I suppose lots of people are in count down mode as they await the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th president of United States. But those of us who live in Washington, D.C. or its nearby environs may be more immersed than those beyond the Beltway. We are trying to figure out when a five mile trip from home to the White House will become impossible. Don’t misunderstand; no one has invited me to the White House. That’s just a marker I use for access to the Federal City with all its museums and parks, its nearby restaurants and the civic ceremonies that are part of our life on the Potomac. The Washington Post has been keeping us posted about events and how we should or should not move around as inauguration day draws near, and that’s helpful. It boils down to this: it’s best if you’re an experienced walker since the bridges from Virginia to Washington will be closed in the early morning hours of the 20th of January until?—Well, we don’t yet have an end time.
These last days before the new president--that’s what we’re calling him instead of the staid “ President Elect”-- takes the oath of office are filled with concerts. Many of them are free. There’s a big one at the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday afternoon where it’s likely to be cold but the body heat from the crowd may help that problem. Then there’s the Kennedy Center concert on Monday, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. That will feature Aretha Franklin and includes the Georgetown University choir. I’ll probably be able to hear the Gospel singing across the river in Arlington. Good. I don’t want to take a chance that the park police or the governor of Virginia or somebody will decide to close the bridges before 2 am on the 20th. This unhealthy suspicion of mine regarding what’s closed (and when) motivated me to visit the National Gallery of Art on January 15th to see the Amsel Adams photography exhibit. It was small and rather disappointing but the building itself, the West Wing, is never disappointing. It is a haven of civility in a bustling city. I should have inquired if it will be open on inauguration day, but did not. What I did learn is that a much more extensive and interesting photographic exhibit will open on Sunday the 18th: The Americans by Robert Frank. Fortunately it will be there until April so I won’t have to anguish over bridge closings.
While I’m fixated on how to get about town, a friend of mine said recently that the countdown for him is focused on the new president getting sworn in before something untoward happens. He’s not the only one harboring that fear—it bursts out of silence every once in a while—but the fear is moved to the margins by the great joy that is palpable in the nation’s capital. So what if we can’t move around. We have the wonders of television. I’m hoping for an invitation to a flat screen party.
Meanwhile the count down includes a heartfelt blessing for our new president.