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


while
it’s
a
big
place
there
aren’t
a
lot
of
places
that
you
know
what
they
are
and
 there
are
almost
no
maps
and
not
many
people
you
can
ask
for
directions.
And
 directions
conflict.

 
 And
it’s
still
cold.
Once
in
a
while
there’s
a
high
schooler
with
no
jacket
or
a
college
 kid
in
a
crew
cut
but
most
everyone
is
piled
with
layers
and
a
lot
of
people
are
 looking
through
the
slit
between
their
scarf
and
hat.
Doubling
hats.
Hats
and
hoods.
 Two
early
morning
runners
in
spandex.
No
one
seems
to
complain.
 
 People
cover
every
sidewalk
but
almost
no
one’s
walking
in
the
street.
Little
kids
are
 carried
since
there’s
no
strollers.
Vendors
in
coveralls
selling
pins,
hoodies,
 Blackhouse
t‐shirts.
Night
is
paling
and
splitting
up
the
a
little
to
the
East.
We’re
on
a
 street
that
goes
up
to
a
chained
black
fence
that
faces
the
Capitol
building.
Three
 people
in
vests
are
there
and
give
us
directions
to
a
street
that
can
take
us
to
the
 Mall.

 
 On
our
way
to
the
street
we
stop
on
an
overpass
and
look
down.
There
are
no
cars,
 but
people
are
walking
in
the
road
at
the
bottom
of
the
high
cement
walls.
Climbing
 over
the
divider.
Some
say
you
need
tickets.
Other
people
said
the
tunnel
comes
out
 at
the
Mall.
We
walk
back
to
the
on‐ramp
and
down
into
the
road,
and
follow
two
 girls
ahead
of
us
in
the
tunnel.
A
row
of
florescent
lights
bends
woodily
as
the
tunnel
 turns
out
of
sight.
Across
the
way
people
are
coming
towards
us,
but
there’s
almost
 no
one
in
here.
A
fire
truck
and
an
army
truck
come
by
with
their
sirens
on.
Several
 times
the
tunnel
bends
out
of
sight
and
there’s
another
stretch
of
tunnel
bending,
 and
then
another
one.
Eventually
we
hear
a
crowd.
It’s
a
line
going
up
a
ramp
next
to
 a
sign:

 
 9
 U.
S.
SENATE
 EXIT
 
 The
line
is
maybe
10
people
thick
and
disappears
up
the
ramp
for
maybe
100
yards
 so
it
looks
like
their
heads
are
pressed
against
the
ceiling.
Nothing’s
moving.
 Someone
says
something
about
purple
tickets.
The
line
goes
the
other
way
around
 various
bends
for
half
an
hour
at
least,
10
people
thick.
One
friend
estimates
that
 we’ve
walked
by
100,000
people
but
that
seems
like
way
too
many.
Some
people
are
 sleeping
on
their
sides.
No
kids
are
whining
and
almost
no
babies
cry.
I
see
not
one
 representative
of
the
law.
When
we
come
out
of
the
tunnel
it’s
morning.
A
policeman
 says
the
government
buildings
are
open
for
use
and
we
go
through
a
metal
detector
 and
find
a
bathroom
and
a
carpeted
cafeteria
and
watch
helicopter
shots
on
the
 plasma
and
nod
off
for
a
bit.

 
 It’s
a
waste
here
to
describe
the
channels
we
navigated
to
get
to
the
Mall,
but
it
was
 at
least
another
hour
of
the
same
thing.
Crowds
walking
over
gardens
with
stumps,
 down
streets
that
ended
in
lines
for
people
with
Silver
tickets,
to
people
with
 shoelaces
and
laminated
cards
around
their
next
telling
us
to
go
this
way.
To
places


where
it
looked
like
open
space
was
ahead
but
you
couldn’t
get
there
because
there
 was
a
blockade
or
another
cliff
or
there
wasn’t
a
street
to
walk
down.
Our
last
 obstacle
was
the
Smithsonian
museum,
which
we
had
to
enter
from
a
courtyard.
We
 were
getting
close
at
that
time
because
there
were
more
military
vehicles
and
guys
 with
machine
guns
and
snipers
on
the
roofs.
We
had
to
walk
through
the
museum’s
 three
levels,
then
take
an
escalator
back
up
to
another
level.
People
along
both
walls
 were
sleeping.
One
big
guy
used
his
sneaker
as
a
pillow.
It
was
the
sleep
of
stunned
 uncomfortable
people
whose
bodies
were
reacclimating
to
the
heat.

 
 Over
the
top
of
the
wall
of
urinals
we
could
see
a
sea
of
winter
hats
and
rows
of
 giant
TVs.
To
the
left,
the
Washington
monument.
To
the
right,
the
Lincoln
 memorial.
A
gap
in
the
wall
and
we
were
on
the
blonde
gravel
of
the
Mall.
The
crowd
 filled
the
whole
thing.
I
bet
I
was
a
mile
away.
Boy
Scouts
were
giving
out
flags.
The
 crowd
was
so
big
you
could
see
the
incline
and
the
slight
rise
of
the
ground
on
it’s
 way
to
the
memorial.
Like
a
river
standing
still.
The
TVs
are
on
double
towers
with
 long
speakers
hanging
from
chains
off
to
the
sides.
Some
have
semis
at
the
base.
The
 sky
is
empty.
The
crowd
is
so
big
that
separate
crowds
are
inside
of
it.
Even
back
 here,
maybe
a
half
mile
from
the
Memorial,
it’s
tight
packed
even
10
feet
in
front
of
 the
tvs
where
you’re
looking
up
like
the
first
row
in
a
movie
theatre.
There
are
 uncrowded
gaps
between
the
TV
clusters
and
lines
of
people
always
moving
around
 the
perimeter.
A
group
starts
singing
“Hey
Hey
Hey,
Goodbye”
when
Bush
walks
 onto
camera.
Someone
yells
“fuck
off”
when
Cheney’s
wheeled
out.
No
one’s
too
 loud.
No
one’s
rowdy.
Keep
in
mind
there
are
between
1
and
3
million
people
here,
 most
of
whom
haven’t
gone
to
bed
yet,
and
none
of
us
nor
no
one
I
ask
saw
one
 instance
of
even
aggression.
0.

 
 There’s
a
picture
of
Regan’s
inauguration
with
the
back
of
his
head
and
the
crowd
 out
to
the
reflecting
pool,
and
around
the
edge
of
the
other
side,
and
the
empty
tan
 Mall.
But
this
Mall
today
is
full,
and
everyone
has
a
little
flag
and
some
people
have
 two,
and
when
they
all
wave
their
flag
it
looks
like
a
river
in
time
lapse,
and
when
 everyone
cheers
you
can
hear
the
various
crowds’
noises
mixing
and
parting,
and
 when
he
steps
from
the
hallway
and
every
one
cries
out
and
waves—it
is
well,
well,
 well
worth
the
trip.