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Road to Obama

Road to Obama

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Published by Cole Louison
Cole Louison, a reporter for the New York Times and contributor to GQ, reports from the January 20, 2009 inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.
Cole Louison, a reporter for the New York Times and contributor to GQ, reports from the January 20, 2009 inauguration of the 44th President of the United States.

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Published by: Cole Louison on Feb 14, 2009
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01/23/2012

 
NotesfromtheRoadtoObama
ByColeLouisonIt’sjustbeforefourinthemorningoninaugurationdayatthepackedtrainstationinGreenbelt,Maryland.Theparkinglot’snotanywherenearfull,buttherowofcarsgoesuntiltheendoftheroadtotheparkinglot,andthenbothwaysdownanotherroad,allthewaytothebackofamall,wherestoreownersdirecttraffic.WewereinthatlinebutU’ditandwentbacktothemallafterabout15minutesofsitting,watchingpeoplemovedownthesidewalks.It’sacoldnight.Themoonisafatcrescentwithapieceoficyfogoverit.Exhauststickstothestreetforasecond.Yourbreathfallsinsteadoffloats.MyiPodcordiskindoffrozen.Atthetopofthehillwherewecanseethecurvedroofofthestationisagas‐poweredtowgeneratorwithit’sownlicenseplateandalongpolewithasetoflights.Lotsofdifferentsizedconesandcautiontapes.Policepayattentiontothecarsbutnotthepeoplegoingdownthehillandacrosstheparkinglot.Thetrainstation’sticketthingissocomplicatedthatthereareaidsstandingbytellingyouwhichbuttonstopush.It’scrowdedandeverything’smovinginanormalway,thoughitdoesn’tfeelnormal,likethepeoplearegoingtoworkorsomething.It’salittleclosertoaconcertfeeling.Foraseconditseemedlikethatwasbecausemosteveryoneatthisstationisblack,butnowIthinkit’sbecausehoweveryone’s
 
dressed.Morelikeforafootballgame.Layersandlayers.Scarvesandneckwarmersandthosefacemasksofwetsuitmaterial.Somemeninlinedoveralls.Alotoffurs.Afewbagsandnobackpacks.Peoplearequietbutnooneseemstired.MosteveryonehasonapinorshirtorhatwithObama.Alotofthehatsaredecoratedbyhand,withglitterorbeads.AguyoutsideissellingwinterhatsthatsayI
 
PresidentObamawithObama’sheadinsidetheheart.Peoplearearoundthemachines,alongthewalls,upthestairs,andontheplatforms.Thetrainscomeoneafteranotherafteranotherafteranother,fasterthanNewYork’srushhourschedule.Steppingon,Iaskifthistrainisgoingtotheinaugurationandnoonelaughs.We’removingpastthinwoodsandapartmentcomplexes,andsoonpondsandriversandbiggerhousesbeforewegounderground.Oneinawhileathetraingoesintheoppositedirectionwithalonerider.Onehadagroupofmeninfatigues.Somepeoplerestbutnooneseemstired.Therearepeopleontheplatforms,upthestairs,aroundtheexit,andinthestreets.Itmightbe10degrees.EverythingisclosedexceptforaMcDonald’sandadeliwithaKoreanfamilymanningtheregisters.Thestreetsarelaidoutonagridandletteredornumbered,andyoucanlookdownthemandseegiantlinesofpeoplemovingonewayononeandtheoppositewayonanother.Theonlycarsinthecitybelongtolawenforcement.Onthewaydownheretheoverheadhighwaycomputerssaidonlybusesandapprovedcarswouldbeletintothecity.Therearevariouslawvehicleswithvarioussirens.Therearealmostnonormalpolicecars.AfewblackroundedTowncars,thegenericOldsmobile‐lookingoneswithsirensinsidethegrillandheadlightsanddash.LotsofblackSUVs.CamouflageHummerswitharchedbacksandtallantennastieddowntotheroof.Somehaveprongedlightsthatfoldfromthefootandpointstraitupandblinkbackandforthsothatitlookslikethere’slightsbouncinginsideofthem.Thelightsarebrightandeverycoloryoucanimagineandhave10‐partflickercodesandaretunedandloud.Buttherearen’tmanypolice.Therearevolunteerswithredhatsandcardsonshoelacenecklaces,afewpeopleinvests,butmostlytherearepeoplemovinginhugegroupsfromplacetoplace.Wewindupattheentrancetowhatonepolicemansaidwasatunnelbutlooksliketheundersideofabuildingthathasstepsdowntowardssomekindofquad.Thousandsofpeoplearearoundtheedgeofthesesteps.Someareintreesandaren’tgettingyelledat.Aroundseventheysaythey’llopenthegatestotheMallandletpeopleinfortheceremony,whichstartsat11:30.Smokeandyourbreaksinks.Theskyisnighteverywhere.Occasionallywecanseethewhitedomeofthecapitolbuildingfromfarawayanditlooksfake.Whereverthehellweare,allofthestoresaresubterraneanwithglassfronts,sotheMcDonald’sforinstanceyoucanseethehatedheadsofallthepeoplecrowdedinthere.There’ssomethingCornellianaboutDC.Eventheprettybuildingsdon’tseemtohaveadirectentranceandthere’sfenceseverywhereeventhoughit’sacityand

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