Sunday, November 09, 2008

remembering the 4th of november, 2008

jane and i got up at 5:45am, wanting to beat the lines at the local polling station. from early voting areas we'd heard of massive lines and wanting to avoid this we figured we would show up before the station opened at 7, aiming to arrive at 6:40. we walked across lincoln and down marine to the small park building, coffee mugs in hand, and were greeted by the prop 8 people, urging others to vote no on the ban on gay marriage. the line was not bad at all-- we were voters number 23 and 24. people quickly piled in behind us, including marcus wyatt, LA's native son, uber-house DJ.

i don't think i would say that the air was electric, but there was a definite sense of excitement running through the crowd and a nice feeling of community. venice isn't really a battleground community, even for prop 8. when we lean, we go wayyyyyy left until our feet are wet in the beach sand. anyways, we cast our vote after being registered by our neighbor, irene, and set about on our separate ways to work: jane to rosemead and me to culver city.

on the way in, i had a call with our localization team in dublin, ireland about quality concerns (we had issues with finnish translation in the main UI, embarrassing for the locals when showing the product to the finn media). while i'm sure this doesn't matter to anyone, the point of mentioning this is that the call was preceded by 10 minutes of discussion with the irish team about the elections. the 2 women from dublin mentioned that they were going to stay up to see the election results and were thinking it was going to be an obama blow-out win. i hedged: "i think it's going to be very close, down to the wire..."

this got me to thinking about all of my travels this year and the ppl i had spoken to about the elections along the way. the japanese media consultant, german cab driver, norwegian journalist and many, many others. they were all very clear about who they thought we should elect. i remember explaining this to jonathan once, how sometimes people transcend what they are and become symbols-- such that their individual capabilities are ultimately somewhat less important than what they represent: hope, change. this is of course a slippery position, as it can easily turn against you, but with enough substance behind the icon i cannot imagine a more potent leader.

once at work, just like any other day, i kept on eye on my igoogle home page, full of market updates, my gmail inbox, tech news & the latest featured youtube videos. i also popped up the CNN page to keep an eye on the latest happenings. i was expecting exit polls, but quickly remembered (with some prompting) the inaccuracies and woes of the primary season which condemned them to the sidelines. so while i refreshed the page frequently and anxiously waited along with the rest of the world, the day slipped by.

a couple states came in while i was still at work, attending a last meeting. it was split so far, but none of the battleground state results were in yet. i entered the meeting room late and quipped that chuck norris had just pulled ahead of ron paul. i checked out of the meeting a little early as it was trailing off into minutiae and headed home to meet up with jane. we'd decided that neither of us felt like cooking and wanted to be out in the community when the results came in. we walked down to one of our local hangouts in venice, hal's bar and grill, which is a little over a mile away. by the time we had left, it was starting to look good for obama-- they'd predicted that he would take pennsylvania and he had sealed up some important eastern seabord states while mccain racked up a number of wins in the south, such as kentucky.

hal's was packed with people gathered around the 2 tvs behind the bar. we eventually found a corner table in the small bar area where we could barely see the TV. if the sense of excitement was tangible at the polling station, it coursed through hal's in loud conversations & cheers every time a new state was announced for obama. of course there were boos for the states that slipped to mccain. again, venice is not what you would call a "swing" city :-) the man with the loud voice started calculating the possibilities, exclaiming how close obama was to victory. our african american waitress seemed unflappable, keeping a cool demeanor & focused on her job.

while we were wrapping up our wine and burgers, the election was called for obama. jubilant cheers erupted from across the bar and outside the restaurant. an african american woman in the bar, tears in her eyes, hugged our waitress and anyone else who seemed equally moved. jane and i exchanged broad smiles, put on our coats and headed home.

while on the way home, cars honked and cheered, independent of the ethnicity of the passengers. people walking by smiled knowingly, we did the same. when we passed the firehouse sushi restaurant, we caught mccain's concesssion speech. moments later, dorian called. we'd discussed the election for many months and he, as his facebook profile called out, was speechless.

at home we watched obama's acceptance speech-- flawless in words and delivery. he and his family looked every bit the part, their joy and confidence spilling over to the viewers and certainly the people assembled in grant park in chicago. i remember seeing oprah straining to get a view of the stage and thinking that our lakers tickets this coming weekend aren't so bad afterall if that's the best seat oprah can muster :-)

i wound down the evening by working on my concept checkpoint deck for the friday's presentation while listening to CNN and watching people's election commentary on facebook. the next day, the moment arrived when it all sunk in the most deeply for me. i was glancing through igoogle when i spotted this article from the LA times. as i read it, i remembered every person i met throughout the past 12 months across the globe who pinned their hopes on the americans electing obama. i think their hopes were never so much about obama the person, but about the ability of the people to have a voice against the establishment-- to affect real change when things were wrong, broken by greed and abuse of power. it was also about breaking with a past pock-marked with racism, an emphatic statement that everyone is equal and anything is possible.

what this means for me is that the next time i step onto foreign soil, i can do so with a little more confidence, knowing that we've done the best we can to begin to right the course of our country. i also hope it means that when we have children, i can point back to a historic moment i was a part of, and explain what happeneed when a new day broke for our country.

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