Well, if I ever had any doubt that standing on my feet in the freezing cold for 7-10 hours several days in a row would be absolute bloody murder on my poor feet and toe joints, that doubt has been removed. I am cured of any delusions about exactly how painful such an exercise is.
But, it was SOOOOO worth it! Even though I was still feeling a little shaky about my health post-flare, last Saturday, I marched myself down to Penn Station (well, really I took a cab) and got on a train for D.C. As it turns out, it wasn't just any train, either. It happened, as we found out later, to be the train that was directly behind then soon-to-be-President Barack Obama's whistle stop tour train!!!!! I was pleased I snagged a seat, as I knew I'd be on my feet all day Sunday and Tuesday and didn't really want to get a head start on the misery that would surely be on the way down there. It's a good thing I did, too, because we ended up being delayed quite a bit since we were following the Obamas.
The feeling on the train was pretty electric since most people were heading down for Inaugural events. The conductor wouldn't confirm that we were behind them, but many people in my car were on the phone with people watching CNN, trying to figure out where our train was in relation to theirs. We paused outside Baltimore for a good 20 minutes or more, and when we pulled in, we got our confirmation by seeing THE train as we pulled in!!!! It was really exciting and helped build up the anticipation even more for the historic events to come.
Once in D.C. (the trip took about twice as long as usual, but no one cared), my friend K picked me up and we headed to her place to glue our eyes to CNN before heading out to dinner here. We skipped dessert so that we could head to what would be the most exciting dessert course of my life at Coco Sala. It's like a chocolate dessert bar/night club. Kind of an odd mix, but it worked, and the three course dessert tasting we ordered helped make up for the fact that I haven't been dating for more than a year.
It's a good thing we ate well Saturday night, because come Sunday, we trooped over to the Lincoln Memorial for the We Are One concert (along with about 400,000 other brave souls). Lucky for us, two of K's friends had gotten up even earlier than we had and scouted out a place for us at the second speaker, so we were in pretty good sight of the Memorial. We had a few blankets laid out, which allowed me to sit down and rest my weary feet for a bit here and there up until about 30 minutes before the concert began, when we pulled up the blankets, the crowd smooshed in, and it was standing room only. It was also freezing cold. And we were standing on uneven ground. Let me tell you, my toe joints did NOT appreciate this one bit. They were some unhappy campers, though after about the first 30 minutes of standing, my feet went completely numb from the cold (I was wearing two pairs of socks, long underwear, sweaters galore- none of which did any good after the first two hours).
The concert was awesome, and once it started, my attention was no longer on the pain being emitted from my lousy toes. Instead, it was on Denzel Washington, Bruce Springsteen, U2, Usher, Jon Bonjovi, Sheryl Crow, Stevie Wonder, Will.I.AM, Garth Brooks, John Legend, James Taylor, John Mellancamp, Tom Hanks, Laura Linney, Steve Carell, Tiger Woods, Queen Latifah....yeah, you get the point. Oh, and the Bidens and the Obamas, of course!!!!!!! It was pretty sensational and amazing, and even though I couldn't really feel anything below my ankles by the time it ended, it was fabulous!
On the way home, my frozen feet began to defrost and the pain resulting from the return of sensation was not pleasant. I was very relieved to finally get back to K's apartment and take off my winter boots and elevate my feet. I also gave myself a shot of enbrel.
On Monday, what can I say. I know it was the day of service, but 1. I work at a non-profit for a living and 2. I needed to spend the day in service to my own health, so that is what I did. We both laid low, recovering from the day before and gearing up for the next day. We also went to the convention center to pick up our tickets to the Inaugural Ball. That's right, I said Inaugural Ball!!!!
The morning of Tuesday, January 20th, 2009, we awoke (along with K's mom, who had flown in on Monday to join us) at 5am. I put on stockings, long underwear on top and on the bottom, two pairs of socks, jeans, a camisole, a turtleneck sweater, a sweatshirt, my down winter coat, a hat, two pairs of gloves and shoved warming toe pads into my boots before putting those on. I also swallowed some ibuprofen to hopefully ward off some of the imminent pain coming my way. We left the apartment at 6am, and by the time we walked ourselves towards Pennsylvania Avenue and clamored into a metro station with about a million other people (it took us an hour to get out of the metro station!) and got ourselves on the Mall, it was 7:30am and the sun was rising up over the Capitol.
We wormed our way closer, and managed to get to about the third Jumbo Tron. We could see the Capitol pretty well at first, but as more and more people arrived, many of them way taller than any of us, our view diminished. That was OK- we weren't expecting to really have a great view. We mostly just wanted to be at the actual site to witness history and be out there with all of the other people who were celebrating. The next few hours passed by more quickly than you'd think. People were so excited and chatting to people near them. My feet, not dulled into numbness by the cold yet, were producing some bouts of exquisite pain that actually caused me to sit down on the ground for a bit. I couldn't help it- it's amazing how much pain one tiny toe joint can emit. I sat amongst the crowd of legs and feet for about ten minutes, long enough for my toe to get over the worst of its spasming, and then I got back up.
By the time folks began to arrive for the ceremony, my feet were numb, so I was able to turn my attention to what is the most important historic moment that I have ever been privy to. I can't really describe how it felt to be out there with two million other people from all over the country. People came with their children, their grandmothers and friends. As the ceremony began, tears began to appear on eyelids and cheeks. Even though we didn't have a great view of the Capitol, we were able to see most everything from the jumbo tron display and could hear the ceremony quite well. Every time they showed the Obamas, the crowd erupted in absolute euphoria. It was overwhelming and inspiring.
I watched our 44th President be sworn in (gaffe and all), and I saw the world change in a moment with my very own eyes.
After the ceremony was over, people began to disperse all around us. We walked up towards the Capitol to get a closer look and were able to cross over Pennsylvania Avenue, where all the poor souls waiting for the parade were still waiting in the freezing cold. K had smartly, brilliantly, made reservations for us at Rosa Mexicana near the Mall, and we managed to get there on time. My feet had come out of their numbness once we started walking again, and it felt like I had burning fireballs of pain in place of my toe joints. Not fun. Never was I so happy to walk into a restaurant and sit down. We felt like we were re-entering civilization after being outside for 8 hours. And as a bonus, Ron Howard was sitting a few tables way from us!
We got lucky and snagged a taxi to get us most of the way back to K's apartment after lunch. I immediately crashed, knowing that the day wasn't really over yet.
A bit later, it was time for us to get ready to go to the Midwestern Ball! Now, if you think going to an official Inaugural Ball is glamorous, think again. Unless you have oodles of money or are extremely well connected, it is actually kind of a miserable experience in many ways, not the least of which being the fact that you have to walk in your ball gown and heels in sub-freezing temperatures to the Convention Center as the metro servicing that part of town was closed for security, and they rope off a four or five block radius all around it. I was smart, sort of, and didn't really wear heels. I wore my little half incher's that I bought when I first came down with RA so that I would have something to wear at dressy occasions. We finally managed to get ourselves to the Convention Center, though we were freezing once again by the time we did. We met up with some of K's friends and headed in.
The only way I know how to describe the Inaugural Ball experience is to say that it is one part lame prom, one part cool rock concert, and one part amazing Presidential experience. Add a heavy dose of standing on your feet for long periods, a few drinks, and voila: the Midwestern Inaugural Ball!
We arrived, dropped our coats at coat check, then headed downstairs to a massive room that could probably fit 10,000 people, easily. But, before we got into the room, we discovered what is evidently the cool thing to do at these things: find every Inaugural seal or sign that says Midwestern Ball (and there are many), stand in line and have people take your picture in front of it, prom-style. Yeah. I'm not kidding. We joined in, since it seemed the thing to do. They even had one where you could get your photo taken professionally (we skipped out on that one. I didn't need to pay for a picture of me in bad lighting looking kind of fat).
Onto the food. LAME! It was total cafeteria fare ie: penne pasta with bland tomato sauce and cheese, room temp tortellini with more bland tomato sauce, veggies with ranch dressing and some kind of chicken roulade thing with artichokes and other unidentified vegetables hiding within. We ate it anyway. To wash it down, we paid additional money (yeah, the $160 ticket doesn't include drinks!) for drink tickets, which we found got us our choice of Korbel Sparkling wine for 4 tickets (= $12), Woodbridge wine, including the always elegant choice of white zinfandel for 3 tickets (= $9), liquor or crappy light beer, also for 3 tickets. I said what the hell and went for the Korbel. Don't you have to drink champagne at an Inaugural ball, even if it's bad?
Since there were no chairs or tables unless you are in the VIP section, you could either stand or sit on the floor to eat. Most people, keep in mind they are wearing floor-length ball gowns or tuxes, went ahead and plopped down on the floor, holding their plastic plates and drinking from their plastic cups. Tres chic.
After a few hours in, part 2 begins. We made our way over to the stage once we were done eating, so when Sheryl Crow came out to play, we were pretty close up! I love Sheryl Crow, and she played a good show, even inviting a serviceman up for one song.
Even though there were thousands of people there, it felt like a private show since we were all there to celebrate the occasion. She played about ten songs, and would have kept playing, but she got the official boot because....Vice President Biden and his wife Jill were on their way! Then, suddenly, there they were, out on the stage waving to all of us. Biden gave a speech amid screaming and yelling, and then they danced.
Now, I will say that, while it is totally cool and amazing to see this, it is kind of a funny set up. They are up on a stage in front of everyone, and no one else is dancing, so it feels a little contrived, but everyone was so excited at that point that it didn't really matter. We certainly were! Especially because we knew what was coming next-the whole reason for being there, the only thing that would justify continuing to stand on my poor, poor feet even longer: President Barack Obama and First lady Michelle Obama!
After the Bidens left, a military band came in and began to set up. Once they were ready, they played two marches, then came All Hail the Chief, and then.....the Obamas!!!! We all went absolutely crazy! I even jumped up and down a little bit until sharp bolts of pain reminded me that even in my glee, that was a dumb idea. They came out and when the clapping and hollering finally died down, I got to see the President give a speech close up! It was truly unbelievable. There they were, right in front of me. Now, I know Michelle got a lot of slack for her dress, but I will say that in person it was really beautiful, and the two of them together were so classy! The band began to play At Last, and they danced while everyone shouted and cheered.
And then, as suddenly as they came, they departed for the next ball to do the same thing all over again (and again and again). We wandered back towards the food, where they had set out chips and pretzel mix (yep, again, not kidding), sat on the floor and ate our snacks and sipped the last of our cheap champagne.
On the train back to New York the next day, I was thrilled to be able to sit down for over three hours at a time. It felt like it had all been a dream, except that, as one of my friends said, Barack Obama was still the president, so it must have all really happened.
My feet were still grumpy with me and quite sore and swollen, so I decided I will only ever put myself through that again when we swear in a female president for the first time. I vowed to be nicer to my feet and to be done with the standing for hours on them for awhile.
But then, a few moments later, I remembered that I had tickets to see my virtual celebrity boyfriend Joshua Radin in concert that coming Friday.