Notes from different corners of the world.
Jan. 21 1997 3:30 AM


       I am hiding from my eighth-grade English teacher--she's downstairs, along with hundreds of other celebrants, to kick off the inaugural weekend. Having just emerged from my post-red-eye stupor (Seattle to "the other Washington"), I innocently slumped downstairs for some coffee, right into an episode of This Is Your Life--my old next-door neighbors, long-lost cousins, the veterinarian who revived my dog Coconut after her brush with death. The surreal quality is enhanced by the characters who step out of my television world and into my living room. I just discussed withdrawal from Seattle lattes with the actress who played the mother in National Lampoon's Vacation.
       My house, the Naval Observatory--"the compound" or "Twin Anchors" as we like to call it--is completely decked out for the occasion. The tents in the yard are attached to the house by plastic tubes, the deck is encased in clear insulation, volunteers march around purposefully. Times like this remind me of the scene at the end of E.T. when the government takes over Elliot's home and he and E.T. lie side by side on cold metal tables, exposed and shivering.
       Not that I'm complaining. Any disadvantage of being the daughter of the vice president pales next to the experiences and opportunities that come my way. The itinerary for this weekend is a chock-full reminder of that and, as I was driven home from the airport at 5 a.m., I admonished myself to appreciate and take advantage of this interesting period of my life.
       The least I could do is come up with a better Secret Service code name. Ever since four years ago, when I was put on the spot and told "two syllables" and "It has to start with an s," I have been cringing in the back seat when identified as "Smurfette." I have to act on this now. Snowball? Skycap? (Seriously,
SLATEsters, send suggestions for something slick.)
       Inaugural plans have been haunting me for weeks, and I lurch between micro-management mode and lead-me-around-I'm-a-smiling-vegetable mode. The latter is definitely best for any event I go to with my parents. Like a lot of things in politics, my behavior can't be a strong positive, but could be an overwhelming negative. There actually isn't much I could accidentally do to mess up the ceremonies this year. I used to fear falling off the stage, but that has become pretty commonplace.
       It's odd to put on spangly evening wear at 3:30 p.m., but the Presidential Gala begins at 5 p.m. so they can edit the tape in time for prime time. I went to the rehearsal gala last night with a van load of my friends, and we watched Stevie Wonder test the sound and some random woman in big glasses have her moment in the sun as a Gloria Estefan stand-in. The gala four years ago was a key moment in the tidal wave of change. First I heard my father was running for vice president (while I was in a hotel in Costa Rica); next I watched the election returns in Little Rock; and then I was arm in arm with Michael Jackson and Barbra Streisand on a big stage. Chuck Berry stepped on my foot. Tonight will be different--I have some idea of what to expect. Anyway, I have to hurry; the motorcade leaves in ten minutes.