11 November 2008

At long last, Pt. 1

Well, by now I've sat here and read most every article I could find related to the election and all its tangents, and after much procrastination, I'm faced with finally writing about my experience at the Obama rally in Grant Park (Chicago) on Election Day, as requested by many of you.
Let me start off by saying that we did not rate tickets to the gated kingdom that was the area around the stage at the rally. I apparently missed the initial announcement that tickets were available for the asking (which probably lasted about 15 minutes), and instead I got an e-mail out of the blue from the Democratic Party the next day. I clicked the link when I saw it a few hours later, and I was immediately informed that I was on the waiting list.*

This was of course due to the fact that they offered tickets to only 32,000 people and a single guest each. Based on the fact that hundreds of thousands of people showed up to the park and the surrounding area**, I think you can tell the deck was stacked against me from the start.

So it was with a mixture of glee and disappointment that we made our way down to Grant Park that evening, alongside the expected anxiety with all those votes still to be counted.

Our 10-mile train trip in from the suburbs went flawlessly, with the relative lack of company due to our being considered very late to the party by arriving a mere 2 hours before the scheduled admission time. Our trip home was much more crowded and chaotic, though to the CTA's credit, it was still remarkably smooth.

A smattering of people far from the entranceWe walked a few blocks from the L stop to the park, and had we worried about where we needed to go, we had only to join the sizable throng of latecomers still inexorably marching down the streets like it was free sample day at the cookie factory.

Impressive as we were, bending the normal flow of traffic to our will, we were but a tiny stream disappearing into the sea of human flesh already assembled in the park.

As we tried to join the party, we were of course briefly stopped by "Security" and quickly stripped of the most threatening of our contraband. That's right-- whoever thought they could get within a block of our future president with a fully loaded water bottle must have been drinking too much of something other than water before showing up.

Speaking of which, my later observations determined that giant jugs of vodka were totally cool with these guys. Also okay: portable furniture, 25-foot telescoping flagpoles, large knives (probably), and airhorns.

Basically, the golden rule seemed to be that anything cited as disallowed in the public invitations was actually encouraged, and other common-sense, life-sustaining items not mentioned therein would be fished out of your colon, if necessary.
It seemed like a good idea to break this up into multiple posts, so look for part 2 tomorrow, part 3 the next day, and part 4 after that.

* As if people were going to be refusing these tickets-- way to get my already-generally-high hopes up higher against my better judgment, Democratic Party of Illinois. 

** I say there were much more than the 240,000 estimate I keep hearing, since I think it discounts a lot of people gathering right across the street and elsewhere in the area, as well as comings and goings over the course of many, many hours.


unmitigated me said...

Must have been uncomfortable walking with that water bottle in your colon...

Vodka Mom said...

I have so been looking forward to this story....can't wait to read more. (You should have just glued a vodka label to the water bottles...)

Mrs. B. Roth said...

I must have some extra, life-preservation related fear genes in me - I would never have been brave enough to go. I hate big crowds. I avoided most everything related to the SLC Olympics for fear of terrorist attacks or random violence. I was pregnant with my first back then; I didn't want to die. And now, as the mother of 3, I try to avoid situations that have any off-handed chance of leaving my kids motherless.

So, chances are, with my luck, either I'll live to 100 but have no memorable stories to tell the kiddies OR I'll die in some terribly random safe way.

miko564 said...

I envy you the stories you can tell the grandkids.

Imagine the look on their faces when you tell them you were there for the 1st BLACK President, and they look at you like you're crazy for emphasizing the black part. "Uh, yeah Grandpa, he was black. So What?"

In the old days, I did some security as an Air Force cop, and still have friends who are bomb-dog handlers. The randomness is usually due to a higher-up realizing that the orders the "ground" guys got initially were prohibitive, and then changing the rules mid-event.
I mean, come on, they only had two years to plan this...
In all seriousness, I bet the event at Grant Park gave the Secret Service nightmares.

Kathryn Hupp-Harris said...

I hate you.

Ok, I don't even know you, but I thought I'd indulge your desire for hate mail.

Cool post today.

I'm concerned about Obama as president for the simple fact that you can do just about anything with his name and make it sound very Dr. Seuss-ish/Shel Silverstein-ish.

When he visited Omaha -- it became Obamaha.

Your picture has a sign that says Obamanomenon.

With Obama in the White House, Americans are going to have to become masters at reciting tongue-twisters. :-)

Good post today. It must have been an unbelievable experience. I'm looking forward to hearing about more.

Swirl Girl said...

It must have been like going to Times Square for New Years Eve in the year 2000 - with or without the drunks.

I would have been scared to death.

LiteralDan said...

Middle Aged Woman: After all these years, I've gotten pretty used to it.

Vodka Mom: So you're the one! I think they were trained to sniff out water-- we didn't stand a chance.

Mrs. B. Roth: You're missing out! Any kind of attack big enough to take out this many people would probably have gotten us back at home anyway-- our suburb borders Chicago on the north end.

I say this not to kick you while you're down, but to kick you out of the illusion of a safe bubble-- you're more likely to die tripping over a toy in your house than from most anything that would come from venturing out with the masses into the equally unpredictable Outside World. Set yourself free!

miko564: Based on what has stuck with me the strongest over the past week, my stories in 40 years will likely focus on the outrageous concessions prices and water-focused security team. Does that make me a worthless spectator to history?

Kat Harris: You have no idea how touched I am by your hatred. I would thank you, but I'm too busy trying to hold back this big, fat, single tear.

I'm not concerned-- I love tongue twisters! Playing with words in the grass by a giant TV is way cooler than anything those people in the Cool People's Rally got to do.

And thanks!

Swirl Girl: I don't get why-- you had to be there to feel the good feelings and mellowness coursing through the crowd. I think if he hadn't won, instead of riots, there would have just been a lot of bummed-out bar patrons and one-night stands across town.

Unconfirmed rumors started by me right now are suggesting that the Secret Service may have been dusting the crowds all night with a fine layer of pot smoke from the helicopters.

American in Sydney said...

I wish I was there-- I love the commenters Obama-nisms

LiteralDan said...

It will become the new national hobby.