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"Noon-2 p.m.: A "people's party" with free hot dogs will be held at the Capitol Northwest lawn; (Jerry) Brown will speak." Steven Harmon, San Jose Mercury News, 1/3/11
As a political science major, a former intern at one of Washington D.C.'s most influential think tanks, and an all around amateur politico, I was very tempted to go to "The People's Inauguration Party 2011" to see Jerry Brown speak.
I'm tempted to do lots of things.
As a broke fat kid, I actually went to "The People's Inauguration Party 2011" to eat free hot dogs.
I kept a running diary of my experiences thereat:
11:50 AM- I arrived at the Capitol and immediately located the line for the free hot dogs. It was probably 150 yards long, beginning at the party tent on the Northwest steps and winding itself nearly all the way to the West lawn.
11:55 AM- I found my way to the end of said line, and jumped in. The line was moving briskly, and populated with exceedingly upbeat folks from nearly all walks of life. I say nearly all because there was one group that was conspicuously absent: the (apparently) homeless. I saw nary a one. At a downtown event, offering free food to "everyone". I'm not sure how they pulled that off. (busing?)
12:00 PM- The seven-piece mariachi band that had been "entertaining" those of us in line moved under the big top to "entertain" those of us who already had their hot dogs and were eagerly awaiting the governors arrival. Nobody in line was visibly upset by this development. Can't speak for those already in the tent. More on the Mariachi's later.
12:15 PM- I arrived at the hot dog tent, which featured three windows. At the first, I was flummoxed by the rapid-fire greeting I received:
"DoritosFritosCheetosorPlain?" "Huh?" I replied, dumbly. "Doritosfritoscheetosorplain" my inquisitor responded, exasperated. I went with Cheetos because it was what the person in front of me had chosen, and I didn't want to find out what would happen to me if I'd made the young lady repeat herself a third time. Thankfully there was no choice to be made at the next two windows, where I received first a bottled water and then two (two!) hot dogs. As far as condiments went, it was pretty basic: mustard, catsup and relish. I took three of each (if it's free, I'll take three!) and found a spot near the podium to get my grub on.
12:18 PM- Hot dogs, inhaled. Pretty solid dogs, would have been a lot better with onions and kraut, but they had a nice char on em. They were a bit small. I could have eaten six without hesitation or remorse. "This Jerry Brown guy is alright" I thought to myself.
12:20 PM- I joined the rapidly growing crowd in the main tent. There were four or five rows of chairs in a semicircle facing a stage with a podium atop it. Behind the stage hung a banner reading "The People's Inauguration Party 2011" with "JERRY BROWN" underneath. The seats had long since been occupied and the crowd was about five people deep behind them. Middle back of the room was a small raised area for the television news cameras. Beyond the news cameras was a covered area with 10 or 12 tables at which people stood and ate their hot dogs. The Mariachi band was playing to the left of the stage.
12:30 PM- Perfunctory "We want Jerry" chant begins.
12:30 PM- Perfunctory "We want Jerry" chant ends.
12:35 PM- From my vantage point, I can see all of the following things: a blood red feather boa, a pair of leather bike chaps, a VFW hat, a bald mullet ponytail, a bright yellow yarmulke, an eye patch, and a big blond afro (to be fair, the last three all belonged to the same person). Politics (and free hot dogs) makes for strange bedfellows.
12:42 PM- A half-hearted rhythmic clapping of the the sort you might here at a rock show when the crowd is trying to extoll a band into returning for an encore begins.
12:42 PM- Halfhearted clapping ends. If it had been at a rock show, the lights would have come up. No encore for you.
12:44 PM- I briefly, but seriously, considered re-entering the hot dog line. You know whats better than two free hot dogs? Four free hot dogs.
12:46 PM- As the Mariachi begins it's 20th (120th?) song of the afternoon, a woman to the left of me says what we'd all been thinking: "Enough with the music, already". Here, here. Mariachi music is best appreciated in small (two or three song) doses. And while drunk. Really drunk. Try listening to 80 minutes straight of mariachi music while dead sober sometime. I dare you.
12:50 PM- "Alright, now I'm sorry I voted for him" offered June, who was there playing hooky from work. "If he doesn't come out soon I'm gonna leave. He's not gonna pay my parking ticket". She was joking about being sorry she voted for him. I think.
12:51 PM- K.J. arrives, makes his way through the crowd, poses for a couple pictures and then poof, like that, he's gone.
1:00 PM- Nothing happens. Mariachis still playing. Huzzah.
1:12 PM- Another "We want Jerry" chant begins and ends. A modicum better than the first.
1:14 PM- June can't take it anymore, takes off.
1:19 PM- The Gubernatorial hype man (Gubernatorial fluffier?) takes the mic, exhorts the crowd "Let's get it going for the Governor !!!" and looks to his right where the man himself is exiting the Capitol and heading our way. The crowd goes respectably bananas. Finally, they are going to get to greet their champion! The wait was worth it!
1:21 PM- A funny thing happened on the way to the podium. J.B. took a b-line across the lawn and entered the back portion of the tent, to glad-hand his way through the hot dog eaters. For a moment it looked as if he was simply going to go up to the podium the back way, through the crowd, but then he turned right instead of left. He approached the hot dog tent.
1:25 PM- He ate a hot dog
1:27 PM- He left the tent, the same way he'd come in, and re-entered the Capitol, never to be seen again. To the consternation of his adoring supporters, many of whom had been waiting two plus hours to see the man.
1:28 PM - One of Brown's flunkies (Ed. note- it was Lou Correa, D- Santa Ana. Authors note- potato, potahto) took the podium, and offered a lame analogy about how the Governor had "visited the cheap seats" and had ignored "those with the most access". Which would have been fine and valid had the people in front paid money or exerted their political influence to get their seats. But they hadn't, they had simply taken more time out of their busy day to get their earlier. It was more important to them. And this is the thanks they got. Not even a cursory walk through from their conquering hero. Thanks for nothing, Moonbeam.
1:29 PM- It was all over. A flunky (The same one? A different one? I don't know. Stuffed suits all look the same to me) announced that "this is the people's inauguration" and sheepishly thanked us all for coming. The crowd booed. I thought it was a joke until I saw the TV news folks breaking down their equipment.
It's an interesting first act as Governor, to dick over your supporters like that. I don't quite understand the thinking behind it. Regardless, he's made a powerful new enemy. I certainly didn't see that coming while I was eating my free* hot dogs.
*There's no such thing as a free hot dog.