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Three days in Austin aboard the Obama/Clinton Press Show
DEBATE PREPARATIONS - THE FIGHT ITSELF - SECRET SERVICE - CHEAP DEODORANT - BAG SEARCHES - AND BEHIND THE GATES AT THE OBAMA RALLY
by Ethan Persoff, http://www.ep.tc
The following is an eleven page excerpt from a larger work in progress
focusing on the upcoming Presidential election, with an emphasis on Texas and the upcoming brokered National Convention in Denver.
ANXIETY ATTACK OVER RUNNING LATE
The directions came in an email, and I should have paid better attention to my time. This is the day before the debate and CNN was granting the media an hour or so to view and photograph the set prior to the festivities. In rather specific language it was asked that we show up at 2:45. We're looking right now at 3:06.
I'm a little hurried and stressed. I have no idea how I lost track of time but I'm in a nearby computer store, sweating a touch on my forehead, complaining about my blocky digital camera. "WHAT KIND OF CARD DO YOU THINK THIS TAKES?" shooting out my hand with a small Canon Powershot at an employee. They have no idea. I should know these things, but the camera is on loan from a friend. She would have offered this information to me, but I was pretty rude when I showed up at her house an hour ago needing to borrow some things. My camera's battery had gone flat, I had no time to attend to it, and I needed to borrow one with a full charge. The exchange was agreed, provided I take it without a memory chip. So now I'm gibbering at the cash register, trying to figure out which one it takes. I'm unreasonably tense because my mind has already begun to wonder about what scrutiny might be awaiting anyone entering into a debate hall with the future mister or missus Head of The Free World. I'm also a healthy paranoid. And this time crunch is not helping. Finally we all decide it's an SD card, or something, and throwing my credit card at them (literally, think a nervous FLICK) I run off with my new card to the Debate Hall.
"FUCK!" and Dammit. I run right back in. Do you have any scissors?!? I calm down and quiet myself, "It's a blister pack" They offer the neccessary Jaws of Life to remove the thing from its plastic casket and I'm off. "You left this too" Right. Thanks. Credit card and memory chip in hand, running East to the 'UT Recreational Sports Center', where CNN is greeting press for its exciting tour of the Debate Set. We are to meet there for an introduction about Press Behavior and tomorrow's agenda.
3:18. It doesn't help that it's very hot outside and I'm now starting to look like a mess, so I run into the first door I see. It's open to let a bunch of wires out to a generator but indicated "FOR EXIT ONLY". But it's a wide open door, and I'm late. Unexpected quiet calm. But a lot of people. A whole bunch. Some with guns, but this is Texas. Huh... Must have missed the introduction. I walk around. Finally calm enough to adjust to the air conditioning (god love it) from my hurried rush, and to breathe properly. A visit to the drinking fountain. A lot of people walking in suits ... and to my left, oh, what's that, the Debate Hall. Ah! The Press Must Already Be In There. I walk in. The CNN set is really pretty. Very lush in blue and red, and with lots of lights. It's then that I look back and see three to four men in matching suits and wired earbuds examining me but not saying anything. Yet. "Ah shit" I can already tell. The press hasn't been invited in yet. I slowly knod to them a welcome hello which is hesitantly returned in unison - Thank God I Had My Press Badge On - and then walk out. Where the fuck are the press? I see a room with some people and walk up to it. A young face resembling a 14 year old republican and dressed like Alex P Keaton is manning the door. There's a lot of busy activity inside of people running around with pieces of paper, and other people arguing about not having a piece of paper for themselves.
"Hi -- I'm late but is this the press meeting?" "No su..s-sir?, that's going on downstairs." DOWNSTAIRS? AH! I HATE THESE BUILDINGS WITH DOORS THAT ENTER INTO SECOND FLOORS. THAT EXPLAINS IT. WHERE IS THAT? He hesitantly points me to the steps, and I realize I've just narrowly avoided being arrested for entering a very closed and secured government location. Or at least that's how it feels. I also feel like a dumbshit. But can you blame me? I fucking hate blisterpacks and it really screwed me up.
I find the press. I'm still on the second floor, now looking down over the railing. Conveniently and with some humor, they're all down there below me. So are the CNN representatives, and they're finishing up the instructions on how we are to loosely and quietly 'follow them'. And that the Debate Hall (which I've just entered, visually introduced myself to Secret Service, and left) will be the last thing we get to see but that it is still being prepared, so to first follow them to the Press Filing Rooms and wonderfully titled CNN SPIN ROOM. It's a good view from above and I keep on wondering if I should take a snapshot of my colleagues below. An official Democrat Party photographer suddenly comes up from behind me to take his own photo. I see this as permission to do the same. I test out the camera and take a few shots. Here's the best one:
a small selection of the press assembled for the tour
You can tell that this won't be the full amount of press attending the debate tomorrow, but it's a good sampling of shapes and sizes. The introduction from CNN finishes, and press is led away to the tour, beginning with the CNN SPIN ROOM. I walk down the steps and join them.