We had been sheltered from the sunrise. The heavy curtains, hung over steel-grated windows and doors, concealed a literal view of the external world, and its hostile cold. Its garish light. Six of us departed asylum for the controlled environment of a vehicle I refer to as “mine,” though its true ownership lies in a murk purgatory of credit unions and masters of the universe. I briefly envisioned bankruptcy, and Joe Biden’s granddaughter being given a freshly waxed silver Mazda for her next birthday.
Then there were six of us piled into the very same car about which I was dreaming. It was running; something resembling warm air was heating my face, and i was again forced to confront the bleak grey sky that somehow blinded us. It was time for the community sunglasses: the big ones I kept in my center console exactly for situations like this. A car of insects. Two of us were going home, four would brave the 9 blocks from that residence to the security entrances protecting the Mall.
Photo: Hugh Grew
He had told us the road would not be easy. He had warned us. But amidst the soaring rhetoric of long-fought battles and difficult paths, Barack had not mentioned the tawdry images of his face we would encounter in every store window and on every street corner. His powerful profile reduced to silver studs in a black Hanes T-shirt. $30. He had not advised us on matters such as the wind, or the burdensome coffee shop restroom lines, that forbade the consumption of intranasal powders. We needed no such powders. All energy desired was a complimentary street drug, transmitted via oscillating electromagnetic fields–flourescent colored gossamer that connected every person within my field of vision. Electro is back, baby. Electro is Obama.
With every block traveled, the gossamer retracted, the numbers connected to it expanded. We moved as one… and we were supposed to be here. We reveled in the joy. Relished the virility. Of the security line, however, we were skeptical. We had somehow missed it, though it stretched for blocks heading South towards the Mall, and swallowed 9th Street from sidewalk to sidewalk.
The euphoria raged, now with a bitter edge of claustrophobia, and a unanimous decision was made to retreat to the next party. Kojak and The Dragon would require a stop for marijuana, regardless, and the speech was to be given in three not-so-distant hours; we had a better chance of watching it in comfort from elsewhere. We began the search for a suitable overseer of the coveted Swearing-In tickets we possessed and I quickly settled on a girl in her late teens.
She may have been, as The Dragon later pointed out, the first attractive woman I saw in the crowd. This was undeniably the truth. But she and her friends were anarchists – recovering anarchists, thanks to a man who had stirred within them a faith in our political system. I saw a fire in her eyes that told me as much. A fire that at another time would have driven bricks through a bank’s windows during a G8 Conference. She deserved a view of our system’s savior. She and her friends couldn’t believe their luck.
Dupont Circle was the marijuana spot and we were parked illegally. Enforcement seemed to be lax on this day; Agent X and I were not concerned. Together we marveled, between keyed bumps of cocaine, at the GZA’s lyricism and the raw potency of the RZA’s production in Liquid Swords. We discussed the positive impact that our new president would have on black culture. We bumped again. Behind us, something stirred.
A dozen masked adults were parading behind us: polar bears with whistles, one pulled a rusting Radio Flyer. There was possibly an Eskimo. What were they doing? What message was it that the were trying to get across? We were at a loss and we realized that we had also quite possibly lost Kojak and The Dragon. How long had they been gone? The disc playing was no longer Liquid Swords. I looked at the clock and our new president would speak in less than two hours. There was no time for slacking. This called for another bump. Had we been betrayed? This called for more conversation. 30 minutes flew by and we had come no closer to an answer, but still we were not startled by their knocking on my window. I unlocked the doors and we moved, reunited.
Another friend and I had been here when the election results were announced, and the U Street corridor flooded with joyous celebration. Today the crowd had moved to an area from which I had twice narrowly escaped within the last 6 hours but, make no mistake, chaos was brewing inside The Bohemian Caverns. We would stay intact through the Swearing-In, but I could feel individuality lowering onto its haunches. Attack was imminent. The fact that hipster karaoke was scheduled immediately following the speech to, itself, be followed by burlesque dancers convinced me that our homogeny would soon dissipate.
Together, we mocked Rick Warren and, as one, we hung on our new President’s every word. Together, we embraced friends as they trickled in from the Mall and various parties. Collectively and intentionally, we lost ourselves in the haze of more chemicals and alcohol, but little did we realize that we were succumbing to the attack. The more lost we became in the bedlam, the more we reverted to the individuals that we undoubtedly were. The Collective Conscious is chaotic, even when focused on the best of ideas, and we began to recognize the value of our individuality, the worth of our sanity.
12 hours after Barack Obama gave his speech to the nation, we went our separate ways. Stinging from the attack, but buzzing on the change we had become.