‘President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama’
courtesy of ‘acaben’
Wednesday, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will receive an extra-special gift from the First Lady when she donates her inaugural gown to its First Ladies Collection. The one-shouldered white chiffon number designed by Jason Wu helped Mrs. Obama sparkle at a total of ten inaugural balls that night in January 2009.
The dress will be the latest addition to a new gallery entitled “A First Lady’s Debut,” which will display inaugural dresses including those of Helen Taft and Eleanor Roosevelt. At Wednesday’s ceremony, Obama will donate the gown in front of Wu and a group of fashion students from New York’s Huntington High School. It will join the ranks of prized possessions from every first lady dating all the way back to 1912.
Meridian Hill Drum Circle by Corinne Whiting
I admittedly love DC, first and foremost, because it feels partly mine. I picnicked in its triangular parks as a wee one (our downtown visits allowing my dad an excuse for an office reprieve); I’ve played tourist around its sites on countless field trips with classmates and relatives; I’ve frolicked along its brick sidewalks as a college student for the first time unleashed, unsupervised, in a big urban world. So, yes, it is familiar and yes, some of my favorite people of all time still call this place home. DC is indelibly etched into the story of what makes me me.
But sweep all that personal history to the side, and I can see this magnificent city as if through the eyes of a visitor (in fact, my job insists that I do). I recognize its allure for tourists and locals alike, and I’m grateful to have roots in a city that keeps me coming back for more.
Perhaps, more than anything, I love that a city stroll can take me on a global walkabout. A challenging game of name-that-flag along Embassy Row sends me past an exquisite tiled mosque, distinctive ambassadorial residences and multilingual, wide-eyed diplomats exploring their new ‘hood. In Mount Pleasant, with Mana playing on my iPod, I pass chatting men on overturned crates as impromptu vendors sell tamales nearby, and the sights, sounds and smells temporarily transport me to Latin America. Within a fifteen-minute bubble of my home, I can eat amazing Ethiopian food cooked by Ethiopian chefs, Thai cooked by the Thai, Peruvian cooked by Peruvians. Authenticity rules our culinary scene. And I love that, at certain dinner parties, I might meet new friends who’ve come from or lived in countries like Bulgaria and Brazil, Martinique and Morocco.
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Police protect Nick Altrock from adoring crowd, 1906 by Boston Public Library
Not Inaugural Fever as in “escalated to a fever pitch,” but rather Inaugural Fever as in, “Hm, I think I will stay home today.” I’m excited for the inauguration. Right after the Election, I devised just about every possible plan to get down to the Mall, to get a ticket for the actual event on the steps of the Capitol. None of them worked, mind you, because I don’t tend to donate to national politics, or really ever approach my elected representatives about much. I figured, “Hey, wouldn’t it be a cool and very DC thing to do to go down to the Inauguration?”
Yeah. It would be. But I suspect this is something that’s far better in theory than in practice. The cavalcade of news stories about how crowded DC is going to be has cinched the deal. With the Park Service expecting anywhere from 1 to 4 million people, Metro freaking out because they can’t carry any more than 1 million people, yet 1.6 million people are expected. John Catoe’s done everything except ask for DC to close down except for inaugural traffic.
Bathrooms are going to be hard to come by downtown, and by the Mall, so expect long lines just to pee. January temperatures make hanging out on the Mall sound like hanging out inside the walk-in freezer with 1 million of your best friends. Better yet? They’re not letting people on the Mall until after 7am, which means that if you want to get there early, you can’t. So get ready for a huge crush of people in the Downtown Core starting about 5:30am, if not earlier, to get onto the Mall proper. Continue reading →