The official website for Monday’s 57th Presidential Inauguration has a list of “prohibited items” that is 18 prohibited items long. Number seven on the list – after such predictable no-no’s as guns, knives, mace and, included with odd specificity, the “Leatherman” pocket multi-tool – there is the issue of “thermoses and coolers.” This, I believe, is code for “no coffee or beer,” the two beverages those with adult ADHD require to get through an endurance test like the inauguration. Perhaps this sounds unpatriotic, or even like a substance dependence issue, but for the life of me it’s near to impossible to listen to people talking for more than half an hour without the ramrod of caffeine propping up my consciousness. I begin to nod off, drift, or sometimes just float away. If I manage to stay seated, awake and upright, about half an hour later I grow aggravated and annoyed with whomever’s talking (particularly if it’s me) unless bottles start arriving.
Yes, I’m aware this makes me sound like a bipolar, alcoholic misanthrope with a social anxiety disorder. OK, I’ll take that and add that it’s worked so far. Except when I’m watching a ceremony predicated upon one person repeating the words of another person, especially while standing. This is why they serve booze at weddings. Does it make for a more perfect union? Who knows, that’s their problem. My problem is having to sit through it without eating my fist from boredom.
Part of the banality of inaugural ceremonies is their planners’ insistence on having a “theme” that is as neutral and innocuous as can be expressed with the English language. Consider this years’ theme, “Faith in America’s Future.” What does that actually mean? It’s bland, inoffensive, soft-sell sloganeering. It’s a four-word synonym for beige. If you’re going to have a theme for an event that’s important enough to have a Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, couldn’t you step it up a bit?
My go-to for themed celebrations are kids’ birthday parties – always a hit. For example, a Star Wars-themed inauguration would be an instant classic (and Chewbacca could even come since “service dogs” are allowed, according to the prohibited items list). Any Pixar movie could serve as inspiration as well – Obama as Woody and Chief Justice Roberts as Buzz Lightyear seems about right.
It wouldn’t be any worse than last inauguration, when Roberts botched the job by having Obama recite the oath incorrectly. They had to do a second take the next day just to dot the I’s and cross the T’s in the Constitution (where, by the way, the oath is printed and has remained the same since 1789). You think Roberts might have looked it up and tucked a crib sheet in the folds of his robe.
Of course, Roberts might have been thrown by the fact that the last time he saw Obama prior to the inauguration, the then-senator voted against his Supreme Court confirmation. In fact, if you listen closely to recordings of the last inauguration you can hear Obama mutter “awwwkward” under his breath as he greets Roberts.
The oath is supposed to go like this: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
Instead, I believe Roberts led with this: “Busted flat in Baton Rouge, waitin’ for a train / And I’s feelin’ near as faded as my jeans ...” which are the opening lyrics to “Me and Bobby McGee” and aren’t actually in the Constitution except for “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose,” which was originally written by Thomas Jefferson not Kris Kristofferson as commonly believed.
Anyway, I’m not going to the inauguration this year – I missed the deadline for media credentials. Four years just wasn’t enough time for me to get it together, what with the bipolar misanthropy and all. I’ll stream the inauguration online with an ’08 vintage that’s definitely better off than it was four years ago. And hope the Leatherman has a corkscrew.