Thursday, March 19, 2009

Obama-fest 2009

Anglophile LV LIVE in Downtown reporting.

Today, right now in fact, President Obama is set to speak at the Miguel Contreras Learning Complex in downtown Los Angeles. Since it’s 6 blocks away from where I work, I climbed up Lucas Street to get a glimpse of the event, and maybe even a peek at the man himself. The Man. The Myth. The Legend. Sorry, had to do that.

Apparently Villaraigosa and Governor Schwarzenegger are there also, but the only Mayor I see is the one in the cheap suit with the plastic Antonio mask using a loudspeaker to shout out to the laughing Mexican families gathered on their fire escapes across from the complex.

When I first arrive, around 12:10, the air is festive, like the parking lot of a football stadium before a playoff game. Fans with Obama hats and shirts walk around the building, since they don’t have tickets to get in, just to be in the excitement. There’s a man selling souvenirs two blocks downhill from the event, who I walk past with a polite shake of the head. I’m not buying Obama today. A platoon of black-clad cops carrying riot helmets pass me in pairs, tightly grouped like Roman soldiers. A cluster of Mexican women chatting to eachother in Spanish sell snack food out of cardboard boxes. An attractive young black woman wearing a bright blue Obama hat with matching blue flip flops, carrying a large bag makes her way around the building. Definitely a reporter. I follow her to the side of the building and she is joined by two less attractive companions. Crew.

The Learning Complex is a school, and the noise coming from its courtyard sounds like lunchtime at any high school: boisterous. News crew trucks are parallel parked next to minivans. The two large Mexican families have hung two flags from their fire escape balconies: 1 Mexican flag and 1 United States flag. A little girl in pink waves a mini Mexican flag. For a moment, a gust of wind makes the flags wave together and look like one big red, white, blue and green piece of fabric. Everyone is smiling.

I’ve never seen so many smiles. Even the usually surly cops look filled with good will. I see more Obama-merchandise. Vendors sell “Obama art”, copies of LA Times photographs in cheap frames. Women carry Obama-totes and wear Obama T-shirts with the words “Progress” on the front, and “Si, Se Puedes – Obama ‘08” on the back. A middle-aged blonde woman poses with arms in the air, beaming, while her friend takes a picture of her standing beside a police vehicle. Another middle-aged blonde woman is being given a hard-sell by the fast-talking man with the “Obama art”.

Black people, Mexican people, and blonde teacher-type people gather together on the street corners across from the complex. Young Mexican boys play on the steps of the rundown apartment building, pretending to shoot each other. A group of young, tough looking Mexican teenagers patrol the area in a pack, looking slightly disgruntled at the cop cars, and shout rap lyrics in fluent English (I guess the school system is accomplishing something after all). A Rastafarian is playing a jubilant “On the Sunny Side of the Street” on his saxophone while the phony Villaraigosa panders to his fans in Spanish (how like the real thing).

Now people are coming with more causes on their shirts than just “Obama.” Armenians For Obama carry a sign to recognize the genocide, and apparently earlier in the day there were illegal immigrant activists protesting for immigration reform, though I didn’t see them.

Apparently, holding a notebook makes me look like someone who knows what’s going on. Three people so far have asked me questions:
“Is this the place?” --Yes.
“Where is the entrance?” –Over there, I think.
“Are you writing a parking citation for the cop car?” –No, but they really have some coming.
“Which way do you think he’ll come in?” --I have no idea. (though I suspect he is inside already)

By now, it’s 1pm and I need to get back to work, but the sense of anticipation and the festival-like atmosphere make me want to stay.

A woman next to me turns to a complete stranger to say “Everybody say he gonna land in a helicopter on the football field they got over there.” She turns to her little boy who has been running amuck, and fidgeting when caught. She scolds him, “Somebody gonna snatch you—watcha gonna do then?!”

We watch two men on the rooftop of a far building check for snipers. At 1:15 we hear sirens, but it’s just Los Angeles noise. No Obama. Not yet anyways. And me? I have to get back to work, because Obama is sooo not worth getting yelled at by my boss.

This is LV, signing off.


Val said...

You captured a moment in history perfectly. I loved it!

Jessi said...

“Are you writing a parking citation for the cop car?” –No, but they really have some coming.

Made me laugh XD