7 Unexpected Surprises of Attending the Presidential Inauguration 2

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Tough to Beat No Expectations

Some time in November, my brother called and said he’s coming out for the Inauguration. He’s my little baby bro, so of course I’m happy to have him, but he already booked his flight already, so I also had no choice. It turns out we are all gluttons for political commentary and it’s time to shed a few pounds, which means none of that here, but I will say, I wasn’t particularly excited about any possible outcome in the election. I wasn’t particularly concerned either, but that’s sort of how I play politics. Despite strong convictions, I like to wait, see, and hope for the best, regardless of who’s at the helm. As a result, I know my brother was excited to witness history, but I could take it or leave, at least in this instance.


Not being from the DC and unsure if I will get the opportunity again, it made sense to at least try and get tickets for the event. With my brother basically showing up at our doorstep, ready to accept his free lodging and home cooked meals, he kinda forced my hand. Being from the 2nd District in Arizona, we figured not to many people were going to make the trek out East and our odds were high for getting tickets through our Congressional lottery, similar to the ones held in other Districts throughout the country. We both received an email stating we had not been selected. Bummer.


Me and the little feller in front of the shuttle Discovery.

But, I think once people started seeing airfare prices and realized there was nowhere to stay for less than a couple mortgage payments, people started dropping like flies and giving up their tickets. In response, our Congresswoman answered our pleas to get in the house to watch democracy at it’s finest. Once we were guaranteed tickets, I started to look forward to the trip, if for no other reason to hang with my brother and listen to his banter and proceed to tell him why he’s wrong. Really though, it wasn’t until we actually go into the city that we felt the aura and began to feel like we were part of something pretty incredible.


During our trip, nothing happened that I didn’t expect and we didn’t encounter anything unusual or have an experience different from the one’s of the hundreds of thousands of people in the city that weekend. In comparison to those around us, our experience was fairly pedestrian. That was part of what made it such a great trip.


Overall, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the trip despite how utterly miserable it should have been. Traffic was supposed to be unbearable, we walked 16 miles the first day, 10 the next, and stood in one spot for about 7 hours to see people from a distance that make them look like they graduated from the Derek Zoolander School for Kids Who Can’t Read Good1)aka ants. It sucked, but it was great. 


Now, instead of a minute-by-minute chronicle of the event,2)I had to buy more data from all the Facebook Live-ing, so I pretty much already covered that here’s 7 unexpected surprises from attending the Presidential Inauguration:


1. Inauguration Eve: An Expected Delight

It’s hard to explain, but the day before was the real treat of the whole trip. Aside from hitting up several of the historical hot spots and museums that are otherwise difficult to do when you have a pack of hungry wolves in tow,3)my children there was a real energy that could be seen and felt, especially during the day. We walked up and down the Mall and it was mostly civil as so many people, from every side of the aisle, navigated the city and started preparing for a new uncertain era.


Certainly, there was excitement sprinkled with a little fear and distain, but watching these emotions manifest themselves amongst thousands of people that had nearly never been to the Nation’s capital was an unforgettable experience.

2. Hustlas be hustlin’

As with any event with a limited window for a cash grab, the vendors were out in full force both days. The patriotic goodies being peddled out of a shopping cart ranged from your traditional “Make America Great Again” hats to custom art depicting Donald Trump as Moses holding his staff up over a battle and a couple gun-wielding conservatives taking the place of Aaron and Hur and supporting his arms.4)If you don’t know the biblical story checkout Exodus Chapter 17


Falling in line with expectations, the heavier on the vulgarity on the paraphernalia, the more difficult it was for street vendors to keep it in stock. That said, my favorite examples of hustlers getting after it were the guys with pro-Trump souvenirs on one side of his board and pro-Hillary/Obama souvies on the other. These guys would flip the board around based on what they thought you’d be most interested as you walked by. The respect was earned when they sold both sides of the board just as hard as the other.


Must respect the hustle.


3. It was remarkably easy to get in & out of DC

This might not seem like a big deal, but almost everyone I know here in the DC metro said, “I just don’t want to deal with the city.” Their concerns of traffic and road closures are more than justified not just during one of the biggest events in the world, but also on any Tuesday morning during rush hour. Trying to get in and out of the city can confirm any doubts you may have about the doctrine of total depravity.


So, you can imagine my surprise when we skirted around the beltway and pulled into our parking garage about a half mile from the Capitol without hitting traffic once. Getting out the next day was a little rougher, but not bad, which was delightful surprise after trekking 25 miles in 2 days. I think the lesson here is DC doesn’t have a lot figured out, but throwing security everywhere and still making the city functional is its strong suit.


4. We were in the CNN Gigapixel

I’m the knucklehead holding up my phone by a tree in from of the Reflecting Pool. Good luck finding me…apparently Jon Voigt was close by as well, still looking for him.

You’ve seen lots of pictures of the Inauguration, many compared to those taken four years ago. None like this one. The day after the event, CNN released a pretty freakin’ incredible photo with resolution unlike anything I have ever seen. I don’t know what lens they used or how they did it, but this wide shot of the entire stage and thousands of people in the crowd was crisp no matter how much you zoomed in.


The photo is interactive and let’s you catch almost all of the Nation’s greatest leaders in a moment of normalcy. Check it out in this link and while you’re at it, see if you can find me and my brother. The picture to the right is a hint, but yep, we’re in there and you can zoom close enough and still see it’s us.

*This entire section is hyperlinked to the image


5. Writing your Congressman or Congresswoman just might work

On numerous occasions, after listening to someone gripe about something in their state or their city, I’ve heard someone respond with, “Write your Congressmen.” My assumption is that they didn’t have anything valuable to add or they were tired of listening to someone moan and groan about something no one was ever going to do anything about. My first interaction with a member of Congress might have made me a believer in the willingness for members of Congress to listen to us common folk.


My brother TJ, Congresswoman Martha McSally, and yours truly

In order to pick up our tickets, we had to head to the Congresswoman’s office downtown on the day before the Inauguration. Congresswoman Martha McSally, Arizona 2nd District, invited us to an open house to socialize and grab the tickets that we fully anticipated being miles away from the stage. To our surprise, we actually got to sit down and talk for quite some time. The tickets were better than we though too. She was an Air Force Colonel, a former A-10 pilot, and spent some time at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. For a couple of Air Force guys, there was plenty to talk about


Snapping a picture and meeting her was definitely a nice little treat, but I was blown away by the amount of attention she gave to each person she spoke to. Not only was she ready to share what was important to her and make small talk about the Inauguration, but she was ready to exchange stories and listen, intently, to what was on the minds of the people in her district. Walking through those halls and seeing each member of Congress’s office, I sensed she wasn’t alone. She wasn’t the only one listening to the people in her district to help guide her future efforts. Definitely a surprise.


6. We saw Drew Carey’s kid light a fire

On our way to track down a safe Uber pickup spot, we stumbled on our first encounter with a protest. Rolling down K Street, near the White House, there was a fun little mob trying to stay warm by lighting stuff on fire in the middle of the street. We were trying to figure out what was burning, but the fire marshall was better at their job than they would have hoped. There were a few skirmishes and knuckleheads in black masks. We were curious, but kept moving. On our way out of the mayhem we watched a riot chief briefing his team, each armed with riot gear, head to toe. We got out just in time because the tear gas was sent in about 5 minutes later.


We’d find out later that this particular spot was just outside of the DeploraBall and an 11-year old kid had lit the fire. As a parent, there were several obvious questions being asked, but wasn’t too long until the social media sleuths found out the kid belonged a celebrity guy that was across town emceeing the Veteran’s Presidential Ball. It was none other than Bob Barker’s successor, Drew Carey. I believe he muttered something about “Screw the President.” You can Google to watch the video and he seems like a nice well behaved kid. In a few years, there will be tons of dads excited to let their daughter politely tell this kid, “Not a chance.”


Any who…we were there:)


7. I’d go again

And perhaps the biggest surprise of all, I’d go again. Regardless of who’s elected, I’d love to take my family to see how incredible this country really is. I’m not ignoring the chaos, but the fact we are having these discussions only serves as a highlight to the beauty of what the Constitution did for us. It’s lots of walking, lots of waiting, lots of having trouble finding a bathroom, lots of security, lots of traffic, you can make out human figures on the stage because you’re so far away, and I’d go again.


I’m not sure how certain things are going to shake out and I get frustrated, but God is sovereign. Attending this event brought a perspective I didn’t know I didn’t have and I didn’t know I needed.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. aka ants
2. I had to buy more data from all the Facebook Live-ing, so I pretty much already covered that
3. my children
4. If you don’t know the biblical story checkout Exodus Chapter 17

About Brent Nichols

My blogging is, no doubt, all over the map, but hope you'll find something just right for you. Currently living in the D.C.-metro area in Northern Virginia. You know what? I think I kinda like it out here.

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