DC– 3 Days Away

  Some initial impressions of Washington (I’m not doing TV until Monday, but am in town visiting relatives).

  It’s cold.  Bone-chilling cold. We tried to check out the Lincoln Memorial today (only to find it off-limits, due to construction of the stage for tomorrow’s mega-concert featuring Springsteen, Beyonce, and countless others). After a four-block walk from the car, not only was my 8-year-old crying, but he reported that his tears were frozen on his cheeks.  For the record– bank thermometer signs read 25-degrees, and there was about a 10 MPH wind.  Sunday is expected to be 10-degreees warmer.

  The city is busy, but not immobilized by inaugural visitors– yet.  Satellite trucks line the streets on the Mall.  Lots of technicians are tweaking the TV equipment, and the Jumbo-tron screens on which most visitors will see the swearing-in ceremony.

  Indeed, while I’ve covered the mad scramble for the 250,000 Inaugural ceremony tickets, I can tell you that the folks in the back of the ticketed section will have a far worse view of the proceedings than those a little farther back, who can watch the Jumbo-trons.

  I don’t know what the final attendance will be, but it does appear that early reports that locals would get mega-money to rent their houses to Inaugural visitors were overblown. I’m staying with a cousin who, at first, said he was hoping to rent his townhouse (3 blocks from the Capitol, a prime spot) for $15,000 for the week.

  He tells me now that most of his neighbors planned to do the same thing, but deep-pocketed visitors never actually got around to making the outrageous offers they were hoping for.  He says all his friends are doing what he’s doing– opening their homes to relatives coming to the Inauguration.

   I don’t know if the lack of a big-dollar rental market means that fewer people are coming, or just that visitors are being frugal and creative in making their travel arrangements. Vicki Hall, a Miami union official who’d originally said she’d sleep in her car if she had to, to see the swearing-in, found a $100-a-night hotel room an hour away a few days ago.  I talked with Vicki Saturday afternoon– she and her husband were driving on I-95, just crossing the South Carolina border.

  A bus company executive I spoke with a few days ago thought the tough economy had scuttled a lot of plans to attend the Inaugural festivities.  He was figuring on running 15 buses up to DC from south Florida.  He wound up filling five.

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