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Potpourri 18--The Inauguration Edition


Washington, DC--The Sexiest Place on the Planet (Limited-Time Offer)

From November 5th, 2008 until January 20th, 2009, I don't know if the District was ever, EVER this freakin' hot.

I mean, people were FIGHTING to come to our fair city!  Many of our neighbors skipped town for the weekend to rent out their apartments for crazy prices; hotels city-wide were booked solid by the end of November.  The COMMUTER trains from points north of town were sold out on Inauguration Day weeks in advance.  A-list stars were here; B-list stars were here; former child stars, second-rate reporters, online rag writers and even near-dead former politicians came to town to see the Obama guy get sworn in.

It got so weird that at one point, USA Today made up a list of activities for tourists to hit while they were here...and half of them were second-rate clubs that I had dismissed years ago.  But then I remembered--that's what it feels like when outsiders show up in your town en masse!  They don't CARE about quality...hip hip hooray!!!

The human flesh forecast varied as wildly as the December weather.  First it was five million people, then one, then three, then two, then "what if" scenarios started popping up for four million, then back to two million...wow, listening to the news here just made me sick to my stomach about the hassle of living downtown for Inauguration...could I have picked a worse time to live near a major downtown intersection???

Despite all of this, I'll admit it--it was cool for once to be the center of attention.  (I know, I know--this happened for me a lot when I was living in Rockville, but I digress.)  Everyone wanted to know about what was happening in town.  Everyone was caught up in DC Fever.  The city nearly shut down when news hit the wires that the Obama guy was at Ben's Chili Bowl for a half-smoke with DC's mayor.  All of this will make me miss it now that it's gone.

The other thing I'll miss?

Hangin' Out with Big-Time Celebrities

Let's be clear--I don't do the celebrity-watching thing.  But, our friend Ben "Top Chef" Moore helps produce local events, and he had guest passes to an inauguration party at a hotel four blocks from our apartment for the Declare Yourself organization, a group fronted by spokeswoman Jessica Alba that is dedicated to building the young voter base.  That was enough for me to tell Ben thanks, and yep, we'll be there.

Meg and I showed up looking good; while walking in the lobby, I look to my left and I see R&B crooner John Legend walking right next to Meg.  I tried to poke Meg to poke John, to no avail; of course, John was with an entourage of six other women (surprise--all of them were really hot), so there was that.  Also, please note that John Legend is barely taller than Meg, who is 5'4".

I decide that this could be interesting.

We got down to the main ballroom and the crowd was looking lively; it was 8:30 and the action was supposed to get rolling at 9.  So, we strolled around, doing the celebrity watch thing, but we also loved how many people were staring at us, wondering who we "were."  I also had my $8 white H&M hat that I wore to Iceland with a black button-down and jeans with white shoes, so I had the vague appearance of being just cool-looking enough to warrant "hey, is that somebody?" looks from security, guests, and bathroom attendants.  Meg was looking sexier, but there were more women at this party than men, and I think the ladies just spent more time eyeing up the male goods.

Anyway, about ten minutes later, we see Ben and tell him how sexy he is looking with his funny headset on, and then he tells us

"Hey guys, I got some other passes.  Put these on instead and head into VIP."  The passes that we had said "Guest"; the ones we now had said "All Access."

Not VIP, friends...ALL ACCESS.  I had no idea what that would get me, but immediately, I couldn't stand on the ballroom floor with the peons, so I grabbed Meg and we stormed the VIP area.  A tough-looking guy in a suit eyed our badges and pulled back a curtain to let us in.

Instantly, we were upgraded to business class.  Meg went to the bathroom, so I went over to the free buffet.  While grabbing a cookie, I gave a head nod to Al Franken, who was stuffing his plate with extras...Al gave me a nod back, along with the famously goofy Franken smile.  Meg and I walked back out to the ballroom where the main stage was, and I brushed by Sarah Silverman (hot in person).  Norman Lear (famous TV producer of shows like "All in the Family", "Sanford & Son", and "Good Times") was hangin' out a few feet away.

When the stage show got started, Jessica Alba was about 20 feet away.  She was close enough that I could see all of the features, and people, the girl is legit (even IF she came off as a little ditzy during her introductions).  Meg and I were standing right behind Keith Carradine and Arriana Huffington.  Although I didn't know who she was until later, the little blond girl from the TV show "Heroes" was close enough to see her makeup running.  (Talk about tiny--that kid IS a hero if she's taller than 4'10".)

Running debate of the night--who's hotter: John Legend or Adam Levine from Maroon 5.  In person, both were incredibly sexy to the ladyfolk, and I know this because the number of women who were completed consumed by these men was high and there were many moments where women fanned other women to make sure they stayed on their feet.  My guess is that both men could have brought home major, major skirt that night, but the edge went to Levine because he spent more time leaning into the crowd and groping himself, to the glee of adult women all over the ballroom.

(Random sexy guy note: Jim Gray, the famous sideline reporter who used to work for NBC, was eyeing me up the entire night.  I assume this is because he thought I was an athlete that he once interviewed, but then it occurred to me--maybe Jim Gray knows that I'm just another guy and he wants to ride the Justin train!!!  Then I went back to holding Meg's hand, in fear that I might be right.)

The night was a blast, mainly because I had never been truly "surrounded" by celebrities (and free food and drink) before.  It even ended with a DJ set by Samantha Ronson, who apparently is Lindsay Lohan's girlfriend.  Let's just say this, friends--uhh, not hot.

Speaking of not hot,

After Five Hours, You're Just Gonna Be Cold

Once I saw that the weather was going to be a somewhat manageable 31 on the day of the Inauguration, I decided that I would in fact attend with Meg and others--Drew and Marta, two friends from San Francisco; our friends Mandy and Wendy, friends of ours from the UVA days.  But, no matter what you do, you know coming in that if you are going to stand in the cold for many hours, you can only put on so many layers to cover up before you eventually start to get cold.

And, cold, I got.

But, if you could bear it, Washington, DC was quite the spectacle on the big day.  Yep, we had to stand in stupidly-long lines that were not managed by a single volunteer or DC cop.  Yep, many, many ticket holders for seated and standing areas (we had six) gave up on the shitty process because for hours, no one got into the purple, blue or silver ticketed areas.  To think that it would have been faster to just hang out in front of a JumboTron near the back by the Washington Monument later became quite the joke.  In general, the process was poorly run, given the prep time and the very easy solutions to the big problems I witnessed on Tuesday.

Despite all of that, I'm glad I went.  You can't make it up--there were people everywhere on the Mall that day, from every single state in the Union, wearing every kind of Obama clothing, jewelry, trinket and sign they could get.  We met and chatted with folks from all over...I still marvel at the spectacle.  I mean, doesn't it still hit you that people think that their president is cool?  Can you imagine people wearing Jefferson, or Taft, or Garfield, or Carter socks??  T-shirts?  Skull caps?  Bracelets?  Shit, two cars on our street had Obama fucking car flags on their vehicles.  Like, you're looking around, and you see Redskins car flags, Virginia Tech car flags, and then a Camry with two blue car flags with Obama's face on them.  Doesn't this make you shake your head EVERY TIME YOU SEE THIS???

(Meg's latest joke about this was, "Hey, do you see anybody walking around with old John Kerry shirts on?"  Exactly.)

So, you've basically got two million people from Obama's fan club in the house just to watch him take an oath.  Wild, although energy-wise, it apparently did not touch DC the night Obama won the election...apparently, that was apeshit in most circles.  It was still full of random high-fives, and boos when Bush/Cheney appeared on the JumboTron, matched with cheers when Bush & Co. were airlifted out of Dodge.  (Good riddance!!)  Obama's speech wasn't great, and I wish it was shorter, just so that I could have gotten warmer faster.  But, still, it was a day none of us will forget, especially my feet, which enjoyed the rest of that afternoon elevated on a couch in front of a television, right where they belonged.

Back to Normal

On Wednesday, I was walking to the metro to go to a meeting at L'Enfant Plaza, and things returned to normal.  Transvestite hookers were walking back down K to find someplace warm to find customers; the lights at the strip club near our apartment building were back on; the Obama guy and his team dropped "transition" and "elect" from their collective titles and got to work; the looks of doom and gloom returned to the faces of those stupid enough to keep a job they don't like and don't appreciate in these tough times.

My only hope moving forward is that DC was able to convince a lot of visitors that this is a place worth coming back to for reasons beyond the touristy sightseeing of our monuments and museums.  DC is as far from a cultural mecca as you are going to find; I still don't know what "defines" our city and here's to hoping that the city's organizers were able to capitalize on learning more about what makes Washington unique to visitors, from its people, to its restaurants (average, but hopefully, on the rise), to its architecture, to its nightlife, which recently has had more success stealing from New York and Miami than coming up with ways to make it cool on its own terms.

One can hope.  Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some DC traffic to sit in for my ride to the office.


Random Bellviews, courtesy of Bell and Longer Community Trust:

  • According to the Washington Post, being black:  Opening Weekend

  • Back-to-back city-approved holidays:  $9.50 Show

  • Tube socks:  Matinee

  • "Grey's Anatomy":  Rental

  • Working in HR at Circuit City:  Hard Vice




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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/28/09