Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I Go To See Barack Obama

I've always been such a goody-goody. As a teenager I wasn't particularly rebellious and this is probably because with my parents being as wild and untraditional as they were (or ARE) to rebel against that would have had to have been far too extreme. So I've always been good. I don't drink or do drugs. When I was single I didn't even dress slutty on dates and I kissed quite a few people but I didn't take it much further most of the time. I don't have any tatoos either and I couldn't imagine even turning in a homework assignment late. Besides that I've never gotten a B in a class except in math, which doesn't count because it's math and let me tell you, I was damned happy to get that B too. I never backpacked across Europe or got wasted on Czech or Belgian beers. Only my ears are pierced. I've never slept with a woman, gone down a steep water slide, or ridden a roller coaster that went upside down. I've never, unlike my sister, jumped out of a plane, or unlike my cousin, jumped out of a plane while tripping on acid. As a teenager I went to a Dead show once and fell asleep in the car, therefore missing the actual show. The Dead show might have been construed as a counter-culture act of rebellion, but I can't really count that as I never made it past the parking lot.

I've definitely played it safe. The worst thing I do is cuss on an anonymous blog. Big whoop. In real life there is very little cussing, unless I'm with my sister and then there is nothing but cussing. Every now and then, like once every five years, I will actually finish a glass of wine, but this is the extent of any wild behavior on my part. Cussing and finishing two entire glasses of wine in an entire decade. Wow. I can hardly bear the excitement of writing about it.

But then finally, last Friday I found a way that I, safe, NPR-listening to, poetry reading little me, could finally commit the ultimate act of rebellion against my entire family, even my parents and that was hard let me tell you. I went to see Barack Obama. Yeah you heard me. That's right. THEE Barack Obama, Senator from Illinois. I saw him.

My extended family is generally a bunch of gun toting, ultra-right wing, conservative, big government hating individuals. My parents aren't because they aren't really anything. They defy all categories. They just don't prefer Barack Obama because, well I'm not exactly sure why to tell you the truth. My mom said he was inexperienced, but she loves Reverand Wright and wants to go to Chicago to see him. We just can't discuss politics in terms of my parents because they defy all logic and are too complicated and I don't think either of them vote anyway. So on one side of my family we have the rural, hunting crowd. On the other side we have the Israelis and though I rarely discuss politics with them either, I can pretty much bet that they don't like Barack Obama either, so by going to see him in person, I have covered all the necessary grounds for rebelling against everyone in my family and am pretty much set for the rest of my life. I can hear my family now:

"We never had any trouble with her as a teenager. She was such a good girl - came home on time, never ran with a wild crowd. She was the picture of innocence but then when she was 34..." At this point they will sigh and look down and act like they're wiping tears away. "she went and saw Barack Obama. We have no idea what went wrong. It must have been that university."

Now before you all, my readers, get your tighty whiteys all mangled in your butt cracks about this too, let me state very clearly that I am not endorsing Barack Obama at all. I've told you all before that I am a Moderate. I haven't decided who I want to vote for yet, but I did decide that during this election that I want to see as many of the candidates in real life as is possible. I want to hear them speak in a setting where I can't change the channel. I also want to write about seeing them for you.

It's more than just that though. This is a historic election. I don't remember any other election in my lifetime ever feeling this important or this urgent to so many people. Never has a woman or a black man had a real chance at becoming president. This is some big stuff and I don't want to look back when I'm old and say that I never got to see any of it except on TV. I don't want to experience my life or history as a series of two dimensional images on a screen. I want to live it. I want to really be there and see things happening. I want to take opportunities to meet people who are different from me and who have had other experiences. I want to get involved when things are happening. Because of that, when I heard Barack Obama was in town on Friday when I was free, I decided to go and I am going to tell you all about it. But first I have to tell you about how I just about got arrested at Wal-Mart on the way.

Husband got this genius idea that we would go and have Chinese for lunch on the way. Chinese food is not a favorite of mine. It doesn't sit well with my sensitive stomach so about five minutes after we left the restaurant and started heading for the stadium where Obama was to speak, my stomach started to hurt and I knew things would not be pleasant for me.

"I need some Imodium," I said, "We need to stop at a pharmacy."

Husband said I should stop at Wal-Mart because it was close and he said the Imodium would be cheaper there. I told him I was boycotting Wal-Mart because I hate everything about it. Husband asked me if I liked having diarrhea more than I hated Wal-Mart and I had to concede.

I hate Wal-Mart. I hate everything about the place. I even hate how it smells. I hate the colors, the way the store is set up, the crap they sell, the people in line in front of me, the checkout people. I hate it all. I hate Wal-Mart.

I chose the shortest checkout line. When I do this there is inevitably a problem which makes the line that really looked like it was the shortest, turn into the absolute longest. I should pick the longest line but I never learn. An old lady in front of me decided that this was the best possible time to throw a hissy fit over, and I kid you freakin' not, a single box of chocolate covered cinnamon altoids which cost a whopping $1.75. For those of you who have not been here, old people losing their shit over the prices of things which aren't all that expensive to begin with, and yelling and screaming at store/ restaurant/ gated community employees is a very common occurance of life in South Florida. Generally I tune it out. That day my stomach hurt so I really wanted to take the tin of chocolate covered cinnamon altoids from the woman and smack her in the face with it. The checkout girl did too.

The old lady yelled. Management was called. It all ended with the old lady throwing the altoids tin and storming out of the store still yelling something about how they were on clearance and how could Wal-Mart get away with selling candy for $1.75 on clearance and what is the world coming to. Did I mention that my stomach still hurt? It did.

After finally getting my Imodium I was so excited to actually take it that on my way out the door I took it out of the bag, threw out the bag and opened the medicine right as I was going out the door. Of course the alarm went off. Of course it did.

The greeter, a 98 year old man with so many liver spots that he looked like he was part wildcat, sprung into action. He jumped in front of me with his arms out to prevent me from going out the door.

"YOU STOP RIGHT THERE!!!!" he yelled in a hoarse, Brooklyn accent, "Where do you think you're going? I need to see the receipt."

Naturally I threw it away along with the bag, and oh, my stomach - it still hurt. Meanwhile like six people walk out the door carrying flat screen TVs and X-boxes, but it is me, Miss Diarrhea Medicine who gets accosted by the greeter.

I explain the situation to the greeter. He is not sympathetic. He thinks I am stealing Imodium.

"Do you seriously think-" I start.

"Don't get lippy with me. People get embarassed to buy that all the time and think they can just come in here and steal. Well I got news for ya-"

I think his goal was to embarass me as much as possible here as punishment.

"Let me see if I can find the receipt."

I started to dig through my purse hoping I didn't throw out the receipt. Sometimes I stuff them into my wallet. Ok, a lot of times I stuff them into my wallet. You should have seen the the amount of receipts I pulled out of my purse looking for the Imodium receipt. I have a problem. It's like I'm a bird trying to find pieces of paper to build a nest with or something. I could have built twenty nests. I could have wall papered a large restroom with all the receipts I had in there. I had receipts from last Christmas. Christmas of '06! But did I have the most recent diarrhea medicine receipt? Of course not.

"You need to clean that out young lady," the greeter said.

He began to call for help. I was afraid he was going to call Security or the police. About seven more people walked out with flat screen TVs. Eight rednecks carried out an above ground pool.

Finally I got my checkout girl to vouch for me. Her name was Shontisha and she did not speak. She kind of reminded me of Silent Bob. She was Silent Shontisha. Before I had tried to joke with her to add levity to the situation of the altoid maniac yelling in her face, as if Silent Shontisha makes the prices at Wal-Mart. I thought joking around and making fun of altoid lady would make Silent Shontisha feel like not everyone in the world was a jackass and maybe she would smile. Not so. Silent Shontisha was not amused by my tomfoolery. Silent Shontisha did not think I was as funny as I thought I was. She didn't even crack a smile. She really didn't crack a smile when the militant greeter bothered her.

"Did this girl buy diarrhea medicine from you?" he asked.

Silent Shontisha made a gesture which involved a modified "talk to the hand" sort of swipe and then rolled her eyes and turned her back to him. He took it as a "yes that stupid ass bitch bought some diarrhea medicine from me now leave me alone."

Mortified, I left Wal-Mart and took my Imodium as we drove the rest of the way to the stadium where Barack Obama was speaking.

"I told you I hate Wal-Mart," I told Husband.

Once we got to the stadium it was about 9,000 degrees Celsius outside with 129% humidity. I about had a heat stroke getting to the front door and when we got to the entrance they weren't letting anyone in so Husband and I and literally thousands of people had to stand outside in the hot sun and wait until well past the time when doors were supposed to open before the doors actually opened. Luckily I saw a friend from school who brought her kids so I had someone else to talk to. The crowd was really well behaved considering that we were broiling and they wouldn't let us inside.

Then what seemed like a Biblical plague of dragonflies descended upon us and thousands of the insects swooped and darted above us and flew into people's faces and hair. It was very strange, yet a little funny because the dragonflies caused a mild panic as people tried to dodge them. Birds followed the dragonflies, so then we had people dodging dragonflies and dragonflies trying to dodge the birds that were trying to eat them all in 9,000 degree heat. I tell you, it was some good times.

But that's not all. Suddenly the sky darkened and a cool wind blew. This was good because it was only 1,000 degrees now. This was also bad because it was about to storm and because all around us we could see bolts of lightning striking. I began to imagine a terrible scenario where all these people who were so excited to see Barack Obama ended up getting hit by lightning. Thank God this didn't happen and thank God they finally started letting people in. There was a lot of security so it took a while to get through it and really get inside. Once in there was general seating so it was like a stampede to get to any seats and very disorganized. People were arguing and the ushers weren't letting people sit in certain areas and then inexplicably changing their minds and letting people sit there afterall, so this caused some hurt feelings.

One thing I noticed was that a lot of people had made very nice signs and they all had the signs confiscated on the way in which made the people who made the signs very sad and disappointed. I felt really badly for them because they obviously put a lot of effort into the signs.

I talked to the people around me when we sat down and I talked to people in line outside. I overheard conversations. I really observed the crowd, which was a balanced mix of many races and not just, as some people think, mostly Black people. My friend from school that I waited in line with is Black and she was so excited. She wanted her sons to be there to see Barack Obama and from what I observed I realized that Barack Obama is a huge, big deal to Black people because he gives them a legitimate, well-earned, male role model to be proud of. He breaks the stereotypes of rappers and athletes and shows that Black people can achieve in other ways besides performing for others, which is what rappers and athletes are ultimately doing, and not that there's anything wrong with being a successful musician or athlete at all, but just that there should be other great possibilities too. So in this way Barack Obama really does give a lot of people hope and I think he will continue to whether or not he becomes president, and that alone is a very good thing. It made me feel happy and proud too to see so many other people happy and proud because I know that through their history as a culture there has been a lot of sadness and shame that never should have happened.

We waited forever. We enjoyed a salsa-ish jam band whom my cousin who jumped out of a plane on acid loves, and we really liked a steel drum orchestra. Then we waited some more. Some local politicians came out. Senator Wexler, who is great because he went on Colbert and said cocaine and prostitutes were fun, spoke a little. Then we waited even longer. Thank heavens we brought books to read.

I saw something that really bothered me though. Remember how I said people had their signs taken away? Well I saw that they were giving out different signs, but that the only people who could have signs were the people who were directly behind the podium, meaning the people who would be seen on camera. That kind of sucked in my book because it was really fake and contrived. They gave all the people in that section printed out blue signs and then they very deliberately gave some other people fake homemade signs!!! And they placed them strategically in places where they would be seen on camera at even intervals so they wouldn't be too close together. It really annoyed the crap out of me that they did this. I don't think they even used the signs they had confiscated at the door. I think they were just fake homemade signs that they handed out to people who didn't even make them to make it look like they made them. I began to feel cynical and like politics is all such bullshit.

Finally after all this Barack Obama came out and my first, blink, impression was that he needs a good meal. Barack Obama is tall and skinny. I guess that means he's in good shape, but he looked like he needed something to eat. Senator Obama, are you eating enough on the campaign trail? He was also friendly, smiling and confident. He spoke for a long time about hope and change. Of course. He said things I liked and things that got on my nerves. He said the same things he had said in other speeches and tailored some of them to Florida. For instance, he mentioned standardized tests and how it was wrong for teachers to teach to the test. His advisors I'm sure told him about the whole FCAT controversy we have here. To me, it seemed like a planted, very brief comment to get the crowd to roar, which it did.

Barack Obama is pleasant to listen to. He has a beautiful speaking voice, and oh my God is the man good looking in real life. For real, Barack is pretty hot. I'm not sure how politicians are supposed to seem or if my own mental image of a politician is the result of cultural brainwashing. I've seen other politicians. Last year I sat in on the senate in DC and saw several. I have to say that in comparison, Barack Obama seemed to me more like a movie star. This is something I need to consider more before I present a written analysis of why I thought that and what it means to me, so I won't do it here just yet. I'll just present my objective observations for now. Another thing I can say is that he was able to hold my attention even when he said things that I didn't 100% agree with and that he spoke like a real person, meaning very conversational. Halfway through I realized I had forgotten about my stomach hurting. Maybe it was just the Imodium finally kicking in. Barack Obama also, I realized, had mentioned some issues that made me pretty hopeful too and I left feeling very glad that I had gone. I'm glad that I got to see an event like this in real life because it was very different than what we see on TV.

So that's it. I'll post pictures for you later. Please do not get into some wild, political debates in my comments section because that was not the point of this post at all.

John McCain - you're next. When are you coming to speak down here and can it please be on my day off?


Kiki said...

Wow! It's awesome that you got to see Obama in person. I feel the same way about the election - that it's a really incredible time in American history, and I wish I could see at least one of the candidates live (especially Barak or Hillary). I went to Wesleyan University and let me tell you, I can guarantee those kids who got to hear Obama give the commencement address were probably barely able to contain themselves from the excitement. We got the former governor of CT when I graduated. I'm just a wee bit jealous here.

Oh, and in my book, you actually WERE rebellious in a huge way - it's not about how crazy your behavior is, but how much it deviates from your family's behavior (think Alex P. Keaton in "Family Ties"). You're a rebel!

Anonymous said...

He's been to Austin twice, and both times were complete blow-out crowds. One was in a large open park called Auditorium Shores. It was such a strange feeling being in such a sea of humanity...and have everyone be so polite. No, really. I kept hearing that same comment over and over again by folks in the crowd. Odd.

Wide Lawns said...

Yeah, everyone was amazingly polite and happy in spite of all the discomforts - heat, storms, dragonflies, birds and disorganized seating arrangements.

BoB said...

the parking lot of a dead show is way more counter-culture, and therefore rebellious, than the actual show

Whiskeymarie said...

I usually avoid these things as I hate crowds, but you've inspired me- I'll make an honest effort to go and see a politico next chance I get.

staticwarp said...

is bob barr going to florida? you should check him out if he comes. (he's the libertarian canditate, btw.)

i'd love to hear your comments on a libertarian speaker.

Wide Lawns said...

I think in a few months they'll all start coming to Florida because it's such an important state. So, I'll go see whoever I can. Hopefully they'll all speak for free on days I have off. I'd love to hear a libertarian candidate's take on things.

Mattie said...

This election is definitely history-making. Senatory Clinton was at my daughter's college here in PA (about 10 minutes from the house) and we witnessed that. Sen. Obama was here also but we did not get to see him in the flesh but did get to hear him while we were in the "overflow" crowd.

Other notable (probably before you were born!) presidential candidates I've see in person (and personally spoke to and/or touched) were Hubert Humphrey, Bobbie Kenneday (and his mother Rose), and Pat Paulson. I was 18 for Mr. Humphrey, 11 for Bobby and Rose, Pat I don't remember all that well.

I was very political back in the day. But I've never really classified myself as moderate, left, right or whatever. I am not affiliated with a specific party. I've definitely voted for democrats, republicans, independents, and the green party once.

misha said...

you are so lucky! I was going to put one of my stickers on my car, but then I realized my parents would give me horrible shit for it every time they saw it. But then my mom broke her leg and cant go downstairs so maybe it can but it on... hmmm

Chiada said...

I hate WalMart too. I'm also boycotting it.

Amy said...

As an Obama volunteer at two rallies, I can tell you about the signs. They take them away because of cameras. All of these events are filmed, and they want the signs to look uniform. This is why they do not allow homemade signs, signs that say things about candidates other than Obama, and they do not allow the glossy campaign signs because they do really bad things with glare and cameras. By taking away the signs they aren't trying to be oppresive or militant. All of the candidates do it, and it's because they want the rallies to have a certain look on camera.

I have seen Obama three times now. If you want to be a part of his events, you should. There is an amazing energy among the volunteers and staff and it is a great experience. Obama is a great man. He will do amazing things in this country.

Anonymous said...

I hate Wal-Mart too, for all of your reasons (the smell- ew!) and then some.

Congrats on seeing Obama!

NeekoalinAZ said...

Awesome! I got to see the Presidential Motorcade on Tuesday. I work in the Biltmore area of Phoenix and Bush was here for a fundraiser for McCain. The secret service had the entire place locked down so I couldn't leave work. So my co-workers and I who are ALL from very different political views all stood out on the balcony and watched W roll by. It was a very cool sight to see no matter which party you were in. I'm glad I got to see it.

Pythor said...

Obama: Meh. This race is going to be close, only because so many people in this country hate all three candidates.

Wal-Mart: Why did you stop? If the buzzer goes off, keep walking. If they stop you, sue. The have no right to delay you just because their little machine made a noise. I understand you don't shop there much, and that's a good idea, too. But seriously, don't just give away your freedom just because some old guy said stop.

Anonymous said...

So, what did the halo around his head look like? Good grief.

Sarah Loving said...

I am an U.S. expat in Argentina and have become completely obsessed with this election cycle! It's killing me to have to watch it unfold on the internet.

And he *totally* needs to be stuffing more food in his face! I've been thinking the exact same thing for the last few months. Ever since the Reverend Wright ridiculousness he's been on the wan side of things.

Man needs assume the position in front of a pile of BBQ ribs and potato salad already.

staticwarp said...

in response to the anon question, the halo probably looked something like this:

(cant post imgs in blogger comments so here's your link)


Ringo said...

I was extremely lucky and managed to see Barack Obama, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee when they came to town. I wish I could have seen Hilary Clinton but she came the week I was away. Still, it's definitely worthwhile. And I managed to personally meet each of them, getting in with a press pass (for my high school newspaper no less!) for Obama's and standing behind each of the other's on the stage. I think the photographers that followed the candidates began to recognize me. ;)

Anonymous said...

I should be commenting about the Obama thing, being the topic and all, but leave it to me to chime in and say Immodium is awesome!

(I have "stomach issues" of an unnamed variety (unnamed since I haven't had the cajones to go in for the scoping procedure) and my GI doc suggested Immodium for the attacks, taking a 4-hour "reading session" down to a few minutes) The kind that combines the Loperamide with Simethicone is even better than straight-up Loperamide. I think that's the "Immodium Advanced".

Oh yeah, and I'm a non-democrat who plans to vote for Obama (as long as no Clinton joins him on the ticket)

Mel said...

I must tell you, I'm a first time reader to your blog and found it EXCELLENT! You have a Godgiven knack for putting the written word to paper and you do it with an excitement, and poise that I've not experienced before. I'm going to be an everyday reader in the future. Thanks for a great hour.


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