Have you ever tried to have brunch in an abandoned building?
I was in DC for the inauguration and a quintessential thing to do there is crash an embassy for free alcohol. So, after spending the morning at the Women’s March, I met up with some friends and we tried to go to the Hungarian Embassy DC for an event (and free mimosas).
But when we got there, not only was the building empty, but the gate was chained shut. And we were essentially in the middle of the woods.
As our Lyft driver disappeared down the road, my cheeks grew a little warm.
“Uhhh. Y’all. This is how horror movies start,” I laughed as we circled the dreary building, looking for an entrance. “The event was today, right?”
“Yeah,” my friend Smoky said, checking her phone. Her face turned red. “Y’all, we’re at the wrong place.”
By this point, standing in front of a dark building and hearing the eerie coo of doves in the distance, I had gathered that.
Turns out the event we were meant to attend was the Hungarian Embassy DC’s new location in the center of the city. Near enough to Smoky’s home that we could’ve walked.
We immediately called another Lyft and within minutes were on our way back over the river and through the woods, leaving spookesville behind.
Thank God for smartphones, right?
I kept thinking about what would have happened in the days of yesteryear…seeing the cab disappear into the distance…having no idea where you are…with no way to contact help…when out of the corner of your eye you spot him…Shia LaBeouf.
We were terribly underdressed when we arrived at the embassy, weaving between diplomats and fancy ladies in pearls just trying to find some snacks. I ran into a few friends from college, as DC is filled with young professionals it’s nearly impossible not to see someone you know at these things, and took solace in the fact that we were all not fancy.
That said, the brunch at the Hungarian Embassy DC was delicious. The people were welcoming and made Smoky and I even more excited about our upcoming trip to Budapest.
The new building is lovely—we all felt right at home (if not a bit warm since there were so many people there to see its new location). But the best part?
The guard dog.
Smoky was trying to take a photo of the dog…but I thought she was taking a photo of me so I sat down and ruined her photo.
mop or dog?
We didn’t feel 100% comfortable stuffing out faces amongst the aforementioned fancy ladies in pearls, so we stopped by one of the best places to eat in DC (besides Nandos of course): Ted’s Bulletin.
Known for its homemade pop tarts, Ted’s is a familyish-owned place with 1920’s décor and friendly vibe. There are a few locations sprinkled throughout the greater-DC area. It’s the best brunch in town.
Have y’all ever made a travel mistake? Arrived at 9:30PM instead of AM? Put in the wrong location? I’d love to hear about it. Thankfully the consequences for this brunch gone badly weren’t too high.
Texans are my favorite kind of people, so it’s a good thing I spent inauguration eve with nearly 10,000 of them.
I’ve gained a little weight since college, so my red coat didn’t quite button, allowing the freezing Maryland air to envelop me as my friends and I darted down the block towards the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center for the Black Tie & Boots Inaugural Ball.
Our Lyft driver dropped us at the end of the street to avoid the traffic. I called back “thanks” as I toddled on the concrete, not used to wearing heels. He flashed a smile and inched his way around the corner, perhaps to prepare himself for the morning.
Ah, the morning. Inauguration Day.
the 1st of many!
My friend Smoky works for a senior senator and put in quite a bit of extra time to ensure the inaugural ticketing process ran smoothly for his constituents (that’s how we “scored” seated tickets for the actual ceremony), but many people (surprise, surprise) never materialized to actually pick up their tickets for the standing areas, so she was tasked with getting rid of them.
After handing a few to our Lyft driver, we arrived at the ball with dozens of them stuffed in her purse, determined to give them all away.
I felt a little bit like Santa Claus.
My dress from Rent the Runway! It was HUGE so I had to get creative with safety pins to get it to work.
While it was easier to take the Black Tie & Boots ball for what it was, a big party put on by the Texas State Society in DC regardless of who wins the White House, handing out the inauguration tickets inherently felt more political.
But it did give us some leverage.
We swiped some chairs from the first people we gave tickets to. I was crazy and wore blue suede heels without really breaking them in, so about 20 minutes after arriving it felt like there was glass attached to the balls of my feet.
While there were tables sprinkled throughout the Gaylord’s ballrooms, most of them were occupied with people chowing down on the available Tex-Mex (y’all, I must’ve eaten like 15 mini-burritos), so when I saw an empty seat, I pounced.
One of the lobbies at the Gaylord.
Can you spot the photobomb
I sat down at a table with a pair of husbands whose wives were dancing and 100% would’ve gotten kicked out when they got back if Smoky hadn’t casually given them some tickets.
All of a sudden, they thought we were important. A man in the hallway pulled out a wad of 20’s thicker than my fist (which of course we didn’t accept) when he heard we had tickets, while another younger man chatted to us nearly non-stop for about 5 minutes, making us feel a bit trapped.
“Was he flirting?” Smoky asked.
“No, I think he thought we could do something for him,” another friend replied.
Jokes on him, though. He was talking to the least important group of people there. People who were wearing rented dresses, pinchy heels, and freely taking advantage of the open bar.
We’ve come a long way from prom, Smoky #GloUp
*ahem* please notice the Texas flags
There were a few actually important people there though, like a congressman I had campaigned for as a part of my government class in 2008. Little me had a huge crush on him. I remember thinking that he smelled really good, so I wobbled a little when I spotted him talking to a group of patrons nearby.
He greeted each of them, and somehow I got tacked onto the end of the introduction, like I was part of the group.
“Hi, Congressman,” I squeaked, sticking out a clammy hand.
I wanted to have an actual conversation (about what, I don’t know….my mind was filled with radio silence), but when he turned to my “companions” to begin talking about some school issue, I could only manage to stand there blankly smiling for a moment or two before had to just awkwardly side-step away from the conversation and back to my friends.
It wouldn’t have been too bad if I hadn’t run into him again and again throughout the ball getting “who the heck are you” looks each time.
100% full stalker mode
D.C. is filled with young people trying to make their mark on the world and so was Black Tie and Boots. If you work for the government, or an organization that needs government funding support, an inaugural ball is a good place to network. It’s also a great place to find a date (i.e. the highest concentration of motivated businessmen and suave military personnel probably anywhere).
Tired of acting fancy
Later in the evening, after the Beach Boys played and some widely entertaining swing dance groups tore up the dance floor (see below; how those girls manage those drops is beyond me) Donald Trump Jr. arrived to thunderous applause.
The majority of the people there fell into my demographic: straight, white, and probably evangelical in some way. At the time, before 45 had officially come to power, I felt more compelled to hear them out. Now, nearing the end of his first 100 days, I have less sympathy.
Jr. and co.
Jr. looks a little bit less like a serial killer than his younger brother, but being close enough to him that I could see the sweat on his forehead still gave me the creeps.
He spoke about his excitement around the evening and gratitude towards his father’s voters. He received an honorary Stetson and people laughed.
I thought about the words of a speaker earlier in the night.
“I know Black Tie & Boots isn’t partisan, but can you just imagine how sick the other side feels right now?” The crowd cheered in response.
“This is the Texas State Capitol; I’m free to follow any tour I want.”
“Yeah, free to follow any other tour.”
Sass courtesy of my older sister Kerry. We were in Austin for the weekend because her husband had just graduated as a Texas State Trooper and she wanted to show off Texas’ capital city to the fam since we all drove in for the ceremony.
But my brother in law’s family is preeeeetty big, so although you can take a free Texas state Capitol tour (really: you just show up and join the next tour leaving—more on that here), we didn’t feel like it would be fair to the general public to just roll up with about 35 people and expect to be accommodated.
So we called ahead.
My dad has voted in every election basically since being born, so when Mike Schofield decided to run for the Texas House of Representatives, he came to our house to talk to my dad for a few hours to go over things that were important to voters in the district. So we only thought it fair to call in a favor.
The six flags that have flown over Texas. Can you name them all?
just sittin on the seal
Inside of the Capitol’s dome. It’s taller than the one in DC…cause everything is bigger in Texas.
Schofield was kind enough to set up a private tour for my extended family, but upon hearing just how large the group was going to be, his aide couldn’t help but blurt, “Wait…so how many of these people are actually in his district?”
Like 3 of the 35 okay, but if you just shut up and give us this tour those 3 will be voting for your boss again so CHILLAX.
His first arrest.
Our chipper guide Erin greeted us in the atrium (p. sure her name was Erin. If not, she really looked like one) and took us on a roughly 30 minute tour, but random people kept butting into our tour and with 35 people already trying to hear just one guide, you can’t have any interlopers. Hence the convo above.
If you aren’t convinced that Texas really is the greatest state in the Union, you will be after you see its Capitol building. Matthew McConaughey even narrates the film in the visitor’s center.
Quick Tips for your free Texas State Capitol Tour:
Call ahead if you have a big group. You can go through your state rep as well.
Plan to spend about an hour or so wandering the Capitol and grounds after your tour, since it’s really just the highlights.
Keep your eyes OPEN for Pancake, the first puppy of Texas. The first reader who spots her gets a prize.
Inside the Texas House of Representatives chamber. Unlike in DC, they let you take pictures. Cause Texans are way nicer.
The Texas Senate Room. I really just took this picture to show off my braid though.
After your free Texas State Capitol tour, consider driving up to Lake Travis to check out the Oasis. It’s a mini-town of restaurants and shops right on the edge of the lake with a killer view of the Texas sunset. 10/10 would recommend mostly for the view and not as much for the food. We went the night before for my brother in law’s trooper graduation.
View from the Oasis on Lake Travis, Texas
Cousins take in the scenery.
all ~*dramatic*~ and stuff watching the sunset.
The Oasis is a great place for selfies.
Have you been to Austin?
I hadn’t been in over ten years and am kicking myself for missing out. I’m heading back soon.
*As always, the opinions expressed here are completely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of my family or traveling companions.
Bill Clinton was my first president.
He was inaugurated on January 20, 1993 and I was born that August. So the 2000 Bush v. Gore election is the first one that I can actually remember.
I was in 2nd grade and spent most of the fall semester arguing with classmates about whom our parents said was going to win.
My friend Max’s mom was a reporter. He said Bush told her there should be school on Saturdays.
I was very concerned about this.
More so concerned, however, that Clinton would no longer be president.
My 7-year-old brain couldn’t understand the idea of a peaceful transfer of power. Bill Clinton was the president. I had memorized this. He always had been. He always would be.
But then suddenly he wasn’t.
On January 20, 2017, I attended the inauguration of Donald Trump and felt that same confusion.
I didn’t vote for Trump.
And I didn’t vote for Clinton, either.
I felt comfortable in this choice because I live in Texas, a deep red state sporting this sunburn since 1980. It doesn’t matter who I vote for, or if thousands of my fellow Texans vote anything other than red, because it seems like the state’s 38 electoral votes will always go to the Republican candidate.
Instead, while I did vote for a president, I focused my attention locally and voted down ballot for judges, sheriffs, representatives, and commissioners who I could be sure supported the people and causes dear to me.
But I still knew I needed to attend the inauguration.
I made plans to go well before the elect was chosen, as my friend Smoky works for a Texas Senator and invited me to the ceremonies in May 2016.
At the Supreme Court the day before the ceremony.
I bought my plane ticket, rented a dress for the Texas State Society inaugural ball, and went to bed on November 8, 2016 thinking I was probably attending the swearing in ceremony of America’s first female president.
But I woke up to Trump’s America.
Was this election controversial? Sure. Argumentative? Absolutely. But so, so American.
Think of it this way: Adama Barrow is currently hiding out in Senegal as he awaits Gambia’s first transition of power in nearly 22 years. Could you imagine if Trump, entering office with the lowest approval rating in the modern era, had to be sworn in on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Virginia, or in Guadalajara, only to be smuggled into the country later?
I watched the President of the United States willingly give up his position. Seeing the most powerful office in the world swing from hard left to right without even questioning that the incumbent would dig in his heels and stay anyway is a uniquely American privilege. And we’ve seen this pendulum crash by three times in the past sixteen years.
It wasn’t even a mile from Smoky’s home to the inauguration’s entrance for yellow tickets, but as we trudged along and joined the lines of other attendees, I couldn’t help but notice how quiet it was. How tense.
Us girls enjoying the chance to dress up and dance
I didn’t dress warmly enough and as the rain began to mist over the security checkpoint, I briefly considered turning around and crawling back into bed.
But I couldn’t do that. It was my job to be there.
I say that because the majority of white Americans voted for Donald Trump and I am a white American. These voters can (very generally) be divided into white working-class folks from the “Rust Belt” who I affectionately refer to as rednecks, and middle-class evangelicals who were unwilling to cross party lines, no matter the moral character of the nominee. That said, morality seemed to be quite dubious on both sides of the aisle this go around.
Because the majority of Trump’s supporters fall into my demographic, it’s my responsibility to hear them out and work with them; a responsibility I would not expect others (namely my liberal POC and LGBTQ friends) to be responsible for at this point in the process. They can work in their communities; I will work in mine.
The view from our seats.
As we settled into yellow section 11 (a seated section, fairly close to the Capitol thanks to Smoky’s hard work leading up to the ceremony) I noticed the people around me fell quite neatly into the two categories above. I started to count the non-white attendees and had reached seven in about half an hour before I was distracted by playing presidential trivia with my friends.
We arrived at 8:30 for the ceremony and while it did take a while for our section to fill up, by the time the Missouri choir sang, I turned to look and, from my vantage point, the Mall seemed packed back to the Washington Monument. I have to chuckle about it now, after seeing the aerial photographs showing the “sparsely populated” event, as the couple behind me, also from Texas, commented that they were sure CNN would say there was no one there.
This was at about 8:30 when we got there. It did eventually fill up.
I enjoyed the “parade of presidents” and will always cherish the opportunity to see Dubyah struggle with his rain poncho in person, but more so the unique occasion to see the loser of the presidential election seated nearly directly behind the new elect as he was sworn in. What was going through her mind?
Struggling with my own poncho or “making fashion great again”
When the Clintons emerged from the maroon-draped hallway, the woman in front of me, who spent a good portion of the time before the ceremony disparaging the “event” in Ferguson, turned her back while some of the crowd erupted in boos. But then, quietly at first and then building, I heard angry chants of “lock her up” ripple out from the sections behind me.
“Oh, have some class!” shouted fellow Texan man in frustration.
Something I’ve heard a lot about over the last year and a half. Respect for both the Presidential Office and the person who holds it.
I’m working on the latter.
It would have been nice to be there when someone I adored, or at least trusted, became my president. To be able to cheer, feel elated, or even just know that I, and the people and causes I care about, are truly in capable hands. The president might not protect the vulnerable, but I, from my position of immense privilege, can offer support and a platform.
Speaking of the vulnerable, as the ceremony progressed and Melania appeared, the crowd lost it.
“There she is! That’s our first lady!”
“This is the luckiest day of that staff sergeant’s life. Woof,” said the Texan man behind me.
A sign from the Women’s March on Washington the next morning.
She looked beautiful, as I’m sure anyone who watched the ceremonies could see, but she also seemed nervous. I wondered how she was feeling, as someone who seems shy, amid a crowd of men “woofing” at her.
The crowd was quite vocal. Not as much in my seated section, but the rowdier, standing sections behind me had extremely visceral reactions, including loudly booing as Senator Chuck Schumer read a letter from a Civil War solider in an attempt to encourage Americans to strive for unity.
I wasn’t sure if they were booing at what he was saying, or just at him in general, but either way, it was frustrating. This was a presidential inauguration. Not the Super Bowl.
And then it was time for Donald.
A rouge hat at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. I had to leave because the Secret Service was there clearing the area for Trump’s appearance later in the day.
When I was in college, I spent a semester in Rome, Italy and during that semester, spent a freezing, rainy Wednesday morning waiting for Pope Francis outside Saint Peter’s. I was soaked and my teeth were chattering from hours of exposure, but as soon as the Pope Mobile rounded the corner, the rain suddenly ceased. My friends and I laughed that it was an act of God.
At Trump’s inauguration, it was the opposite. As soon as the last of his Presidential Oath left his lips, it began to rain. It had been threatening to all morning and had drizzled on and off, but as the 21 cannon salute began (which was terrifying? I didn’t know it was going to happen and suddenly was surrounded by explosions at a very tense political event), so did the rain in earnest.
As I sat quietly listening to Trump’s inaugural address, adjusting my own poncho, I noted his apparent change in demeanor. Sure, his hands were flailing per usual, but he seemed to be trying really hard to seem “presidential.” I don’t really know what I expected, but it wasn’t that.
Then, way before I thought it would, the ceremony concluded.
As I trudged across the muddy Capitol lawn, trying to process the event that had just unfolded before me and avoid being caught in a stampede, I heard the roar of a helicopter and looked up to see the Obamas fly right over me, officially leaving his presidency behind.