The DNC threw as many logistical challenges at a kid blogger disguised as a reportlogger as bureaucratically possible. I knew things were bad when KT and Matt Glazer of BOR fame descended upon me stressing about credentials in the lobby of the Hampton Inn and Suites located on an equally bermuda-trianglesque intersection of Sherman and Broadway. The Hampton Inn and Suites held the elusive "Prada Room," a closet-sized lockbox where two suits would escort you inside to a vault of credentials. Reds, greens, purples, oranges -- our colorblind world never held so many colors with so many different meanings. The lobby was alive with hushed whisperings between laptop-laden press:
Do you have the Floor Pass? Or a Perimeter Pass?
The Perimeter Pass gets you into Pepsi, but not Invesco. Unless you trade it in on Thursday.
What about the Convention Center?
Which convention center?
Where the convention is?
Shit, what if it says Hall Pass?
I donned my grey and purple albatross and set off in the direction of the convention. The one at the Convention Center. It took me nearly all day of navigating ballrooms and getting trapped in one tedious press avail to discover that I wasn't in a caucus. More embarrassing was deciding to "hop on the light rail." I used the phrase in my mind to psyche myself out, thinking People do this all the time. I'll just buy a ticket, hop on, and head over to the Pepsi Center. I'll be there by 3 PM for the opening gavel, easy.
Thirty minutes later, damning Will Wynn and the City of Austin, I grabbed a friendly-looking man with my eyes and said, "I'm sorry. I'm from Texas. We don't have mass transit." The Field Director for the Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (as it so conveniently turned out) took pity on me and helped me take the purple H line to the orange C line over to the Pepsi Center. Shame.
I'd never felt so discriminatory while simultaneously being discriminated against. People's eyes immediately shot down to my sternum when I met them in a democratic caste system that made me start to think I should just draw a purple dot between my eyebrows and call it a convention. When I got lost at the Pepsi Center for about two hours trying to find the "Press Elevators" that promised to take me to a floor that didn't even appear to exist, I nearly lost it. I finally arrived in some special room on floor 3A, said "I just want to sit down and write," cleared a space with a sweep of my arm, and plugged my laptop into the ethernet cable. Yes, ethernet. Yes, cable. I didn't get it either. Neither did the two men who almost got into a fist fight next to me over who stole whose ethernet cable, while I tried to look harmless typing away about rural voters.
But -- but for Wednesday. Wednesday changed it. It occurred to me, late Tuesday night, that of course no one was going to allow me to do anything. It was time, I decided, to truly summon the energy of "What would Molly do?"
I had been walking in the shadow of Molly Ivins' spirit all week, having the distinct honor of writing for the same publication she wrote for and being a woman at this historically shoulder-padded event. Whenever someone would hear the words Texas Observer, their hearts would instinctively default to the last Molly Ivins story they could summon. Usually, they were funny. Always, they were meaningful. A man wearing a rainbow Obama pin and a pink hat came up to me at the Denver Diner at about 1 AM. He began telling me the story of how he had bumped into this woman with "beautiful auburn hair" in the food line at the convention in Chicago. He shared fish and chips with Molly over a hearty helping of similar philosophies. When I asked him if he was an Obama delegate, he retorted "Aren't we all, now?"
I think Molly would have liked that moment.
So with my new motto, I forged ahead, colors be damned. I decided that I would go up to every security personnel I could muster until I got where I was going, or closer to it. And somehow by Wednesday afternoon, thanks to the help of a well-placed Floor Pass, I ended up on the floor pressed up against the chairs of the Illinois and Virginia delegation. To avoid getting tossed out by DNC staffers, I migrated around between Secret Service men, a woman who fainted when Obama eventually came out, and a hardened looking New York lobbyist with squinting, dubious eyes and a shining scalp.
The lobbyist spent ten minutes ranting to me about Obama. Things needed to change, he said but Obama would never make a difference. Obama, he said, could decline all the PAC money he wanted but that Washington would never change for Obama. I listened patiently, accepted, with a teeth-gritting smile, the Special Guest Floor Pass he handed me ("I've got extras, I sure as hell don't need these things") and stared back at the stage in time to see Melissa Etheridge start to sing.
If you haven't watched Etheridge's performance from Wednesday night, you should. Put down your coffee, hit play, and just think about this for a second.
God bless America.
Your feet hurt from dress shoes and sidewalks, your shoulder hurts from a laptop you've been lugging around but unable to use, but most painful, most battered and sore, is your American spirit. You're standing next to a lobbyist who's balding and chewing gum, unimpressed with anything about life that doesn't come in a six-speed. You're rubbing shoulders with quite possibly the person who got you into this painful mess.
The times, they are a-changin'.
You glance at the old lobbyist and he looks over. He's uncrossed his arms and suddenly his gum has disappeared. Gone is the look of cynicism from his face -- it's a face of recognition, a man who has perhaps just noticed the chanting crowd around him for the first time.
And all we are saying, is give peace a chance.
The crowd is swaying and like it or not, media or lobbyist, you're swaying too. This doesn't hurt. This makes sense now.
'Cause I was born in the USA.
In the USA.
And repeat. The lobbyist is staring straight-ahead, singing along despite himself. And so are you. Colored passes hang around your neck but for seven minutes, no one asks you to move along. The Secret Service man snaps a picture with his Blackberry to send to his girlfriend. They'll want to remember this. The image. The sound. The clatter of all we are saying. Banging on, it seems, pots and pans.
I think Molly would have liked that moment.