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2009-01-22 - 3:54 p.m.

Got back last night, slept for about twelve hours, and, this afternoon, on a walk through my neighborhood for some lunch and a stop at the mailbox place, this is how I proved to the world that I'm a nerd. Walking past the Mount Vernon Stables, I glanced at their sidewalk sandwich board, the kind that restaurants use to announce lunch specials. At the top, in pink chalk, it said, "Panini's!" Using my thumb, I erased the apostrophe.

Many memories of London and northern Norway and Oslo, but, upon catching up on what's going on in the world, one memory sticks out. It's our last night in Oslo, and we'd done lots of walking and picture-taking and talking with whomever would talk with us. We're hungry after museums but it's just about five o' clock and we need to get somewhere with a TV so that we can watch the inauguration. We find a place on the main street, the one that's most like the mall in DC, the street in Oslo with the big train station on one end and the royal palace on the other. We find a place called Andy's Pianobar, and there are bunches of TVs inside. We get a beer as people start talking in DC and people begin coming in to the bar. There's a group--a family, I think--huddled around a big table in the back. They are Norwegian--not tourists--and they are uniformly red-cheeked and healthy-looking. They are drinking fruit drinks and they are riveted to the big screen. Obama says the oath, stumbling a little, but no one seems to notice. He says "So help me God," and a woman in the back, a black woman, yells "Hallelujah!" Everyone cheers and claps, including us.

He starts in on the speech and we get another beer. People clap when Obama talks about relying on hope and not fear. There are no Norwegian subtitles. Everyone here understands English well. I clink the glass of the guy next to me, saying "Cheers" and "Salud." He saluds back and we all take a drink. The TV shows a shot of Bush, sitting there and staring off into the middle distance, and people boo and hiss. The TV goes back to Obama and they cheer again. Obama talks about working with other countries, about doing away with the old ways, and they go nuts. I clink the glass of the guy next to me again and he says, "It's a good day." I look up to the small TV screen in front of us, this confident, big-eared black man the new leader of the world, and I cried a little. No tears rolled, but his face got a little blurry. I didn't tell anyone about it, and I wiped the wetness away quickly, sitting there in that dark bar in after-work, far-away Oslo, but I can't deny that for a moment the tears had come, that, despite myself, this time and place and this thing that is much larger than myself or anything I know had tip-toed right up next to me, its hand on my shoulder, saying, I know, I know.

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