On Halloween day, after roughly a month of planning and saving (doubling as our anniversary celebration) DH and I packed up the car and armed with plenty of candy and a curated playlist “Time to BOOGIEgieg” and drove from Saint Paul to Des Moines to help rally support for @PeteButtigieg at the Liberty & Justice Dinner 2019.
My Husband was in charge of choosing and arranging our accommodations. I made the playlist 🙂 He’s NOTORIOUSLY shaky at planning, I however enjoy solid Masters-level playlist skills. One Mexican food truck and a magical split-second stop at Lake Coffee &Ice Cream (it bears repeating MAGICAL) in Clear Lake IA later we arrived in Des Moines, slightly behind schedule and practically vibrating from sugar and caffeine.
Checking in with the endlessly charming hotel clerk, he asks, “What brings you guys to IA?” ”We’re Barnstorming for Pete Buttigieg” Big smiles “Neat! Just gotta pick out a room for you *click click* this is a good one.” He told us about breakfast in the morning and the view from the bar upstairs.
Tradition for us, Hubs brings up bags, I put bags away. Yes I am one of those People.
So when he came in looking wild-eyed, dropped our bags and proclaimed “I just met Pete in the hallway, he nodded, said hi and I said hey back ” I absolutely looked at him like he was insane & had sprouted two heads “I think Pete is staying in the room across the hall from us and I think I rode the elevator down with Lis Smith.”
I would love to tell you what went through my mind – I partially thought my husband was trolling me but something told me he wasn’t – So I took a second and tried to remind myself politicians are just people. I would however help my DH get the rest of the bags.
I DID NOT meet Pete that night. I did see Liz and confirmed to my husband that it was indeed her in the lobby. We rode the elevator many times over the weekend with Staff. EVERY SINGLE ONE was lovely and or chill & all made a point to say something, a thank you or a compliment on our Pete swag or just joking around with us. We missed the Pumpkin Pete up but DH shared a chat w/Pete’s mom about his shirt at breakfast.
Here’s where I admit we NEVER approached anyone & we breathed NOT A WORD even to the other few supporters in the hotel. Maybe they knew too, idk. We didn’t want to cause problems for Pete or the staff & were happy to get to (unexpectedly) spend our weekend among the team. We may have gotten in a bit of trouble for hanging a Pete sign on our room to which we were treated to a note slipped under our door asking us not to do that for security reasons and signed “The Staff”. When you’re traveling/a public figure, your hotel is your safe space – DH and I agreed to keep it to ourselves until the weekend was over, and we still won’t give out the name of the hotel JIC. While I don’t have selfies or even more than brief interactions, it made our weekend that much more special.
Standing in the freezing rain for hours should’ve been miserable but it wasn’t. It was a delight to hang with so many supporters. Watching how kind Team Pete was warmed me up – all that laughing and dancing and waiting. We stood with a group of women who were a straight up blast. We swapped Pete Staff love (Jess O’Connell) while one woman shared hand warmers and extra mittens she brought. I heard not one complaint in those hours. Ben Harper was amazing, Pete made me cry, and later we would find out 2300 Pete supporters were at that rally in the rain and 2300 of us marched Pete, Chasten and Mom’s further than any other candidate (5 Blocks) to the doors of the LJ dinner.
We were in the overflow room. I’d tried to get tickets in the 11 minutes they were available but the site crashed and they sold out. Bummed as we should’ve been, we were happy to be inside, warm and surrounded by Barnstormers and supporters from all over. We talked to people from Iowa committed to Caucusing for Pete, supporters who flew in from Portland, a hospitality worker who had saved up and flew from Martha’s Vineyard.
We lucked into some tickets last minute (literally) and had to run to the convention hall and up to our seats. I cheered and chanted myself hoarse. I re-inflated my thunder sticks twice and I sat politely and listened to almost every other speaker. It seemed fairly clear we had won the night in terms of numbers if not also in sheer energy output. It was, absolutely, one of the best moments of of my whole weekend. I will remember it for years – the feeling in that stadium in those minutes while Pete was on stage and we poured out all the hard work, love and energy that had gone into getting there.
This is where I point out that organizers like @Barnstormersforpete and Iowa staff Organizers (like the one I sat with) should be given no end of praise and accolades. I have worked many an event and this was impressively done by any standard.
Exhausted, still damp from the rain and starving we headed to the after party. We took a 30 minute detour while my husband tried to find my Pete beanie w/ ALL MY BUTTONS on it. But after looking everywhere including our seats and the overflow, I cut our losses (all my amazing buttons) and headed for the party. When I got there I realized I didn’t have cash for the cover and I was still irritable about my hat. So I told DH I wanted to go and at least change so we left.
I just missed Chasten all weekend (I believe he must have some teleportation device because I saw him absolutely everywhere but by the time we got there he was somewhere else!) So when I entered the hall to our hotel peeling off glow sticks and damp Pete gear I must have looked crazy. I also considered that I was simply hallucinating. He seemed to register me roughly the same time I did him and floated towards me, flashing the most magical smile, clearly amused and probably knowing what hadn’t quite occurred to me yet, Chasten glided by thanking us and as staff flowed around us Pete rounded the corner. He never stopped moving, though he was not rushing he did not slow down either. His grin was huge and his eyebrows shot up – I don’t think he was expecting to encounter anyone in that moment. Again we didn’t stop him and I managed to lamely get out a “You did great tonight! NAILED IT” as he approached. I wasn’t nervous exactly and its true how calming a person Pete is he looked right at us and in the most sincere, genuine voice thanked us both for the night and what we were doing.
I suppose I could’ve tried to get him to stop, shake his hand, ask a question or take a selfie or maybe even invite him to play Mario kart lol. I didn’t, we didn’t. We wanted to be respectful of their space and the kind of temporary neighbor agreement that takes place at a hotel. We finished our night with as good a burger and shake as I have had at Zombie Burger. We rehashed our brief meeting and how if I hadn’t lost the beanie & left the party we wouldn’t have had it at all. Worth it I say! The cost, one hat + some honestly cool buttons so be it. DH and I discuss the finer points of what Mario Kart with Pete/Chasten/staff would be like and canvassing in the morning. We observe the groups of Yang and Harris and Pete supporters hanging out.
Once back at the hotel we promptly pass out. Due to a previous injury exacerbated by the day before I had to skip morning canvassing. And I still didn’t get to meet Lis (not all dreams lol).
My Husband and I came out to Barnstorm for Pete because we believe in him and his vision and like so many others Pete has called out to the best in us. I’m a stay-at-home Mom on disability who has struggled to get out of the house. I haven’t done grassroots in roughly a decade. I have often felt unable to find my place in the world a place to feel useful again especially after moving from GA to MN a year ago.
So when I say this weekend I felt seen, heard and like my presence mattered it’s not said lightly. Politics has been a passion since I was 16 stuffing envelopes and knocking on doors. Barnstorming for Pete this weekend I got to pour my passion and skills into helping create a place of belonging not just for others not just for Pete’s message but for myself. And it was worth it every minute, every tear, every lost beanie and button. Every penny was worth it.