Only to fail to see Obama.
I’m still confused as to exactly why Obama chose Portland, Maine of all places as the final stop on his tour-du-making-healthcare-sound-awesome, but it couldn’t have been better timing. Obama came into Portland exactly 1 week after my exodus out of Ohio. His trip was a surprise to almost the entire state (which isn’t saying much), and it was announced that you could get free tickets only 48 hours before he arrived. This meant that you had to wait outside in the rain; some people started waiting at midnight the night before. For Liam, this meant that I wouldn’t get to see Obama. It wasn’t worth it. But then, my mom saw this advertisement on craigslist at 4:00pm the day before Obama was to speak:
I burst out of my room, and my mom started microwaving a piece of bacon. We had toothpicks, and I had some Argentinian pesos in my bag left there from my recent trip. Mom snapped a pic of herself on her cell phone (since mine has no camera), and I grabbed Fiskadoro, a good book I was willing to give up. I conjured up my favorite funny joke, which you’ll have to send an email to me to hear. (A good way to get my email address is to subscribe to my blog, above and to the right.) Unfortunately, I hate sports, and therefore didn’t even know that The Raiders were a team. Fortunately, my neighbors are big sports fans, and happened to have an Oakland Raiders Christmas Ornament that they lent me. Then I wrote the following haiku:
A Scavenger Hunt
Hard for a Football Hater
Good Thing I Write Poems
Then we were off. We raced to Gritty McDuff’s, a pretty typical (and therefore pretty sweet) Portland bar. I got there and asked the bartender if anyone had come in asking about a scavenger hunt. She said no, but that she witnessed that I was first. Then I sat at the bar, had a beer, and proceeded to call several people and talk loudly on my cell phone about what I was doing. Little did I know, the orchestrator of the hunt was sitting right behind me. At exactly 5:00pm I turn around to see him waving a ticket at me. He’s with 3 friends, all of whom are smiling and invited me over. I brought a shot of tequila, told my joke, and sat down to finish my beer with them.
The guy told me that he got the extra ticket to give to a friend, who subsequently couldn’t go. His first idea was to give the ticket to the last guy in line, but apparently that guy was a total dick, so he decided to do something more fun. He said he came up with the list quickly, off the top of his head, which explains the randomness of it. Obviously, the guy and his friends were pretty cool, and I wish I could have stayed longer to get to know them better. But my mom was idling outside, and I hat my ticket in my hot little hand. I was going to go see Obama!
Or so I thought.
The next day, I rode my bike to the Portland Expo like a good socialist democrat global citizen. The line to see Obama was ENORMOUS, stretching around several blocks. I walked to the end of the line, and waited excitedly while reading a book. The people around me were jovial and varied widely in age (though not in race, this was Maine after all). People were peaceful and quiet, and chatted anxiously about the impending speech. Rumors in the form of tweets were flying around about whether or not they were going to be able to fit everyone in the Expo. The line was moving at the speed of smell, and there was some belief that they had overbooked the place. There were 4,500 tickets sold.
Still, I held up faith. A girl in front of me was tweeting at the rate of 8,000 tweets a second, and was constantly updating us that things were getting fuller inside the Expo. Finally, after 2 hours of waiting, when I was about 200 feet from the door of the Expo, the line came to a halt. Soon we heard cheering from the crowd in front of us, and that’s when I knew it was too late. In minutes people were getting texts and tweets that Obama was on stage, speaking, and that no one else was getting in. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU!!
But I don’t get upset for long, as a rule. So I calmly walked away, thankful that it was such a nice day, and only slightly irked that no one had the gall to come out and tell the approximately 1300 people still in line that they weren’t getting in. (Ok, I’m still a little upset). But I made the best of it, and decided to go take a stroll through the protesters that were standing across the street.
They were a strange menagerie. The unfortunate thing about being a protestor, no matter how sane and logical you are, is that there will inevitably be some total wackos corralled into the same space as you. So even next to the people who were legitimately only upset about their taxes, there were some signs proclaiming that 9/11 was a hoax, and some other nutties screaming into a microphone about Jesus coming back.
The crowd was creative. There was a man playing a banjo and singing songs about “the Obama-nation”, which is a witty play on words that I’ve heard of many times before. There were old ladies dressed completely in American Flag print with signs that had Tea-Bags attached to them. There was one sign that I found intriguing that said “End Warfare Before Healthcare”. Talk about a non-conformist. Then there were the signs that made a little less sense. One said “Obama Youre a Lier”. For shame. Another said “HEY DEMS! THERE IS NO TOOTH FAIRY”, which I found shocking. No Tooth Fairy? Malarky.
I decided I was going to work up the courage and speak to a Tea Party activist, to see if I could get any more information from them. I scanned the crowd for the person that was most clearly (loudly) linking themselves to the movement. And then I saw her. A 3-cornered hat, a frilly shirt, a velvet blue jacket, pantaloons, tights, buckle shoes and a chunky cellphone in an exterior leather case clipped to her belt. Was I seeing a tour guide on the Freedom Trail? Alas, no, it was a Tea Partier.
I have to admit, I stalked her for a little while before I had the courage to talk to her. She was intimidating, because she so clearly was differently-minded from myself. I wanted to calm myself, and get to a place where I could ask her objective, non-accusatory questions. It took a while to reduce my pre-judgement, but finally I was able to say, “Excuse me, can I ask you a few questions?”
The woman had on large sunglasses, so it was hard to tell if she was looking at me. That, and she also kept turning away from me even when she was in mid-sentence. I tried hard to be objective and understanding, but she made it hard. I forgot to bring my tape recorder, so I have tried to recreate the conversation here:
Me: Can I ask you a few questions.
Me: Are you a member of the Tea Party movement?
Me: Can I ask you what that means to you?
Her: The constitution.
Me: The constitution?
Me: What about the constitution? Can you elaborate?
Her: Uh…upholding the constitution.
At this point a rather surly older woman turned around and spoke to me angrily.
Surly Woman: We want ALL the socialists out of office NOW.
First Woman: Yeah!
Me: Who do you view are these socialists?
First Woman: Uh…Barack Obama. Nancy Pelosi.
Me: Thank you.
I would have stayed longer but I felt as thought my brain might fall out of my rectum. I want so badly to hear someone articulate clearly and concisely what the Tea Party movement is all about. Anyone out there have someone who might be able to explain it to me more clearly? I would love to conduct a serious, open-minded interview.