Wednesday, November 5, 2008

November 4th, 2008: Part One

So yes, I was at Grant Park last night, along with the rest of the city of Chicago. R.A. took a lot of good pictures; I will start hassling her to put them up on her blog. We got to he park at around quarter to six, and were duly herded into the non-ticket holding section of the park, at the north end, by the Pritzker Auditorium. There was a jumbo-tron set up there, tuned in to CNN, along with food and drink vendors and lots and lots of porta-johns.

About twenty minutes after we arrived, CNN called Vermont for Obama with 0% of the precincts reporting. (I love Vermont.) The crowd went absolutely wild. A few minutes later, they called Kentucky for McCain, and everyone booed and cat-called the man on the giant television. Everyone seemed both very nervous and very excited, and there was lot of energy going around. And a little bit of weed, too. But mostly energy.

The crowd got a lot more tense after the early returns from Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida all came in. At first, none of them looked good. I was particularly scared when Obama was behind in both Virginia and Florida. I had been reading about all of the voting problems that they were having in Virginia, and I definitely did not want it to prove to be like Florida of 2000 or Ohio of 2004. I also was worried for that completely unrelated reason of realizing that I was in the middle of a crowd of several hundred thousand people that could very easily enter the "angry mob" category if things didn't go their way. So, yeah, it was tense there for a while.

Things started looking up when the East Coast polls closed and CNN marched out all the Big Blue States for Obama. We all stood up and cheered as, one by one, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and D.C. all went blue. A few minutes later, CNN called New Hampshire. R.A. and I stood up and cheered. (Obama ended up with 355,901 votes in New Hampshire. That 355,901st vote? That's R.A.)

But after that, the excitement of the crowd started slowly to dwindle. Six o'clock became seven o'clock, and seven o'clock eight, and what had been a warm, balmy day started to get chilly and damp. And I think that we started to realize that we had all gathered, thousands of us, to sit in this park together and watch the news. For four consecutive hours. My favorite part of this was that, whenever CNN would cut to Chicago, everybody would stand up and start screaming like crazy. But as soon as the cameras were back in the studio, we would all sit down and be quiet again.

But that's not to suggest that the crowd was in anyway complacent. A big roar went up when the Midwest checked in, and Illinois got to lead Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota into the blue column. A few minutes later, the crowd loudly greeted New York when they finally closed their polls and voted officially for Obama. (Oh My God!! "Obama" is no longer being flagged as a misspelling by Blogger!! He's a real word now!) And whenever CNN would play their dramatic "Projection" music, everyone would immediately get to their feet, only to boo and hiss in disappointment when they found out that Alabama or Arkansas was being called for McCain. And through it all, everyone was keeping a nevous eye on those yellow states (was CNN sending us a metaphorical message?) - Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Indiana.

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