At, oh, about 11:15ish last night, Robert gave me a call.
Earlier in the day, we'd half-kidded about going to a strip club to watch the inauguration--surely, it was the most inappropriate place we could think of for watching the festivities (without putting ourselves in harm's way, at least). But now, on this phone call, the joking was out the window; Robert wanted me to cover the inauguration. From The Lodge. Formally.
Fine, I said. Why not? It's only history.
What follows is a running diary of how my morning went...
10:53 a.m.: There's no one here. The place isn't even open yet--not for another 10 minutes or so. But the excitement (even in my own mind)! Oh, the excitement! It's pretty cold outside, so, until the place opens, I'm just gonna listen to the inauguration coverage on NPR in my car. Surely, there can't be much of a difference.
10:54 a.m.: Rick Warren is talking about Jesus. Suddenly, I feel like an asshole.
10:55 a.m.: Aretha Franklin's singing "My Country 'Tis Of Thee". I still feel like an asshole. The good news is that, by the time Aretha stops extending and repeating various syllables and words in her performance, the Lodge should be open...
10:59 a.m.: Nope. Still closed. At least, as far as I can tell. Again, I'm the only one in the parking lot. Well, that's not true: There's a bouncer, I think, standing out in the lot, setting up parking cones for Lord knows whatever reason. I'm gonna stay in the car, though, as strip club bouncers generally frighten me. Meanwhile, Joe Biden is on the radio, giving his oath to "take this obligation freely," etc.
11:02 a.m.: I'm in! I left the car to see if the door to The Lodge was unlocked. It wasn't. But apparently, they were just waiting for someone to test the waters, because, as I started walking back to the car, I heard the door unlock. So I opened the door. Two dollars to enter? Sure. I can afford that.
11:03 a.m.: The NFL network is on all the televisions, except for one right by the stage. Uh, not just yet...
11:04 a.m.: I grab a seat at the bar, next to--but not too close--to the eight dancers who are eating lunch. I'm a little shy at 11 in the morning, it seems. I wait for the bartender come by so I can grab a sandwich, too, and maybe a drink. But definitely to ask that she put the inauguration on one of the bar's TVs.
11:05 a.m.: The bartender calls me "baby" and assures me that she can put the inauguration on. She does--but, for whatever reason, the TV switches to ESPN immediately after she turns around. Still, the station was switched long enough for me and the girl-next-door dancer who is now sitting next to me to see the waving, cheering crowds at the mall in DC. "Holy shit!" the girl exclaims. I smile and nod in agreement.
11:07 a.m.: I overhear some girls sitting on my other side talking about presidents, so I listen in. My bad, they were talking about "presents."
11:09 a.m.: ESPN's still on. I decide that I'll order a beer, maybe, if the bartender ever saddles over in this direction again. What the hell, right? I'm already at a strip club. Who cares if it isn't noon?
11:11 a.m.: It's becoming painfully obvious that I'm not really gonna be able to watch the inauguration. Good thing I DVR'd it. I'd just be happy with some lunch at this point. Where's this bartender? Meanwhile: The girl sitting next to me is humming along with the club's PA system. It's playing EMF's "Unbelievable"--and, yes, she even hums along with a minor guitar solo. This, folks, is history.
11:12 a.m.: I glance at the TV by the stage. No dancers yet, but Obama's on screen. He's talking, but I can't hear him. I'm not sure if he's president yet or not. Either way, it's worth mentioning at this point that the strip club DJ is playing Foreigner's "Feels Like The First Time." Yep.
11:13 a.m.: Some girls have now gathered by that soundless TV to watch. I notice that there's another guy here taking notes, too. Is this par for course at The Lodge at 11 in the morning? Dunno. Meanwhile, the girl next to me is now playing one of those touchscreen bar games, and I notice that I have a pretty decent view of the Obama TV in the bar's mirror.
11:16 a.m.: Maybe I won't order that beer. The moment has passed.
11:17 a.m.: The bartender stops by. I order a club sandwich, a Diet Coke, and that the TV be switched back to the inauguration. She calls me "honey" this time and makes all my dreams come true.
11:18 a.m.: We now have soundless inauguration, courtesy of CNBC coverage! Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" is playing in the club. Are strip club songs just basically inspirational anthems? I should look into this.
11:19 a.m.: Now the DJ is playing the Beatles' "Revolution". He's just toying with me at this point.
11:20 a.m.: It's worth pointing out, I think, that there are no black people here.
11:21 a.m.: The girl next to me is killing on the bar game, and having a blast. I sip my Diet Coke and notice that the bongo sound effects from the game provide a nice little change of pace to "Revolution". Lodge remix?
11:22 a.m.: The DJ plays Heart's "Magic Man". Oh, and my sandwich arrives. It's delicious.
11:23 a.m.: OK, the DJ is announcing that the girls are gonna start dancing on the stage. Well, if I can't hear Obama...
11:26 a.m.: Still waiting on "Rita". Obama, meanwhile, looks serious and people are cheering. Heart's still playing.
11:27 a.m.: Oh, wait. Is Obama done? That's too bad--"Rita" is just getting started. She can move. But it's early, so it's weird.
11:28 a.m.: A lyric from the country song the DJ plays, but I don't recognize: "Maybe it's a little too early." This guy is incredible.
11:30 a.m.: A couple guys have entered and are sitting right by the stage. I don't know who this woman dressed in red on the TV set is, so I watch Rita shake her moneymaker in the new guys' direction. They seem to be enjoying their view.
11:31 a.m.: Hey, where'd Rita's dress go? It's gone! The inauguration, meanwhile, appears to be over with. My sandwich, however, is still going strong.
11:33 a.m.: A couple more old guys enter. It's the Lodge! It's before noon! It's faaaaaaaaaantastic!
11:35 a.m.: People might ask me, 20 years from now, where I watched the inauguration. I just realized this. What am I supposed to tell them? That I watched it while eating a club sandwich at The Lodge, but I couldn't hear anything because the DJ was playing Modest Mouse's "Float On"? I'll come up with a better story tonight, I guess.
11:38 a.m.: So this new dancer, "Sam" has great choice in music. Her second song, after Modest Mouse, is The White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army". Too bad she's a terrible dancer. There's a fine line between alluring and uninterested and she's straddling it. Meanwhile, is Obama singing the National Anthem on TV? Hell, if I can tell. But he is singing something.
11:40 a.m.: Obama's peacing out of the mall. Me? I'm still eating and wondering why the hell I'm here. Still feeling like an asshole, too.
11:42 a.m.: Somehow, I don't think that this military band on TV is playing the same New Jack Swing song that's playing on the PA. But I am paying attention to the stage now: It's the girl who was sitting next to me at the bar's turn to dance. Her name is "Caitlin", but probably not.
11:43 a.m.: Hey. Caitlin's pretty good! And there's a good 10 to 15 guys here, which I find shocking at this time of day, but no one else seems to. Also: There's a girl! Who isn't a dancer! All the guys in the place stare at her as she enters the room, which is a strange phenomenon, considering there are naked women in here already. Not a single one of these guys, meanwhile, has looked at the inauguration TV screens, far as I can tell. Also, I've finished my sandwich. Time for the check. This ploy was fun for a minute, but now it's a little depressing.
11:44 a.m.: Caitlin has been tipped a total of one dollar, for those of you playing at home.
11:47 a.m.: Quotes from Obama's speech are rolling across the bottom of the screen on CNBC. Meanwhile Caitlin still has her bottoms on, as this isn't XTC.
11:50 a.m.: Ooh, a second stage is opened right next to the main one! I've lost track of which dancer is which. I just wanna get out of here and pay my bill. As, ahem, tittilating as this is, I really should get back to work.
11:53 a.m.: The other guy taking notes has just left. I still don't know what he was doing here. but he probably was wondering the same thing about me, I figure.
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11:57 a.m.: OK, I'm paying up. Time to go. Back to work. Back to the real world. Hope my DVR worked...
11:59 a.m.: Ooh! Eddie Money's "Take Me Home Tonight"! How come it's so tough to leave these places? And why does my taste in music change when I'm here? Dunno. My jacket's on, though, and I decide that I'm gonna give "Caitlin" a dollar for her efforts. She's on the second stage now, and I noticed earlier that she was paying for her bar games with her tips. I figure tipping her would be a nice gesture. Plus, I've only spent 13 dollars so far, which I think is some sort of record.
12:00 p.m.: I drop a dollar on Caitlin's stage on the way out. She smiles and stares me down, and I don't really know what to say or do; I have to get work and would rather not smell like a strip club when I get back there, so I just mumble "Nice work!"--it's the first thing I could think of--and slowly back away. "Thanks!" she responds, perhaps a little too emphatically. but then again, that's her job. Anyway, I pretty much maintain eye contact with her as I exit. Pretty much.
12:01 p.m.: As I exit, two young black guys with ear-to-ear smiles on their faces enter. Their plans seem far better thought-out than mine. Whatever. I'm out. Happy inauguration, everybody!