Sunday, August 24, 2008

Party Plane

This morning, just about everyone on the 9:30 am flight from Oakland to Denver was going to the Convention. I got on early (anxiety about turbulence) and sat in the second row. On they came, folks wearing Hillary T-shirts, Obama T-shirts, youthful delegates from the East Bay and as far north as Washington State. The lovely woman who sat next to me, Amanda Metcalf, is a San Rafael-based attorney who worked on Obama's finance committee. Everyone who raised money for Obama is staying at the Hyatt, by the way.

The plane took off, we talked. I told her I was a journalist and she told me that Senator Barbara Boxer was on the flight. Are you kidding? Senator Barbara Boxer is flying on Southwest Airlines? I guess I should interview her.

"Go talk to her," Metcalf urged. "Go talk to her!!" Oh, she was the right seatmate for me.

I had to check it out (with my digital audio recorder in hand) by walking all the way from the front of the plane to the other bathroom in the rear. Didn't see her. Walked back, finally recognized the hair.

She was deep in thought working on a manuscript. I knelt down and asked if I could have a few moments to ask a question or two. "Well, I have to work on this book," she said. "This is my only time." She gave me the pained but polite expression of someone who doesn't have enough private time to work on creative projects.

I replied that I was credentialed by the Pacific Sun--her alma mater in a manner of speaking (she worked there as reporter herself before launching her first race as a Marin Supervisor in the 70s).

That made all the difference: Yes.

So I began: "Right now people at home are worried about Obama being down in the polls, that he's supporting offshore drilling. How does it feel to you heading into the convention? Are your happy? Worried?

Sen. Boxer: "This is one of the most exciting moments in history, and Barack Obama and Joe Biden are on the right side of it.
It’s a golden moment, not only in the presidential race, but also in the house and senate races where we have a good chance to get a filibuster-proof margin in the Senate. So, whoever thinks Barack is down in the polls, I don’t know what poll they’re reading. He’s up a little bit, actually. We’re just where we want to be. If you’re too far ahead, people get lackadaisical."

BT: "How do you feel about Sen. Dianne Feinstein breaking her ankle?" (FYI-she cancelled her trip to Denver.)

Sen. Boxer: "I just talked to Dianne. She just feels so bad about it. I'll do everything I can to fill in for her. I’ll pitch in and cover as many events as I can. I'll do as many national events as I can to make the case why McCain is really McBush and we need change."

BT: There's so many events on the agenda! Think you'll get any sleep?

Sen. Boxer: "Oh, sure. I always manage. I'll get up at 5 am or 6 every morning."

BT: I told my co-workers that this is like going to Burning Man, but with suits and ties.

Sen. Boxer: "I’ve never been to Burning Man. I don't think so. But I think the convention will be great."

BT: How many conventions have you been to?

Sen. Boxer: "I have not missed a convention since the 80s. My first one was in 1984. (She turns to her husband, Oakland attorney Stewart Boxer) What was the first one? 1984--Geraldine Ferraro/Mondale, that was my first one, I was elected in 82.
That was my first and I’ve never missed one since. I’m really excited about this one. And Biden is a great pick, too."


That was pretty cool. Then, on the little Denver airport tram that everyone boards to head over to baggage claim, we saw two very distinguished older men. Again my the outgoing and astute Ms. Metcalf thought they were of significant standing. "Go ask their names!" This time it was me urging her on. She did.

The guys were Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, longest serving member of the Senate, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee and lion-likd protector of our civil rights. And Illinois senior Senator Richard Durbin.

I chatted with them. But I can't remember what we said. Mind you, this doesn't reach the level of my friend, Robert, who shared a flight and spoke with the legendary Ms. Dionne Warwick last year, but I was star struck all the same. I have never spoken with a lion of the senate or a lion of any kind while heading to baggage claim.

As of this morning, policians have become rock stars. Sen. Leahy was kind and warm. He was charming. All I can remember from our chit-chat was that he said we have to elect Obama because the next president was going to appoint 3 justices to the Supreme Court.

I realized I was standing next to Leahy's wife. I apologized for ignoring her. She was gracious. "Oh," she said, "you're not ignoring ME. You just paying attention to HIM."

As we exited the little tunnel and walked out to the baggage claim-level concourse--there was a bank of TV cameras, photographers, and people holding up DNC signs, Obama signs, and the more typical "I am your driver" signage. I let out a whoop and a cheer as if the curtains had parted and the actors had come on stage.

On with the show!!!

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