Washington, D.C.—Around noon on Sunday, Jan. 18, still hungover and sore from dancing at an Afro-punk inaugural ball afterparty until 3 am, I roll off the couch at my friend's house in D.C.'s Columbia Heights neighborhood.
For two months through Election Day last year, I made $450 a week as a field organizer for the Barack Obama campaign in Virginia. And now, amid D.C.'s euphoria two days before he's sworn in as president, I've been keeping the party going with a different kind of canvassing.
No time to shower, shave or eat, my brother, four friends and I take a jammed Metro train to the Smithsonian station. It's a beautiful thing, migrating with the multiethnic masses eager to hear pop music and Obama himself at the Lincoln Memorial.
For 99.9 percent of the hundreds of thousands on the Mall, the mood is cheerful. But in true D.C. fashion, the gathering also includes a few protesters. One group of about a dozen activists—dressed in orange jumpsuits with paper bags over their heads like the unfortunates imprisoned at Guantánamo—circle the Washington Monument to remind Obama to keep his pledge to close Gitmo.
We also stumble across people holding signs warning onlookers against "baby-killing women," "porn freaks," "drunks," "homos," "Jesus mockers," "Mormons" and, uh, "sports nuts"?
After an uplifting prayer by the Rev. Gene Robinson, the show itself features music by such pop luminaries as Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Wonder, Bono and Pete Seeger, as well as historical readings by celebs like Tom Hanks, Tiger Woods and Jamie Foxx.
Obama brings the house down at the end with a brief, stirring speech. Though the star-studded lineup occasionally leaves the event feeling more like an Oscars production, I feel bizarrely proud of all that is American pop culture.
Just to exit afterward takes about a half-hour of shoulder-to-shoulder waiting. We walk to Chinatown for dinner before hopping back on the Metro to head back to my parents' house in Maryland for a brief stopover. In a sign that advertisers never miss a chance to co-opt whatever's hot, the Gallery Place/Chinatown stop station is covered with Obama-themed IKEA ads displaying slogans like "Embrace Change," "Fiscally Responsible Home Furnishings for All" and "Change Begins at Home!"
I pick up my dad's Subaru and drive about 45 miles south to Dumfries, Va., where there's a potluck at one volunteer's home. And it's a great feeling when about 30 of us reunite, bringing together many of the foot soldiers who helped a Democratic presidential candidate win Virginia for the first time since 1964.
I leave just before midnight and get back to D.C. around 12:30 am for another inaugural all-night dance party DJ-ed by Moby at the famed 930 Club. The show is sold out and everyone's packed in, sweating but determined to dance till the sun rises. Even an hourlong power outage can't stop the party from continuing deep into the night, making good use of D.C.'s modified alcohol regs during Inauguration week (bars can serve Obama-holics until 5 am).
I was supposed to volunteer early Monday, Jan. 19, following Obama's call for a national day of service in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. But for one day, I just need someone to help me get home. Even if I am sleep-deprived and a little stinky, the future never looked so good.