Friday, December 26, 2008


After a brief break from The Obamathon Guide: an Inaugural Guide to Washington DC, Obamathon Man is back at it, beginning in earnest his definitive guide to the 2009 inauguration of President-Elect Barack Obama. Yeah, I know there are some other guides, and official guides, but what do the so-called "locals" or "officials" really know? My advice is not to trust fancy websites and stick to the hard-hitting inauguration guide you know and love: The Obamathon Guide.

In Part 1, Obamathon Man turns his attention to inauguration safety. Astute readers of Obamathon Man will recognize the reference to my namesake, Marathon Man, a film in which an evil ex-Nazi posing as a dentist ironically asks the main character, "Is it safe?", before beginning a painful tooth-oriented procedure. While the inauguration promises to have a dearth of ex-Nazis and (hopefully) dentists, many inaugural visitors find themselves asking the same question in light of projected record crowds, "Is it safe?"

First off, ticketed front-row visitors will want to really make sure not to have anything on the prohibited list:
"Firearms and ammunition (either real or simulated, explosives of any kind (including fireworks), knives, blades, or sharp objects (of any length), mace and/or pepper spray, sticks or poles, pocket or hand tools, such as “Leatherman”, packages, backpacks, large bags, duffel bags, suitcases, thermoses, coolers, strollers, umbrellas (pray for sunny weather),laser pointers, signs, posters, animals (other than service animals), alcoholic beverages [damn], other items that may pose a threat to the security of the event as determined by and at the discretion of the security screeners"

For front row visitors, you will also have to pass through a metal detector and be patted down. So if security asks if that's a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see them, make sure you're happy. Although general mall visitors aren't subject to such stringent requirements, and at this point it doesn't look like there will be checkpoints(subject to change), security will be beefed up, and it would be better not to have suspicious looking items. You don't want to give an excuse for the armed forces, secret service, municipal police, and other arrestocrats to get cuff-happy.

The parade route also has a list of prohibited items, which include "bicycles, backpacks, aerosols (which could include Silly String), coolers, thermal containers and chairs." Also, "Signs or placards can be brought to the parade, but only if they're made of cardboard, poster board or cloth and are not more than 3 feet by 20 feet." Looks like the Obama-Gram program is still on!

For those of you with items on the verboten list who don't have the option of leaving those items in the hotel, car, or your buddy's apartment, there are lockers available at DC's Union Station. In the past, Amtrak has limited its lockers to passengers, though this may change for the inauguration. However, just like everything during the inauguration, lockers are subject to overcrowding and overpricing. For more info, go to the Union Station website or call 202 289 1908.

View Larger Map

Official road closures have been announced, as have vehicle restriction guidelines. The secret service has also listed entry points to the parade route and cautioned: "All attendees, including general public and ticketed guests, are subject to a thorough security screening before entering the Inaugural parade route, the White House reviewing stand and the Inaugural balls. Please allow for additional time for this security screening, as it is expected that lines may be long." Thanks, SS! Way to earn your coily earpieces. Here's the complete list of entry points for the parade route:

- 2nd Street NW and C Street NW
- 3rd Street NW and C Street NW
- Indiana Avenue NW between 6th St NW and 7th St NW
- 7th Street NW and D Street NW
- 10th Street NW and E Street NW
- 12th Street NW and E Street NW
- E Street NW just east of 13th Street NW
- 13th Street NW just North of E Street NW
- 14th Street NW just North of E Street NW
- 12th Street NW between Constitution Avenue. and Pennsylvania Avenue
- 10th Street NW between Constitution Avenue. and Pennsylvania Avenue
- 7th Street NW between Constitution Avenue. and Pennsylvania Avenue
- Constitution Avenue between 6th Street NW and 7th Street NW

To avoid run-ins with the law, avoid carrying large or suspicious-looking objects, and avoid doing things that would draw attention to yourself. If you are stopped by law enforcement, remain calm and do not provoke hostilities. You have nothing to gain and everything to lose. If you are arrested, know your rights, and don't say anything until you have a lawyer present. The Washington based group Flex Your Rights has a good list of resources for dealing with law enforcement, including DC-specific advice.

Since the inauguration is going to be a large gathering, the chance of violent crime is going to be relatively low. However, be aware of pickpockets, petty thieves, or grifters. Leave valuables behind if possible, wear pants with button-up pockets or keep your wallet somewhere hard to reach, and keep bags or purses close by. If someone unfamiliar asks for money or asks you strange questions, say no and walk away; it could be a setup.

Most importantly, stay calm and enjoy yourself. With a minimumum of self-preservation, you can enjoy the inauguration. See you in DC.

Introduction (history, crowd density)
Part 1: Is It Safe?
Part 2: Crush Hour(Transportation, Getting to DC, Getting to the Mall, the Metro)
Part 3: When Nature Calls (restrooms, sanitation)
Part 4: Phone Frenzy (Cell phones, texting, finding lost friends)
Part 5: Food for Thought (Food, sack lunches, vendors, restaurants)
Part 6: Got Balls? (Inaugural balls, dress codes, bars)

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