A Cold Day, Then the Hot Spots

At the inaugural balls in Washington, D.C., the Obamas dance, A-list celebrities perform and guests enjoy the pageantry.
By Elissa Silverman and Martin Weil
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, January 21, 2009

After spending a day on the Mall amid the marble of monumental Washington, witnesses to the inauguration went last night to taverns, restaurants and homes to recall the magic and swap the stories that would live in memory.

Those who had no tickets to formal dinners and dances headed for such nightlife zones as U Street NW and Adams Morgan, converting the sidewalks and eating places into impromptu celebrating spots.

Harriett Barrington and friends from Haines City, Fla., stood in line outside Ben's Chili Bowl after spending 12 hours at 12th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue to watch the parade. Barrington headed to U Street after hearing a national radio personality call it the place to party.

"Tom Joyner said it was the place to go," Barrington said as she waited near the restaurant. And it probably was. After all, Dupont Circle and Kramerbooks seemed so Clinton administration. Yet even U Street seemed sedate compared with the exuberance of election night, and with the long lines at restaurants there during the inaugural weekend.

However, a relatively subdued U Street -- possibly the result of inevitable limits to human energy and endurance -- did not mean it had no vitality. Yvonne Webb and her relatives went to a Maysa concert at Lincoln Theatre, but she had her ball gown ready, too.

"I didn't have plans, but I wanted to be prepared for anything," she said.

Non-traditional celebrations included the "burger ball," held by restaurateur Spike Mendelsohn, a former competitor on TV's "Top Chef" show in his Good Stuff Eatery.

Traffic was jammed in the closed streets around the D.C. convention center, where most of the balls were held.

Well after sunset, with darkness having descended and the temperature down in the 20s once again, the bands that had just paraded past the White House continued to march west on Pennsylvania Avenue to their dispersal points.

Under the streetlights, many continued to perform with a panache and brio that delighted the small groups that cheered from the curbs.

Within minutes of the end of the inaugural parade, the vast and excited throng that had populated downtown seemed to be gone, removing some of the day's electricity, but by no means all.

In black tie and red, white and blue Uncle Sam hat, a smiling Gary Wright emerged from the McPherson Square Metro station with his wife, Dottie. They traveled from Fresno, Calif., for the inauguration. After boarding Metro in Rosslyn, they were "going to the All-American Inaugural Ball," Gary Wright said.

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