Friday, August 01, 2008
Some people had books they wanted autographed. Others had posters, or napkins, or scrap pieces of paper. Still others had their cameras ready. I just wanted to talk to him.
We received the invitation more than a week ago. All that would be required was a donation of $2300 from each of us, my husband and me. We were planning to donate that much for the general campaign anyway, and this was a bonus! I knew the crowd would be small enough that we would get close enough to make it worth the trip. (We don't get out much, you see.)
Senator Obama has been to Houston at least twice before that I know of, once was that standing-room-only 20,000-people downtown thing earlier this year. (We didn't try to do that, and it was a wise decision. We would probably still be looking for our car.)
I have seen enough of Senator Obama on television to notice that although he moves past the rope crowd fairly quickly, he does pay attention to people who actually try to talk to him; I was prepared. I knew there wouldn't be time for all the things I wanted to say so I worked more than week on a letter to him. I wanted to keep it to one page, which is hard for wordy me, but I did it. The letter was personal, so I won't go into that here.
This was a "closed door fundraiser" with more than 200 people inside before they closed the door. We arrived on time, and I immediately spotted about 20 feet of a velvet rope not far from a black box which I assumed the guest of honor would be standing on. It was 5 p.m., and we were about to stand in that one spot for two hours before he came into the room. I wouldn't do that for an i-Phone, but I did it for Barack.
The other people who weren't seeking autographs or pictures seemed to be there to be seen; they were politicians or they most likely aspire to be. Not many of the guests were our age, most a little younger, even two 6-year-olds up front. After all, I hear women my age are supposed to be Hillary supporters. Anyway, once we got to the rope, there was no moving me.
Earlier in the day I had found myself a nervous wreck. That never happens to me; I've met candidates for President, and I've met celebrities of other sorts. I even met Michelle Obama last year. But this time I went into some kind of apoplectic shock. I'm still not sure why, and I wondered if I was going to be one of those people who faints. So before we left the house I took a Klonopin, a Celebrex for a sudden mysterious neck pain, and a Prevacid in case the appetizers were spicy.
We stood, and we stood. It was noisy. The other guests networked and found things to talk about, but my husband and I stood quietly and observed. There was one Secret Service man standing in the direction the senator would be coming from, and once in awhile he would come over and tell people to keep their posters, etc., behind the rope. I asked him how much longer it would be. He said, "About an hour from where he is now." I asked, "Where's that?" He said, "You know I can't tell you that!" I told him I thought I might faint. He said, "Please don't. I don't want to have to deal with that." In awhile a more senior SS guy came in and asked people to write their names on their books, then he took them away to be signed. (Ah, he's here!)
I decided to tell the SS man I had a letter for Senator Obama and asked if I would be able to give it to him. He said no. (NO? My god, this is why I was there.) So, I said "Can I give it to you?" "Nope. Sorry." I was disappointed for about a minute, then I remembered things are rarely as they seem; that if Senator Obama wanted the letter, by god, he could overrule Mr. SS. Presidential candidates are always doing things against the advice of the Secret Service. So I decided to bide my time and figure it out later.
At 7 p.m. the host mounted the black box and Senator Obama appeared in the room. There were introductions and chit-chat about how much money had been raised, and as the host talked, I watched the senator closely. He wasn't as tall or as skinny as I had expected. He looked rested. And the most surprising thing of all, he looked to me to be about 12 years old! Not one wrinkle, not one worry line, just a calm handsome face ready to say things he has probably said thousands of times. I was astonished at his relaxed appearance. And I didn't faint.
He spoke about ten minutes, just enough to acknowledge Houston's prosperity, talk about oil and McCain's silly ads, acknowledged the two six year olds, told us to get out and find more people to vote for him so we can turn Texas blue this year, and then he was done. Marching in from the side then were 8 or 9 more Secret Service people, to stand at the rope line as he came by. Most people reached their hands out -- to touch him, I guess -- but when he got to me I had that I-have-something-to-say look, so he leaned over to listen. I told him I had a letter for him, and by the way, that I wanted Bill Richardson for vice-president. (Neither Webb nor Biden want the job.) AND my letter was held for him by an assistant that rides with him in his limousine, so I was satisfied it was going to be read.
Other people wanted to move toward the front, so my husband and I thought we would escape. No such luck; nobody could leave until Barack left first. So we stood yet longer, and by this time my artificial hip was giving me fits and I was about ready to sit on the floor. The adrenalin pumped up by this unusual experience had kept me standing longer than I knew I could!
Then after our guest of honor was gone off in his limousine with my letter, off to a dinner with people who could afford even more money - donations which would be diverted to the Democratic Party, which I'm not really happy with right now anyway - we staggered to our car and collapsed.
My work was done.