18 January 2009

Inauguration Report #1

The inauguration is like Christmas. Not in a Santa/wish-come-true sort of way (although there is that for some of us), but in a ubiquity sort of way, in the sense that it is everywhere - advertisements, parties, concerts, events, sales, specials, drinks, window decor, street decor, street vendors. Everything that said "Christmas" one month ago now says "Inauguration." This is not much of a news flash, I'm sure. But the degree of pervasiveness struck me. The obvious garlands of American flags, the images of Obama, the postcards at the airport (we bought 4), the buttons at the museum (we bought 10) ... all of that I expected. But I didn't expect the Ikea ads in the metro that say "Change Begins at Home" or "The Time for Domestic Reform Is Now;" I didn't expect the image of Obama on the back of my metro ticket or the Ombama yoga poster or the 'bamablooms. The headline on the current issue of the City Paper reads, very simply, "He's Here!" But he is more than just here, he is everywhere.

He really is here now - came in last night, so we were told. Not that we've bumped into him or anything. But we did see the Shepard Fairey portrait of Obama at the National Gallery. We have also seen lots of stuff about the last 43. Also at the Portrait Gallery we enjoyed seeing the likenesses of all previous presidents and particularly enjoyed George W. Bush's portrait, which has only recently been added to the exhibit. In it, Bush isn't wearing a tie or jacket. He is seated on a couch, very casually. He is leaning forward, as though chit-chatting with you the viewer as you sit across the living room. It's a strange departure from the portraits of preceding presidents' which all feature a traditional stance and a formal setting, except for the slightly relaxed Clinton leaning comfortably on the mantle piece, the close cropped portrait of Nixon painted by Norman Rockwell (of all people), and the Elaine de Kooning portrait of JFK featuring abstract expressionist swaths of color, instead of an oval office or a living room.

Last night we attended a "Songs for Presidents" concert featuring songs from the album "Of Great and Mortal Men: 43 Songs for 43 U.S. Presidencies." The different bands in this concert sang unsung stories of each president: Truman once wanted to run a men's clothing store (and ended up dropping the bomb), Gerald Ford was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, Jimmy Carter saw a UFO, Calvin Coolidge's son died of a blister from a game of tennis. Nellie McKay sang a song about Thomas Jefferson's invention called the Moldboard of Least Resistance and - perhaps the best song of the evening - Tim Fite sang about Grover Cleveland who raised his best friend's daughter from infancy and married her when she was 21. So strange. But so great. The information conveyed in these songs was not the traditional stuff of patriotism. But I liked the hodge podge of facts and quirky stories. And after just two days in DC and I am actually feeling quite patriotic indeed.

nothing says hope like a tiny garden of origami blooms with Obama's image on each side of each flower.

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