\\Preparations are under way to make next week’s presidential inauguration a historic pain in the ass for all involved. Your commuter bridge will close. Your closest public toilet will overflow. Your neighborhood drunk will drink, more. With these hardships comes an unparalleled opportunity for complaining. Who among us will bear the brunt of the inaugural burden—whose commutes will be longest, hands coldest, dreams most irrevocably shattered?
John Curran: Needs to
Well after the inaugural housing bubble was declared burst, John Curran was still hard-pressed to secure inauguration week housing. Curran wasn’t seeking a Cap Hill apartment to accommodate a four-day inaugural binge: He just needed a place to stay for the inaugural, and the six months following it, too.
Curran’s demands were not unreasonable. “A single room,” specified the 23-year-old George Washington University student. “Very small. Simple. A place where I can place my bookshelves.” But one week before he was set to begin his final semester of anthropology coursework at GW—classes began Jan. 12—Curran’s search for a year-long lease turned desperate. “The entire rental market is tied in knots because of this inauguration,” says Curran, who has been watching the market closely for the past month.
Though estimates for inauguration-week rentals have largely deflated from their post-election highs, Curran feared that landlords and building owners were still unlikely to free listings until the last minute—too late for Curran. “Who will blink first?,” Curran asked conspiratorially before calculating what he’d pay should he surrender to the crazed market. A short-term spot could run him up to $1,300 for a week’s rent—a hefty sum for any undergrad.
Curran is eager to return to the District after spending last semester in his hometown of Wellesley, Mass., researching and writing a linguistic anthropology thesis on the jury instructions of Massachusetts judges. The home stay wasn’t intentional—Curran got marooned after another housing fiasco kept him from his regularly scheduled coursework. “Ugh, oh god,” he says, recalling how a house-sitting arrangement with a former professor had turned sour last fall. “She was batshit crazy,” explains Curran. “So that fell through.” Instead of seeking another last-minute accommodation, Curran withdrew from the D.C. rental market—and from school. A week before classes were to begin, Curran’s father came down from Wellesley, retrieved Curran and his belongings in a U-Haul, and brought him home. “It just—it would have been too tough to get into a new place in time,” he says.
Now, Curran says he’s “weathering the same ordeal”—this time, with Barack Obama playing spoiler. One week before move-in, doomsday scenarios plagued Curran—postponement of graduation, street life, awkward squatting requests. Curran says his semester off hasn’t helped him cultivate short-term crashing opportunities. “I’ve got a cousin, but I know he’s renting his room out, so I don’t think he has room for another person,” says Curran. “That’s basically—that’s who I know.”
Curran’s apartment search has been marked by several protracted games of rental-market chicken. Early last week, Curran was contacted by a woman looking to rent a studio apartment in the Palisades. Previously, two potential renters had dropped out of the running at the last minute for “personal” reasons—both had split with their boyfriends and decided to end the lease, too. Curran was approaching a final deal on the apartment when another eager renter—a D.C. local with a steadier relationship status—sidestepped Curran, forcing him onto the offensive. “Why make more work for yourself?” he wrote the lessee by e-mail. “You offered; I accepted. I can wire the money to you, if you like.” When he received no response, he composed another e-mail, entitled “I’m willing to pay more.”
Two days before classes were to begin, the strategy paid off, and Curran moved in. But inauguration frustrations followed Curran to D.C. As he was moving in his things, Curran says, a man in a pickup truck drove past him and yelled, “Hey, fuck Obama, yeah?”
“He said it as if we were on the same page,” says Curran, who insists his inauguration woes are nothing personal. “I have no ill will toward Barack Obama.”
Patrick Lewis: Hostinga Party that His Guests Can’t Reach!
As a five-year veteran of the Irish American Democrats and husband to a native Irishwoman, Patrick Lewis should be familiar with the classic immigration story. With Virginia bridge closures cutting off lines between Northern Virginia and downtown Washington, he fears that the Irish American Democrats’ first-ever inaugural ball may be plagued by the same narrative of displacement, exhaustion, and schlepping.
The Jan. 20 ball, which Lewis is helping to plan, will be held at the Phoenix Park Hotel above the Dubliner Restaurant & Pub. Lewis has secured a room with two beds at the Phoenix Park for the weekend for himself, his wife, and two of his children. The 30-some other guests he’s invited to the ball will be less prepared to appear there at 6 p.m. on Inauguration Day, awake, unscathed, and suited in pristine black-tie apparel.
“I have no doubt that what they’re trying to do is discourage people from coming. They’re getting the message out loud and clear: ‘Don’t come,’” says Lewis.
“They are suggesting that people from NoVa walk. It’s insulting. I don’t hear them telling people from Maryland to walk,” adds Lewis, who will likely not be preserving the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority’s “commemorative walking guide and map” for posterity. “It’s clear the burden is falling heavier on our side of the river, and it’s just not right.”
A pilgrimage across the Potomac wasn’t what Lewis had planned for his half-dozen house guests, including a couple flying in from Ireland. Well before the bridge closures were announced, Lewis offered his father’s house in McLean to them,with the intention of driving the guests into the District to attend the ball. But the last-minute announcement has threatened to jeopardize Lewis’ big day. “How are they going to get to the Metro from McLean? How are they going to park? Even if they can get to the Metro, there will be record numbers of people crammed into there. How are they going to get back to Virginia late at night?” asks Lewis. “Some people are just saying, ‘Well, maybe I won’t go to the ball.’”
Lewis says that attitude is just what the bridge-closers want to hear. “If they really can’t handle the crowds, and the security, and the logistical problems, they just shouldn’t have an inauguration,” says Lewis. “They should do a private swearing-in in the Capitol and be done with it,” he says. “This is insulting to the millions of Americans who want to be able to remember this their whole lives.”
The IAD ball promises to draw some of the most prestigious figures overlapping the Democratic and Irish communities—if they can make it downtown. Confirmed guests include Michael Collins, the Irish Ambassador to the United States, as well as an Irishman confirmed to be an extended cousin of Barack Obama and the rector of the protestant church in Moneygall, County Offaly, the small Irish town said to be the home of an Obama ancestor. (“Believe it or not, Barack Obama has legitimate Irish-American roots,” confirms Lewis). For entertainment, the IAD has booked the Corrigans, whose election-cycle novelty single, “There’s No One as Irish as Barack O’Bama,” established them as modest darlings in the Irish-American liberal community. (Lewis, for one, calls the song “kind of stupid but really catchy.”) Lewis says the ball will be the IAD’s most prestigious event to date—or a crushing logistical failure. “You don’t want to create a 250-person ball and have nobody show up,” says Lewis.
Even if all Lewis’ guests make it, inauguration conditions may curtail the fanciness of the affair. Since security measures will prevent ball guests from entering the hotel before the scheduled opening time, many attendees will be stranded outside prior to the festivities. Guests must traverse the city dressed in gowns and heels or tuxedos and wing-tips, or carry their finery on their person in large garment bags, changing where they can. “There will be lots of funny things happening in alleys, and I’m betting wardrobe changes will be one of them,” says Lewis. Showers, salon treatments, and other traditional party preparations will be out of the question. People will be tired.
Lewis has outlined a tentative plan by which his close friends and family may address the bridge closures. “I’ve suggested that even though the ball doesn’t start until 6 p.m., they’ll want to come into the city at 6 in the morning and just hang out,” says Lewis. Before the ball, Lewis has suggested that his guests file into his hotel room to freshen up or warm themselves with pre-ball drinks at the Dubliner. “Some of them may not make it out of there,” says Lewis of the bar, where he drank away George Bush’s first inaugural in 2001. Afterward, “I think it’s pretty likely that I’ll be sleeping with more than my wife and my two children in that hotel room,” he says.
“I might just have my wife and kids go up while I spend the night in the Dubliner,” says Lewis. “It wouldn’t be the first time.”
Keta Jones: InauguralFestivities Hampering Birthday Festivities!
Keta Jones is the type of woman who prefers to celebrate her birthday on the day of. “It’s just not authentic. I wouldn’t want to do that,” says Jones of the common practice of waiting until the weekend. Born Jan. 16, Jones’ birthday is more likely than most to fall on a prime celebration day—one of the three hangover-friendly party days attached to Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. When it doesn’t, she fights through the hangover. “Last year, [my birthday] fell on a Thursday, and we still went out. And we had a good time. Half the people had to go to work the next day, but you know, there’s only so much I can do,” she says.
This year, Jones’ birthday will be accompanied by a deeper headache than a work-day hangover. With her “25th to 35th” birthday—she won’t specify within the 10-year grace period—falling on the Friday before Barack Obama’s inauguration, Jones’ plans will be compromised by millions of tourists in town to celebrate someone else.
“Normally, my girlfriends and I get together, we go out to eat, we hit a club,” says Jones. During inauguration weekend, D.C.’s clubs will offer up the nation’s finest in entertainment. On Friday, thousands will dance away Jones’ birthday at the biggest club bash of the year—Jay Z’s inaguration party at Love!—a sold-out show that Jones says she couldn’t have afforded anyway. “Usually, I do not pay when I go to clubs, so that is very frustrating,” says Jones. Even less-glamorous birthday activities—such as dinner out, followed by casual bar-hopping—will be inaccessible to Jones and friends, who expect to be boxed out by traffic, crowds, and inflated cover charges.
“Someone suggested we just stay home and have a little shindig in the house, a cocktail party or something,” says Jones, who has yet to decide whether to give up and stay in at her homebase in Laurel, Md. “Since I’m the birthday girl, it’s my call,” she says. “But obviously, it’s my birthday. I want to be where the party’s at.”
The proximity of Jones’ birthday to Obama’s inauguration does present one possible benefit. “My friend may be giving me her ticket for the swearing-in,” says Jones. “I knew she had an extra ticket. So it was sort of like, oh, well, for my birthday, you can just give me your ticket.”