And we're not talking about the fumes from the estimated 7,000 portable toilets set up to handle the crowd expected on the National Mall for Tuesday's inauguration ceremonies. No matter what your political leanings are, if you've been out and about in the Penn Quarter, the neighborhood lining the north side of the inaugural parade route, and the Mall this weekend you know that the excitement is palpable and omnipresent. The crowds are starting to arrive, media trucks are everywhere and seemingly every empty store front is now an Obama souvenir store. We spent the day wandering around the Penn Quarter to take in the aura before things get too crazy.
The day kicked off with hot chocolate from the downtown Gifford's Ice Cream & Candy Co., a Washington dessert institution, served in their "inauguration to go" mug sporting an Obama image on the side. Free refills of hot chocolate are available if you buy one of these mugs - we expect you'll see a lot of these this weekend. Hot chocolate in hand we headed up the street to check out the newest Obama souvenir store at 10th & F Streets NW. It's one of five new Obama stores popping up in the Penn Quarter selling inaugural gear and with the cold temperatures expected in DC this weekend, the knit caps and sweatshirts should be big sellers. A short walk to the Mall to check out the media trucks now lining our streets revealed Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte - you name it - representing. Remote television trucks from all over the United States are readying themselves for their inauguration day broadcasts and MSNBC has been broadcasting live from a temporary studio on the Mall around 7th Street NW. It's plainly clear from walking the streets and the live MSNBC and CNN shots that people are happy, excited and beginning to converge en masse.
We know it's not all fun for the local residents (the current Penn Quarter Living poll says one third of them are staying at home on Tuesday), but we have to believe that the inconveniences of living downtown close to the action will be worth it when all is said and done. This is one of the reasons we moved into downtown DC, right? The eyes of the world are on our neighborhood.