Saturday, January 24, 2009

Day 5 - INAUGURATION DAY- January 20, 2009

We get back to Sonja's around 4:30 am. Everybody (else) needed a nap. Sonja is up and ready to take the first ticketed group to the inauguration--they need to be there early. Sonja tells us to sleep for a minute and she'll wake us up when she comes back, then she'll drive us as close as she possible can. So I end up sharing a bed with a stranger (not the first time you say;) who came in from California.

7am-it's finally time time to go. Jack is so excited he's up and jumping around like a 5 year old on Christmas morning. He's walking around with his camera taping everyone sleeping and preparing. (see video below)My poor sis Sonja hasn't slept at all, but sleep deprived she drives us as close as she can.

Deborah, Jack Shirley and I start making our way through the LARGE but managable crowd. I spot a familiar face in the line and ask him a few questions about lines and tickets. We have a laugh and I walk away. Jack looks at me in amazement and ask if I knew that was the actor Ed Harris. Duh, yeah and he's married to Amy Madigan. Hey it's that kind of day.

We walk and walk and WOW-look at all those people. But hey we're from Chicago we know crowds. Uhh we do, but the DC cops don't. The traffic people and cops DON"T HAVE A CLUE!! At this moment I miss Chicago. My hats off to Chicago police and the CTA and almost even Daley (that's going too far) for having a plan and executing it. A mere 1.5 million people, we handle that in my neighborhood after a Cubs game...

The DC cops are sending people in the wrong direction and a massive crowd is headed into an already packed tunnel and everyone is stuck. We look in horror at the crowd and when we turn around Deborah is gone! I tell Shirley & Jack that we've lost Deborah and Jack says sadly, "Oh she was such a nice lady."

We follow another cops suggestion to go down the street, turn the corner and we'll get there. At this point you say why are we listening to a DC cop? Yeah, yeah we end up on that street with 100K people for almost 2 hours before a couple of guys climb poles and directs traffic on 3 streets as the cops look on amazed.

Finally free from that nightmare, we get to a gate. After 45 minutes of opening the gate, no closing the gate, uh wait let's open the gate, no only ticket holders, ok the gate is open...we finally get in. Bag check, body check, throw your water away--oh I get it airport security is here. AT LAST (Etta don't kick my ass) we are in!!!! It's only been 3 hours and 23 degrees but we are here.

There's excitement in the air, a group happiness--in spite of all the hassles.

Soon as we get in the motorcade passes right by us. the OBAMAMOBILE!

We are very close but on the side. We didn't realize how close we were until we saw a picture of the entire crowd and we were closer than most people there.

What an AMAZING moment in history! No, not the inauguration--I mean ARETHA'S HAT.

After I finally catch my breath (and clutch my pearls) I thought I'd hallucinated a glittering sparkling ballot box shining above Aretha--representing how far we'd come and how bright our future. Who was I kidding its RE-RE and her hat maker feeling like a natural woman...

It was hard to hear the speakers (but RE-RE didnt need no speakers, that

hat is angled to naturally amplify the sound) so people had radios, tv's, phones. The echo was fun.

This was one of the proudest moments in our country's history. It is hard to believe that a brilliant Black man with a brilliant Black wife and wonderful children, is the leader of the free world. Everyone is trying to hold back tears--cause it's cold and tears stick.

After the Hat and the Inauguration, Rev Lowry was a cherry on top. Opening his speech with the words of the Negro National Anthem--those lyrics also make me cry.

The 18 (or was it 21?)gun salute was pretty funny cause the first couple of shots (we couldnt see where they came from, we couldnt see the monitors) people had a look of panic in their eyes. By the 3rd or 4th shot none of the cops had moved or seemed concerned so it must be okay. Oh yeah, now we hear the cheers. All's safe (this still IS DC). But the best moment of the day came when Bush left in the helicopter and everybody cheered.

2:30pm and emotionally spent, people are leaving.

We're being directed to Union Station, which is great, it's right up the street and has plenty of shops and restaurants. Most people have been standing ouside with no food for at least 6 hours and we are happy but famished.Walking thru a happy crowdwe see hordes of people standing outside and all around Union Station. THEY"VE CLOSED ALL THE SHOPS & RESTAURANTS AT 2PM. Are you frigging kidding me?We are a capitalistic society and ther's capital to be made. $1 from everyone is 1.5 Million dollars. What--CLOSED! (I hate to keep bring up Chicago) But, in Chicago they'd be out IN Front of the restaurants with to-go carts.

I see why our economy is sooo bad and government screwed...if these are some of the same people running the government the way they run this town....

Not prepared for the crowd? This is WASHINGTON, DC for goodness sake. Large groups have been coming here ALWAYS & FOREVER. Get a clue. No wonder they can't find a state that will take them in.

We finally find Deborah again. Jack has made his way to Sonja's. Now everyone is back and exhausted (except me) soooo I go to a party with Sonja and Mom (yes, Sonja has had a little sleep by now). They sleep and watch balls. Except Adrienne who WENT to one of the balls.

We bring back lots of food and cakes. "Celebrate good times, come on. It's a celebration..."

That's it, we were witnessess to history. Nothing to do now but leave tomorrow. They make me turn down an invitation to party at the embassy because they're tired and want to rest for the road. We pick up Lovette from nearby and head back to Maryland to pack...

Day 4 - January 19, 2009

When we came in at 4:30am the thermostat read 47 degrees so naturally I turned up the heat and lay down while I waited for it to warm up. I wake up at 7am in all my clothes and I am FREEZING! The thermostat now reads 45 degrees. Something is wrong. I try everything, to no avail. I decide to go turn on the heat in the van and sleep there, but first I go across the street to the other house to see if I can wake anyone and/or maybe sleep there. Luckily Deb wakes up and goes to investigate. I head for the spare (warm) bedroom. It seems the pilot light went out. Workers had been there earlier and the dust they generated killed the pilot. Deb went into the room Shirley was sleeping in and covered her with another quilt. The next morning Shirley woke up and said she’d dreamed she was freezing to death and an angel came and covered her. Deb’s been called a lot of things but this time-- “Just call me angel of the morning…”

Tonight we tape the HBCU Ball, that’s Historic Black Colleges and Universities for all of you who Negroid impaired. It is at the Sequoia Restaurant on the waterfront. This was truly a ball! The music was great, the DJ had the place rocking. Nothing like Black folks throwing down in formal attire. Add to that Sarah Dash, of LaBelle fame, singing. And then Rahsaan Patterson took it to another level—his voice like honey butter.

But for me the best was meeting a woman I love and admire. I think she is one of the most underrated actresses of our time, Ms. Debbi Morgan. You may know her as Angie Hubbard of All My Children fame or in her brilliant performance as the psychic sister in ‘Eve’s Bayou’. So of course I did my BA thing (check the series of pictures)

1. Meet


3. New BFF! (This time I was actually telling the truth when I said I wrote this role for her) She gave me her info and told me to send her my script;)

Our next stop was the Ethiopian Embassy to hang out with the Ambassador and friends. It’s funny because the Ethiopian Ambassador and my good friend, an ex-Chicago city commissioner, both have the same exact name and are the best of friends, Sam Assefa. So we are hanging out with the 2 Sams, one Sam’s wife, Desta from NYC, the famous Ethiopian model Liya Kebede is upstairs sleep (it’s only 2am) and others are in and out.

We have so much fun—laughing and talking (& drinking). The house is amazing. We are actually in Ethiopia when we are there. The only negative about the house is that it is next door to Donald Rumsfields house (oooh we’ve been slimed). We are all excited about tomorrow morning and the inauguration. Wait, its 4am so it’s THIS morning. We need to be there in an hour. Call the driver we’ve got to go…

Friday, January 23, 2009

Day 3 - January 18, 2009

My Godparents are in town (I lived with them when I was a kid (& thought I was grown), in NYC, the boogie down Bronx. So we head in to Sonja’s to see them. Evan’s glad to see his only Grandpa & other Grandma. Mom & Pops are happy to see him too.

We go down to the Capital where the inaugural concert is going on. The military is out in force with tanks, horses, combat troops—you name it, they are there. The crowd is huge but happy.

Jack left earlier to go to Arlington National Cemetery to visit his fathers’ grave actually a ‘columnbareum’.

We have a quick snack then go back to Sonja’s and get ready to go shoot the HBO Ball “Obama, That One!” at the Newseum hosted by Hill Harper. The Newseum is a new museum dedicated to the news. It’s fab.

They have elevator bars that only stop on the lower level and the 6th floor, complete with a bartender –it’s all shaken, not stirred.

We get lots of great shots and interviews with celebrities. Glenn Turman almost made us cry. Hill Harper
almost started to cry, Tim Reid and Daphne were ecstatic. Tracy Ellis Ross was bitchy (and to think Girlfriends was one of my favorite shows, I guess the apple…). But all-in-all everyone had a good time.

When we get back to Sonja’s everyone is playing games on the Wii. LaCoya’s playing Dancing with the Stars. and since we are in formal attire we decide to try it. This is not as easy as it looks—the judges are brutal. Next we bowl and play tennis and box and… what happened? Why is everybody yawning when me & Pops are up and still ready to party? Oh, it’s 4am. Wusses! OK, I’ll drive us back to Maryland.

DC ObamaFest:Day 2 - January 17, 2009,

Day 2 - January 17, 2009

We wake up and head for the city. Because we are in a 15-passenger van we can’t take it into the city, so we go to the train station and park it. Hey, the metro passes have Barack Obamas face on it! Oh yeah, it’s a new day. Paul comes to meet us with his SUV and we are off. First we must get food. We go to Gladys Knights Chicken and Waffles. It is packed and there is a wait but we all watch Obama’s train stop in Baltimore where he gives a speech. My cold is getting worse and Jack buys me a hot toddy. Finally we sit down and order, the items on the menu have Gladys K song titles (tho they aren’t playing any of her music). The food is well um, let me say “the midnight train to Georgia special” no thanks I think I’ll walk.

We drop Luvvie off in DC to meet friends at Union Station. When we get there the press is everywhere. Obama’s train is just pulling in. He is a Ba-Rock Star! It’s a madhouse, but everyone is in a good mood except the old white lady with the McCain/Palin bumper sticker. We try smiling to show her that we are friendly, but she isn’t buying it and zooms off. Oh well, her lost.

Paul drives us thru DC-The Capital, Georgetown, Washington monument (it does look like a gigantic KKK mask-check the light, they look like eyes), Adams-Morgan, U Street, K Street etc. People are partying everywhere. How cute! I love this town, it’s quite lovely. What ghetto? I haven’t seen any ghetto or even a hint of one. We go thru Rock Creek Park--nice!

We also drive into Virginia to the TV station Paul works for, Al Hurra. It’s actually 3 stations; one to Iraq and 22 Middle Eastern countries, one throughout Europe and one to Saudi Arabia and the other Arab countries. A couple of studios, numerous edit suites, all very hi-tech but Jack & I are feeling like we‘re at work so we high tail it outta there. (The people were much nicer than at work and much more colour and diversity for sure!).