Perhaps I should have skipped work. Yesterday I was stacking a cart with books as I caught on the radio the last words President Obama (Yes, we can officially call him so) delivered during his inauguration speech. A handful of us at the stockroom gathered around the boombox to stay in touch with the world as they watched, or listened, to the man speak. Two of us actually kept working. One of whom, was me.
But I listened, intently, thankful at least that I sensed history through the antiquated machine of a music player. Still, I knew what I was missing. The raucous crowd that must have gathered at Times Square, eyes teary because of hope, voices weary out of joy. I can only imagine. The image I saw on the free newspaper I found at work this morning showed the millions at the Washington Mall on a two-page spread. Being in D.C. would’ve given me a panic attack. I don’t do crowds, but I think I could have done Times Square. I missed my chance. I was busy stacking books.
I left Rizzoli a quarter after six, camera in hand, determined to capture something. Some semblance of what was a world-wide historic event that seemed as if everyone and their cousin-in-law’s goddaughter witnessed but me. Just something tangible for me to grasp what had transpired hours before. I would have taken anything. Obama’s face on a balloon. Obama’s face on a billboard…
I felt I was still running around with a case of Obamamania, while the rest of the city had gotten it under control, or at least indoors. So, I sought out some place that kept the party alive, even if it really meant sitting around in front of a t.v. and watching replays of the day’s events. I ended up at S.O.B.’s on Houston and Varick, in the West Village. True enough, there was a T.V. At this point, the Inauguration Balls were being televised. Shakira was on doing some swing number. Maybe the Obama administration’s first official bad call.
Everyone looked infrared, as if we were all in some giant dark room making prints. I can’t say the party was “live”, but I can’t blame folks after a whole day of celebration either. Folks deserved to unwind and just relax, as did I, I felt. So I ordered a Corona…and not long after, I left.
I won’t end it there. There was one image that I took that has stuck with me since. I was on the corner of Bowery and Houston and I stopped by the Keith Haring wall tribute. I had taken pictures of his work on that wall just a few days earlier but something else had caught my attention on this night. Perhaps because I had already missed anything-Obama that whole day and so my senses were particularly keen for any sightings of the president. There he appeared. His eyes, anyway. The tattered remains of a poster once plastered on the part of the wall next to the wall with Haring plastered all over it.
I wonder if we’ll ever forget. The day he was nominated. The day he was declared our next president. The day, yesterday, that made it all official. The shirts and posters, the stickers and books. The kind of race he ran. His race, even. Something about that image I saw made me wonder about the most unimaginable thing: that we would actually forget it all. That at some point well into the future, far past the possible two terms he might have, his face and his voice, as we would remember it, would not seem so distinctive in history. That the remarkable run he had would only be repeated anew, by and through candidates of all colors, calling for their brand of ‘change’ to add to the one that began with him.
It is incomprehensible, now, to even entertain the idea that all the images, all the words, that have characterized this journey toward his election, could ever leave us. Yet in spite of all that Obama has said and all he has represented thus far, it has been my overarching response to it all that I hope not to forget. Not anytime soon, and not ever.
That I choose to begin change, first, with me. And the rest that follows, I hope, will be a history worth remembering.
original post, 1/22/09 @ 09:17