Sunday, February 8, 2009

I dreamt of Obama and it was like Disney

Last night I dreamt I was in Washington to cover something relating to the new president.

At first, I was doing something familiar to anyone who has covered an official event - I was hanging around in an official building with a bunch of other reporters. Even then it was strange how Obama kept popping up, closer by far than he should have been.

We were watching some news on television - and there he was at a desk under the TV, going over some notes (his speech?) with a woman (an advisor?).

We were loitering in a hallway - and there he was, slouched down with some younger people, one of them a young woman suggesting the president must have risen with a hangover that morning.
Then, in another hallway - when the president burst past us out onto porch, looking magnificently muscled from behind in his business shirt with no jacket, saying, "Welcome onto the people's porch!" to encourage people to follow him and mix him.

Then I end up standing beside him on a bright lawn, and the president addresses me by name and passes on some news about an African-American lawyer in St. Louis he might have expected me to know.

Then I am chasing a flood of reporters and other people up the stairs in the official building, where there is news, an announcement that seems to regard the failing health of former President Jimmy Carter.

Here's where it gets really Disney.

I am back outside now, and it's night. We are still waiting for an announcement (the one persistent realistic touch). It is handled cinematically. An image of Obama's face comes flying into the crowd like an animated frisbee and lands on the ground, near me. Then it launches again, but now with a cartoon body of the president attached to it, something like an outsized parade balloon.

Then there are characters in somewhat elfin costumes, handpicking people from the crowd to go with them to check on Jimmy Carter. Once they have assembled their group, they scramble off up a little hill like hobbits and disappear.

This whole time everyone in the crowd, including me, is spellbound with wonder that politics in Washington is now conducted with such clever stagecraft and such professional production values.

Then I am driving and I have to show someone a pass, and the president is there with the people checking my pass. He doesn't seem to know me now but is recommending me for an honor, some privileged position to see part of a parade. I was thinking, he already forgot me, but then I thought, no, he's just savvy and generous and wants to give me a treat, without seeming to exert favoritism.

Then I get this amazing dress-down from the security officials, presumably because I will be in a privileged position of access (though, of course, all day and night I have been in arm's reach of the president repeatedly). The security guys are young slacker types that joke and jaw with me while they give me the once over thrice. I think of the phrase for workmen in Hamlet, "rude mechanicals."

I remark that it was nice of the president to give me this opportunity, and one of the rude mechanicals security guys says, "Yeah, but one thing you're not going to get is that interview you came for," and then it occurs to me that maybe Obama wasn't throwing me a bone, maybe he had forgotten me and my role as a member of the working press, or for some reason wanted to frustrate me, and I was now in some prized area of the public viewing space rather than with the press corps, so I wouldn't be getting the story I came to Washington to get.

And then I woke up.


Couple things.

I almost never remember my dreams, if anyone who dreams a lot and remembers their dreams is wondering why this is such a big deal to me. It's always a big deal to me when I remember a dream.

I have met Obama twice on the campaign trail, both times in small rooms, and I have interviewed him twice, one-on-one on the phone both times, and he does know the name of the paper I work for (The St. Louis American), though it's fanciful to imagine him remembering my name without being prompted or having a piece of St. Louis gossip to dish me on the spot.

This probably all came from last Thursday, when I emailed my contact in The White House, aksing if I could send him something to consider passing onto the president. He called me and said it sounded interesting, send it to him.

I asked for his address, and he laughed and said, "Got a pen? The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ..."

I told this story to many people, because it does amaze me that I deal on a regular basis with someone who knows me and works there.

Then this same guy and I were in touch throughout that day regarding a news report on our website that was embarassing to one of their new cabinet members. My guy was anxious to get us updated information and see that the story got updated on our site. That also encouraged the feeling of a degree of intimacy with The White House that is unusual, maybe unprecedented, for the editor of a weekly newspaper in St. Louis.

As for the cartoony stuff, I do have a five-year-old ...


Cartoon from the blog of some j-school dude.

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