barack campus adventure, part 2

Yesterday, I began the tale of my crazy night last Monday, as I attempted to view presidential politics in action at the University of North Carolina. Regardless of my own political leanings, I do stay up with it all – and I’m exploring college campuses. So, an excellent adventure was in the making. Check out the first part here.

I neglected to mention that this was actually a whole day of adventure. It’s funny how on this year-long road trip some days are just like that – rather eventful from beginning to end. In this case, mid-afternoon I unexpectedly had to vacate the place I had been staying, due to some events over which I had no control. So I drove from Chapel Hill to Durham, threw my stuff into the Pathfinder, and returned to UNC… figuring I’d find a place to stay at some point that night.

Back to the story at hand.

After first finding separated seats, the three of us attending the rally ended up moving so we could all sit together. We sat pretty much straight in front of the stage – only far, far away on the other side of the arena.

Surprisingly, at this point nobody had approached me for that family dinner I was planning on, or even to offer one of those choice seats right behind the stage so you end up on TV. Maybe they hadn’t noticed the Notre Dame shirt, a potential key to victory in the upcoming primaries – if not in November.

We settled in to our seats around 7:30. When was Barack slated to start, you ask? 9:30 in the PM. Yikes chihuahua. My wet feet and I were gonna have to wait some more.

There are two things worth noting about wet clothing at this point:

  1. Wet clothes, as they dry, often start to smell kinda mildewy. Including brown Gap pants, apparently.
  2. Wet socks and shoes take FOREVER to dry out, unless you take your shoes off. If you take your shoes off, however, refer to #1, only times 100.

For being a giant pep rally (which was definitely the feel of this event), there was a whole lot of pre-event boredom. Some music – like the kind they play during time-outs at basketball games – and some live music that was entertaining for the first few songs… The band had an awkward name: Liquid Pleasure.

But I figure the boredom works for the campaign, in that every little thing of interest becomes exciting. And certainly, by the time Obama came out, the crowd was ready for him to show up.

I finished one whole book while we waited, and I took a bunch of pictures, and the crowd did the wave at one point, and it went around the arena seven times, and we waited.

At 9:30, the action started. Only it was no-name people (well, at least to somebody from Texas) and one old UNC athlete. Then more waiting.

So, if you want to know one thing about big, official political rallies, it’s that there’s a lot of waiting. Or, you can be smart and show up right before the “start time” and sit far away but still get to tell your friends you went. That’s probably what I will do next time.

At 10pm or so, Obama came out. Of course, everybody went nuts! Some of us had been waiting, remember, for over 4 1/2 hours total.

But before you get the wrong picture in your head, it’s important to note that while this event was in UNC’s basketball arena, this crowd was not particularly “collegiate.” Sure, there were lots of students there, but there were also plenty of others – from local and far away, moms and dads and babies and old people.

Still, there was the occasional “I love you, Obama!” (or even “You’re hot!”) screamed from gal students – and the one time he responded with a quick, deep “I love you, too” was undeniably pretty smooth.

Otherwise, though, this was a “stump speech,” to be sure. Very basic stuff, and he didn’t even touch on too much that was “politically current.” I found myself hoping for something “news-making” – like a John Edwards endorsement (being in NC and all), or a radical response to the recent Reverend Wright issue. (The latter would happen the next day, on Tuesday. Bummer.)

And that’s the problem: stump speeches and campaign events seem, from my perspective, to be best for two groups: those who are just plain in love with the candidate and just want to see him/her in person OR those who haven’t been paying any attention to the daily barrage of political news, in which all the info from the daily stump speech has been discussed ad nauseum. I don’t fit either of those categories of people.

So, no luck on the newsworthiness. And ALSO no luck on my plan to meet the candidate and possibly get a free place to stay with Secret Service protection. Barack spoke about 45 minutes, and he didn’t even mention me or my Notre Dame shirt within the speech. Bummer all around.

But really, though I may sound despondent now, it was truly fun to get to go to a Barack Obama Presidential Campaign rally, especially at an awesome place like the Smith Center. I’ve now gotten to see a rally, and I can also add to my life’s celebrity-sighting total. Maybe I was even seeing the next POTUS, and I was at least seeing a US Senator. And I certainly got to add an additional adventure to the Road Trip roster – a wet, stinky, political, campus adventure. Can you really beat that?

I mentioned that this day was ridiculous for a good chunk of time, and it’s true. We were pretty successful squiring through the mass of people leaving the arena, but by the time I got to my car and then to an eatin’ place, it was past midnight.

I ended up eating an Exxon dinner (a creme-filled Danish, Pop Tarts, and Häagen-Dazs) as I settled into the Motel 6. In drier clothes, for sure, watching a little TV.

And all was right with the world.

Written from Cincinnati, OH

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