Notes from the Perimeter

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Season of Change


Thursday night. The Denver Sheraton has run out of food. Seriously—both restaurants. We came into town on the light rail along with most of Denver. When we passed Invesco Field at 3pm we could see an endless line snaking toward the security entrance points. Later that would be our destination but first we have to pay our final respects to what has become our personal Situation Room. And to contemplate once more some of the many stories that animate the perimeter.

On our way down the 16th Street Mall we pass pods of riot cops on horseback—the horses wearing eye shields like their riders— and a couple, Anita West-Ware and her husband Kim McKinney, offering photo ops with Barack Obama (cardboard cutout version). That’s as close as I’m likely to get so I avail myself of the chance to hug the Contender.

At the Sheraton we say goodbye to a few of the friends we’ve made during this extraordinary week and decide we better pick up a sandwich before catching one of the media busses to Invesco. We know this is important since, if Invesco is going to be anything like the Pepsi Center, there is no food worth eating on the premises unless one wishes to die of heart disease before the election. In addition, about four hours before the end of each day, the secret service limits access to the hall so once you’re at your media desk with annoyingly non-functional Internet (available only to those who cough up $1300 for a link!) you cannot leave. As in CANNOT. As in: need to use the bathroom? Tough. In an email posted a couple of days ago by the NH Republicans, they mention that we “special interest liberals” were lounging about the convention hall munching on our soy burgers. Soy burgers? Where?? I’d have given an eyetooth for a soy burger. And I have to wonder how we possibly could trust a party that can’t tell the difference between a lentil and a corn dog.

By the time we acquired our sandwich (which is massive and apparently created with an expansive sense of leisure) from an outside vendor since the Sheraton, which bears repeating, is out of food, we’re fearful that we’ve missed the last bus. Then one turns the corner so we dash and a nice volunteer waves the bus to a stop. On board are driver Brandi and Deputy Wilson and nobody else, so our final convention ride (at the time we didn’t realize it would be our last) is taken in spacious luxury. Entering the stadium is far easier than we’d expected -- our most recent experience of getting into the Pepsi Center on Wednesday involved standing in line for literally an hour with about 5000 (not an exaggeration) other people waiting for one of the dozen or so security checkpoints. Do you think they might have thought that through? We make good time clearing the Invesco security and suddenly find ourselves, amongst reminders of the Denver Broncos, in the stadium itself: the sky a cloudless blue, the breezes cool and gentle, the speeches rousing and brief. We listen to Sheryl Crow and Stevie Wonder and do the wave. Today no thunderstorm threatens the sunny mood: we’re all just 85,000 people ready to party.

I won’t belabor the magic of the night, the sense of history in the making, the absence of fear-mongering and cynicism. I find myself dumbstruck at how some would say that the ability to inspire is a party trick, even a weakness, and that inspiration itself is just a gimmick. Those people would claim that “hope” is nothing but a fool’s fantasy and that the only thing real is fear – by claiming that, they diminish us. They would paint Americans as frightened little people who can’t come to grips with the world as it is and who don’t care what is lost as long as a circle of safety surrounds their small comfort zones. Their version of America is, for me, the very essence of mediocrity. And to that I say PHOOEY. I swear there was greatness in Invesco last night, a sense of destiny and purpose beyond the personality of Barack Obama. In each of our own lives, we have those moments of glimpsing beyond our concerns and limitations something larger, not larger than ourselves but an exalted version of what we truly can be. It’s the call to embrace one’s potential and to step forth with courage and integrity to make of the world a better place. Call me a sentimental idiot, if you will, but that call was present last night, exhilarating and palpable, and at least in me something profound shifted.

Of course, for every sublime there is a ridiculous, and we found it when we tried to leave Invesco. Apparently, nobody figured out that removing 85,000 people all dependent upon public transportation—no parking in the security zone—might require some coordination. The light rail station nearby apparently was experiencing some “problems” – ah, we say, don’t go there. About twenty bus routes had been set up but in trying to find ours – the bus to downtown – we were directed entirely around Invesco twice. Twice. This took an hour. When we finally stumbled upon our bus area we discovered about ten full busses stuck in gridlock and over 1000 people waiting for the next one. The lure of wine and non-processed food was oddly greater than our desire to wait in line for hours so we left Invesco on foot and made the long walk into town. When we finally got seated, at an outdoor table in a strangely uncrowded restaurant (then we noticed the wine list had bottles available for $4000 – no kidding – so we understood why it wasn’t overrun) we raised our glasses to an unforgettable week.

I want to go back to the Denver Sheraton one last time to relate one of the most memorable stories from the perimeter. His name is David Redic – he’s a musician, artist, and graduate student in Los Angeles getting his PhD in clinical psychology. On the mere wisp of a chance to perform a song he’d written for the convention, David and eight of his fellow musicians rented an Avis van and hauled themselves over the mountains to Denver. They did get their opportunity -- we met David when he and his group performed at the National Newspaper Publishers Association party honoring the Los Angeles Sentinel and other Black-owned newspapers. He has a voice like crushed velvet blended with molasses and a luminous smile: one look at David and you want to give him a hug and buy him a milkshake. I asked David what it was about Obama that inspired him: “As an artist, I’m drawn to hoping that things will be better and Obama represents tangible hope. It isn’t pie-in-the-sky – we all have something to contribute. Obama is at the helm of the change but we’re all part of it.” As I contemplate a few days of solid sleep after the whirlwind of excitement, late nights and inspiration along the perimeter, I leave you with the lyrics of David’s song (you can hear him sing it at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9AM599RHWtQ.)

A Season of Change

In a world full of sorrow, pain & disbelief
Everyone seems to be searching 2 find strength & some relief.
Round & round our lives spin –
When will the cycles of what’s been
Come to an end?
What we stand in need of is a season of change.

Hope springs forth out of misery –
Light breaks through the darkness.
Peace will speak to the confusion.
Brace yourself for a season of change we can believe in,
A season of change we can rely on.

The movement is bigger than bloody war & politics.
We gotta get beyond our self-centered selves & petty cliques.
The writing’s on every wall.
Let’s seize the day, answer the call.
What we stand in need of is a season of change.

We know the road ahead will be filled with ups & downs.
But united as we stand we can turn things around.
But it takes you & it takes me to push the change through.
Get ready, get ready, get ready
For a season of change.

© David Redic, 2008.

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