Monday, November 3, 2008
Nolan and I went to the Obama rally in downtown Cleveland on Sunday. (Check out the photo of him sporting a "Kids for Obama" button.)
We were there for five hours, standing in line for two. The line was unbelievably long, starting at the Quicken Loans Arena (the "Q") and snaking its way to Malls A, B and C near Browns Stadium.
It was awesome to see so many people, of all ages and from varying backgrounds, all gathered to support Obama. News reports estimated around 80,000 people in attendance. To see the streets of downtown Cleveland filled with so many people was surreal - it felt more like being in New York.
Originally, I wasn't even planning on going. Our family was supposed to go to a birthday party that afternoon, but my friend, Claire, convinced me otherwise. An Obama Mama from the very beginning, she talked me into going to the rally to support an inspiring presidential candidate during a historic campaign. "This is it, dude," she said. "This is it!" A few of my friends from work were going too, so I gave in. Nico was very disappointed that he couldn't attend too - "What? You're going to see Barack Obama? In REAL LIFE?" - but he had to keep his commitment to his friend's party. So Vic took Nico to the party; I took Nolan to the rally.
Even though the line was so long, there was some entertainment to keep us from getting too bored. Along Ontario, there was some giant Obama Puppet Guy on stilts. Also, throughout the wait, vendors sold t-shirts and buttons, food and beverages.
For the most part, people were energized and happy, although there were times the the long wait made some of us crabby and tired. Ultimately, after waiting for two hours, Claire and I decided to ditch the line and just go to the open mall area where we joined hundreds of other people.
Not all of the people in the area were Obama supporters. Particularly after the Browns game was over, there were some tense moments. The Browns played miserably against our arch rivals, the Baltimore Ravens. So once the game let out, a throng of unhappy Browns fans poured onto the mall. One especially drunk, red-faced guy came up to me and Nolan and, taking note of our Obama buttons, shouted, "Get your welfare checks here! Get your welfare checks here!" I'm not sure if that was supposed to be some sort of derogatory insinuation that Obama is a socialist, but if anyone was likely to need welfare or some sort of government assistance, chances are it would be this crazy guy.
Nolan was great - only acting up a little bit during the five hours we were there. At one point, I had to change his diaper on the lawn - it stunk bad and he was pretty upset about it. I murmured apologies to the people around us as he fussed and cried through the prayer and national anthem, but everyone was understanding and empathetic. "Don't worry about it. I've got two kids at home," one guy said.
Overall, it was an amazing experience. While I was in line, at one point, I stood behind a group of young musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra. One of them told me it was great that I brought Nolan to the rally and that some day, he will be grateful that he was part of this day. Behind me, a young couple must have shared the same idea - they brought their daughter, only three months old.
We don't often get opportunities to take part in historic moments like this.
Now I just need to vote!