You know that euphoria you feel after a big shinding like a wedding or - in this case - an inauguration? The feeling that you could go on forever and that things like sleep are for mere mortals, not a guy like you?
Yeah, neither do I.
After it was over the only thing I felt was exhausted and hungry. Since we had more than an hour before the parade began we decided to pass the time sampling the local cuisine.
The problem with this plan was that the entire city of Washington appeared closed for the day. After a fruitless half-mile search we stumbled onto a metro station, and the rest of my party decided to call it a day and return to the hotel for a nap.
I went with them, but changed my mind and hopped a return train back to D.C. Tired or not, I couldn't call it quits just yet.
I found a deli that was open (ironically, right next to the metro station), grabbed a burger, checked in with my wife, and set off to find the parade.
I couldn't find anything on the parade route itself - frankly I didn't even bother trying - but I found the staging area. Since the parade was delayed by hours, I managed a pretty good look at it without the hassle of a crowd or a long wait in the cold.
I also had my second encounter with protestors.
The first was at the inaugural itself, when four or five protesters interrupted the event and were hauled off by police. They were led off, peace signs flashing, mere feet from where I was standing. The crowd saluted them with chants of "four more years" and a scattering of choice words.
At the parade the group I saw was a bit less committed. Decked in handmade pink t-shirts covered in anti-Bush slogans, the group of young girls - not a one eighteen - was busy buying Bush t-shirts from a street vendor.
Think they were buying the shirts to deface them? I did at first, but nope.
"My Dad will love this one, " I overheard one say.
My third and final encounter with one came as I shared a cab to the airport on the way home. The woman was 'in mourning' and 'disgusted' that I was a Republican, but apparently not so much that she wouldn't spend ten minutes chatting with me at the terminal.
Later I saw footage of the parade protests, and a demonstration that became violent. But I'll give credit where it's due: for the most part everyone co-existed with politeness and ease. Frankly, if I think the only reason the violence was news at all was because there was a camera there to create the story.
[My personal take on the protests: While I recognize their right to do what they do, I find it incredibly disrespectful and think it reeks of bitterness at their defeat.. I wouldn't do it, and if I did, I wouldn't chose as my venue a national celebration that attempts to put aside political differences for a day. There are folks I don't like in the world, but I wouldn't chose their wedding or graduation to make my opinion heard.
And for the record, a word to the protestors themselves: I'm sure most of you are Everyday Joe's, so if you want to get past the 'fringe' label quit using masses of lonely, greasy haired people with canvas sneakers. And while you're at it, ditch the forty-year old guys at the airport whose only carry-on luggage were their skateboards]
Even before it officially began, I'd moved on from the parade. As I had in Boston, I spent the afternoon randomly walking around the city, wandering from the tourist-y areas of D.C. to the residential. In the course of the day I followed part of a historical walking path, stopped at a police station to use the restroom, picked up a protest flyer as a souvenir, visited a nearly-vacant shopping mall, and generally just tried to get a taste of the city itself.
[random observation: no one in Washington - from the hotel clerks to drivers to restaurant owners to a woman I asked for directions - was born in America. Everyone not directly involved in the government seemed to be an immigrant; I can't remember hearing so many different accents in one place outside of my trip to Disney World]
By evening I was back in Maryland, and at 3:30 a.m. I was on my way to the airport for an early flight.
My trip was over, and it was time to get back to Milwaukee.
Without the help of several people my trip wouldn't have been possible. From borrowing me a tux to loaning me a garment bag or getting me a deal on plane tickets, they went beyond the call of duty. Thanks to all of you!
Mary Dantzler, Jeff Varisco, Tre Wagner, Kathy and Ed Slapczynski, Dennis and Louise Kohn, Jeanne Scorsone, Lisa Slapczynski, Wil Domena