The Thin Blue Line: On the Inaugural Parade Trail
Some time in the last couple of weeks a blue line was painted down the center of Pennsylvania Ave. NW from the U.S. Capitol to the White House. It marks the route of Tuesday's Inaugural Parade.
You might question its necessity. How easy is it to get lost when marching west on Pennsylvania Avenue? Wouldn't you just follow the band in front of you? But it's just one element of the transformation that Washington undergoes every four years.
Up go the bleachers, up go the "No Parking" signs, in come the satellite TV trucks.
I walked the line yesterday and as I did I was reminded how nice our city is. Of course it has its share of problems -- more than its share, some might argue -- but Washington along the parade route is handsome, with imposing buildings that encapsulate our society: an almost equal mix of commerce, government and culture. Here's some of what I saw along the way.
These police cars were near the National Gallery of Art, with their lights on. I thought they were checking out the Lexus, suspiciously parked in the center of Pennsylvania Avenue. But no, the Lexus had a red light mounted on its dashboard, just another law enforcement vehicle.
Washington is a rectilinear city, with L'Enfant's horizontal and vertical design interrupted by the occasional diagonal avenue. The blue line is one more straight edge in the town that invented straight edge.
Most traffic cones are orange. I liked this fluorescent green one, not far from the Old Post Office. Does it clash with the blue line?
The blue line isn't continuous. It stops at cross streets and then picks up on the other side of the intersection. They turn off the striping machine for manhole covers, too.
Many of the light poles along the parade route have blue tape on them. What does that signify? Does it mark ticketed seating areas? Is it like the blazes on a hiking trail? Or is it totally unrelated?
This grid of colors reminded me of a Mondrian painting.
Nearing our destination of the White House, the street turns from asphalt to more decorative stone. The bleachers are nicer here, too, than further down Pennsylvania. And still more blue lines appear, perpendicular to our blue line. They must section off seating areas, flat blue fences to keep spectators in, um, line.
What is it about a line that makes us want to straddle it?
I did the same thing when visiting Berlin, as most tourists do, standing over the line linking the old East and West. The prime meridian in Greenwich is another line people can't resist standing on either side of.
The end of the line: the Presidential Reviewing Stand. Will Obama be a line that joins us or a line that divides us? And does anyone know if the line was painted red for Bush's two inaugurals?
January 15, 2009; 9:39 AM ET
| Tags: inauguration
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