Some poor guy booked a hotel at the Holiday Inn Airport Conference Center in Des Moines on February 3, 2020, assuming it would be a harmless Monday night. Only to find himself in the middle of an overflowing Bernie rally on the night of the caucuses.
For the record, the man was not a Bernie Sanders supporter. Far from it. He popped his head backward when I told him where I work, smiling. Well, grinning, to be precise.
After her speech, Klobuchar wandered into the crowd, immediately submerged. Selfies. Everybody wanted them. A minute later, the other candidates began to appear on screen, giving speeches.
"Bernie," asked Justin Robert Young, host of Politics Politics Politics.
"Bernie," I said, and we paced to the car and lurked out onto the depopulated streets and the trenchant cold. But we were both bright with excitement, a couple of detectives. The valet attendants in their satin outfits saw two oddities, and they were right.
Justin Young and I had just left the Des Moines Marriott Downtown for Amy Klobuchar's "Amy for America caucus night party." She gave her speech, in a brilliant maneuver. I skated the Nissan down empty streets, quietly listening to Bernie's speech on the Iowa Public Radio station.
"I love this, what we're about to do," I said, gripping the wheel, words hurried, leaning forward, tapping my left boot. "We're going to hear Bernie talking, then we'll park, then walk through some doors and we will stroll into that very room as Bernie is giving the speech that's being broadcast to millions of people."
It was like how in the game Mario Bros., Mario can jump into giant green storm drains, occasionally. Like leaping into the television and joining the cast.
"There's nobody out on the roads," one of us said. "Holiday Inn, right up there." As broad-winged commercial airplanes floated overhead. We scoured for a parking spot and each second felt wasted. Urgent. We needed to be inside that hotel. But there was nowhere to park. Even the illegal spots were taken. Cars had creviced every inch of parking lot and curb and all that, had even jammed into dark pyramids of sludge.
Rita Dove wrote, "I prefer to explore the most intimate moments, the smaller, crystallized details we all hinge our lives on."
There were so many more journalists press at Bernie's event that the only media spots left were in the overflow room, which itself seemed at capacity. Dank, too. With a heavy vibe, like a sinister library.
The entire hotel exuded gloom. A quietness you hear in locker rooms after a game that should have ended differently.
Bernie supporters, dazed, stomped out into the snow, or to the bathrooms, or just in need of a bit of stomping.
Back to Beechwood Lounge, where we watched the Super Bowl a day earlier. Although it felt like a week had passed since then.
Approaching midnight, by that point.
Because Justin consumes politics with an all-encompassing urgency. As if it's a duty. He's clearly studied history and politics for years. Part historian, part political scientist, but also part reporter and part comedian. On one hand, he's guided by the old school approach to journalism. Objectivity. Solemnity. Accuracy.
An American has the right to tell nobody who they voted for. Or maybe it's a cultural thing.
Snow everywhere you look, piles of it full of gas and oil, and rubbish as well. That day was unseasonably warm. The next would plummet us into literal freezing. The kind of day that slows everyone down. With all that ice, you have to be cautious about every step.
Shame is for the uninitiated.
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