Saturday, February 02, 2008

I Froze My Toes for Obama

Wednesday was a big day for politics in Denver: Barack Obama at a rally at the Univ. of Denver in the morning; Bill Clinton in a rally in the same venue less than 12 hours later; President GW Bush at a fundraiser in affluent Cherry Hills--exact time and location not disclosed to the general public.

Above, the line (1 of 2, I learned later) ahead of me for Obama rally at 7:30am on January 30. Goal: the tower.
Below, the line behind me at 8:30am. Goal: no frostbite.

The Boy Wonder (18) and friend EZ (17-1/2), my de facto foster son, are both working for the Obama campaign. (I laughed when Gail Collins noted in the NYT, "Basically, everybody’s son is with Obama.") They started out as interns and are now on staff--through Super Tuesday, anyway. BW spent nearly a month before the Iowa caucus working in the Council Bluffs office and sleeping on a couch across the river in Omaha. EZ came on board the campaign later, so he has spent his nights in comfort in Our Gracious Home.

Thanks to BW, last Sunday I heard that Obama was coming to Denver, most likely at the University. No thanks to BW, on Monday I found out exactly when and where, and how to sign up for an e-ticket online. Doors at DU's Magness Arena were supposed to open at 8:30am. BW told me to get there early. He and EZ went to help set up at 6:00; Darling Husband dropped me off on his way to work at 7:30.

Wow! I said to myself when I saw all the people already in line (per top photo). *#$%! I said when I found out, more than an hour later, that there was another line snaking across campus from another direction. Oh, and did I mention that the temperature was maybe 25F?

Unlike coatless and shivering Kevin in line next to me, I'd read in the Washington Post of Monday's overflow crowd at American Univ., and thus was dressed for waiting in the cold. Even so, I lost my toes in the first hour. I lost my fingers while finishing last Sunday's NYT Book Review (I came prepared with foldable reading in my coat pocket; the RSVP specified no bags), then regained them thanks to a sainted man who was giving away cups of cocoa out the back of a golf cart. Happily, by the time the cocoa had made its way through me, I was inside the doors of Magness Arena--at 9:45am. Better still, the taps in the ladies room had very hot water, so I was able to thoroughly defrost my hands. (It's the little things that matter.)

Per the Denver Post, some 18,000 (!) showed up for the rally. Though I was so far back in line--the first people had arrived at 4:30am--I was among the first 10,000 arrivals, and so got a seat in Magness Arena. A gymnasium was hastily made ready for the overflow, but it wasn't sufficient; the overflow overflow crowd stood in a lacrosse field. Obama, we were told, was running late because he was greeting those contingents. (Smart of him to show himself in the flesh, because his arena speech was only broadcast over loudspeakers.)

Left, the view from my seat when I arrived in Magness Arena.

Below, former Denver mayor Federico Peña gets things going.

This being football-crazy Denver, the first really big name on the roster was Broncos wide receiver Rod Smith (below).

Smith charmed everyone by confessing his nervousness (jittery public speakers, take note!), observing that the crowds he's used to seeing have people with their faces painted orange and blue. Obama got his only jeers later when he announced that he's a Bears fan; they changed to cheers when he added, re Smith, "I know a Hall of Famer when I see one."

Kevin in line said he hoped that there'd be some big star to speak before Obama. I said there probably would be. Little did we know that it would be Caroline Kennedy. The arena erupted when she was introduced by the stammering president of Colorado Young Democrats. Caroline pretty much echoed her opinion piece in the NYT. The crowd ate it up, but it was obvious, as Obama said when thanking her for her introduction, that she's shy and not used to speaking to large audiences. (Jittery public speakers: Dropping your voice at the end of each sentence sounds totally downbeat.)

Then Caroline introduced You Know Who, and the place went wild. At left is Obama embracing her. On the video monitor is Denver mayor John Hickenlooper; that's former senator Gary Hart on the far left, snapping a photo. (Hickenlooper's office claimed that he's neutral. He was also at the Clinton rally that night, attended by only 3000. There was an unforecast--as usual--sudden dump of 3" of snow.)

Most everything that Obama said was covered in the press, so I won't repeat it here.

In vain, I tried to catch a glimpse of BW and EZ in the scrum in front of the stage. I later learned that BW was collecting names and addresses at the lacrosse field, while EZ was seated in the first few rows down front in the arena. (Not being vertically gifted like BW, he wouldn't have seen a thing if he'd been standing.)

After the rally, I lost my toes again while waiting 40 minutes to take a 15-minute bus ride. Halfway home, I had a moment of intense anxiety when a woman, who was talking on her cell phone and looking right, nearly plowed her sedan into us while merging left. Stupid cow! (Another "c" word, which I hardly ever use aloud, flitted through my brain. Desperate times...)

On the bus, I got into a lively conversation with a fellow passenger about Obama and the rally. Much to my surprise, the driver chimed in. (This is a weird city: Bus drivers are pleasant, passengers thank them when exiting, and both parties say, "Have a nice day!" Even the traffic court judge, as Darling Husband discovered, is friendly and chatty. Must be the altitude, or something in the water.)

Almost everyone on the bus was a Democrat. "Go caucus next Tuesday!" I exhorted as I stepped off.


Katharine O'Moore-Klopf said...

I wouldn't mind freezing my toes for Obama!

Sustenance Scout said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sustenance Scout said...

Bella, Thanks for the run-down! You're a trouper to have endured all that. Enjoy Tuesday, K.