THE BLOG
02/12/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

This Time's Going to be My Fifth

Well, it looks like I'm going to yet another inauguration. This is going to be my fifth. I decided long ago to attend the ones for the guys I voted for, and this is no exception. I don't know if going this year is such a great idea, getting credentials was a real pain in the butt, and I'm not 100% sure I'll actually get them. Then there might be a storm like there was in '85 and the whole thing might be canceled (except for the actual ceremony, which is an actual constitutional requirement). That would be a real...um, but best not to think about things like that, we've got to be positive.

Like I said, I've been to four inaugurations. The first one was back in 1977, when I was still a teenager and sophomore in College. I was attending George Washington University in DC and getting a ticket was actually rather easy. Back then the Capitol building and the offices didn't even have metal detectors and you could just walk in. So that's what I did. I went to the offices of several Republicans and asked if they had any tickets left. They had plenty, since almost nobody back home wanted to see Jimmy Carter become president. I was able to snag two. Unfortunately none of the really good looking girls I knew wanted to go with me because their even better looking boyfriends had gotten pretty much the same idea as I had. So there I was with an extra ticket to the inauguration. I couldn't sell the damn thing because nobody at GW wanted to pay for standing room, so I gave it to a guy who I wouldn't see again for at least a month. So the big day came and I took the Metro to the east wing of the Capitol. There was a fence and some guys ripping the tickets in two.

I couldn't see much. There was this tiny dot I think was Carter, but at this distance in time I can't really be all that sure. I did see the big presidential seal quite clearly though. Unfortunately, the speech stank, and I couldn't find a decent spot to see the parade. All in all, it's one of those things that are better seen on TV.

The second one was 1993. I had actually worked on Bill Clinton's campaign and had the foresight to call my congressperson immediately after the '92 election. I booked two nights at the DC youth hostel and got the ticket. This one looked like a real invitation, but there was a problem. The ticket was for standing room class three. They had changed the location of the ceremony from the east side of the Capitol to the west side, so more people could view it. So standing room class three was almost a mile away from the ceremony. You could barely see the capitol much less the ceremony. It was cold and dank, and the crowds were somewhat surly, especially those who were trying unsuccessfully to climb over or under the fence to standing room class 2. I found a whole in the fence and ripped my coat in the process, but by then it was too late. By the time I could actually see what was going on it was over.

For the second time, I couldn't really see the parade. Remember, when it comes to inaugurations, unless you're a major bigwig, you have to miss either the ceremony or the parade. It's almost impossible to see both.

Clinton was, as we all know, reelected, which meant that I would have another chance to go.

This time a was ready. A friend of mine had a real magazine and I faxed a request to the Senate press pavilion to request a ticket a few days after the election, and in the middle of December, I got the reply. I was IN! Genuine seats, with what was supposedly a clear view of

Bill and Al Gore getting sworn in, plus tickets to get into two of the balls. This was going to be a day to remember! Unfortunately, it was a day to remember.
I spent much of the previous day trying to get my tickets. The security was much tighter than

it was twenty years before, and one had to jump over hoops to get the credentials and other stuff, with tickets in hand, I went over to the Mall, which was a huge fair with events both free and expensive. Famous people were giving speeches, James Whitmore was doing his famous Will Rogers show, and Conan O'Brian was looking arrogant as his sycophants fawned over him. It was all good fun, but then as night fell, things started to change.

I had gotten a ticket to the MTV party. I presented my ticket and they wouldn't let me in. We argued, and was told that the press could stand by heater and watch the celebrities walk by. This was not what I voted for the previous November. I got to see some what would be called "celebutaunts" make vacuous pronouncements about stuff they knew nothing about, before heading off to another party. They wouldn't let me in there either.

Waking up the next morning surprisingly chipper, I went over to the southeast side of the Capitol for the big show. There was a huge line, which was fine; I had expected that, for this was Bill Clinton, not Jimmy Carter. There were THREE metal detectors we had to go through, and then there was a maze of seats that we had to navigate before each of us found ours. I found mine on the far right hand corner of the fourth row. In a theater they would call it a "partially obstructed view. In other words, I couldn't see a damn thing even though I was near the front. So I stood.

Nearby there was a bridge to another section, and some people were standing on it. I decided to join them. Now this was good! A perfect view of the grandstand, and we got to see the opening ceremonies and Al Gore getting sworn in as Vice President. Someone else made some remarks and as soon as Chief Justice Rehnquist was called up to administer the oath to Clinton, disaster struck. The United States Marines was ordered to retake the bridge from us "squatters," and there was a slight altercation.

There was no way any of us could see Clinton take the oath or make his inaugural address. They stood there like a stone for the entire time, and as soon as he finished they left. The Clintons and all the other dignitaries were there as there was more music and another preacher gave a prayer, but everyone from security and the military was gone. If one of us wanted to (and of course we wouldn't), we could have thrown a large rock at Hillary's noggin! All in all, it was a strange experience.

I did manage to get close enough to the parade route to see some of it. I didn't get to any of the balls though. It takes about five hours to get home from DC.

In 2000, I, well, voted for the guy who came in FIRST. There were several groups organizing protests on inauguration day. So I got myself a ticket and getting up at three in the morning, got on the bus and went down to DC.

As I had a press pass, I went down to the press tent at the far end of the Mall. This was about two miles from the ceremony and I could see precisely nothing. So grabbing some soft drinks and finishing up a cuppa, I went to Dupont Circle to see the tail end of the anti-inaugural parade. It was kind of fun, but little did I know that this would be only the first of many of these things, with the same people screaming versions of the same slogans and getting the same results for the better part of eight years.

January 20, 2005 was a Saturday and I watched the whole thing on CNN in my PJs. I was still in shock that Bush had managed to win reelection.

So, now I've been informed I have a low-grad credential for this one. I'm going to be getting up at four in the morning to get a flight to Reagan international and hopefully, I'll be able to find out where they're giving out credentials. The email said they would stop two days before, which is really stupid. They said I would be in the front of the standing room, where a million people or more would crowd the mall all the way to Washington Monument.
Hopefully, I'll be better prepared in 2013.