right after sculptures of kings and queens in Africa, and the sweet, generational work of our friend, I felt very privileged to be in Washington, D.C. during this unique time. More importantly, I felt honored to be sharing this experience with so many beautiful people of all ages: children just born, abuelitas, men and women, young students. What an education for me! How blessed am I!

I emerged from the humid underground vaults of knowledge overwhelmed with information and ideas, and anxious to see what would come next.

After reaching daylight, Vincent and I checked the phone and realized that we missed a call or two. We got in contact with Eric and agreed to meet at the Lincoln Memorial, which I had never seen. When we tried to get close, we realized that just wasn't going to happen. It was as crowded as everywhere else. School groups, church choirs, Bears fans (Chicago in da house!) and all sorts of folks were excitedly running around. We took distant pictures and through a series of calls and texts, found Eric and Richard by the Port-A-Potties. Ah, how poetic!

I cannot describe how strange it is to see someone after so many years. You have an almost indelible image of the person as a child, and here he/she is, with grey hair, or with a mature physique that no longer implies, "I haven't gone through puberty yet!" What differences do they see in me, I'm still left wondering.

We all introduced/reintroduced ourselves and agreed to find food and drink, not necessarily in that order. It was somewhere around dusk and the light was quickly fading, which meant it was getting colder. However, Richard, who works for the Environmental Protection Agency, was our reluctant guide because he has only been in D.C. for a year, not much less than Vincent and I have been in San Antonio. We ended up using Eric's iPhone and Richard's instincts to get to Georgetown. It was a long walk, but Vincent and I really enjoyed it. I am NOT joking about this. San Antonio is not a walking city and we desperately wish it were.

We ate at a pub and the wine was amazing. My steak was too big and Eric ended up taking the portion I didn't eat, even though he'd already eaten a rack of ribs. I think all our walking made up for this. Dinner conversation was fine, but what I remember most is that we all have significant others who are younger than us. My cougar tendencies are mild. Vincent is only four years younger. Eric's wife is five years younger. Richard beats us all, even if we combine the years, okay? What's up with Kenwood people? Is there Viagra in Harold's Chicken or what?

Drinks kept pouring at Mie N Yu, a swanky club/restaurant, where lots of tourists were drunk and bragging about Oprah staying at their hotel or Larry King or some other VIP. A couple of 40-something blondies were interviewed by a local station and nearly fell on the floor, girls-gone-wild-style. This was one of my favorite parts of the evening.

And then I realized, the Inauguration is just a big, freaky party for nerds. Obama has made it a little more glamorous than usual, but boy were these rich people partying. Not a lot of his modest vision was happening on 1/19. Everyone would need some sobering up the next day, I thought. But not at the time. At the time, I had one of the sweetest brandies in my life. Vincent and Richard followed my liquid lead, and this led to talks about the paper I had to write - would my sixth memo for the new millennium (which is supposed to address a virtue that all writing should have) be an attempt at consistency (which author Calvino neglected to write), or necessity (Vincent's word), or relevance (Eric's word). I didn't have to decide over brandy, or over the perfect three olive martini that was coming next.

By the second olive, the guys were exchanging lewd jokes. I must say that one of my mami's jokes, about Bush being given an indigenous name by a tribe, made it into the mix, which I thought would please her. All of a sudden, we noticed the bar was emptying and this brought home why we were there. We had to get up early the next day! Or, later, actually!

We quickly said our good-byes and grabbed cabs. Time to rest and get ready for the moment that I never thought I'd ever see. Why was I so lucky? And why was I so thirsty for water??


(For pictures of my trip, befriend me on Facebook.)


Anonymous said...

I wanted to be Blair, then I wanted to be Jo, thenk I wanted t be Tootie (during the roller skates years)then I wanted to be Blair again but I never wanted to be Natalie!

I wish I had been there too. What a beautiful blog and a beautiful experience.


Beth Wheeler said...

It's exciting to re-live your DC experience vicariously through your writings! Thank you for sharing!

Grisel said...

Thanks, Jenny and Beth!