Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fulcher goes 2-0, War and Peace version

1-24-08

Megan, my fiancĂ©, and I traveled to Charleston, South Carolina for the Democratic primary. There, we stayed with Noel Blaha, a friend from high school, Betsy Neidert, and their two Boston Terriers. Two friends from Chicago, Kylie Gregor Whitmire and Kayleen Boldrey, both feisty teachers, joined us. We had an okay time…

Meg and I met a nice bunch on the shuttle from the parking lot to the Columbus airport. It was actually two mothers and their two eight year old daughters who were headed down to a gymnastics competition in Orlando. The mother told a pretty funny story. She said the night before her and her other daughter were watching the Travel Channel when Disney World came on the screen. Her five year old said, “That looks like a lot of fun!” Mom replied, “We’re going there tomorrow, and you’re not!” Ouch!

Arrival and check in at the airport went smoothly until, as I breezed through, Meg got stopped by security. I shook my head…Rookies!

One of the more interesting characters I met was a guy playing guitar near our gate. He was from San Luis Obispo, CA and was in Columbus for a fertilizer convention. There’s no joke here, folks; the guy was actually in town for a fertilizer convention!



Next thing we know, our flight has been delayed by a half an hour. We had a connecting flight to catch in Charlotte, would we make it?

I send out a text to a few friends that we’ve been delayed. The best responses I got were from my very Republican brother, “try chanting ‘anyone but Hillary’ for good karma” and my mom: “good lucky”. She is still figuring out how to text. This was actually a huge improvement from her previous message, “have.fnu.in.iwoa”

We had a really funny flight attendant on our way to Charlotte. His pre-flight shtick included, “If you haven’t been in an automobile since 1960, here is how to operate a seatbelt” and “In case of loss of cabin pressure, a mask will drop, please secure it over your face…after you stop screaming”. I gave him the Beckham clap for these gems. In case you don’t know what a Beckham clap is:



We made our flight in Charlotte, and before long found ourselves at Noel and Betsy’s in Charleston, baking cookies, making signs and preparing for the next day.



1-25
Noel announces at 8:32am that Obama is going to be at a deli 2 miles away for a women’s roundtable at 9:00. Kylie, who claimed the night before that she needs a full hour to get ready, shoots out of bed, wakes up Kayleen, and we’re out the door in less than 15. We arrive on time only to find out that we won’t be allowed inside. Short of dressing in drag, I was pretty sure I couldn’t get in, but it was disappointing that the girls couldn’t get in either. We decided to wait in the cold to see if we could at least catch a glimpse of the next POTUS. Before long, Obama’s bus pulls up. We have to move to even be able to see him. As he exits the bus, I start some loud, “Fired up…ready to go!” chants. As if drawn by a magnet, Obama comes right to us.




I showed him my “We make history” sign, and he shook hands with Kylie and Kayleen. Arguably the highlight of the trip, and we’re only 12 hours in.




We’re so fired up on the ride back to Noel’s that we miss our turn…twice!

Then, it’s off to Barnes and Noble for some coffee. I didn’t feel like waiting in line, so I invented visibility laps. These include walking around a store in Obama gear as everyone basically ignores you.

We arrive at the North Charleston office. The first duty is hanging the “we make history” sign. Hey, it worked in Iowa!





Kayleen, Kylie, myself and Meg

I worked the office with Meg’s cookies and the charm of Obama himself. After about half an hour, it was time for a lunch break. We ate at Panera, and, as I was headed up for a free refill, I noticed the long line and said to the guy in front of me, “gosh, things really are slower down south!” He replied, “If you don’t like it, you can get the HELL out!” I do have a way with people!

This was the general attitude towards us in SC...



After lunch, we went door to door (canvassing) in a trailer park to remind people to get out and vote. It was an interesting neighborhood!



That's a mini-Escalade!

I also enjoyed announcing, “This looks like a Kayleen special!” at the most dilapidated of trailers. I’m surprised this never got annoying!



I was so pumped up after knocking on a particular door, that I tried to jump over a trash can...



I guess it's possible to get too fired up!

Later, Noel and Betsy took us on a driving tour of the multi million dollar homes on the Charleston harbor. Then, it was on to dinner at Tommy Condon's where we had a big fight: optimism vs. pessimism. Pessimism landed some good shots early, but optimism came on late to win a split decision.



Betsy and Noel on the left

Then, it was back to Noel and Betsy’s for a game of Whoonu. Betsy was talking some serious smack early, but it was all luck. I even said, “just because you were dealt the ace of spades, it doesn’t mean you’re the best player!” I’d highly recommend this game to anyone who wants to get to know their friends better. For instance, we learned that Betsy likes camping better than French fries; we also learned that Noel is a sore loser. No wonder we’ve been buds since the 1st grade!

Back at Noel's, Meg enjoyed playing Guitar Hero.



Next, we played Sing Star, a karaoke video game. See for yourselves how fun/embarrassing this game is:



Don’t tell me we didn’t have a good time, Kayleen! I see you laughing back there!


1-26

I had an interesting way of getting my colleagues fired up and ready to go in the morning. By standing on their beds and doing this...



The morning of the primary highlighted just how different my Iowa trip was from this one. For instance, I was Jack Bauer in Iowa, doing whatever it takes to win (I even had to waterboard two potential Hillary caucus goers to get them to switch their allegiances). In SC, I had to deal with stuff like, “We can’t leave until I find my bobby pin!”

Soon, we found our way to the headquarters. We went out canvassing again; Kayleen found a bullet shell casing on the ground at the apartment complex. We kept working! I went up to a door, and the lady told me she couldn’t vote because she had to call a cab for work and had to leave shortly. I arranged a ride for her to the polls and made it so she could even be dropped off to work afterwards. I thought this was pretty neat.

Another round of canvassing found us in a pretty precarious situation. Remember the multi million dollar homes near the harbor? Well, this neighborhood was the exact opposite of that. We actually were so intimidated that we never even got out of the car. We left after seeing a very intimidating dog, which I think was some sort of pit bull/lion mix, wearing a chain reminiscent of Hercules from the old days of the WWF.



After a little rest, the girls and Noel went to the market. As they were leaving, I couldn’t help but say, “I guess you guys aren’t committed to doing everything you can to win!” As for me, I headed back to the office for some last minute volunteering. I walked around the office asking people if they were ready for a “sprint to the finish”. One lady remarked, “I’ve been here since 6 am!” I was making friends all over.

I also managed to knock over a mop bucket full of water while taking the trash out. Mopping up the water was easy, but I needed a place to put the excess water. Luckily, the spill was right by the door, but how would I prop it open?



It was this type of do whatever it takes attitude that led to a 28 point win!

They put me on the phones for some last minute persuasion. I made about 70 calls and maybe talked to 7 people. I swear people were deliberately disconnecting their phones to keep from having to speak to me. I finally got a hold of one voter who wanted to know what religion Obama was. I told him he was a Christian, and the man said that was enough for him, and that he would vote for him.



Another staged phone pic

At 7 o’clock when the polls closed, CNN projected Obama as the winner. I went back into the office to commence celebrations, but was told to keep it kind of hush hush. I’m still not sure why.

Then, it was off to the victory party. South End Brewery was jam packed with supporters. I led a few “fired up…ready to go!” cheers, and we chanted and cheered as Obama gave his victory speech. I sent out a text that said, “Fulcher goes 2-0”, and my favorite response back was from Samir of the Iowa City office. He wrote, “Fulcher and Hope: 2. Hillary: 0”.

We got lost for about the tenth time on the way home.

1-27

Sadly, we had to leave on Sunday morning. There was a man in front of us in the line to check in at the airport that was two pounds over the 50 lb limit for his checked baggage. I almost told him about Noel Blaha wearing 7 layers of clothing home from Germany.



I must have fit some sort of profile (IRA member?), because, right before we boarded, I was singled out for an extra pat down.

A layover in Washington, DC involved something I hadn’t had in years…fast food. It was exactly as I remembered it…lukewarm, not much taste, and I couldn’t stop eating it.

It was sad to leave behind another historic and great trip. A text from Michelle really brought my focus back, it read, “can you be in 22 states all in one day?”

If you found yourself inspired/entertained by this blog, please consider a $10 donation to the Obama campaign. Click on the link below to go to my personal fundraising page. Thanks for reading.

We can change the world

Finally, if you made it all the way to the end of this thing, you deserve recognition. Please e-mail me the answers to these three questions to get your "prize":

1. What type of intsrument was the guy at the airport playing?

2. Who won the fight at dinner, optimism or pessimism?

3. What did I eat in DC that I hadn't had in years?

Click on this link to claim your "prize"

Also, why I support Obama!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Making History/Changing the World Condensed

Here is the short version of my journey to Iowa for the Presidential Caucuses. Please scroll down for the full text. Mom, you don't need to read both. Just the long one below. :) This trip was a life changing experience for me. I hope you enjoy it!


Jan. 2nd: I'm all packed up and ready to head out from Columbus, Ohio. Once I cleared the snow off the hope mobile, I was ready to go.



My journey continued, and I grew a little bit tired. It wasn't until I crossed the Mississippi river that I realized just how special this trip was going to be. The river was much wider than I remembered and half frozen. I have to say I was pretty pumped up at this point. It was as if Thomas Jefferson was riding shotgun, saying, "Almost there, Fulch!" Feeling very at one with nature, I stopped at the next rest stop to snap a few pictures of the sunset. Unfortunately, the stupid traffic kept getting in the way.



When I exited route 80, I could see my hotel. I don't know if it was the single digit temperatures or the 8 foot tall piles of plowed snow, but my first reaction to Iowa is "Hell has frozen over!" I arrived at the hotel in Iowa City. I was pretty amped up. I sent Lew a text message that said, "Right now, I feel like I can take on the whole Empire by myself...Empire=Hillary".

On the way to the headquarters, I had some trouble finding parking, and the building the Obama headquarters was in housed a few other recognizable names:



I arrived at the Obama headquarters with a smile on my face. I said, "I'm Brian Fulcher just in from Columbus, Ohio. And I did not come here to lose...plus, I brought cookies!" Suddenly, I was popular; thanks Meg! :)


Samir in gray, Claire seated foreground

I was handed a long, out of state volunteer info packet. The best part of the packet detailed the volunteer tasks. It read:

1. Canvassing: and then it explained what canvassing is.

2. Phone banking: then it explained what phone banking is.

3. Speechwriter/strategist/personal assistant to the candidate: Unfortunately, this position doesn't exist...

I noticed a lot of tired people jammed into a small office. I decided to make it my mission to work hard AND have fun! My first task was data entry. Now, it's not as glamorous as it sounds! I tallied up the phone calls that people made on a sheet of paper. It didn't take me long to figure out the system was flawed, and so I quickly worked to improve it.

Soon, the cookies had been destroyed, and half of the plastic bag had been eaten. Steve, the precinct captain I had met at Subway, came in shortly and said he could indeed use my help. He needed me to put some caucus notices on people's doorknobs in his precinct the next day. I checked with Samir, and he said go for it. I was going canvassing, baby!

Jan 3rd: After a leisurely breakfast, I arrived at the HQ at 9:30. Steve was supposed to meet me at 10. So, after my patented, "Happy caucus day!" I asked, "What can I do in the next 30 minutes to help Obama win?" Claire, the receptionist, said I should go do some visibility. I wanted some company, so I asked another volunteer if he wanted to go with me. Charles, an Iowa cheerleader, was interested, but he had no coat. Samir said, "He can't go out! He's got to be alive to caucus tonight!" Then, my man, Girish from Dayton who I had met the day before, stepped up with a coat, gloves, and a hat for Charles. I said, "We're off to make history. Be back in half an hour!"


Charles

Girish

We survived temperatures hovering near 0, and, after a few minutes to thaw, Girish and I followed Steve to the canvassing site. We split up the work and had it finished in 15 minutes. Next, we braved a maze of a trailer park, in which the lots seemed to be numbered in random order. I was driving so slow that I felt the need to tell Girish that "the only thing that isn't conservative about me is my politics." Check out this front yard:



It was lunch time, and I bought four pizzas for the office. I heard other people making plans to order Thai food, so I thought maybe I had bought too much. As you would expect, the pizza was a huge hit. People I'd never seen before started coming out of the woodwork; I even had a slice snatched out of my hand. :) The only thing that was missing from the perfect meal was plates. There were no plates to be found anywhere. It caused me to quip, "I bet the Hillary headquarters has plates..."

Then, a guy showed up at the office that looked familiar to me. I couldn't place him, but, after hearing that I'd missed Scarlet Johansson the day before by just a few hours, I asked around and found out it was Kal Penn. You may remember him from such films as Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle and Van Wilder. He's also been on a bunch of tv shows including 24. He probably would have liked my previous Jack Bauer reference.


Kal Penn

We got back to the office, and the morale level was not where I wanted it to be. I talked to Samir about giving a "win one for the gipper" speech, but that never materialized. Instead, I made a sign that says, "We make history tonight!" and put it by the door. I wanted every person that walked out to hit the sign, Notre Dame style. I was busy getting people hyped up, and, apparently, we were a bit too loud, because Samir yelled at us. He had an office to run!






I did a little bit of flyering in the pedestrian mall, and then decided I needed to be at the HQ. It was about 4:30. The caucus started at 6:30. Samir had told me I would be giving rides to the polls, but that never happened. Claire, the receptionist, was running out the door, but gave me quick instructions on how to fill in for her. I was to answer phones. Sounds easy.... As I sat down, two new volunteers came out of nowhere. One said, "I'm from Washingon, what can I do to help?" They put her immediately on phone banking. I was a little salty and said, "but she didn't have to read the packet?!?" The other volunteer was sitting around with nothing to do, so I said, "Hey new girl, you're not doing anything, right? Well, I've been here since yesterday, so I can order you around. Take a picture of me pretending to talk on the phone!" And she did:



Then, all of a sudden, everyone was gone, and it was me, John, a volunteer from New York, and Amy and Alicia, two really nice, really hard working 15 year old girls. John was the dispatcher, solely focused on coordinating rides to the caucus. You could make an argument that I was running the Iowa City Headquarters during the Iowa Caucuses. Pretty insane. I'd only been there 24 hours.

Most of the next few hours is a blur of computer screens, running up and downstairs and anxiously awaiting results. I was answering phones, finding people's caucus locations online, mapquesting addresses and directions. I got one phone call from a father with a problem. He wanted to caucus for Obama, but he had to pick up his son at 7:30. This is right in the middle of the caucuses, and leaving was not an option. So, I asked John, if one of our drivers could go get his son. John contacted Girish to pick up this man's son (code word: pineapple) and take him to the caucus site. Talk about finding a way to win!


John, the dispatcher

Everybody HAD to be at the caucus at 7:00 pm, or they'd likely be shut out. Samir called me panicked at 6:50. He needed directions to an address, then a caucus location for that address, and then directions between the two. I obliged although I was obviously as stressed about the time as Samir was. Then, we got cut off. I heard nothing for a few minutes. Then, Angela, one of the 15 year olds, said, "Brian, someone on the phone in the other room is demanding you come and speak to them." It had to be Samir. I left my computer with the directions on it and bounded up the stairs to get the phone. It was him. Time was running out; what were those directions again? I tried to remember them as best as I could...so, I grabbed an older fellow who had just showed up, wrote down what I thought were the directions and told him to give them to Samir, and I would check for sure. After a quick check of the directions, I realized I had the final address wrong, but it didn't matter anyways. It was too late. This man didn't get to caucus for Obama, but 10s of thousands of other Iowans did...

As we were waiting and waiting to hear the results, I had the distinct feeling that it was going to be good news. I also couldn't get this Apollo 13 quote out of my head, so I shirked my duties for a few minutes to print it out and tape it to my shirt. The quote was, "I believe this is going to be our finest hour!"

We kept hearing anecdotal good news. Reports from various caucus around Iowa City, some by text some by phone. Things were looking really good! Then, NBC called the race for Obama. Does that mean it's a done deal, the girls asked me. "I think so!" I shouted. Amy said, "I'm going to throw up!" I told her, "yeah, that's what I do when I'm happy too. Someone says, 'Happy Birthday', and I vomit all over them!" Eventually, all of the news outlets were saying we won. It was over! We got to celebrate over and over as staffers and volunteers returned from around the city. I had Alicia make a sign that said, "Welcome to Victory Headquarters!" The staffers were the happiest; they had likely saved their jobs. Our county went 52% for Obama, impressive in an 8 candidate field. As I watched the celebrations, I couldn't shake the feeling that we'd made history and changed the world. It was better than going to the final Four and watching the Buckeyes win the National Championship in 2002.



The victory party was at a small establishment absolutely packed with supporters. We watched Hillary's speech on tv, where she and Bill looked morose while Madeline Albright looked dead. Obama's speech brought the house down, with chanting and cheering like we were there with him in Des Moines. Samir gave a short speech. There were lots of hugs, pictures and toasts. I kept asking everyone, "How does it feel to change the world?"


The scene


OK and Girish soaking it up at David's

I want to downplay my role in the victory now. I realize I was basically the 12th man on an amazing basketball team. Guys like us come in late in games after the outcome has already been decided, but we do contribute. We can make history!

On the ride home, I saw two Hillary supporters absolutely zoom by me. I guess they saw my Obama bumper stickers but didn't feel like offering a congratulatory thumbs up. I also heard the song, Man in the Mirror. If you have never heard it or it's been a while, check it out below:



What a message! Thanks for reading about my most excellent adventure. If you were inspired/entertained by it, please consider donating $5 to the Barack Obama campaign OR a charity of your choice. I'll be sending you a follow up e-mail that details how. Thanks again.
video

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Making History/Changing The World: Full Text

Here is the story of my journey to Iowa for the Presidential Caucuses. It was a life changing experience for me. I hope you enjoy it!

Dec. 31st: I knew I wanted to go to Iowa to campaign for Barack Obama, but I wasn't sure how to do it. So, I called the Iowa campaign office, located in Des Moines. Here is how the conversation went:

Me: Hi, I want to come to Iowa to volunteer for Obama. What can you tell me?
Voice: When are you coming?
Me: January 2nd-4th (the caucuses were the 3rd)
Voice: (barely hiding the disdain in her voice) You have to train for a week before you can even volunteer, and the caucuses are only 3 days away.
Me: Oh...ok...

That was pretty much it. I wasn't given a plan B, but I was now more determined than ever to go. Did she basically tell me not to come? I decided shortly after this phone call that nothing would stop me from going. Even if had to operate off the grid, Jack Bauer style (without the torture), I was going to Iowa, and I was going to make a difference. I had thoughts of going to several rural counties in Eastern Iowa, and then I thought I had settled on Des Moines, but my lodging fell through.


Finally, I called the field office in Iowa City. This is where I had initially wanted to go, because it's closer than Des Moines, I've been there before, and it's a cool college town. I talked to the volunteer coordinator named Samir, who said they could always use an extra hand, but that there might not be that much to do on caucus day. Samir was way off on this one...



Jan. 2nd: I'm all packed up and ready to head out from Columbus, Ohio. Once I cleared the snow off the hope mobile, I was ready to go.



I stopped for lunch in Champaign. I knew exactly where I wanted to go. A restaurant that Lew and I had visited during a football trip in '02. I checked the Yahoo directions, and the exit number it gave me did not match the Route number I saw on the sign. What to do? I decided to exit. When I arrived at the corner of University and University (the nexus of the universe, for you Seinfeld fans), I knew I was in trouble. I basically used the force to guide me as route 150 snaked its way to downtown Champaign. I ordered the $4.50 grilled chicken sandwich and called Lew. It took him three hints to remember the name of the place...Legends.



My journey continued, and I grew a little bit tired. It wasn't until I crossed the Mississippi river that I realized just how special this trip was going to be. The river was much wider than I remembered and half frozen. I have to say I was pretty pumped up at this point. It was as if Thomas Jefferson was riding shotgun, saying, "Almost there, Fulch!" Feeling very at one with nature, I stopped at the next rest stop to snap a few pictures of the sunset. Unfortunately, the stupid traffic kept getting in the way.



When I exited route 80, I could see my hotel. I don't know if it was the single digit temperatures or the 8 foot tall piles of plowed snow, but my first reaction to Iowa is "Hell has frozen over!" I arrived at the hotel in Iowa City. I was pretty amped up. I sent Lew a text message that said, "Right now, I feel like I can take on the whole Empire by myself...Empire=Hillary".

On the way to the headquarters, I had some trouble finding parking, and the building the Obama headquarters was in housed a few other recognizable names:



I arrived at the Obama headquarters with a smile on my face. I said, "I'm Brian Fulcher just in from Columbus, Ohio. And I did not come here to lose...plus, I brought cookies!" Suddenly, I was popular; thanks Meg! :)


Samir in gray, Claire seated foreground

I was handed a long, out of state volunteer info packet. The gist of it was this: do not caucus, and do not talk to the press. I remembered a voice..."You have to train for a week..." What a crock! The best part of the packet detailed the volunteer tasks. It read:

1. Canvassing: and then it explained what canvassing is.

2. Phone banking: then it explained what phone banking is.

3. Speechwriter/strategist/personal assistant to the candidate: Unfortunately, this position doesn't exist...

I noticed a lot of tired people jammed into a small office. I decided to make it my mission to work hard AND have fun! My first task was data entry. Now, it's not as glamorous as it sounds! I tallied up the phone calls that people made on a sheet of paper. It didn't take me long to figure out the system was flawed, and so I quickly worked to improve it.

I'd been there an hour and figured it was time for a break (hey, I'm supposed to be on vacation here). I headed to Subway and encountered a beggar. He asked me for some spare change, and I usually don't do this, but considering the fact that it was 5 degrees out, I gave him 50 cents. He said, "Thanks, man. I've filmed six episodes of my reality show, and I have a business plan to make $4.6 billion." It sounded to me about as realistic as most reality shows.

A man walked into Subway as I was eating my turkey breast sub, he saw my Obama hat and told me he was a precinct captain. We talked for a few minutes, and I sort of shyly gave him one of these fake business cards Meg made up for me and told him to call me if he needed anything.

I got back to the office and the cookies had been destroyed, and half of the plastic bag had been eaten. Steve, the precinct captain from Subway, came in shortly and said he could indeed use my help. He needed me to put some caucus notices on people's doorknobs in his precinct the next day. I checked with Samir, and he said go for it. I was going canvassing, baby!

Then, it was back to the hotel for a swim in my private pool. I say "private" because I don't think there were 10 other people staying in the entire hotel, and there was no one around.

Jan 3rd: After a leisurely breakfast, I arrived at the HQ at 9:30. Steve was supposed to meet me at 10. So, after my patented, "Happy caucus day!" I asked, "What can I do in the next 30 minutes to help Obama win?" Claire, the receptionist, said I should go do some visibility. I wanted some company, so I asked another volunteer if he wanted to go with me. Charles, an Iowa cheerleader, was interested, but he had no coat. Samir said, "He can't go out! He's got to be alive to caucus tonight!" Then, my man, Girish from Dayton who I had met the day before, stepped up with a coat, gloves, and a hat for Charles. I said, "We're off to make history. Be back in half an hour!"


Charles

Girish

We survived temperatures hovering near 0, and, after a few minutes to thaw, Girish and I followed Steve to the canvassing site. We split up the work and had it finished in 15 minutes. Next, we braved a maze of a trailer park, in which the lots seemed to be numbered in random order. I was driving so slow that I felt the need to tell Girish that "the only thing that isn't conservative about me is my politics." Check out this front yard:



It was lunch time, and I bought four pizzas for the office. I heard other people making plans to order Thai food, so I thought maybe I had bought too much. As you would expect, the pizza was a huge hit. People I'd never seen before started coming out of the woodwork; I even had a slice snatched out of my hand. :) The only thing that was missing from the perfect meal was plates. There were no plates to be found anywhere. It caused me to quip, "I bet the Hillary headquarters has plates..."

Then, a guy showed up at the office that looked familiar to me. I couldn't place him, but, after hearing that I'd missed Scarlet Johansson the day before by just a few hours, I asked around and found out it was Kal Penn. You may remember him from such films as Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle and Van Wilder. He's also been on a bunch of tv shows including 24. He probably would have liked my previous Jack Bauer reference.


Kal Penn

Girish, the guy from Dayton, and I became fast friends. We went out for more visibility. The sun was even out, and it had probably warmed up into the teens. I met a nice woman, who was walking with a cane. We made pleasant conversation for a few minutes, and she asked me to walk her across the street. Where was the press? This was a perfect photo op. I actually didn't see any press the entire trip. I think they were all in Des Moines. I ended up giving the woman a business card in case she needed a ride to the polls.



We got back to the office, and the morale level was not where I wanted it to be. I talked to Samir about giving a "win one for the gipper" speech, but that never materialized. Instead, I made a sign that says, "We make history tonight!" and put it by the door. I wanted every person that walked out to hit the sign, Notre Dame style. I was busy getting people hyped up, and, apparently, we were a bit too loud, because Samir yelled at us. He had an office to run!





Next up, Girish was charged with the responsibility of buying Play-Doh for the kids of caucus goers. Such an important task should not be done alone, so I accompanied him, and we brought signs to turn it into a productive walk. Girish went into the mall, and I waited outside for what seemed like an hour in the cold. I placed two signs in the snow and walked back and forth with two signs in my hands. I got my picture taken by a poli sci professor from University of Georgia, who said she would use it in her Powerpoint. I encountered an Edwards supporter, who said, "Did you know Obama supported Joe Lieberman for reelection?" I decided to bite my tongue and not say, "Did you know John Edwards voted for the war and coauthored the Patriot Act?" Instead, I said, "Good luck tonight" and almost meant it. I started to get worried about Girish, but I had no way to contact him. So, I called Samir, wrote Girish's number in the snow, and called him. No answer. He came out shortly after. It turns out Mitt Romney was in there flipping waffles, and Girish just had to have one. :) Meanwhile, I had found my own way of entertaining myself...



I did a little bit of flyering in the pedestrian mall, and then decided I needed to be at the HQ. It was about 4:30. The caucus started at 6:30. Samir had told me I would be giving rides to the polls, but that never happened. Claire, the receptionist, was running out the door, but gave me quick instructions on how to fill in for her. I was to answer phones. Sounds easy.... As I sat down, two new volunteers came out of nowhere. One said, "I'm from Washingon, what can I do to help?" They put her immediately on phone banking. I was a little salty and said, "but she didn't have to read the packet?!?" The other volunteer was sitting around with nothing to do, so I said, "Hey new girl, you're not doing anything, right? Well, I've been here since yesterday, so I can order you around. Take a picture of me pretending to talk on the phone!" And she did:



Then, all of a sudden, everyone was gone, and it was me, John, a volunteer from New York, and Amy and Alicia, two really nice, really smart 15 year old girls. John was the dispatcher, solely focused on coordinating rides to the caucus. You could make an argument that I was running the Iowa City Headquarters during the Iowa Caucuses. Pretty insane. I'd only been there 24 hours.

Most of the next few hours is a blur of computer screens, running up and downstairs and anxiously awaiting results. I was answering phones, finding people's caucus locations online, mapquesting addresses and directions. I got one phone call from a father with a problem. He wanted to caucus for Obama, but he had to pick up his son at 7:30. This is right in the middle of the caucuses, and leaving was not an option. So, I asked John, if one of our drivers could go get his son. John contacted Girish to pick up this man's son (code word: pineapple) and take him to the caucus site. Talk about finding a way to win!


John, the dispatcher

Everybody HAD to be at the caucus at 7:00 pm, or they'd likely be shut out. Samir called me panicked at 6:50. He needed directions to an address, then a caucus location for that address, and then directions between the two. I obliged although I was obviously as stressed about the time as Samir was. Then, we got cut off. I heard nothing for a few minutes. Then, Angela, one of the 15 year olds, said, "Brian, someone on the phone in the other room is demanding you come and speak to them." It had to be Samir. I left my computer with the directions on it and bounded up the stairs to get the phone. It was him. Time was running out; what were those directions again? I tried to remember them as best as I could...so, I grabbed an older fellow who had just showed up, wrote down what I thought were the directions and told him to give them to Samir, and I would check for sure. After a quick check of the directions, I realized I had the final address wrong, but it didn't matter anyways. It was too late. This man didn't get to caucus for Obama, but 10s of thousands of other Iowans did...

As we were waiting and waiting to hear the results, I had the distinct feeling that it was going to be good news. I also couldn't get this Apollo 13 quote out of my head, so I shirked my duties for a few minutes to print it out and tape it to my shirt. The quote was, "I believe this is going to be our finest hour!"

We kept hearing anecdotal good news. Reports from various caucus around Iowa City, some by text some by phone. Things were looking really good! Then, NBC called the race for Obama. Does that mean it's a done deal, the girls asked me. "I think so!" I shouted. Amy said, "I'm going to throw up!" I told her, "yeah, that's what I do when I'm happy too. Someone says, 'Happy Birthday', and I vomit all over them!" Eventually, all of the news outlets were saying we won. It was over! We got to celebrate over and over as staffers and volunteers returned from around the city. I had Alicia make a sign that said, "Welcome to Victory Headquarters!" The staffers were the happiest; they had likely saved their jobs. Our county went 52% for Obama, impressive in an 8 candidate field. As I watched the celebrations, I couldn't shake the feeling that we'd made history and changed the world. It was better than going to the final Four and watching the Buckeyes win the National Championship in 2002.



The victory party was at a small establishment absolutely packed with supporters. We watched Hillary's speech on tv, where she and Bill looked morose while Madeline Albright looked dead. Obama's speech brought the house down, with chanting and cheering like we were there with him in Des Moines. Samir gave a short speech. There were lots of hugs, pictures and toasts. I kept asking everyone, "How does it feel to change the world?"


The scene


OK and Girish soaking it up at David's

I want to downplay my role in the victory now. I realize I was basically the 12th man on an amazing basketball team. Guys like us come in late in games after the outcome has already been decided, but we do contribute. We can make history!

On the ride home, I saw two Hillary supporters absolutely zoom by me. I guess they saw my Obama bumper stickers but didn't feel like offering a congratulatory thumbs up. I also heard the song, Man in the Mirror. If you have never heard it or it's been a while, check it out below:



What a message! Thanks for reading about my most excellent adventure. If you were inspired/entertained by it, please consider donating $10 to the Barack Obama campaign OR a charity of your choice. I'll be sending you a follow up e-mail that details how. Thanks again.
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