Monday, January 19, 11:22 AM
Washington, DC - Things I have abandoned since coming to Washington: sleep, the keys to my apartment (this will be problematic upon returning to New York), and my resolution to write regularly about the lead up to the inauguration.
It's probably not the end of the world. If you really want to know the feel of the city, I can give you the channels of a few dozen major new news networks who would be willing to help you out. And, barring that, you can always listen to rumors or just rely on hunches of what it's probably like.
Here's something though: paraphernalia is in the air. Or more precisely on the street. Friday and Saturday were disappointingly kitsch free, but the big pre-game concert brought the vendors out in force selling T-shirts, hats, and programs of historical significance with almost precisely the same barker's voices that they would use to sell peanuts at a ball game.
And yesterday's concert, for you gossip columnists in the making, had pretty much every celebrity in the universe. Finishing off at just under three hours, it included performances by U2, Shakira, Beyonce, Herbie Hancock, Will.I.Am, Garth Brooks, Pete Seeger, John Mellencamp, Sheryl Crow, a small army of choruses, and at least ten other musicians who I have forgotten to include.
So if the pre-inaugural concert has any bearing on the performance of the administration, we can expect a largely brilliant four years with one baffling interlude involving a bird.
The bird in the concert was a bald eagle. Two of them actually. They came out on stage sometime after Garth Brooks but before U2 and perched for a while and made several failed escape attempts. While I realize that bald eagles are our national bird, unless you intend for them to do battle, they are probably not going to outshine Garth Brooks. The escape attempts didn't help matters. The eagles were tied to the arms of their handlers, so they would merely spread their wings and then - pulled off balance by the rope on their leg - topple to one side or another. The handler would then adjust to try to help the irritable symbol of national unity back onto his arm. Because of the motion required to do this though, it looked as if the handler had captured a bald eagle by the leg and decided to swing him in circles. I had pretty good seats, but for those who didn't, the whole affair was probably particularly weird, since I can only imagine that bird swinging is a spectacle that becomes more bizarre at a distance.
The streets around the concert, like most of the streets around the city are manned by a small army of... well, army personnel. Every intersection downtown is staffed with an armored Humvee (so that's why they were not in Iraq!) and intersections as far out as 14th and P (the lazy journalist reports on what is outside his window) have military police directing traffic and people. They are extraordinarily friendly and spend a pretty good amount of time doing photo ops with tourists in for the inauguration.
It's not glamorous work, but it's a better gig than the eagles got. I am off to lunch but may post more this evening.