Without a doubt, I pulled the shortest straw yesterday — the worst place to be in America last night was the Arizona Biltmore.
Several of us got tipsy on strong cocktails at the last McCain party at the Biltmore resort (where the Reagans once honeymooned and the Hollywood stars hung, a beautiful place designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s students), the night of Super Tuesday, when John McCain became the GOP’s presumptive nominee for president.
But no one could catch a buzz last night, despite the vodka and gin. Maybe because we had a real assignment — blog about the night in real time — and equipment to juggle: the world’s tiniest laptop and an iPhone with a dying battery.
In the end, we couldn’t even get accurate returns; in Big Brother fashion, they were only announcing the states McCain was winning. The foreign press outnumbered the paying guests. No one had a clue.
And worst of all was the feeling that I was there to kick a dying dog.
I wasn’t. Really. But I have written about McCain for a long time — none of it particularly positive — and while I wasn’t there to gloat, I don’t blame anyone for thinking I was.
Actually, all day, I’d been feeling downright magnanimous, in that way you get when you have a strong feeling your candidate is going to win, so why not be gracious? I was thinking a lot about partisanship. Funny, I put up a post Monday night about the notion of people with developmental disabilities voting, and while that drew some response, I heard more reaction to a couple of tossed off lines about my husband Ray’s political affiliation.
I’ve long joked that if you grow up in Phoenix, you better not count Republicans out as friends or you’ll be darn lonely.
And it’s true that some of my best friends are Republicans (not Republican Jews so much, I can never get past that one, though I did see a hilarous yarmulke last night wiht “McCippah” embroidered on it) and certainly some colleagues, even at the allegedly ultra-liberal alt weekly Phoenix New Times where I’ve worked forever.
But a GOP soulmate? My mom jokes that they knew I was in love when I brought home a Republican gun owner/former Catholic. I still don’t love the guns (which are safely locked away, trust me, and no, in 10 plus years of marriage I still haven’t held one) but I do love the Republican, and sometimes I even love him for his views.
I don’t agree with those views much of the time, but yesterday, as I fielded comments from people saying things like, “I just couldn’t be married to my husband if he didn’t support the same candidate I did,” I thought hard about why I was okay with that. (With the possible exception of the McCain thing, and really, that’s different — it’s personal, the guy screamed at my dad. Not cool. Long story. Google “David Grann” and “New Republic” and “Silverman” if you really must know.)
Even though we might differ on the issues — and trust me, on a given day it can be everything from economic policies abroad to whether the girls should still drink from sippy cups — Ray and I completely agree on one thing: We want the best world for our kids. We might have different ways of getting there, but isn’t that the messy manifestation of the American Dream?
I was getting all touchy feely and happy about my mature perspective, as we squeezed toward the lawn of the Arizona Biltmore last night to catch McCain’s concession. That was a surprise — we never thought we’d get into the ballroom, let alone onto the lawn, and the crowd was both disappointed and anxious, wondering if any of us would make it past the metal detectors in time to catch the senator’s parting words.
I was practicing my dour face, dying to hear more details about Obama returns and wishing I was at a victory party instead of a wake — and a wake for a man I was sick of hearing about long before Super Tuesday — when I overheard a woman next to me talking loudly into her cell phone, clearly not caring at all who heard her.
“Yeah, well, maybe he’ll be assassinated in a couple of days,” she said.
There was no doubt about whom she was referring to.
It was her tone — hopeful and bitter at the same time — that stopped me cold. I turned and stared hard at her. She didn’t look back, just pushed past me toward the metal detectors. Soon we all made it through and onto the lawn, for the final few paragraphs of McCain’s speech.
He was downright gracious, the crowd was in tears, the moment was perfect and lovely and afterward people smoked cigars in the cool November night.
We opened the tiniest laptop in the world and posted some pictures, then got a cab and beat it out of there. I couldn’t stop thinking about that woman. I didn’t see her face. But how will I ever forget her?
To quote Sophie, “I’m scared.”