As Barack Obama momentarily studied his massive audience before launching into his poetic and bold inaugural speech, an unrestrainable middle-age man next to Riptide on the Capitol lawn seating area yelled out, "This is the moment!"
That summed it up pretty well. This weekend in D.C. has been a raucous
runup to this: the speech that proved the concept of President
Obama was a reality. It was full of people trying to make the clear
importance of the event their own -- like the young artist posing with
his own dual portrait of Obama and Martin Luther King Jr. in front of
a famous photo of Abraham Lincoln at the National Portrait Gallery.
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And it was full of spur-of-the-moment hustlers trying to make a dime: Legions of street vendors hawked everything from misspelled and hideous, but strangely irresistible, T-shirts to Obama hot sauce. Oh yeah, and the weekend was full of revelry -- most bars were open, and packed, until 4 a.m. At one Dupont Circle bar, Riptide enjoyed a shot called "The Obama" -- which tasted suspiciously similar to a Washington Apple.
We were about 50 rows back from the grand podium, and as Obama spoke, his words echoed with a slight delay miles back to the Washington Monument, a space packed with more than a million people. At times, we were actually kind of sad we weren't in the cheap seats; when Dubya was introduced, he was met with a restrained silence from the front-row people, but roaring boos were audible from the masses behind us.
As the crowd began a slow stampede out during Rev. Rick Warren's closing prayer, Riptide had a couple more big-time celebrity sightings. First Bruce Springsteen attracted a crowd when he tried, in vain, to casually slip away before the rest of the onlookers. But The Boss was made ho-hum when an even greater star snatched away his mob: Oprah caused sheer pandemonium when she and Stedman followed a few feet behind Springsteen.
Somewhere in Miami-Dade, Michael the Black Man is considering jumping off of a bridge.
And now, more random shots of D.C. Obamamania, from a storefront display of a paper Obama at a styrofoam podium to a masterful Etch-a-Sketch likeness: