January 20, 2009: a day that will live in indignity.

Lyric Winik of The Daily Beast – an online source that’s actually a good deal more readable than I was expecting it to be – goes over why in the aptly-named “Inaugural Hell.” The very short version: it’s going to be cold, it’s going to be crowded, and the tickets with the five- and six-digit price tags that a lot of people bought for this thing are going to have a horrible ROI. ([UPDATE]: Oops! Via Hot Air Headlines.)

January 20 is shaping up to be the inauguration celebration of our lifetimes. Which is fitting, because there’s a dirty little secret about Washington, D.C., and the inaugural balls: if you’ve ever been to one, you’ll never go back.

Inaugurals are a miserable experience. This will come as sad news to the Obamaphiles who forked over checks for $50,000 to be granted the title of “finance chair” for the Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC). It will probably be even sadder news to those who opted for the $300,000 package, which gives them four tickets to all official inaugural events. Except if you read the not-so-fine print: that $300,000 doesn’t include any tickets to the actual inauguration itself. Those tickets are free, but “controlled” by Congress; “be in touch with your Congressperson or Senator,” the Obama people suggest. By now though, it’s too late; many Congressional offices have even raffled off their spots. (Say what you will about the Bushies, but back in 2005, when a lot more people liked them, they gave out a bunch of VIP seated inaugural tickets for free with your ball tickets, which went for a mere $500 a pop). Thus, those big donors wanting to see Obama put his hand on the Lincoln Bible are advised by PIC solicitors to consider doing so as “walk-ins.” As a Presidential Inauguration Committee representative put it, “President Obama chose to put the administration together with more urgency than the Inauguration.”

Or, as Moe Lane put it, “President Obama’s permanent floating donation machine knows that they can get away with poor Inauguration Day service.” I mean, if you’re going to throw away 300 grand like this, you’re probably impervious to any little inconveniences, like waiting out in the cold for an hour to redeem a drink ticket for a too-packed party full of strangers all hoping that somebody important shows up in real-time. As for myself, I plan to spend the Inauguration comfortably ensconced on my couch keeping the kid from turning the channel too often; I will have my sesame chicken, and after my wife comes home I’ll be having my beer. It will be quite comfortable, and more importantly, warm.

Unless somebody calls me up to do one of those bipartisan dinners that Winik mentions. As she notes: The “bi’s” in bi-partisan are still TBD. Since lobbyists, corporations, political action committees, and registered foreign agents can’t contribute to Obama’s inauguration, Republicans, like exotic hothouse tropical flora, will have been imported, for reduced rates or even for free. It’s exceptionally unlikely – heck, it’s exceptionally, comically arrogant of me to even think it’s an unreal possibility – but then, I only mentioned it in the first place to get an excuse to put that quote up there.

Moe Lane

PS: For those visiting DC for the first time. When it comes to the escalators: