Day from hell day from hell DAY FROM HELL! … Martin Luther King day here, bitter cold, whole place in lockdown which means lots of black people being barked at by supercops. Not what Martin had in mind I think … I have a dream, a dream that I will get a taxi … the Mall, stretches from the Washington Monument down to Congress, starting to fill in the early dark with people wanting a good possie, the cops chasing em away, where will they go … sirens screaming everywhere … this is either the drill of all drills or something really big has happened … will check it when i get to Union Station, great barrel-vaulted welcoming behemoth, provider of free wifi … Union Station closed … white tents up all around it, looks v v v sinister, anthrax scare? sarin? nothing on web no-one knows anything … metro station closed too very very very strange …

Hundreds of souvenir sellers around the station or the bars close to it, stretching down to the post office … cops close them down they move on a block and a half away, shooing away the hot dog vans … amazingly creative amounts of stuff stirring kitsch and pathetic all at once … obviously fraudulent official programmes, buttons with a little red white and blue flashing edge, radium no doubt, no doubt, Obama hundred dollar bills on an A4 sheet of paper with a black background done at Kinko’s, couple of kids in the photocopy bay at Fedex churning them out …

Sirens sirens sirens sirens … copcars with the cherrytop lights permanently on, concrete bollard sections being lowered in on cranes, endless sections of mesh fencing going in …

Try three hotels before there’s a working wi-fi … in the first, a sort of boutique hole in the wall, there’s some gathering of radio industry lobbyists … have their own peak body … who knew … intermingled with package tours and people who got rooms off the discount websites … loners with Obama badges on … dressed in the cutting edge of 10, 12 years ago, black and white, in from Georgia and Montana, Oahu and Nome … they’re nursing beers or slow glasses of wine … looking around nervously … first timers in DC among a backslapping beltway crowd … “we’re looking at emerging digital markets in the midwest” … “we came from Canada” … “but you couldnt even vote for him”  … “three elements of success Rush Rush Rush” … “I’m not going to sleep so I can be out there first” … presumably wondering whether this was a mistake, a presumption … but drawn like everyone to something, something beyond them … that is them, as well … and in this hotel where THE WIFI DOESN’T BLOODY WORK …

Radisson next. Check it out in the carpark … perfecto, but the lobby is maximum security … inside everyone in gowns and penguin suits waiting for town cars … old, waspy crowd, what are they possibly celebrating … they don’t look like limo liberals, more chamber of commerce Kiwanis types … a sense of opening a crypt as if they’ve been waiting for the inauguration of President Spiro Agnew since 1971 …  overexposed wrinkled flesh like that English photographer whosisname Martin Parr the full horror of being in every mascared crevice … amber light from the fittings, mustard carpet … even the old guard wants to party at its own supersession …

In a liquor store on the corner, the clientele are off-message as to the new policy that the dream has been achieved … a frightened asian student on the night shift behind the wire grille teased mercilessly … “man why your pints so much”  …. “for the inauguration ‘ … “man 16 for a pint that’s almost a bag of weed!”  …. oh god …

Finally in the Washington Court hotel pure reception bouncing off the place next door … Hopperesque décor, pianist playing Glowworm in the Club Bar, a haunt of the black bourgeoisie … the women know how to dress for an inauguraton, bird of paradise dresses, spangly nails hair up to here … the men, well, the men seems to dress like pimps … not my fault people I am a camera seeing not thinking … you no leica … but tailored pinstripe suits the full fur overcoat, the emerald, cerise felt hats … it’s a thing …

Soon we’ll find out whether the sirens and lights were another part of the endless rehearsal or the distant echo of hundreds dead, a mile away, a block away …. for the moment the city is joyful, gentle with itself … politeness overbrims, a return of the feel from last November … hard again to believe it’s happening … and in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue the lights burn late as W dreams of what might have been … preemptively pardons his whole administration and contemplates his historical role as feed line…

Peter Fray

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