Here is a great “on the scene” report sent in by roving reporter Mudflatter Chief Shikago! What an exciting and historic moment for all of us, but particularly for those lucky ones to be live at the scene. A huge shout out, and thank you to Chief Shikago for sharing his story. It makes all of us feel a little bit like we were there too, especially with that great Mudflats sign and Alaska State Flag on site!
Obama Victory Rally at Mudflats Point, Grant Park, Chicago
After just 3 hours of sleep, (a regular occurrence leading up to today) I jumped up at 6am and had my usual 3 cups of coffee while reading Mudflats on my cell and watching MSNBC. I contemplated my mission, 1st Meeting Lurker Liz from Mudstock II for lunch near the Board of Trade. 2nd to get myself, a couple of bags, 2 signs and 9 balloons through what was being called heavy security at Grant Park. Because of the restrictions, I opted to leave my beach cart and folding bag chair home, choosing instead an old airline blanket and tired muscles to move the load downtown. As tired as I felt, I opted to drive rather than taking the train.
I made it to the Grant Park garage in record time. Did some final packing and rechecking my camera gear. I grabbed my signs and balloons and started to hike toward Jackson and LaSalle where I met up with Liz. I felt blessed she was willing to meet up with this off the wall radical socialist Hussein supporter again. We had an outstanding lunch. Conversation circled around Mudflats and my sad (at times) existence. Liz is a lovely person and a great listener, as I did most of the talking. We hugged good-bye and promised to see each other again. I set a course for Grant Park at Congress.
When I arrived in line I was amazed that there were only about 200 people in front of me. 2 lines stretched out from Congress at Michigan Avenue. I was in the North side line, for those that didn’t have tickets to the inner stage area. During the wait I enjoyed the company of a mother who had just flown in from Kentucky for the rally, and a gentlemen from Evanston, a suburb of Chicago. I saw a guy who looked like Joe the Plumber, but, he was holding a sign that simply said; TX for OBAMA. Several international journalists stopped to ask us questions, as they worked the lines. It seemed like my balloons were very popular with the photographers as no fewer then 70 photos were taken of them, though the guy with the life size cut-out of Barack won the day.
A high point for me during the 4 hour wait was seeing Ronnie Wo Wo. I have met him once before. Ronnie is a famous local Chicago Cubs fan who is at every homegame, and is known for his trademark “Wo Wo” sound. So after securing my place in line, I ran out to Ronnie and said; “Ronnie I have to get a photo of us for Mudflats!”, “cool” was all he said. Carolina Procter, of the post tribune sums up Ronnie best, “If Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub, then Ronnie “Woo Woo” Wickers is Mr. Cub Fan”. A disadvantage to being in line for hours was that all the cities Port-O-Johnnies were inside of the park not out on Michigan Avenue.
Finally the line began moving. At security I had to empty my bags. That’s when it was discovered I was trying to smuggle in about 5 pounds of assorted candy. With some “Like you’re really weird mister” looks, I made it inside. Now for the final push to the Northeast corner of the park, just another 4 blocks. I selected a location I thought might be good with equal distance between a monster Jumbotron and those johns I missed while in line.
I immediately took out my packing tape and secured the Alaskan Flag and my Mudflats sign to a light pole. Unpacked my camera a shot a photo of Wolf Blitzer speaking on CNN. Then I realized I needed to raise the signs higher just above head level. I spent the next hour untangling my helium balloons.
‘Bec Hussein of Illinois’ had printed business cards with the Mudflats web address on them, just in case anyone asked about us Mudflats at Mudstock II on Sunday. I had the 4 she gave me in my pocket and I could have used 50! A continuous stream of people asked me questions about Mudflats and Alaskan politics in general, thankfully I have done a little reading up on the subject thanks to AKM and all of you. The best question came from a Chinese national student in Chicago for studies who I spent and hour visiting with. With a Mudflats card in his hand, my e-mail addy penned on the back, he said, in his best english; “Why you care about Alaska politics” to which I replied “Just because it is a different state does not mean we shouldn’t care about what happens there”, and I explained that “When Alaska’s Governor was thrusted into our nations presidential race it’s only natural that we would want to learn more about that individual” I went into further detail using the civil rights movement as an example of how what happens in a state far away can effect us all. It was interesting to get his take on the possibility of real freedom coming to China, which is, he said, only prevented today by the “Old men”. HHhhmmmm I thought of the Republican party at that point.
I finally finished the detangling process and at once tried to launch a 3 inch in diameter Obama sunrise, no luck, I tried again with 3 balloons and almost no ribbon, but it was of no use, too much time had passed and too much helium had escaped since I purchased them the night before. With a slight pain in my heart I put them out of there misery and placed them in the trash can. I grew ever frustrated around 8pm with my AT&T cell service which would not give me a signal cutting me off from my Mudflats posting plans.
By now there was barely room to sit with my legs folded. I had a continuous plastic bowl full of candy that I would go around and offer my neighbors. When complemented on this practice I would simply say “This is what good people do”. Every time a state was announced for Obama we all went crazy, even Bashu from China, and a women sitting next to me from Portugal who had flown all the way to Chicago just to be there. It was when Virginia was given to Obama I shed my first tear. I thought of Virginia’s history in the slave trade and how far they’ve come. As each state came in our favor the croud went crazy. Then came the big announcement CNN is calling the election for Barack Obama. Screaming, hugging, jumping up and down it was like being and molecule of water that just reached boil. First 10, then 20, 30 minutes later and you still couldn’t hear yourself think, at some point I remember smelling pot in the air. No, not mine.
The crowd fell silent again, when John McCains face took over the Jumbotron. His exausted concession speech was well received with few boos and an occasional thumbs down. It was obvious to all he was a beaten man, more over by his own party, than Barack. When I saw McCain supporters leaving as he started his speech, I felt sorry for him.
Then shortly thereafter all of the Jumbotrons in Grant Park switched to Barack being introduced, all except ours at Mudflats Point. About 500 of us ran to a smaller set about a block away, (really bad view because it was crowded already) only to hear a few sentences and “Click” the Jumbotron at Mudflats Point came online with Barack, so it’s back we run. By this time you could hear a pindrop, and everyone would say, “yes we can”, after the President Elects lead. Recalling this today gives me goosebumps. It was an unbelieveable moment, it was OUR moment, and it was OUR time. Before I knew it, his words had ended, far too soon for me. As the music was playing and he and Joe Biden were preparing to leave the stage, I asked a stranger to take my picture at Mudflats Point. Afterward I turned and saluted the Alaskan flag and then donated the signs to the historical society of my mind, sadly I turned and joined the other half a million people to leave that sacred ground.
Seeing so many people filling the steets as we left was amazing. Just looking down Michigan Avenue I could see the entire population of Fairbanks before me. 60 people shoulder to shoulder wide. People were scrambling up everything and anything they could find to get to a better photo angle, I saw centerline dividers with 30 people balancing on them, trying not to get the person in front of them in their photo. During my hike to the Jeep this throng would spontaniously begin cheering again. I can still hear it, it’s the sound American’s make after hearing Lady Liberty herself, address our nation.
‘Chief Hussein Shikago’
In honor of the President Elect and with a mission accomplished spirit I will now been known as simply: ‘Chief Shikago’
(I am not a writer, so please forgive all of my grammatical errors.)