Monday, January 21, 2013

Drinks with Teddy Roosevelt, Almost Arrersted at Pentagon Heliport and Brief Appearance In Parade: My Jimmy Carter Inauguration (True) Story

In January 1977 I was a sophomore in high school in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.  A Minnesotan by birth, we had migrated to the nation's capitol via Albuquerque where my Dad's dreams of an early retirement running a small motel on Route 66 were cut short by a lack of foresight and something called I-40.  In 1971 my father had accepted a position as chief counsel of a Senate Judiciary sub-committee and later researched the rules for the impeachment trial in the Senate had Nixon not resigned.

After a long divisive war, years of cultural and generational battles that were emblematic of the Nixon Administration, there was a hint of hope in the air and anticipation that things were finally going to get better with the incoming administration of Jimmy Carter.  To my friends and I, it sounded like a good excuse to party.

The one big drawback, at least for me, was I had broken my left leg in three places wrestling for my high school's varsity wrestling team in December of 1976 and was casted from the tip of my toes to the top of my thigh.  But when there was a party to attend, where there is a will there is a way.  That day the way was Andy Weaver's parent's puke green Pinto station wagon (replete with faux wood sides) with me, crutches and all, riding in the back hatch.

After rounding up the usual suspects (Boswell, Littlejohn and either Kominos, Speyer or one of the Nichols) we loaded up with party favors, told our parents a white lie about wanting to see presidential history and headed off to party with the intention of eventually parking at the Pentagon to catch one of the many free shuttles. Local media had kept up a constant drum beat for days warning of the lack of parking anywhere remotely near the parade route and strongly suggested the option of free parking and shuttle buses.  The only problem was we did not plan ahead and needed some place for underage kids to drink before entering Pentagon property where there was bound to be security.

As we drove along GW Parkway, one of us noticed the complete absence of cars parked at the lot for Theodore Roosevelt Island.  The island was part of the National Park System and a popular, free tourist attraction and for locals who wanted to enjoy a little nature in the heart of  D.C. and in the shadow of the GW Bridge.  In the middle of its many acres of woodland was a small monument and statute to the last progressive Republican President and father of the Nation Park System.

To our utter amazement, there was not a sole on the island, not even the customary park ranger.  Apparently they all had been pressed into service along the parade route and we had the entire island completely to ourselves. (To be continued...)

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