February 7, 2008
New Orleans, La.
Dear Family and Friends,
There were the early risers who stood outside in darkness and the late risers who stood outside during Barack Obama's speech.
And then there was me, somewhere in between.
From my days as a sports information intern at the University of Oregon, I know how easy it can be to get into an event by pretending to be with the media. My fellow late risers were already being shuffled to a veranda where Obama's audio would be played.
"Where's the press entrance?" I ask a 20-something volunteer.
"Over there," he says, pointing towards a door into Tulane's gymnasium.
This is the point that I start to get nervous. I know where I need to be, I know I'll have to fib a little to get in. Few bloggers are recognized as actual journalists. I wait and tell myself,
"Act like you've been there before."
Around the corner, I couldn't be happier to see two student volunteers handling the press credentials. The last people you want to see as gatekeepers are middle-aged women on a power trip. But two young college girls?
I had the props. Camera. Writer's notepad. Pen behind my left ear.
"I need a credential," I say. "But, I didn't request one, sorry."
"Do have a media id?" she says.
The moment of fiction.
"Yeah." So I confidently pulled out my id, which says nothing about being media, and put it down on table.
"Ok, sign in here." she says.
At 9:30 I was in. My friend Pavel had called at 6:55 am saying they were getting ready to go.
They had seats in the 20th row.
Now that Obama is filling stadiums and not high-school gymnasiums, security has gotten tight. They called the Transportation Security Administration in from Louis Armstrong Airport to do the security screening. I count 10 of them near the door. They frisk everyone with their magic wands.
Men with microphones whose cords sneak down their necks and into their jacket all stand over six feet. I go outside to try to find Obama and his crew of writers, publicists, campaign managers and other staffers. Most of the ways around Tulane's Fogelman arena are blocked off.
I take a scenic route around the Union, hoping to get to the backside of the arena, which is adjacent to the Union. It is the only place that wasn't blocked. I keep walking and see his SUVs and more guys in suits.
A cop stops. "You can't be back here," he says.
"But, I'm with the press."
He laughs. "I'm gonna let you go now, if those guys see you," he says. "You'll end up somewhere you don't want to be."
I take his cue, turn around and join everyone else.