A week ago The One was inaugurated, and the Decider flew back to his well-deserved retirement in Texas. The Great Bird Hunter, looking much shrunken with his lopsided smirk not so smug anymore, was pushed out of town in a wheelchair, his 8-year deal with the devil apparently due and payable on that very day.
Although I was in the area, I was not in town penned into the Mall with the other 200 million people who are going to someday claim they were there on that magical but frigid day. Those masses watched the president's extraordinary speech on Jumbotrons set up around the Mall while I watched it on my TV in my dining room, perhaps the last substantive thing I will ever see on it before it goes permanently fuzzy soon in the big switch-over to digital. (I won't miss it much.)
I was in the DC area only because I had been driven out of eastern North Carolina by the weather. My college roommate Jimmy recently retired to what they call the Inner Banks down there, moving into a house on stilts by the water's edge on the Pimlico Sound in a town called Vandemere. It's not on the map.
I went down to visit with him so I could escape the Obama-Rama craziness that was engulfing DC as the Inauguration approached. I drove down, 370 miles, on the Thursday before Tuesday's Inauguration, arriving after dark. We ate a marinated steak he cooked and discussed small towns in rural Carolina, two recently divorced men in their mid-50s feeling much cast aside by the great gender movements of our times.
They apparently go to church a lot down there because on any Sunday that he doesn't, he gets a friendly call from a church member asking him how things are going. It's their way of trying to make him feel at home there. He keeps a list of handy excuses by the phone because for him, as for me, a little church goes a long way.
He retired there so he could go sailing, his passion. The Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway passes by near his home and at the end of his dock is water deep enough and calm enough to take him, so long as he pays proper attention to weather forecasts, safely all the way to Florida or Maine in a small craft.
Even though it was January, I had this fantasy that it would be warm along the water in North Carolina. Not so. They were in the midst of the coldest snap they'd had there in seven years. Friday when we woke up it was 15 degrees out. Jimmy had drained his water the night before because down there, with the houses built on stilts or cinder blocks to raise them above storm (or more properly, wind) surges, the pipes are often outside and exposed.
Jimmy is a cheap guy (he would be beaming to read this) so he keeps his water heater shut off except for the twenty minutes before he takes a shower, and as for heat in the house, well, what are coats, hats and gloves for? Saturday morning when we woke up prior to embarking on a two-day car trip to the Outer Banks, it had warmed up outside to 19 degrees, but it was only 49 degrees in the house.
Then on Monday the local newsstations started talking about a seven-year record snowfall due to start later that night at around midnight, supposed to be very localized due to the unusual cold conditions. Something about eight inches or more of snow possible on Tuesday, primarily along my exact route out of there.
We got back to Jimmy's house from the Outer Banks at 8 pm on Monday. Twenty minutes later I had said goodbye and was driving pell-mell west and then north. Exactly at midnight I hit snow at the Virginia border and for twenty five minutes I drove into a blinding panorama of big fat snowflakes coming horizontally into the cone of light cast out by my headlights. But then I drove out of the storm and the way was clear.
At 1:20 am as I drove through Richmond on Interstate 95, 100 miles from DC, I passed a highway sign announcing that due to the Inauguration later that day, I-95 would be closed down at 3 am. I had 100 minutes to go 100 miles.
I joined a mad horde of truckers barreling northbound in a convoy at, well, a considerable speed in order to get past the bottleneck of DC before the authorities pinched off the highway there. Fast as this Mad Max moving phalanx was going, several State Trooper cruisers passed us enroute to their Inauguration posts throughout DC.
I made it home with a few minutes to spare. It did snow down in eastern Carolina most of Tuesday. Jimmy sent me this picture he took of his dock in the snow.