Making a buck off the inauguration

Inauguration-goers on the National Mall watch as Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States Jan. 20 in Washington. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Inauguration-goers on the National Mall watch as Barack Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States Jan. 20 in Washington. (CNS/Paul Haring)

Name it and it was probably for sale somewhere in Washington yesterday as the nation celebrated the inauguration of Barack Obama as the country’s 44th president.

Vendors hawked the usual T-shirts and sweatshirts, political buttons, commemorative programs and photo images on street corners, curbside and even in the middle of normally traffic-filled streets. It was interesting to see how low prices dropped as the day progressed.

Plenty of people also sported knit hats of all different colors displaying “Obama 44th president.”

Hand warmers were, um, a hot-selling item, too. After all, the high for the day was only 32 degrees — in the sun — a very cold day in Washington, even for January.

Then there were the unusual things: Obama water, Obama umbrellas, Obama towels, oversized Obama prints (try carrying them all day in shoulder-to-shoulder throngs without getting them crushed), Obama earrings and Obama hot sauce (which could have been a relabeled product). As they say, anything for a buck.

The other thing I noticed was the tremendous amount of trash on virtually every street. Newspapers, cups, bottles, plastic bags, paper bags, fast-food bags, used hand warmers and even fruit piled up across the pedestrian-only zone around the National Mall.

The perfectly good fruit evidently was pitched when word filtered down the blocks-long security lines on the parade route that it would not be allowed past the checkpoints. Presumably it was possible that someone could have lofted an apple or an orange at the new president if he decided to walk down famed Pennsylvania Avenue or at his brand new limousine. Imagine the Secret Service trying to get a smashed, drippy orange out of the grille of that new multimillion-dollar upgraded Cadillac.

God help the cleanup crews which started last night to clean the stuff an estimated 2 million visitors left behind.

Their fleece was white as snow … presumably

VATICAN CITY — Reporters in the Vatican press office felt baaaad this morning; they thought they were going to get to see closed-circuit footage of Pope Benedict XVI blessing two live lambs.

Instead we got a sound feed of the ceremony that took place in a small room adjacent to the Vatican audience hall.


Last year Pope Benedict blessed the lambs in Rome's Basilica of St. Agnes. (CNS photo/Reuters)

Today is the feast of St. Agnes, a Roman martyr, and it’s the day the pope traditionally blesses two lambs raised by Trappist monks near Rome.

The lambs are sheared and the wool is given to the cloistered Benedictine nuns at Rome’s Basilica of St. Cecilia. The nuns use the wool to make palliums, which are bands that the heads of archdioceses wear around their shoulders during liturgical functions.

Every year on the June 29 feast of Sts. Peter and Paul, the pope places the bands around the necks of archbishops who have taken office in the past year.

Today, after blessing the animals, the pope also asked God to “bless the pastors who will receive the palliums made from the wool of these lambs.”