THE BLOG
02/20/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Crown Royal, Coke and Change: The Inauguration from a Barstool in New Orleans

It was just a little after 9am at Bullet's Sports Bar in New Orleans' seventh ward. Even now, you can still see "Katrina" stamped in various ways all over this neighborhood.

The morning crew, about a dozen of them, mostly older men of various hues, was already well into the first round or so of Crown Royal and coke. Some sported Obama t-shirts, hats or buttons. All the TVs were tuned into CNN, except one, tuned, almost ironically, to Fox, off in a corner. The proprietor, "Bullet" himself, was there as well, in anticipation of the big event.

"This isn't about race or anything else. This is about the filthy rich and the filthy poor. Look around here - look how people don't control anything; how does that happen? It's got to stop. We've got to come together." Not the usual morning banter. A lot of good-natured kidding around, a lot of excitement.

On the TV - the image of Michelle and Barack Obama getting out of their limo to have coffee with George W. and Laura Bush. "Can't wait for that guy to be gone. Too long, too long." "Good riddance."

A sort of shocking image of Dick Cheney in a wheelchair - from the bar crowd silence, a little mumbling, but no sympathy.

As the morning progressed, more people shuffled in. More drinks, beer, plain sodas. Just about every time Bush's image would flash on a screen, there would be some pointing, some comments made. "I want to see him leave. Now." "Not a minute too soon."

When it became clear that the inauguration itself was about to begin, Bullet put up the sound and folks almost completely stopped talking. In came Jimmy and Roslyn Carter. Some applause. In came George and Barbara Bush. Some booing. In came Bill and Hillary Clinton. Lots and lots of applause. "You know, they said that he was the first black President." "I'm not so sure about that." "Well, guess not now."

And then, in came Barack and Michelle Obama. Wild applause, some shouts.

Aretha. Nice hat. Tapping feet. Applause.

In the bar - the fried chicken is ready and not a minute too soon.

Swearing in of Joe Biden. Polite applause. Swearing in of Barack Obama. Pretty much all activity in the bar comes to a halt. Some people actually stand. Clapping and a few tears when it's over.

Obama's speech. People are listening intently and deeply, the physical embodiment of hanging onto every word. Nodding. A few shouts out and smiles when he mentions people who offered help after the levees broke. Applause again at the end of the speech, and a few stand ups.

Time for more chicken, and maybe some soup. The afternoon shift comes in. More drinks. Everybody's upbeat - everyone looks everyone else straight in the eye, a kind of sigh of relief. At last. Race doesn't exactly recede, but, at least for today, race, gender, age becomes part of some kind of beautiful landscape where everything just seems to fit. From a bar stool, it looks like change.