Fear and Loathing in McCormick Place

6:00 PM (7:00 EST)

Vote hath been cast… another beer down the hatch while the engine purrs along a rain dropping city street. I plastered an ” I VOTED! ” sticker onto my left breast (prison side) as the highway ramp dipped onto a freeway of possibility and managed fear and young tight women lining up around the altar… I thank Jove my local polling place (some Lutheran grade-school gym, hardwood and computer terminals, deus ex machina) was hardly full because a) the reds were starting to REALLY kick in, quite visibly, and I hadn’t had an opportunity to counteract, to re-see the saw, and b) I had just received an invitation to meet a female acquaintance on the South Side of the city at President Obama’s Election Night Extravaganza… brake lights popping across my retina, cortical centers rearranging fractals of light and this minefield of supernovae nearly impossible to trudge through.

I finished the beer and crushed its insides out and rolled my bumper through a red light camera, accelerating… license plate unhinged.

I flipped the radio dial to AM and lit a cigarette. The first polls were in and Mitt had taken an early, albeit meaningless, lead. Indiana and Kentucky had been painted red for months (despite Obama’s win for Indy in ’08, my first general election vote in a battleground state via college… the only time I felt it advantageous to be in Indiana), yet the voice from the other side of my car speakers still waxed gusto when announcing a “44-3 pull-away” for Romney. This was not a football game… I changed the tuner… more projections, early exit poll numbers, late early voting counts, already-tabulated ballots… there would be enough electoral masturbation fodder to last me another four years.

Neil Young & Crazyhorse to the rescue.

7:30 PM (4:30 HADT)

Ample time stuck in a fogging car chassis to battle a handful of red hearts with a matching dose of blue mollies, a sprinkle of snow on the windshield, to pull my eyelids back to my brow… car stationary and I smoked another cigarette pin-balling down the aisles of garage parking for Soldier Field, steel wind roaring and citizens of all shapes and sizes forming a bottle neck at the end of an asphalt lot just before the entrance to the convention center.

“Jack, Jack can you hear me?”

Chants of “Four More Years!” livened up and the energy grew as I continued pacing, suddenly aware that Ashley had my ticket and I was on the phone… “Barely, Jesus it’s starting to get crazy out here…I forgot about meeting by the Aquarium…I hopped out of the car and started walking with everyone else, I got carried away by the tide babe… where are you?”

Listening between cigarette trails… “I knew you wouldn’t wait for me. I’m on my way right now. Try to stay still for a minute and I’ll call you when I’m close to the tunnel. Stop walking and smoke a cigarette.”

What a Red White and true Blue All-American girl. I smiled, “Too late for that. Hurry up before the cops pick me up for intimidating the electorate.” Under a city-planner planted tree, practically a sapling, I approached an older couple who seemed to be waiting on their entrance tickets as well.

“How are things over here? Pretty exciting night… Where are you all coming from?” Adopting a Southern tinged cadence when first meeting older, youth-skeptical retirees can take you miles…

“We drove in from Libertyville. Our daughter went to the rally in ’08 so we had to come after we heard everything from her. Very exciting night, we just heard he’s doing well in Ohio, and they’re waiting for Michigan…” grandma kept toying with a cell phone screen and so did her husband who barely looked up before I extinguished my 72 Light and offered salutations. Fluorescent light reflected off her hoop earrings and she stretched her face in anguish before saying, “but he’s down 136-74. That’s not good.”

I offered what little analysis I could, jaw grinding like an ancient wheat mill. “Nope, but it sounds like it’s going to be close, a lot of vote counting to be done still… we’ll have a couple hours to party before they call this thing, which is good for us, huh?”

They both peered at me and then back at their phones. I thought about asking them for their reaction to the marijuana legalization efforts in Colorado but Gramps spoke up… he had heard enough. “It’s time to head in Noreen, Alex texted me to meet her and Jim by the doors. Nice to meet you son.” He lent me one last look, confused…like he wasn’t convinced that I was on his side, or that we should even be on the same side… and dragged Noreen away.

I lit another cigarette and smiled.

9:45 PM (8:45 MST)

On the dual-LCD-jumbotrons at the back of the stage, hundreds of feet across and blaring and beautiful… “We can now project that Amendment 64 will be passed in Colorado, with a record turnout…” I screamed, hollered, hooted, high fived everything in sight. Ashley shot her brown-blonde curling locks over her shoulder after I slapped her ass. “We did it baby! We’re moving to Colorado!”

“Jack, only you…”

I stopped her… the bump in the bathroom had cut through the as-to-be-expected polling reports from Arkansas and Idaho and Montana and Utah… “Only me? Listen to all these people cheering!” The room had certainly electrified, and it wasn’t on account of Wolf Blitzer’s suave complexion. I continued, “The revolution is beginning… this is huge. Ending the war on drugs, the Christian moralization of our country, the unjust social constrictions fat-old bastards have been impinging us with for years.”

 Her curls tightened and so did her smiling.

Then a younger looking guy, 30s, perched at my 7 o’clock… the blind side… rattled my ear with, “First pot. What’s next? Where does the line stop?” right after Ashley agreed with my analysis, before our walk outside to the Smoker’s Area to fire off a one hitter… I stopped waving my American flag and dithering to Earth Wind & Fire and leaned back towards Johnny 3-Piece Suit and his over-prinked fiancée.

“It shouldn’t stop… we should give every kid a hit of acid before they go to college. Fuck heroin and cocaine (feeling for the baggy in that small ‘condom pocket’ of my jeans), but drugs aren’t the problem. We’ve got bigger fish to fry brother… and anyways, from your perspective, you should view the issue as an evolutionary advantage for you and your drug-free offspring… all the rest of us will fade out and go schizo while you inherit the earth…” stars and stripes and the young executive could only shake his head at me.

The music blared now, recapturing my attention and my bodily rhythms and I danced and sang high and low, Burce Springsteen and Tom Petty, hips swinging and flags waving towards infinity.

Ashley scrunched her hands to her face and laughed but she didn’t have the balls to turn around and do it in front of Johnny Businessman. We excused ourselves from the party, momentarily, and vowed to push through the crowd once we had ingested some THC and expelled some urine.

10:20 PM (1:20 AM ADT)

An eruption of cacophony like I have never experienced (and I’ve eaten a handful of purple micro-dots before entering Notre Dame Stadium with an undefeated Irish on the gridiron)… not only the sheer decibel level, but the energy inside of McCormick Place… it wasn’t tribal or aggressive, pugilistic or domineering, proud or vindictive… it was pure elation, pure ecstasy… agapic joy, love of neighbor and self and god and country, hugging, kissing, dancing, Red White & Blue pervasive and bleeding through the interior of the room onto the exterior of our souls.

A high-water mark was in our sights.

I had been going back and forth with an incredibly sharp-witted and sharp-tongued Hispanic woman a couple rows in front of me and Ashley… Bain Capital bashing is stuff for political tyros but it has been a cohesive factor, binding different genders and races and creeds under one totem that stands against the corporate looting of our Great Nation’s soul… we laughed and exxagerated and laughed some more over how many billionare Super PAC dollars would be torched tonight… “I tell you mijo, no one can buy an election from the people of this country. No matter how much money…”  and then an interruption… back to the jumbotrons…

“Well, it looks like he’ll be there for another four years, because right now CNN is projecting Barack Obama will take New Hampshire and become the 44th President of the United States, winning re-election.” I never saw the woman’s face again, but I’m sure her night turned out just fine. The dance party blasted off, the GOP enervating while Chicagoans/Americans /Patriots alike rolled unrelenting for two more hours. Shouts of “America is saved” and “We won’t get fooled again” echoed between groups in revelry. I could sense the collective sigh of relief… hours before I discussed with my MDMA dealer as to what country he would set up his operation in if Romney were elected… myself promoting a Caribbean headquarters… thankfully no late night fugues or refugee shuttles would be necessary tonight. It was time to conjure up our inner David Bowie’s…the half gram snooters Ashley and myself sent down up our nasal cavities were really kicking once all West coast had been accounted for and Ohio came down to the math.

Dance dance dance.

Sometime after midnight he spoke, we listened, and everyone loved.


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