A Change of Scenery
"It gets me out of the hospital," said Army Sgt. Adam Campbell, 21, an infantryman who came in his wheelchair to the Heroes' Red, White and Blue Ball.
For the last month and a half, he's been at Walter Reed. He was in a hospital in Germany for five and a half months before that, after he got "caught in an explosion" in Iraq.
Now, he finds himself at an inaugural ball with an old friend from New Jersey.
He looked great, but wouldn't take the compliment, saying instead, "It's the drugs."
"Still," he said finally, "life at the hospital -- being idle and doing nothing -- it's very, very trying. And something important like this, that makes us feel important. It's nice."
The Souvenir Stand
The parties last a few hours. The memories last for life. But you've got to prove you were there. That's what souvenirs are for.
By 10 p.m., people at the Texas-Wyoming Ball at the Convention Center were thronging a souvenir table to buy official 55th presidential inaugural merchandise.
They could get a $12.95 divot tool, an $84.95 ice bucket and champagne flute set, a $50 personalized license plate set, or a $7.95 key chain.
"I want it all. I earned it, I deserve it, and I'm gonna get it," said Matthew Taylor, 25, who cut ads for the Bush-Cheney campaign, working 10- and 15-hour days for an entire year.
He thought he might settle for the blond medallion coin and program, with brief bios of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, but they cost $40.
"What'd you get?" asked Mary Jane Ashmore, of Greenville, S.C.
"I got the coasters," said her husband, Richard, who owns a contracting firm. "I thought about the cuff links, but I only wear them twice a year."
Overheard at the Texas-Wyoming Ball bar:
Woman in evening gown: "Can I get a scotch and a bottle of water?"
Bartendress: "I can pour the water but I can't give you the bottle."
Woman: "Why can't you give me the bottle?"
Bartendress: "Weapon. it can be used as a weapon against the president."
Woman: "It's a little bottle!"
Bartendress: "I know."
Woman: "The president's already come and gone!"
Bartendress: "I know. I'm sorry. It's stupid."
Rockin' at RIAA
The pretty young people lined up early for the night's coolest -- not the coldest, mind you -- post-inauguration shindig: the after-party featuring the Mississippi-based rock band 3 Doors Down, hosted by the Recording Industry Association of America at the H2O Club on the Southwest Waterfront.
For many of the attendees, ball gowns were replaced by little black numbers.
"W" ice sculptures were displayed all over the massive club as were extravagant seafood-themed buffet tables.
When asked if the band's appearance was a sign of support for the Bush administration, guitarist Matt Roberts just smiled and said, "We're musicians, not politicians."
"The Bush twins happened to be really big fans of 3 Doors Down," said an RIAA spokesperson.
Thanks to Florida
Florida is a very important state for President Bush, as any number of Florida Republicans are quick to point out and as Bush himself mentioned when he arrived at the Liberty Ball -- 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
In response to a "four more years" chant that erupted upon his arrival with the first lady, Bush said, "Four more years and the one main reason why is because of the state of Florida."
Florida, of course, was the scene of the contested election of 2000, speaking of which, there was no sighting of Katherine Harris, now a congresswoman, and the former Florida secretary of state who some would say started all of this four years ago.
The president thanked his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. He thanked his sister-in-law, Columba Bush. The president asked if the vice president had made it here yet. "Yes!" the crowd responded.
"That's good," the president said. "He's got to work tomorrow. That's why he's the vice president."
Then he asked Laura to dance. They danced stiffly, palm to palm, never breaching a three-foot radius. Jeb and Columba literally danced circles around his older, shorter brother. The president danced for 60 seconds and left.
End of an Evening
In rapid succession, to the Commander-in-Chief Ball, came General Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Vice President Dick Cheney and wife, Lynne Cheney, and then finally the president and first lady.
The troops and military brass erupted as Bush said: "This is our last ball. I don't want to hurt anybody's feelings, but it looks like we saved the best for last."