What if you held an inauguration and nobody came? The 2021 inauguration of our 46th president is one for the books, especially in the category of audience attendance. Of course, it was part of the plan to be closed to the public lest it goes down in history as a superspreader event, so instead, the National Mall was replete with 200,000 American flags to represent those who couldn’t attend because of the coronavirus. Fair enough.
I’m wondering if historians will file this one away with other inauguration days where things didn’t go the normal way. While this one was anomalous for an appropriate reason – the pandemic – there have been a handful of past presidential inaugurations that became memorable for, one might say, unenviable, reasons.
I was reading an article in the Wall Street Journal about a few decidedly goofed up inaugurations. Take Andy Jackson. His first inauguration was followed by an open house at the White House that turned into a sort of rave, 1829 style, that pert near destroyed the home he just moved into. A crowd of 20,000 or so turned the usually stately White House into a boisterous out-of-control party scene. Some guests stood on furniture in muddy shoes while others dashed around looking for the new president, breaking dishes, crystal, and grinding food into the carpet along the way. The carousers only left once the tubs of punch were moved out to the lawn. According to the White House staff, the carpets smelled of cheese for months.
If I may:
- President Grant thought it would be nice to have songbirds at his second inauguration ball but didn’t foresee that bone-chilling temperatures would leave hundreds frozen.
- President Eisenhower in 1953 allowed himself to be lassoed on the inaugural dais by horse-riding Montie Montana, a renowned trick roper. Secret service agents were said to be giggling.
- President Kennedy’s podium caught fire from some electrical cables, but billowing smoke did not deter Cardinal Cushing from finishing the invocation. A federal fire marshal who was a guest on the stage helped put it out before all was lost.
- President Nixon arranged to have bird repellent sprayed along his parade route because he was worried pigeon poop would spoil his big day. But that backfired when the streets in DC were littered with dead birds instead.
- President Clinton invited two Elvis impersonators – one thin and one stocky – to his inauguration in 1993, not to mention chainsaw jugglers, a reggae band, and the Lawn Chair Precision Drill Team.
Anyway, please let the next one go off without a hitch.
In the meantime, my handy-dandy Old Famers Almanac calendar tells me that Candlemas is right around the corner. It’s the mid-point between the first day of winter and the first day of spring.
If Candlemas be mild and gay,
Go saddle your horses and buy them hay;
But if Candlemas be stormy and black,
It carries the winter away on its back.
I’ve been shooting my mouth off recently about how we’re already seeing the first signs of spring even though it’s still January, barely. Okay, I admit I was trying to be Mr. Know-It-All and making an audacious prediction right smack in the middle of our so-called winter, but I’m crossing my fingers that I’m not too far off.
There’s one thing about weather, though. It’s one of those conversation topics that fill in the gaps when you’ve got nothing else, much like trying to come up with a topic for a newspaper column. The weather is always something to talk about.
I would guess that the weather is the number one ice-breaker between strangers, no pun intended. We say things like “sure is a nice day, huh? Or, “cold/hot enough for you?” Or, “we need the moisture” (to be interchanged with “it’s good for the farmers/crops/waterin’ holes”).
Actually, I read last week that the weather is talked about more than any other topic every day; somebody, somehow, came up with stats. The average person talks about the weather four times a day, for an average of 8 minutes and 21 seconds.
Here in New Mexico, it seems like the odds of being right are somewhere around fifty-fifty. When the weather forecaster at KOB says there’ll be a winter storm, it may not happen here in our neck of the woods. I could make the same prediction but the difference is he’s getting paid for it. Plus, I don’t have a Doppler radar in my house. With the temperatures slowly bouncing a wee bit higher each week, and the wind has that spring-like bluster to it, who can say?
Just call me a groundhog, I guess. Drag me from the comfort zone of my man cave and see if I retreat or venture out.
Either way, I’m going to be watching for my turn to get vaccinated.