Being there is something else again. Physical discomfort, confusion, moments of being royally pissed off. Trade-offs for spirit, excitement,connectedness and very, very rarely -- transcendence.
Yesterday was a good example. Just hung out in the room in the morning. Needed downtime after the intensity of the first 3 days.
Left on the first shuttle bus from the hotel for Invesco Field. It was total chaos. No volunteers met the buses as in the Pepsi Center. There was a very long line --apparently for security. No one was there to direct us. Some people scrambled up an embankment and walked to an upper level of the stadium. One semi-official person told us that we needed to stay in the line for delegates. That person disappeared and we saw no one else for an hour and a half. It was hot.
When we finally reached security, busloads of so-called VIPs were ushered in 'in waves' further dellaying us. Once inside the perimeter, gads of orange-shirted volunteers fell all over themselves to help us.
Once on the field, we found the NC delegation in a slightly better position than at the Pepsi Center. But on the level field the sight lines for a short person like me were terrible. The metal seats were lashed together with ty-wraps and were crushed together even closer than at the PC. The sun was beating down. I am very heat intolerant
I found a seat with difficulty and went to the restroom. There were only 2 stalls in the women's room. The wait was 25 minutes. I went looking for concessions and was directed up a long, long incline to an upper level. 30 minute wait at each concession stand. I stood in the shortest line I could find. It was for nachos. Gloppy is not my favorite kind of food. I was reluctant to drink much since I dreaded the restroom wait or the long walk up to the upper level. I was exhausted from the heat and from standing in all those lines.
When I returned to my seat, someone thinking I wasn't coming back had appropriated it and there were 2 enormous wheelchairs from people not in our delegation blocking the aisle. Our incredibly helpful delegation Whip Brad Thompson managed to get my seat back for me and convinced the two women in wheelchairs to move -- with great difficulty.
I learned our delegation of 134 people was shortchanged 15 seats. Brad warned me that once I sat down, it would be a challenge to get out again. The fire marshals weren't letting people back on the field. I sat in that very tight seat for 3 hours. It was so close that it was difficult to stand up to wave a sign. The people sitting right around me seemed kind of glum and lacking in spirit. I watched other sections of the delegation 'kickin' up their heels' and having fun, but I was stuck, I was thirsty but dared not drink much. Spike Lee sauntered by and mixed it up with the NC delegation. I couldn't get near him.
Those early speeches were deadly --just like Tuesday night. Gore was good and kept me awake but didn't inspire. The sound system had a terrible echo. I had to strain my ears to make the doubled words cohere into meaning. John Oliver of The Daily Show pranced down the aisle mimicking O-BAM-A. O-BAM-A. I couldn't get near him either.
Then the big moment. Obama was a tall shadowy figure in the distance that flitted in and out of view. He started slowly but soon began to show the toughness we had been waiting for. Throwing it up to McCain. Here was substance. The meat. Raising the unspoken issue of temperament. Challenging McCain on patriotism. And the crescendo: the tying all the themes together with the commitment to fulfill the promise of the MLK "I have a dream" speech.
I was crying now. On my feet till the end. By that time Betsy Muse, the BlueNC bogger was next to me and she was crying, too, and we held arms. And there were sobs all around and shouts of "Yes" from behind me -- shouts that came from someplace very deep -- in the gut. It was Brad Thompson. I turned around and we hugged.
And then the fireworks started and the confetti drifted down. Someone behind me was handed one of those huge American flags. He stood on his seat and we all swung up to touch the flag and after a few tries he got the rhythm of the wave. And I was standing underneath the waving flag. Clear sky. Red, white, and blue bursts of sparkle, lights from the stadium LEDs flashing 'America' and tiny colored papers drifting, drifting down. Red White and Blue.
I didn't miss the balloons.