Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Boy, has it been a while since I wrote on this thing...

Just a note—I’m writing this from a dorm room at Georgoton, where I’ve just woken up from a nap that can only be described as necessary. So yeah, there might be some typos.

Anyway, yesterday, the 19th, I started in Northstar, a ski resort at California’s Lake Tahoe. A car ride later, I caught a shuttle to the Reno, NV airport, where (after hiding my newly acquired terrible towel and making copious use of the free wifi) I set off to Baltimore. By plane. Then I hopped on the Amtrak to DC, hailed a cab, and met my friend and host Jeremy at Georgetown.

I ate a sandwich on the plane, thankful that my elders had had the foresight to pack me something to eat. Otherwise, it would have been a longer and hungrier trip than it was. As it worked out though, I arrived in Georgetown at around midnight, went to a lil’ party, left the party real quick, and began to meet my fellow inauguration goers. They were Jeremy’s floor mates, and my good friend Ilan (who was lucky enough to have a ticket but classy enough not to rub it in our faces—at least for the most part).

After a quick nap, somewhere in the 20-40 minute range, we headed off to the mall on foot. It was 3am and there were 21 of us. We were, to put it colloquially, rolling deep. We walked down by the river, bundled up in long underwear and heavy coats (although or some reason I didn’t wear a sweater—a big mistake and an obvious early sign of Obamamania.

We walked past the Watergate hotel—ugly—the bridge to Virginia—remarkably short—and the Lincoln Memorial—the most epic thing ever, especially lighted as it was. We got down to the Washington monument at a quarter to four and began the trek across the mall to where our campsite would be.

At four, we found it. In the closest non ticketed section, with a full view of the Capital Building and easy access to a Jumbotron (the first one in on the right, if you’re looking at the crowd shots). Soon, it got cold. We did the only logical thing—huddled together for warmth.

Huddling together for warmth is an interesting way of meeting new people. There seems to be a pretty strong correlation between how cold it is and how awkward it is. If my math skills haven’t failed me, I believe it’s termed an inverse relationship. After a couple hours of aborted attempts that always seemed to leave on body part or another cold, we finally managed to find a system where most of us were warm and comfortable. Thank god it didn’t snow.

For reasons that time may someday tell, we left our position of warmth and ventured into the outside world. Jeremy, a friend of his named Tony, and I all went to the bathroom. Getting back? Somewhere between hobbits to Mordor and Mike Gravel to Democratic Nomination. But we persevered.

Despite the packed crowds and seemingly insurmountable odds, we took the 2008 Presidential campaign to heart and decided that rather than abandoning out principles and staying where the crowd had taken, YES WE COULD find our blankets and friends. We were right. It just took a while. And in the process my feet got incredibly cold.

To be honest, the next few hours were a blur. I drifted in an out of sleep for one of them, ate a lot of beef jerky, and thought my toes were going to freeze off. I finally managed to finagle myself some blanket and took another quick nap, once again in the 20-40 minute range. The cold woke me up. Soon, I was stuffing newspaper in my shoes to get some insulation and looking anxiously at my (poorly functioning) cell phone. Action didn’t start for another four hours!

Slowly but surely, the event drew closer and closer. It was symbolic—the final freezing night before the new day, the suffering and misery of Bush before the warmth and happiness of Obama. The symbolism was pretty obvious. Unfortunately, every time I chuckled cold air came down into my lungs and made me wince on the inside.

Time dragged on. I got hungry. I got irritable. We were with one McCain supporter who for reasons unknown decided to come. He complained a lot. We all did. It was pretty cold. I guess he wanted to be a part of history.

Suddenly, they public service announcements ceased and the replay of Sunday night’s concert came over the Jumbotron. We got excited. We danced a little. It was still really cold. Soon (well, two hours later) the motorcae appeared, the choirs started singing, and the Marine Band did its thing (which, Jeremy and I noted, generally consisted of playing the repertoire of the Santa Monica High School Wind Ensemble really well—except without either Ramirez or the Polovetsian Dances. We sung along to ‘Chester’ and an infinite variety of Sousa marches.

The most interesting thing up to this point was the crowd reaction to the various dignitaries. The ambassadors all got cheers. So did the motorcade. Lieberman was the first person to get booed—even McCain got a tepid flag wave from the mall. The place went nuts for Bill and Hillary, and for Jimmy Carter. We were pretty indifferent to most, but the default reaction was applause.

Then, out came Bush and Cheney. Lusty boos. A girl in front of me was screaming and booing only to sheepishly say that she had never booed a man in a wheelchair before. I told her not to worry—Cheney isn’t human. That’s been proven many times before.

I thoroughly enjoyed booing Bush and Cheney. They looked so…pitiful. Seeing them looking at us, something inside me wanted them to know how much we hated them, how much they had come to represent everything we despised in our country and our world. So I booed. Loud.

Of course, after Bush, you can only go up. And the next person out was… Obama. But the actual ceremony I haven’t quite had the time to write about. But I will soon. Probably tomorrow.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Aftermath


Yes. We. Did.


So the shock and awe has worn off a little bit, and I can now write up a little something about election day 2008.  

First, let's start with YES YES YES YES YES!!1!


Third, I predicted the electoral votes right!  What's that you say about NE-2? Well, as of this writing that hasn't happened yet...

Anyway, I woke up early Tuesday morning, loaded up on coffee (it was a long night of tossing, turning, and incoherent typing the night before) and headed down to Lafayette, IN with my roommate's girlfriend.  We got there at about 10 am and were immediately (well, after a bowl of chili and some more coffee) sent out canvassing.  We canvassed, only met one mean guy, and came back to pick up another walk packet.

Worst experience?  The morbidly obese woman with the two naked kids in the run down house who hadn't bothered to clean the dead mice off her porch and most definitely didn't want to vote for Barack Obama.

And the guy who threatened us.  But he was more sad than scary...

Best moment?  Seeing the joy on peoples' faces as they told us that they had voted already that day, or voted early, and that everyone in their family supported Obama.  Even the old white people!

After we finished out last packet, we helped set up the Lafayette Campaign for Change party, complete with bigscreen TV, keg, and lots and lots of champagne.  We left before it started though and headed back to chicago for the Grant Park rally.

Which I, due to the kindness of a girl on my floor, had a ticket to.  Yay!

Grant Park was amazing.  Standing in line to get in, rumors raced up and down like wildfire.  Obama won Ohio!  Obama won Wyoming!  Take that back about Ohio!  Obama won New York!  The polls in Wyoming haven't closed yet!  Wait, he DID win Ohio!

There was a giant TV projecting CNN, but no one could see or hear it from the line.  One full search later, we were inside (sans flagpole on my American flag) and into the largest mass of people I've ever been a part of.  The energy was palpable.

One by one, states would come in and the crowd would go nuts.  Some of us, I think, knew that the race was over as soon as Ohio was called.  Others didn't.

Then, at about 9:50, Virginia came in.

Next up?  California.

We waited.  CNN put a countdown on the big screen.


A few people started chanting


Everyone yelling at the top of their lungs


And then there was a moment of silence, Barack's face and the words "President Elect" came up on the screen, and the next five minutes were pure pandemonium.  Tears.  Screams.  Hugs from total strangers.  More tears.  Oprah on the jumotron.  Civil Rights leaders weeping.  Everyone singing and chanting and celebrating.

McCain spoke; it was good, people were appreciative of his tone.  The only thing we booed was Sarah Palin.

Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours came on.  We all expected Barack to come out.  Nope.  Dance party.  Sweet Home Chicago.  Higher and Higher.  Finally, out they came.

As for the speech?  You all heard it.  Honestly, I wasn't as impressed as I thought I was going to be.  All of my emotions had been spent.  I was sort of in a daze.  Afterwards, we left.  Took the train home, came in, saw that they'd called Indiana.  That was nice.

And then, for the first time in what felt like forever, I just drifted off to sleep, slept through Latin, and woke up with an Obama presidency and lot of Marx to read.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Or more like 2:30 am, and I can't sleep.

I'm nervous-- just about as nervous as the first time I called a girl.  And with that same knot in my stomach.  Hopefully today turns out better than that did.

I've already voted by mail, and in a few shoer hours (about 3 and a half) I'm heading down to Lafayette, IN to get out the vote.  Then it's on the Grant Park and maybe the best night ever.

As for my prediction?  

Here it is:

Am I saying that with any evidence?  Of course not.  And I'm not sure about IN.  Or MT and GA for that matter, but this is what my gut says.  And guts don't have any liberal bias.


Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday Update

So this was an epic-ly Obama weekend.  Lots of good stories.  I also dressed up like Agamemnon, but that's another story altogether.  

It was parents weekend at the University this past weekend, and my mom came out to visit.  On Friday night, we went down to the Loop to go to a Fieldhands get-together thrown by Al Giordano's Fieldhand group.  The Fieldhands are a grassroots organization founded by readers of Giordano's blog The Field to both work to get Barack Obama elected and continue to fight for important causes after the election is over.

The meeting was held at the Billy Goat Tavern on (or actually, under) Michigan Avenue.  We got there at about a quarter to seven, and a few minutes later Al arrived.  He was not alone.  With him was Nate Silver, the UC grad and polling expert behind the site fivethirtyeight.com.  They sat down with the couple dozen Fieldhands who had assembled for the event and we talked politics, post-election plans, and even a little baseball.  Nate Silver is a baseball analyst as well as a political one, and he had the foresight to predict the Rays would make the playoffs.  

I hope his election predictions are just as accurate-- currently on his site Barack has over a 95% chance to win.

Unfortunately, we had to leave early to go get dinner in Greektown.  Big mistake.  Especially because Greek food does not sit well at a hot, crowded costume party.  But that's a story for another time.

I had been in touch with Al a little bit in the week before the meet-up, and had told him that the UC Dems and Students for Barack Obama would be going to Gary, IN on Saturday.  He came too, but we didn't see him-- we were out canvassing, I guess.

He reported his story (and mentioned me and my mom!) that night on his site, and I can't ofer any better insight than he can.  

But I can give some anecdotes from the ground.  The Gary office was packed; we had to be sent to a satellite office to get our walk packets.  My mom and I took half our packet and two other UC Students, Mark and Sean, took the other half.  We finished quick, and while Mark and Sean went out to do another packet, my mom and I went back to the central Gary office to phonebank.  

Lots of phonecalls.  Mainly we were calling for GotV (IN has early voting going on now) and to recruit volunteers.  It was pretty successful.  I signed up a GotV volunteer, got a bunch of people early voting information, and managed to only get hung up on once (and for an hour and a half of calling, I thought that was good).

I also got some Obama signs.

That's really all for now-- not too much else has been going on.  Lots of panicking over the election, lots of Sarah Paling jokes (the Halloween party I was at not only featured yours truly as Agamemnon, Lord of Men, but had a John McCain, a Palin, a Barack, and a Cindy McCain).

Oh, and I've been signing up a lot of volunteers on campus.  The sales pitch? 

"Do YOU want Sarah Palin to be the next Vice-President?"

...we must have signed up over 50 people like that...


Monday, October 6, 2008

It's been a while

School has been wonderful but busy.  From the workload to the myriad activities, I've found very little time to write.  However, there are a couple quick things I want to talk about.

Last Saturday, we finished out orientation by participating in a program called "Experience Chicago Through Service.  This optional activity, attended by over half of the incoming class, was part of the school's outreach into the community.  My group, and several others, went to an elementary school on the South Side of Chicago -- a 99% African American, 93% reduced or free lunch elementary school -- and repainted the crumbling walls.  Unfortunately, we painted it a hideous shade of blue (they have poor choice in school colors, I guess), but it was much appreciated.  

I spent some time this week with Students for Barack Obama registering voters on campus-- I only did a little bit because I got sick, but I heard rumor that our drive alone registered somewhere over 200 kids.  Which was heartening.

Also, we spent Saturday in Gary, Indiana registering voters and canvassing for Obama. We took the train down from Chicago and found something like 500 volunteers working the Gary office.  Really interesting city-- extremely poor (at least where we were), 90% black, will go huge for Obama. The only problem is that in past elections turnout has been abysmally low. How low? 15% in 2004!

The campaign hopes and thinks that it can bring that number up-- already, registrations are pouring in at a rate of hundreds a day, and the Obama folks are organizing a massive absentee-ballot/early voting drive to counteract the restrictive voter ID laws in Indiana. It's sad though-- the state Republican party sued and managed to get the early voting locations in the black neighborhood shut down, so now people who want to vote early have to drive 45 minutes South, away from where their jobs are North of the city in Chicago. It's disgraceful that an American political party can openly base its tactics on voter suppression.

Anyway, I need to run to SoSc right now.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

Scenes From Campus

So, being that I'm not only on a college campus, but a college campus that is a few blocks from the Obama residence, there is a lot of Obamaphilia here.  

One of my new friends, Andrew, who hails from Minnesota, was actually at the Republican National Convention.  The caveat: he was standing outside wearing black and avoiding riot police.  And he's not just a demonstrator-- he's actually a huge Obama supporter as well.  I like him a lot.

One of our first nights here, we had an orientation event at the lake.  Our house, Blackstone, went to the lakeshore to have a bonfire, make s'mores, and tell ghost stories.  Our O-Aide, Jono, sat there with the shadows of the fire playing across his face and began.  "Now let m tell you a really scary story," he said.  "Next January, John McCain could be our President!"  

Terror gripped the crowd.

Yesterday, I took the antiquated University of Chicago practice known as the "swim test."  I passed, but that's not what's important-- or funny.  As I was steeling myself to jump in the pool, one of the kids mentioned that he was from Alaska.  Immeditely, the lifeguard turned to him asked, "Can you see Russia from your hoose?"

As I was walking down 57th street after picking my classes (Greek Thought and Literature; Power, Identity and Resistance; Intermediate Latin; Elementary Hittite), I ran across a local woman wearing possibly the coolest Obama shirt I had ever seen.  I asked her where she got it, and she directed me to the local Unitarian Church, where she said a man named Al would take care of me.  I knocked on the door of the church, only to be informed by an elderly black man that it was closed.

"Oh," I replied.  "I was just looking for Al."
"That's me," he said, pausing.  "you here for one of them Obama shirts?"
"Yeah..." I replied, unsure of whether this was some sort of faux pas.
"Well, we got some bad shirts.  Some real bad shirts we can sell you."

I wasn't sure if he meant bad as in bad, or bad as in good.  I decided I'd make that judgment for myself.  Soon, his brother pulled up and showed me a staggering array of Obama shirts, ranging from incredibly bad to incredibly "bad."  I took his card and started to outline an order.

Other than the Obama stuff, there's a lot of great things going on in the neighborhood and at the school in general.  It's truly like Hogwarts here.  Unfortunately, the food kind of sucks (although today I had an excellent lunch of fried chicken, mac 'n' cheese, potato salad, greens, and cornbread) and I'm busy all the time.  Today is really the first day I've had with a lot of free time, and that's only because I did all my other things -- swim test, class registration, etc-- yesterday.

So now I need to go take a nap before we have a lecture on safety (again).


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Move-In Day

Well, today I officially became a student of the University of Chicago.  My roommate Josh and I moved into our suite at the Blackstone Residence Hall this morning, and are, if you pardon the expression, fired up and ready to go.

Today was an amazing day; I met wonderful people, learned a lot, and managed to get a decent meal at the cafeteria (which I was assured only happens this first week).  Anyway, there were too many things going on today to list them all, so I'll just hit a couple of the highlights.

After all of the registration bureaucracy was over, we went to Convocation.  Between the bagpipes, the choir, and the parental tears (not, I will say, from any parents of mine!) they managed to actually squeeze in some serious discussion of the liberal eduction and the history of the University.  

Afterwards, I met some new people, took a class photo, and went to the dining hall for a very early dinner.  There, I met my house -- Blackstone House -- and ate a delicious meal of fried chicken, french fries, and raw broccoli.  Actually, it wasn't that delicious, but it was all you can eat, which made me happy.  What made me sad was to learn that it's only all-one-can-eat during orientation week.  

After dinner, we retired to our suite to put up posters.  I borrowed one of Josh's, because I left mine in Santa Monica, and gave him one of my many Obama ones in return.  Yeah, I wasn't going to forget those.  The two in my room say "Change We Can Believe In" and "Renewing America's  Promise;" Josh swooped on the limited edition "One Nation" one.  

That reminds me-- Josh wore his Obama shirt today, and we found out that a lot of people at Chcago really like Barack Obama.  We also found out that a smaller group of people really, really, don't like Barack Obama.  Eh, you win some, you lose some.  On that election related note, I found out that the guy across the hall from me, from Michigan, isn't registered to vote.  From Michigan!  

Finally, we went shopping.  Since we have a little kitchenette, we bought various canned soups, boxes of pastas, packs of tea, and other delicious necessities.  Unfortunately, we didn't buy any pots or pans, so we're stuck eating pepper jack cheese and salami sandwiches when we our satiation from the six o' clock dinner wears off.  Which is right about now-- so I'm going to end for the day.