Monday, February 9, 2009

The Senator's Office

The Hart Senate office was rocking. People were running here and there, lined up outside of offices, crowded into others. We were bundled up against the cold and I kind of felt like I was suited up for a football game in a place that is used to the dark suits and power dress of our nation's elected officials. Famous names were on the name plates of the doors that we passed - Sam Brownback, Max Baccus - there was an office from Kentucky that was shut up tight with a sign that said, "NO TICKETS AVAILABLE". Here I was in the place that we hear spoken of almost every day by our talking heads of media. The names they throw out sound so powerful, so daunting, in the hallowed halls of the Hart Senate office building. Wasn't the anthrax scare in this building? Didn't Mark Dayton stupidly close his office here when no one else did, which probably cost him the imaginary election he envisioned in his head? The fact that he declined to run again, paved the way for Amy's ascent which has led me here. Here I was just walking past closed doors like it was my High School.

Then we came upon a closed office. Door closed, lights off, no name plate, and kind of in the middle of things. Upon further inspection we could see the office was boxed up rather hastily. It seemed strange in the midst of all the bustle. Joe recognized that the flag outside of the office was none other than our great state of Minnesota's flag and the light bulbs went off. Norm's office. Haha!! This was FORMER Senator Norm Coleman's office and we just couldn't resist.

Amy’s office was packed with Minnesotans who’d obviously gotten the memo about free food. They were taking up every inch, corner, and desk chair of available space. Most had decided to spend the day with their fair senator and looked like they’d been there for hours. All of the promised Potica (a Slovenian pastry they eat on the Iron Range) and Spam puffs were long gone. I knew quite a few people who toiled in the trenches for Amy over the years and it was great to see them and exchange battle scars. When they handed over the envelope with our golden tickets inside, a serious tone was taken. “The gates open at 8:00AM. You can start lining up at 4:00am. There are directions as to what train station to get off, but I can’t promise anything.” A lurker standing behind me said she was going to get there at 3:30. Whoa – these people were serious. Do we really have to arrive so early to get in line to ‘stand’? We were skeptical.

Amy was taking photos with constituents outside of her office. There was a long line and an aide handling the line and taking names. Amy seemed harried, like this had been a long day. Clearly people had been parked there since it began and they didn't expect this sort of turn out. Every hour or so she would invite people to come into the conference office where she gave a little stump speech. I listened from outside during one, and she was as good as ever. On point, charming, funny, and ticking off accomplishments. She clearly loved being a senator. Her husband John recognized us immediately and gave a warm greeting. We chatted about the party they had at their house the night before. I apologized for not being able to attend and he said to faggedabadit. It was crowded and went late and it felt like a college party. Amy caught sight of us and implored me (a few times) to go back and see her office. She recently had it redecorated and was very proud to show it off. I left the rest of our crew out in the hallway and made my way toward the back of the office to see Amy's personal office. It was beautiful and very feminine, done up in soft yellow's and blue's. I met Amy's new chief of staff Marjorie (her 3rd in 2 years?) and she said she recognized my name. After all this time? I'm still shocked to hear that the 4 months I spent with Amy still land on anyone's memory let alone get passed on by word of mouth. True, it was an eventful 4 months - 2004 Presidential election, John Kerry, hip surgery, 35 conventions - but I'm still surprised that anyone even remembers me. And being there also gave that little tug of regret. The voice inside my head whispers, "This could be me. I could work here. Look at how lucky these people are to be working in this city, at this time!" We make our choices, and I don't regret mine, but one can't help but dream.

I made my way back to the others. Joe's boss, the Mayor of St. Paul Chris Coleman and entourage had arrived and the mood was jovial and heightened. Amy recognized the Mayor with all the fanfare he deserved and a few of us plotted our next move. Food and drinks. At this point, my friend Leah Drury arrived with her mom. She and I belong to a fringe group of women who call ourselves Progressive Women for Democracy. What fun to see all of these people out of Minnesota, happy, celebratory, making the pilgrimage to our nation's Capitol for a party and a prayer. A prayer of thanks.

What I came for.

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