This was my sixth Inauguration since moving to Washington, DC. And I still haven’t been to an Inaugural Ball – not complaining, at all – but now I’ve braved the cold and lines to see the swearing in (2009) and to party at night (2013).
In 1993, I desperately wanted to go to Bill Clinton’s Inauguration. Alas, we didn’t get the day off. And I was still newish to town, so I had no clue how it worked or what was involved. I thought about going to a ball as well, but mostly in the abstract. I didn’t investigate too much. There would be other Inaugurals. Besides, I was broke and probably couldn’t afford the ticket, much less a gown. Well, I could, but there’s only so much credit card debt I could take on!
In 1997, well, I was still broke, wasn’t I? And the second Inauguration isn’t as big a deal. There would be others … Who knew what was coming though.
Needless to say, I stayed at home for the Bush Inaugurations, mourning the injustice of Florida for the first and the ineptitude of defending against swiftboating for the second. Mostly, I tried to pretend those events never happened.
In 2009, we decided to watch the swearing in in-person. That was our big activity – and while it was fun and certainly historic, it was also freezing and exhausting. I had to take a huge nap once we eventually walked home. I had my memories, my photos, my stories and I was fine with that. And having lived in DC now for several years, I had heard about the nightmare that can constitute an Inaugural Ball.
This time around, I planned a warm and quiet celebration. I’d waited outside. No need to do that again. And I had no interest in waiting in endless lines to get into a Ball, get a drink, go to the bathroom, get my coat, get a cab, etc., etc.
So when a colleague offered tickets to the Chicago Underground after-party hosted by Rahm Emmanuel, I declined. I’m not that hip. I mean, the party started at 11 – past my normal bedtime – and ran until 3. This on a school night.
Lo and behold, G wanted to go. What happened to my curmudgeon-y husband who hates lines? I pinged my source – tickets still available? I’ll take 2!
Next I focused on getting ready. No floor-length gown needed, just a slinky cocktail dress that necessitated eating salad for several days in a row … Most of the preparation actually centered on my feet – as in I needed to get a pedicure, and I needed to buy something that would cushion my feet – or at least keep me from going instantly lame. Let’s face it, no one is really meant to walk – or stand for long periods of time – in 5 inch heels.
I thought about wimping out and wearing a peep-toed platform pump. Also 4 1/2 inch, but with the inch up front, less strain, but also less, well cute. I knew which shoe would look better, really make the outfit. So I stuck on the moleskin, took a prophylactic Advil, stretched my calves and strapped on my sexy stilletos.
We took an Uber to near The Hamilton where the party was … I was afraid it would be insanely expensive because of surge pricing, but it was just a normal rate, barely more than a taxi and in a warm, cozy town car. And our pleasant driver got us close.
So we walked – slowly and carefully – from 13th and I or so to 14th and F. Not a huge walk normally, but not an easy one in heels. That said, it was so cold my toes froze, and I couldn’t really feel my feet – or the pain.
Also, I was glad I wore a long coat. A friend who went to an Inaugural Ball in 2009 didn’t wear a coat because she didn’t want to deal with coat check. She ended up huddling in her strapless gown under her husband’s tux jacket as they waited in line in the cold. Lesson? Coat check worth the wait. And as we stood in line outside the Hamilton with the wind whipping up, I was happy to have a long coat with deep pockets.
I’d heard that the lines at the bar were always terrible as well. In fact, G said he didn’t expect to get more than a drink at the party. Here, we were pleasantly surprised as The Hamilton was well appointed with bars and not very many partygoers in line.
So we drank beers and listened to Buddy Guy and Kev Mo, ran into some people we knew and partied well into the night. No lines, great music, cool underground vibe. Now this is the way to celebrate the Inauguration. Except for the pain in my feet, of course.
But to paraphrase Keanu Reeves in The Replacements, Pain heals, this chick doesn’t dig scars, but glamour lasts forever!