Volume 21, Number 37 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | January 23 - 29, 2009

Downtown Notebook

Photo by Senior Airman Kathrine McDowell/U.S. Air Force, courtesy of the Dept. of Defense

President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama danced during the Commander in Chief’s Inaugural Ball Tuesday night in Downtown Washington D.C. The president also spoke via satellite to Chicago-based National Guard soldiers serving in Afghanistan. He acted disappointed when he found out the one White Sox fan was outnumbered by the Cub contingent in the group. The Obamas attended 10 balls before returning to their new home in the White House.

Snapshots of Tribeca joy as Obama becomes president

By Wickham Boyle

We considered going to Washington D.C. for the big day; my African-American husband grew up in D.C. so we had places to stay and invites, but my husband wanted to be home. And home is Tribeca. He wanted to be home to hear every word and cry and cry when he needed and wanted to. And so we watched and held hands and then, overcome, I had to go out for a walk.

 The streets of Downtown Manhattan, or my tiny corner of it, were filled with neighbors congratulating each other. The smiles of every person I encountered were as wide as the street, and folks were stopping and telling stories.

 One woman of Jewish heritage told me about when she was an olive-skinned, 8-year-old girl and she was turned away from a swimming pool in the south when she was visiting friends. She recalled how humiliating it was to have her bathing suit pulled up at the edges to prove she was white. “How did African Americans feel to have this happen again and again? And now today.” Her face was shining with hope.

 Local school kids poured out at 3 p.m. holding hands with caregivers or parents and they were all telling stories of the day’s speeches, and the stories of slavery taught and unknotted and repositioned by a new generation. The big kids, bounded out of Stuyvesant High School with visions of power re-configured in their over-achieving heads. All the talk on the street was Obama and the things we were seeing today.

 A real estate agent friend stopped me, eyes brimmed over and reddened from a day’s celebrating, “ Go walk by my building on White St. and see the flag I hung out. I am so proud.”

 This was not the normal rhythm of Tribeca; patriotism is often defined in different stripes, not flags and faith, but in a pride that we follow a different drummer, and yet today once again, we are all proud to be Americans.

 There was a jaunty clip clop to our steps. The joy — spread over the faces of those who stepped out of Puffy’s Tavern after watching the speech — was palpable. It was beyond the glow of good beer, or a pop or two at mid-day. No this was real. The difference between fervor and faking it.

 Obama was clear that we are in perilous times. We understand that down here, but we are also entitled to have a renaissance based on belief in the real American Dream not the watered down, badly polluted version we have been wincing at for eight years.

Wickham Boyle, a freelance writer, is the co-creator of “Calling: An Opera of Forgiveness,” an opera about Downtown after 9/11.




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