Yesterday was an exhausting day. Part of me doesn't know why I did this, but I did, and so I'll see it through. It was a crazy, amazing day.
Yesterday was the Denver County Democratic Convention. I got to go because, as you might remember, I was voted in as a delegate at the caucus on Feb. 5. I went to that caucus because this election is important, and I wanted to be a part of the entire process. I learned how to caucus that night. (Hint: just show up and ask one of the organizers what to do.)
I didn't know what the county convention would be like, but I knew it would be bigger than the caucus on Feb. 5. It was held at the Denver Convention Center. That place is huge, but I can navigate myself--I'm both a city girl and a country girl. I figured I could handle it.
My day started with the light rail. My friends who were also delegates made a pact with me: we would all take public transportation to the event. I didn't want to park downtown, anyway. It's too expensive and too hard to find a good spot. The light rail has a stop at the Convention Center, so why not?
I crossed the street after my stop and was greeted by anti-choice protesters and their lovely pictures of aborted fetuses. Next to them were Clinton supporters, handing out signs. Where are the Obama signs? I pouted as I entered the building.
Immediately I saw one of the Denver Dems volunteers in a neon-green t-shirt. She directed me, "...clear to the back," so that's where I walked. This building is several city blocks long, people. Walk it sometime. The organization for this event was fabulous. I found my check-in table easily, and recognized Helen, the woman who helped me caucus before. She was checking folks in, and remembered me. It was nice to see a friendly face.
At check-in, I had to sign my name, and they checked the envelope I received in the mail. I got two papers, 1/4 of a sheet of paper each, one hot pink and the other yellow. They gave me a piece of string to put through the holes of these papers, as these were my credentials:
I put on my fancy necklace and went to the potty. That walk across the convention center was a long one! I also figured I had time now, and wouldn't later, as I would be soooo buuuuussssyyy doing politics.
Um, yeah. Parts of the day, later on, were very busy. Other parts, not so much.
Ready for action, I got in line. Some dude was HOLLERING AT US TO KEEP THIS LINE MOVING! LET'S GO PEOPLE! IF YOU ARE IN THIS LINE YOU NEED TO KEEP MOVING.
Dude. I'll get in line. Yes, you have an impressive voice. Chill.
There were folks along the barrier of the line, still politicking (is this a verb? *checks dictionary* yes it is.), holding signs of all kinds. This is the part that was exactly as I have imagined a political convention. Lots of stickers, signs, chanting, and general freak-flag waving.
No, I did NOT take my camera. Yes, I will remember next time!
We were only allowed to enter particular doors of the venue, as we were organized according to House Districts. I found my door, flashed my credentials (I feel so official!), and found a seat. I got there early, and despite all the politicking in the hallways, it wasn't too crowded. I think I sat down at about 8:15am for a 9:00am meeting. Not too bad.
But I couldn't find my friends! At my school, four of the around 15 Denver residents were delegates, so I expected to see them. Right away, I figured out I wouldn't be able to sit with them, as we had to sit with our House District, as well as use the same door. Go figure. I was too excited to sit and read, so I stood up and watched the doors, hoping for a glimpse of my friends. I talked to the few folks who were sitting with me, chit-chat. We were all appalled at the vast amount of paper that was draped over every seat. All of it was propaganda, supporting one candidate for something, opposing a horrible bill, etc. Amazing amounts of paper, and this is the party that's going green for the DNC? Anyway.
Right at the start of the meeting, I saw one of my friends! He's in the same House District as me! I jogged down the stairs to catch his eye, and he came back up to sit next to me. Yay! I have a friend.
The meeting was called to order by Jennifer Coken, the head of the Denver Democrats. She did a pretty good job of moving things along, giving us a refresher on the democratic process for meetings ("Can I get a motion?" "So moved." "A second?" "Second!" "All in favor say 'aye.'" "Aye!" "Opposed?" "*one guy in the back with a weird voice* Nay!" "The ayes have it."). We thanked volunteers, we were riled up by various politicians giving a "shout out" to their House Districts and such, we chanted and waved our little signs. We were led in very orderly rows to the voting boxes, where we cast our paper ballots for our preferences for presidential candidate and for U.S. Senate. I did have time to go to the bathroom again. I needn't have worried. This part was not so much "busy" as it was "entertainment."
We then broke for lunch/waiting time, because certain Senate districts had to meet. This is where it gets fun, people.
My friend and I went to 16th street to buy something to eat/drink that didn't cost an arm/leg. We came back and were seated in a smaller meeting room at the appointed time. We chatted and waited. And waited. And waited. AND WAITED.
We waited almost an hour. Apparently, in those Senate district meetings, there was a "contested race," so it was taking them forever. Some of the folks, but not all, were from our House District. (Anybody tired of the political demarcation jargon yet?) So we had to wait for them to finish and come to our House District meeting.
We had to wait, because we had to elect our delegates to go to the Congressional District 1 (Denver) and State conventions and assemblies. Some woman got on the microphone and said we had to wait for our House District organizer to get there, but that she could tell us a little bit about what we were going to do. We had to split into Obama-Clinton camps, for starters.
Okay. We did that. One to each side of the room. Obamas had to spill over into the back of the Clinton section (Gobama!), but whatever. We can handle that.
Then she said when our person got there, we would know the number of delegates we were allowed, and we could then decide on our delegates.
"How do we decide on our delegates?" one loudmouth asked.
"However you want," the woman said.
*poink* *poink poink* Those are my eyes blinking in the silence, into the realization that over 200 people, Obama supporters all, had to organize themselves and decide what was fair. Over 200 people who all wanted to go to the state level as a delegate. With no organization.
It doesn't happen often, but I was struck dumb for about 20 seconds. At which point, one loudmouth started shouting his opinion of what should be done. And then another loudmouth joined in, saying why that idea wasn't a good one. Camera cuts to me, mouth open, slight smile on my face, head shaking off the vision I just had. I could swear these guys were wearing tight pants, cutaway jackets, and white, powdered wigs, and it was 1776. Or some such date.
THIS is politics, folks. Where none of us could use the microphone, because the other camp couldn't have their meeting if we did, so we had to shout. And the person who shouts the loudest gets heard.
Our organizer person came in and gave us the numbers. Loudmouth Sensible had already got the Obama folks to vote on how we were going to decide on delegates: we should break up into voting precincts, since that would evenly distribute the delegates. We all said aye to this, so that was in my favor. You will recall that I am the only representative for my voting precinct. *big grin*
You would think my story ends there.
Since I knew I would be a delegate, I immediately relaxed. My friend had already left, as he had to pick up his kids. I moved to the front, since I knew I would have to sign my name again, to make sure I got on the list. The precincts were deciding, deciding, talking, not too much shouting, but it was loud in there. Then I heard someone (our organizer? some random person?) say, "We've got to write all this down."
There were a few seconds of nothing happening. *poink* I blinked again, then dove into my cavernous purse and retrieved what every good writer carries.
I grabbed my notebook and pen, grabbed the railing of the steps to the platform, and jumped up. I opened the notebook, clicked my pen, and then something really bizarre happened.
I said, "Okay, I'm going to write all this down. I will start with 301, then 302, like that. Tell me your delegate name..."
"We can't hear you in the back!"
*sighs* So I turned up my voice. To eleven. Please recall that I am a public school teacher.
"I AM GOING TO START WITH 301, THEN 302, AND EVENTUALLY EVERYONE WILL GET THEIR NAMES DOWN. WE HAVE TO KEEP MOVING BECAUSE WE ARE ALREADY LATE FOR OUR FAMILIES. 301! YOUR DELEGATE?"
I swear I saw people step back from me in shock when they heard my voice. Hey, sometimes you have to yell across a crowded gym in school. I can bellow with the rest of 'em. And I had a new respect for the dude who was herding us in the morning.
Some fine fellow jumped up on the platform with me and offered to assist. He said he would holler and give me name cards, and I could write them down. I am so grateful for his help. Thank you, thank you dude! What's your name? I'll see you at state. I'll thank you then.
It was a nuthouse. People were shouting at me the entire time. Asking me questions. Coming in late. Asking me how the whole thing is organized. My reply?
"I am just The Woman Who Had a Notebook. I'm sorry, but I don't know the answer."
Dude who was helping me kept making these comments, low, just for me to hear:
"This is a fucking nuthouse...this is fucking chaos...this is fucking insane.....I'm sorry if you are offended by me saying 'fuck."
"No, I am not. You are welcome to say 'fuck' all you want."
The lights went out several times. Why? It was so annoying!
I tried to be polite to everyone. And let me tell you something. In 16 years of teaching, I have not been thanked and shown such appreciation as I was during that hour or so. After I wrote their names, "Thank you, Amy! Thank you so much!" When I glanced up, and Hector said (why do I remember his name?), "Amy!" I looked at him, and got a big thumbs up and, "You're doing a great job!" Our organizer lady, Paula, whispering in my ear during all this chaos, "Amy, you are doing a wonderful job. Thank you so much."
At one point, our organizer lady, Paula, gave me a paper with new numbers. We got 4 more delegates than before! But I've already been writing all this stuff down!
Shouting! Chaos! Loudmouths! I move! I second! The nays have it! Discuss!!!
The Clinton camp in our room, bless their hearts, were waiting patiently through this whole thing. They only got 20 delegates, and they had less than 50 people, I would wager. Since they were done with their meeting, I got on the microphone.
I used my smooth, radio dj voice:
"Hello. My name is Amy Kalinchuk, and I'd like to start my campaign to go to the Democratic National Convention. As you can see, I'm a hard worker, I always carry a notebook, and
I like puppies."
Big laughs! That's all it took! Even the Clinton folks laughed!
So I made a proposal, got a second, the ayes had it, and we started drawing names out of a bag. Dude with the white t-shirt who did the bag drawing deserves thanks here, too. I think his name is Stephen, but it's hard to say.
We finally got all the delegates, and we were only a few alternates short. I sat down to re-copy our list, neatly, so our organizer could reconcile that list with the signature list.
The lady who works in the seafood department at my Safeway, leaned over me, putting her head right next to my ear.
*pat on the shoulder*
City Council member Chris Nevitt, District 7, sat with me, chatting, and thanked me. He is lovely. Nakia sat next to me while I was copying the names, just chatting. She was lovely to me, too, thanking me for doing this job. So many people, thanking me!
It was possibly the most energizing, wild, and affirming experience I have had with the general public. That includes all my public school teaching experience. I am not kidding.
House District 3 rocks!
So at the end of that long, crazy day, I am now a delegate to the Congressional District 1 and State conventions and assemblies. I am unavailable for parties and general counsel on May 10 and May 17.
I will probably be too busy writing down names.
(Please ignore the problems with the font size. Blogger has a problem with its system today, and I don't have the strength to deal with it anymore.)