Final preparations were completed at 11:30 PM, the night of Tuesday, October 7, 2008. I took two 14-inch clean white pizza boxes from my second job (I now deliver pizzas part-time for extra money) and electrical tape and constructed my double-sided rally sign. Side one was done in my wife Elsy’s Lancome LeRouge Absolu Pink Diamond lipstick. This stuff is like $26 a tube, but, it was all I had – it was already used on a larger “Palin Power” sign I made for a trip to see her that never happened. The lipstick is remarkably similar to what Sarah would wear too, which was why I went with it in the first place.
With the A or “Palin Power” side pictured above (and at the rally) completed, I then worked on the B or “Supersonic Sarah” side….
Note the sonic shockwaves in marker and lipstick….
Now these photos above were taken at the rally, but I’m getting ahead of myself here. So, I loaded all my McCain-Palin / Sarah–only stuff into the truck, secured it and went to sleep for a few hours. At 3:15 AM on the 8th, I rose, showered, made 20 oz of coffee, took a fiber bar, updated MySpace to indicate I was on the way, then bee-lined it out of here.
I arrived at 5:40 and met Pete and Dan, two college students who were passing a football around. The three of us were the first ones there. That, of course would serve us well. As the hours prior to opening passed, I would meet Maryanne, Marybeth, and Eleanor. I bought my McCain-Palin shirt there and put it over the white Polo I was wearing. Pete and Dan bought pink ones to give a little extra Sarah support and declared, “I’m man enough to wear pink!” Why didn’t I think of that? But, I stuck with the blue one. Trying to explain away to my rather liberal wife what I was doing here is one thing….I’d have a heck of a time explaining a pink shirt!
Now…I had a problem. I RSVP’d for the tickets, but you’re actually supposed to pick them up at a designated place a few days before the rally (note to those of you who attend future ones)! So, even though I RSVP’d, I was essentially ticketless. I was at the front of the doors. This could not possibly be happening….and it wasn’t going to happen. I met Karen Frye, a volunteer and explained my situation. Twenty minutes later, Mary from South Jersey, came and gave me a ticket. I thanked that angel profusely. Now, I was in like Flynn and a day that could have ended in disaster turned out to be one of the best days of my life.
Finally, the doors open and I passed through security (airport style), was all discombobulated, but got it together. I wanted to go on the floor, but they initially denied access to everyone. So, I bee-lined it up the steps to the first tier, then made it to the bottom of that tier. Maybe she would pass by the tiers, I thought. Then, the Secret Service said, if anyone is willing to stand for four hours – come to the floor. I was within jumping distance of the floor, but I bee-lined it back around and secured my position at the near the right-hand corner of the platform, where I spent the remainder of the rally.
I photographed my ticket, then sacrificed it – on the back writing Sarah a plea to rally in a friendly venue in NYC and turn this place around.
On the floor, I met Shelly and Amanda from the PA GOP. About 30 minutes before John and Sarah arrived, the room spontaneously erupted into chants of “SA-RAH! SA-RAH! SA-RAH!” She was flying supersonic before she even hit the building! Numerous local elected leaders spoke: Senator Arlyn Specter, Pennsylvania State Representative Karen Beyer, Bill Platt, and others. Rep. Beyer saw the “Supersonic Sarah” side of my sign and loved it.
My sign can be seen from the distance in this YouTube video of Karen Beyer’s speech (which was excellent by the way…a cross between Rudy Giuliani and Sarah).
We should watch Karen too. She’s going places!
Then, the Straight Talk Express bus entered from my right. John and Sarah emerged and went down the aisle, shaking hands…
I shook both their hands, and in Sarah’s case held on for five seconds (with her tacit permission, and we both knew when it was time to let go). I unfortunately, could not photograph it, because my priority was bonding with a kindred spirit…as was the priority of everyone else who stood at that platform for four hours. If photography were my mission, I would not have used my (actually my wife’s) Nikon Coolpix P2 for the job; I’d have used my D-50 with a 28 – 70 auto-focus and a 60-300 manual focus lens. The D-50 was just too big for this and would have distracted from the point of my being there.
My position was to all the speakers’ right and slightly behind, which was not the best for photography, but like I said, I was not there for that.
Here is one of Sarah speaking…
My position gave me one unique advantage. I was able to watch their speaking technique. Now…notice that there are two Telescript PRS150 teleprompters to each side (http://www.telescript.com/hardware/15prs.html). Both McCain and Obama use this exact make and model at their campaign events. I can tell you beyond the shadow of a doubt, that even though those machines were there, they were dark – turned off! Not one speaker there – to include Sarah and John – used them. They all did their speeches the good old-fashioned way – Arial 14pt bold, all cap, double-spaced on stapled 8 Â½ x 11 sheets. I can tell you also that to a one, they had most of their speeches in their heads, rarely glancing down to read their papers…in fact, I saw Sarah turn the page on her speech a few times without even looking down!!!!
It brought back some nice memories from my high school forensics (debate/speech-making) club…and that was also how I did it myself when I was involved with public advocacy for rebuilding the Twin Towers. My speeches were done exactly like Sarah’s, John’s and the PA elected officials who spoke before them. Those who think Sarah can’t handle unscripted speech really need to think long and hard. They really don’t have any idea of what they are talking about.
Sarah tends to stay at the lectern (that little table which holds your speech and the mike is a lectern…the podium is the platform you stand on…many people call the lectern a podium), and while she looks at her audience from all directions, she is more of a fixed speaker. Thus, from my position, all my photos of her are side shots and the few where I was able to get a partial frontal resulted in John getting clipped, because of how I had to position the camera.
Sarah spoke about the debate and how Obama is “drilling for votes.” In one of her interactions with the audience, some idiot yelled out to her “You’re hot!” A number of us up front didn’t hear it, but Sarah heard it loud and clear, and her response was louder and clearer. She locked in on the sector of the arena where he was, like sighting in her M-4, leaned into it, and ended it with a precision kill-shot, “so what does THAT have to do with anything?” This was an unscripted, candid moment, and she was fast on her feet with it. She spoke about how and why Obama is unqualified to serve. Unfortunately, there was no Starbucks Mocha moment — you could forgive the very slight misquote – her picking of it and its delivery in CA were a work of genius – and by the way, that stuff is wicked! It’s like concentrated liquid cocaine in a paper cup! There was no “palling around with terrorists” moment, which I was hoping for. But it doesn’t matter…even in her more subdued form, Sarah was flying at Mach 3, pulling Gs, electrifying the arena and breaking whatever glass was around with her sonic booms.
Following Sarah, John spoke. He likes to walk around a lot, so I was able to get some frontals of him. This is not to belittle Sarah’s style in any way, shape or form. She connects to the audience with her eyes, and head, and her rousing speeches. John is rousing too, but takes a different approach. They complement each other well.
Here’s a frontal of John…
Here is a partial frontal of Sarah clapping…
Unfortunately, John got clipped in this one. Notice Sarah’s hands…something square is on her right hand between the palm and wrist and I coudn’t figure out what it was until October 13, 2008. As it turns out, Sarah busted her hand during a fall she sustained while jogging at John McCain’s house in Sedona, AZ before the debate. The square on her hand is a bandage, which she wore to the debate and to all her events up till at least October 8, 2008. The bandage was removed by Saturday, October 11 when she dropped the ceremonial puck for the Philadelphia Flyers. Back to this rally, Sarah wears a thin wedding band, but it appears to be absent from her left hand today. You would need to zoom in on the picture to see, else look at the full-sized version in my photos.
Cindy spoke, but my battery (which was fully charged), was starting to die as John finished up. So, I had to stop shooting, because I wanted more Sarah shots. Sorry Cindy….
I lifted the McCain/Palin shirt to expose the white polo shirt. Sarah came down those steps. She shook hands with Marybeth to my right; we locked eyes and we had another five-second hand-shake. Sarah signed the “Supersonic Sarah” side of my sign…
Then, I screamed to Maryanne… “Give ‘er da Sharpie! Give ‘er da Sharpie! Give ‘er da Sharpie!” Sarah took it and as she went to sign my shirt, I said “put it right over my heart!” And, so she did…
She continued on down the line and I had a child pass her my sacrificed ticket. “Thank you sir! She said.”
John and Sarah continued round the podium then to the back, shaking hands, signing books, signs, and other items. In my last hoorah, I called out: “Teddy Roosevelt! Ronald Reagan! Sarah Palin!” The bus was already outside; John and Sarah left, and the rally was finished.
Outside while people were traffic-jamming to get out, I decided to walk around and saw a small crowd. I was able to get one last glimpse and take one last shot….as Cindy boarded with Sarah second in trail.
I went to lie under a tree holding my signs and basking in the moment. I let the traffic get out. An hour later, I got up and went to eat at Gregory’s steakhouse, across from KABE, where I flew Cessna 172s from Flying W (N14) a few times before. How ironic that now I drove to this place to see and meet John and Sarah…this place — a sacred place in my flying life — now has taken on a new meaning.
My ribeye steak with red potatoes and mixed veggies and massive amounts of seltzer was the first thing I ate all day. Following the meal, I returned home, savoring those moments all the way back.
As I said, this ranks among the best days of my life.
John and Sarah’s time there was fleeting like Concorde passing overhead back in the day (She’s a lot like Concorde: elegantly engineered, a work of genius, powerful, fast, beautiful, graceful, loud, strong, yet sweet — and like Concorde — when she is present everyone and everything stops). 7,000 people chanting “SA-RAH!” and stomping doesn’t just happen.
I discussed John and Sarah with volunteer as I lay under a tree to rest, and we discussed his picking her to be VP. We agreed that he had her in the wings and picked a long time ago. The others were just there…maybe for show. We concluded that John is essentially running for president — for Sarah to get her ready for 2012, since he only intends to serve one term. He knew that to get great rewards, you have to take great risks. We agreed that win or lose, this would be John’s final sacrifice for our country and his final gift…..Sarah was the pick of TWO lifetimes.
To have bonded for 20 seconds (the two rather extended hand-shakes [more rather holding] and the signings) with this last of the American Pioneers — someone we haven’t seen in 150 years — who is now carrying the torch from Teddy Roosevelt, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan — those 20 fleeting seconds I will treasure forever. It’s just sad that the good moments in life are almost always fleeting.
My wife often ribs me about “your Palin.” Mine? No. Only one man holds that claim over Sarah and that’s Todd Palin. But for her supporters, she is one of us; and in that sense she belongs to all of us. She is our Palin!