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With a gigantic mob of revelers preparing to descend upon Washington for Barack Obama’s inauguration on January 20, tickets to the handful of official inaugural balls will be extraordinarily hard to come by. There are usually about 10 or 12 official balls, and they’re organized around groups of states. Barring some sort of magic back-channel connection I haven’t discovered yet, I won’t be suiting up for an Obama ball this year. But I may head down to D.C. anyway, just for the fun.

I was lucky enough to attend presidential inaugural balls in both 1993 and 1997:

Bill Clinton presidential inaugural ball ticket, 1993

Bill Clinton presidential inaugural ball ticket, 1997

In late 1992 I began dating a woman who was working for the Clinton/Gore campaign here in New York. At the beginning of January, the Clinton whirlwind plucked her from Manhattan and deposited her in Washington at a job with the Department of Health and Human Services. A couple of weeks later, I traveled down to D.C. to attend Clinton’s inauguration and one of the presidential inaugural balls, which my girlfriend had scored us tickets to. I think it was the first time I’d ever worn a tux. It was an incredibly exciting 24 hours, heightened by everyone’s glee over the official end of 12 years of Reagan and Bush.

At the beginning of 1997, I was a few months into a yearlong stint at an editing job in D.C. A friend of mine easily scored us tickets to Clinton’s second round of inaugural balls. It wasn’t anywhere near as exciting as 1993, but it was still a swank and memorable night.