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For locals, this inauguration was like none they’ve ever experienced

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 1/20/2021 John Kelly

I spent Jan. 20, 2009, walking in downtown D.C. dressed as Abraham Lincoln. It was Barack Obama’s first inaugural, and I’d rented a frock coat and stovepipe hat from a costume shop and sprung for my own fake beard and the spirit gum with which to glue it on.

Everywhere I went, I was mobbed — in a good way. People wanted to have their picture taken with me. Well, with Abe.

I was back in 2013, but as myself, stationed on Pennsylvania Avenue NW and sending reports back to my editors at The Washington Post. Joe Biden got out of his vice-presidential limo right where I was and walked awhile, the crowd cheering.

On Jan. 20, 2017, I hung out at Dupont Circle, where people lined up for free joints, a counterprotest to Donald Trump’s inauguration. I did not inhale.

And on Jan. 20, 2021? Well, I was at home, watching on TV. The places where I’d spent the last three inaugurations were behind fences or generally off-limits.

People from this area have a complicated relationship with Washington’s reason for existing. The city wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t the capital of the country, but because it’s the capital of the country, things can be pretty messed up around here.

Just because you’re born in Washington doesn’t mean you will automatically be interested in the making of laws, just like being born in Pittsburgh doesn’t guarantee an interest in the making of steel. Some people find it kinda cool when they’re in line at the 7-Eleven behind someone they saw on C-SPAN. Others don’t.

And yet, we’re proud of our city, and we’re proud of the things that happen here. We’re tickled that our fellow Americans want to visit. But then some of our fellow Americans come and riot. And the inauguration has to be held behind a ring of steel.

Michelle Lewis was born in Washington at the old Garfield Hospital. “My father took great pleasure in taking me to our wonderful museums, public buildings and monuments from the time that I was 5 or 6 years old,” she wrote me. “This instilled in me a deep love for our great city and its traditions and events.”

Her parents took her to both of Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural parades.

“I especially remember my excitement for the one in 1953, because it was the first parade I ever saw,” wrote Michelle, who now lives in McLean, Va. “My mother assured me that it didn’t hold a candle to the Carnival parades in New Orleans, but my father told me how important the new president was and how he had saved the world from Nazi domination. I was too young to understand fully, but it made a strong impression on me.”

Michelle watched the parade from a balcony of the Old Post Office — today’s Trump International Hotel. (But for how much longer?)

In 1965, Michelle went to an inaugural ball. It was too crowded, and someone spilled a drink on her, ruining her dress.

“But we did see LBJ and Lady Bird, which was a thrill,” she wrote.

The inauguration was always a time of excitement. Wrote Michelle: “I cannot ever remember it being an unhappy time, whether ‘our’ candidate was being sworn in or not.”

But this one has been different. The city, Michelle wrote, is “an armed encampment facing threats from vile people. My prayer is that we will be able to get our city back.”

Mine, too.

Brew with a view

The flagship beer at 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville, Md., is called Surrender Dorothy. It’s an IPA with a name and a label inspired by the “Surrender Dorothy” graffiti once painted on a railroad overpass near the Mormon temple.

In November, someone painted a different message on that Capital Beltway bridge: “Surrender Donald.”

The folks at 7 Locks weren’t sure at first whether this was a bandwagon they wanted to jump on.

“We’re not a politically inclined brewery,” one of the owners told me. He asked me not to use his name because things did get a little political, and he doesn’t want to become a target.

As the former U.S. president kept insisting he had won the election, 7 Locks decided to make a statement. Earlier this month, it created a limited-edition can. The label reads “Surrender Donald.” The White House replaces the Mormon Temple that’s in the background on the regular can.

“We kind of have to do this for posterity’s sake, if you will,” the co-owner said.

The run of 350 cases of “Surrender Donald” — 8,400 cans — sold out in a few minutes.

“We want people to have a laugh,” the co-owner told me. “And we wanted to point to some of the idiosyncrasies of living in the D.C. area, of which there are many.”

Twitter: @johnkelly

For previous columns, visit washingtonpost.com/john-kelly.

a close up of a bridge: The CSX bridge that carries trains over the Capital Beltway in Maryland was tagged with graffiti that echoes graffiti that popped up in the 1970s and read "Surrender Dorothy." The new message is "Surrender Donald." © John Kelly/The Washington Post The CSX bridge that carries trains over the Capital Beltway in Maryland was tagged with graffiti that echoes graffiti that popped up in the 1970s and read "Surrender Dorothy." The new message is "Surrender Donald." a close up of a bottle and a glass of beer: The flagship beer of 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville, Md., is an IPA called Surrender Dorothy. The name is inspired by graffiti that was written on a bridge near the Mormon Temple in Silver Spring. When a new message was painted there — “Surrender Donald” — the brewery produced a limited-edition run of its beer cans. © 7 Locks Brewing The flagship beer of 7 Locks Brewing in Rockville, Md., is an IPA called Surrender Dorothy. The name is inspired by graffiti that was written on a bridge near the Mormon Temple in Silver Spring. When a new message was painted there — “Surrender Donald” — the brewery produced a limited-edition run of its beer cans.
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