Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Forwarded account from a friend:

A friend of mine attended the rally in downtown Chicago last night. He had an extra ticket to get rid of. Here's how he did it. BTW, he's a half Jewish married father of two, just to give perspective:

There were forgettable parts of the night. Leaving the office - more traumatically, the computer - with Virginia not going the way it was supposed to be going, wondering "if that could go wrong, how many other states could go wrong as well?" Walking past a line 6 blocks long, wondering if I was really going to make it in. Getting separated from my +1, spending an hour trying to sync up with her, losing 95% of my cell phone connection, and spending 90 minutes trying to find my family.

But there were a few things that stand out.

It was getting on to 10 o'clock, the line for ticketed entries thinned out, and it was just an empty gap. I figured my +1 had found a way in. A few desperate people had been "looking for a miracle" from the crowd, and plenty had offered money, but I wanted to find someone who would just use it up for all it was worth. My new mission was to find that person.

There was a guy standing next to me for close to an hour, he didn't seem to be waiting for anyone; he wasn't obsessively checking his phone, just watching. Cool and quiet, he looked like the kind of guy that might make a suburbanite clutch their purse and cross the street. Truth be told, if you live in the city, you might do the same and nobody would blame you. Dark and towering, baggy jeans, goosedown vest, baseball hat cocked to one side, diamond earrings. Maybe harmless with urban style, maybe a little thuggy, but you couldn't be sure.

There were a couple touches that cut against it all: his Obama cap looked like a last minute street vendor pickup, and he wore a sticker on his cheek that said "I voted." This was the guy. He looked to be fidgeting around, ready to join the masses in the unticketed area, and was a little incredulous that I'd really had a ticket, that he'd really get in, a little unsure that this was really happening...on a lot of levels.

We made it in, and I wished I'd asked his name, so I didn't have to call him +1. But he was starting to celebrate. Arms raised, animated, and the crowd kept moving, picking up the pace. Made it through the next checkpoint, approaching the fringes of the crowd. The loudspeaker came on..."your next President will be Barack Obama." The crowd erupted, and I really wanted to find my family, but here I was, spending that moment high fiving +1. Jubilant, joyous, he just started running and jumping and shouting, and he disappeared into the crowd.

I kept looking for my family, my only clue a text message that took 20 minutes to reach me. The Pledge of Allegiance, the National Anthem, the crowd grooving on Stevie Wonder, the crowd seizing up in a collective WTF when it's followed by a country song. Uh, this isn't a Red State rally, you can put Joe Biden's playlist away.

Most anyone that's interested saw the speech and has their own take on it, but my impression was, he doesn't have to use the gentle and unobtrusive voice anymore, it's ON motherfucker - oh it's ON. We got some shit to take care of, so are you in or what?

On the way out, I overheard a conversation between a couple guys, black, well dressed, around 20. If you heard this dialog in a play, it would sound forced and trite, but at the time, hemmed in the by the crowd, it seemed so natural. One guy says "Man, I feel I could do anything right now." His friend replies "like you got 'I believe I can fly' music playing." It continued like this (and I can't do justice to the real thing), and I thought, these guys are having a sincerely existentialist conversation about this experience. This is not a normal night in America.

We were shunted back to Michigan avenue, and the happy crowd of high fiving strangers was itching for something. Somewhere in the crowd, somebody had a drum, and they were laying down a beat. The surrounding crowd joined in, and after a couple of blocks, hundreds of us were dancing, chanting, smiling, high fiving, taking pictures, and marching down six lanes of Michigan avenue.

O-ba-ma! We did it!
O-ba-ma! We did it!
O-ba-ma! We did it!

Black, white, young and old, urban hipsters, suburbanites trying to figure where to get on their buses, north and southsiders, divas in heels, families covered in Obama flair, everybody doing a march they weren't allowed to do back in '68. One couple even asked a cop to take a picture of them, and he obliged, "I hope it's not blurry."

Unlike the unruly antics of a Seattle protest crowd (or a Bulls Championship for that matter), no pandemonium. In fact, to the contrary, a single bike cop was parked in the middle lane of Michigan avenue at the Tribune tower, pointing to the sidewalk...and the crowd split and seeped into the night.

My favorite sign of the night was hand written in red and blue letters, held by a guy in a USA hockey shirt, standing on the median as the crowd danced by: "America, I am loving the SHIT out of you right now."

5:03 PM