Thursday, May 15, 2008

Guest Blogger #2: A West Virginian goes to the West Virginian Obama Rally! (Televised, therefore relevant)

A press release the Obama campaign randomly emailed me: "Today former Mountaineer Quarterback Major Harris and current Quarterback Pat White announced their support for Senator Barack Obama for president. Both have achieved legendary status in the hearts and minds of Mountaineer fans across the state of West Virginia."

Daily News's headline after the WV primary: HIL BILLY WIN

So again I'm using a guest to do my dirty work. My mom happened to go to the Obama rally Monday, right before he lost West Virginia. Don't worry, my writing will resume next week with a scathing report of Paula's Party, including a special celebrity guest who got weirdly close with my girlfriend without having any idea who she is. Anyway, here's mom and Obama:

Waiting Line time to pick up tickets: Maybe two minutes. I was able to order will-call tickets the night before since I was from "out of town". All of the "local" tickets were gone. [Ed's note: the speech took place in the Civic Center in Charleston, about 50 miles away from our town, Huntington.]

Security: Again, not much of a wait. I had to surrender my Coca Cola umbrella to a table of fellow umbrellas (no claim check, just faith that it would be there when I came out.) The airport type scanners were like those I recall from going to a John Kerry rally, which I guess was four years ago. The uniformed presence was pretty deep, including bomb squad specialists. On the drive back to work afterward, an AWACS plane flew overhead.

On the way into the Civic Center we had passed a multitude of button, poster and Tee shirt vendors. Sometime in the distant past, campaign buttons were free. As we entered the arena, we did find free buttons and literature from the Veterans for Obama for President. Veteran affairs and benefits would prove to be the focus of Obama's message. Since we had white tickets instead of the more desirable blue veterans tickets, we had seats toward the rear of the Civic Center, folding chair seats, that were padded and comfortable as far as folding chairs go. We were seated by 10:45 and the talk was scheduled for 12:15, so there was plenty of time to look around.

Our seats were right on the aisle, next to the press section. I watched one camera man slouch in his seat and slide into a nap. A young woman with the press group dug through her backpack, methodically applied moisturizer and then with the help of a mirror completed the rest of her makeup routine. The camera man awoke and trained his camera on a man on a two step ladder who I assume was his reporter. The reporter stood there for a very long time, his microphone positioned just so, about mid-chest height. Every once in a while he would adjust it just a little bit. He wasn't speaking into the mic, so I can only guess his motivation. Balance practice? Meditation? Some type of isometric exercise? The local TV press was on the far side; I assume the cluster near us traveled with the campaign and they all looked tired and bored.

By 11:00 all the white ticket seats were full and people continued to come in. My husband never misses an opportunity to talk to those around him, so he had lots of conversations, including one with one of Obama's press people. I worried that I would have to fight to defend his chair, because he was in and out of it a bit, but people were polite and respectful of a purse-saved seat. There were a few chants from the crowd but they really didn't gain much momentum. The first was "Yes we Can!", but I must confess I thought they were saying "Let's go Herd!" It was difficult to make out the words. [Ed's note: "Let's go Herd!" is a chant usually heard at Marshall University sporting events.]

The warm up:
Finally a little bit after noon a man came up to the mic and said something to the effect of "testing, testing," to which the crowd responded with cheers and applause. You have to remember we had been sitting there for an hour and a half and this was the most exciting thing that had happened so far. Senator Jay Rockefeller came out next and gave a glowing endorsement introduction. With the audience on their feet, Barack Obama took the stage.

Obama's speech in Charleston. Let me warn you that it's 20 minute long.

At this point I could see nothing at all, being somewhat height challenged and I was grateful when Obama invited everyone to take their seats. With some head bobbing on my part I was able to see him most of the time that he spoke. His talk was largely about Veterans and improving Veterans' programs. When he did say that he was grateful to see so many supporters in light of the fact that Hillary was likely going to be the winner in West Virginia, the audience booed loudly. Obama made a point of taking a jab at a McCain stance on some Veterans issue. The point made was that he was running against John McCain, not Hillary Clinton.
I wanted to write that he was very eloquent, but I've since read that somehow that is an insulting thing to say, somehow implying that it unexpected or surprising that he is an eloquent speaker. Nevertheless, I found him to be compelling. He also looked tired.

Exiting the Civic Center was orderly. And I was pleasantly surprised to be reunited with my Coke umbrella, lying on the table with hundreds of other umbrellas, right where I had left it.

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