Writing left handed

Day #5 of the DNC: AKA Rock Bottom

Let’s go about tying up some of these loose ends this morning, shall we? I’ve been blogging so sporadically over the past few months that it occurs to me I’ve said very little about the actual wedding, hardly anything about our honeymoon, and completely skipped over the fact that last month found me in so much pain that I started penning desperate notes to the orthopedic surgery staff at Penn in the middle of the night and was at last, to my great relief, admitted for surgery three weeks ago.

(Spoiler alert: I lived to tell. And even though the requisite “taking it easy” is driving me to new heights of completely pointless DIY crafting, I now have a 2 inch scar of which I’m quite proud and am, for the most part, pain free.)

But, getting back to the DNC, because that is what I really want to talk about today. And if you’re sick of hearing about it, too bad. You can read about the time I almost exploded on a press trip to El Salvador or when I learned, the hard way, how not to paint a slanted hardwood floor instead and come back next week.

Now: to refresh your memory, I was elected as a pledged delegate for Senator Bernie Sanders and attended the DNC with the reluctant-but-eventual blessing of the neurosurgeon who had spent the better part of the afternoon removing part of my L4 vertebrae, the offending herniated disc, and “cleaning up” some arthritis (when the hell did I get arthritis???) just a few days prior.

As such, I was meant to attend only “part” of the DNC, to have plenty of rest in between events, to ignore the endless onslaught of free cocktails and party invitations, and to use a wheelchair when on the floor at the Wells Fargo Center to keep from being inadvertently jostled by the thousands of not-entirely-calm people also attending the DNC.

This was me, with my tripped out pillbox hat (No to the TPP, Yes to $15 minimum wage, and #BlackLivesMatter) seated in front of my friend Amanda, a fellow Bernie delegate, who was wearing a feather-encrusted “War Hawk” fascinator, also of my creating:

No More War signs at DNC

But let’s back up for a minute: I hit rock bottom on Wednesday night. On Monday morning, I’d learned that state delegation breakfasts are quite boring (unless Corey Booker comes to speak…) and spent the interim blogging about the media gauntlet that kept demanding to know when we Berners would fall in line.

On Tuesday morning, I tried to get on board and struck up a few conversations with the Hillary delegates at my table. I also recognized a genuine celebrity for the first time in my life and got to snap a photo with Rosario Dawson while waiting in line to enter the ballroom at the Convention Center where Senator Sanders was holding a meeting for all of his delegates.

On Wednesday morning, not 12 hours after the roll call occurred the night before, (which is when the DNC is supposed to let its delegates vote and then– get this!– is supposed to actually count said votes) I stumbled into the delegation breakfast feeling quite stunned and, as you may recall from the post about the Hat I Wore to My Grandfather’s Funeral, wearing a bird on my head because sometimes, when the leader of your revolution sacrifices himself on international television and tells you to vote for her, that’s all you can do.

I wasn’t even hungry, and I’d spent the night before at home because I was too tired to make the trek back to my hotel room at the Doubletree (yes, I had a hotel room at the Doubletree, even though I live within walking distance from the Wells Fargo Center… more on that another time). But one of our delegation’s whips, who happened to be one of my roommates at the hotel, had told us that Bernie himself was going to come to our breakfast and I wanted to be able to stand up and cheer for him.

(And, if I’m completely honest, to find a discreet moment to sidle up to Jane Sanders and say, “You’d better give that poor old man the blow job of his LIFE after what he went through last night!”)

(The fact that I was fantasizing, out loud, within earshot of the governor, about advising an elderly senator’s wife on confidence boosting tactics of the bedroom variety shows you just how far gone I was at that point. But like I said earlier, I’d gone from denial, to anger, to bargaining. And I was on Percocet, a highly addictive narcotic containing both acetaminophen and oxycodone. So there was that…)

In the end, Bernie didn’t come to breakfast. And I couldn’t blame him. But I was overtired, still in a lot of pain from having had back surgery a week earlier and feeling, to be frank, emotionally wrecked. Yes, the big hitters were set to take the stage that night (Joe Biden and President Obama himself) but I needed a break so I decided to lay off the Percocet, gave my delegate credentials to a friend and holed up in the Doubletree for an afternoon of best rest.

Now, giving away one’s creds is technically against the rules but everybody does it, including- wait for it- a fellow Philly Bernie delegate who gave hers to the Communications Director from One Step Away, because the newspaper, which provides people experiencing homelessness with the opportunity to earn an income and in some cases, to publish their own work, was DENIED press credentials. How’s that for fucking democracy? (You can read the full story about that in WHYY’s “Advocate for Philly’s homeless scores lucky break and gets ticket into DNC” written by Katie Colaneri.)

My goal was to rest up, pull myself together and make it to at least one of the DNC parties before the week was up. I’d missed about a dozen already- so many cocktails to be had, so many carefully planned outfits to be worn!- so I followed along on C-Span for a little while, donned a low-cut-but-not-low-enough-to-show-my-scar dress and then headed down to the hotel lobby to meet my husband.

On our way to the National American Jewish History Museum, where the governor was hosting a party for the PA delegates and other VIPs, we passed a man in a wheelchair. He was panhandling just a few blocks away from Independence Hall. Before the night was up, we’d pass three men either begging or sleeping on the street.

PIC (aka my husband, for those of you just tuning in) was in a bad mood and I spent the better part of the evening trying not to dance. But doctors order are no match for Pittbull (I know, I know… it’s my guilty pleasure), especially when there are free drinks to be had. And by the end of the night, my two glasses of wine had gone straight to my head.

Rumor had it Obama and Biden were actually going to make an appearance at the party, but only on the third floor (as opposed to the fifth floor, where the less important folks like Yours Truly were sent) so I hatched a brilliant plan: we’d take the elevator to the third floor by “accident” and charm our way in.

Because no one has ever tried anything like that before…

Surprise, surprise, my brilliant plan did not work. We were politely but promptly ejected and PIC rolled his eyes.

“At least I tried!” I shot back. “At least I had a plan. You didn’t even have plan!”

What I failed to take into account is that two glasses of wine (after you’ve had no glasses of wine for a very long time), combined with very little sleep, combined with being mad at your husband, mad at the DNC and mad the establishment in general makes for a perfect storm. And when you see a man sleeping on the street with a cardboard Bernie Sanders sign at his head, onto which he’s scribbled “ONLY Bernie,” within spitting distance from Independence Hall where this supposedly great nation was born, just a few doors down from the party where hundreds of us involved in the governing of said nation had spent all night eating gourmet canapes and mini cheese steaks, that storm is gonna break.

And oh did it break.

I burst into tears and insisted that we go the deli down the block to buy sandwiches, not just for the man with the Bernie sign but for the other three men we’d seen as well. The man in the wheelchair asked for turkey and as I watched my husband carefully select four bags of chips to go with the sandwiches (and fork over his credit card to pay for my late night whim without a moment’s hesitation because truthfully, he does this sort of thing quite often), I started crying all over again because how did I get so lucky to marry a man like that, even if he does get a bit grumpy sometimes in the summer heat?

When we approached the man asleep beside the Bernie sign, I pulled my one last “A Future we can believe in” pin from my hair and left it there along with the sandwich and chips because truth be told, after three days of the “Democratic” National Convention, I didn’t know what to believe in anymore.




5 Responses to “Day #5 of the DNC: AKA Rock Bottom”

  1. no longer her landlord

    One foot in front of the other, being passionately involved takes courage and fortitude, which is why so few become involved. The process is unfortunately designed to be frustrating, but you will regroup and fight the next fight. Looking forward to the rest of the stories.

    • Kat Richter

      Yes, indeed. I know I’m not the first to go through these sorts of experiences and am glad to know I won’t be the last… Onward to the Revolution kick off on Aug 24!

  2. Maia Simon

    I get it. These are the sacrifices that must be made to create change. And by sacrifices, I am speaking of your pain. Thanks for all you do.

    • Kat Richter

      Sigh… Yes. I just couldn’t handle the irony that night especially. Philly spent so much money trying to get people experiencing homelessness off the streets in time for the DNC to make the city look good. I did read that they also developed an app to help ensure that leftover food from DNC parties and events could be taken to a shelter at least, to cut down on waste and help those in need, and that this app will continue to be available to caterers and event spaces after the DNC so that is one positive to come from all of this at least. (I nearly lost my sh*t when discussing this with the wedding coordinator at our venue this past spring l, because I’d read that some were willing to coordinate with homeless shelters to distribute leftover food and wanted to see about making similar arrangements but was told the food was not allowed off premises but that they had “arrangements.” This turned out to be the staff eating the leftovers, which was better than nothing, but I was still really mad about her lack of transparency on this.)


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