08 October 2012

Debate & Drop-off

There's nothing like going to a partisan event with a partisan crowd. Mark and I were in London in 1998 at the time of the final World Cup game between Brazil and France. Brazil was expected to win. We had the inspired idea of going to watch the game with Brazilians at a Brazilian restaurant. As you all may know, Brazil lost, but it was still a great, roaring crowd to be with. Another time, Mark and I found ourselves in Rio during the weekend of the Oscar broadcast. We thought it would be fun to go to an "Oscar Event" we'd read about that was to be held at a video club. We found ourselves among diehard movie fans. They groaned when their favorites lost, cheered when they won, and in the downtime between Oscar presentations they kept busy by playing a hard-fought film trivia contest. People at our table were thrilled to learn we were Americans, by the way. They had some idea we'd know all the answers. Well, we didn't. Our table lost, and embarrassingly, too. So, what better way to watch the first Presidential debate than to drive to Rio and attend a "Debate and Ballot Drop-off" event with a group I belong to called Democrats Abroad Brazil. We'd get to meet these people who I, at least, felt I knew from our back-and-forths on Facebook, cheer on our candidate and deliver our absentee ballots to a consular official handcuffed to the Diplomatic Pouch.

We were all set to attend this partisan gathering at a bar called Devassa, in Ipanema, when we were informed just days before to show up at the Marriott Hotel on Copacabana Beach instead. The Marriott? Really? Well, yes, we were told, the consular official would feel more comfortable attending a "bi-partisan" event, so other American groups were being added to the invitation. But wait, a bi-partisan event at the partisan Marriott? A hotel owned by fellow Mormon and fellow Lake Winnipesaukee mansion retreat owner Bill Marriott, who just happened to introduce Mitt Romney at a fundraiser a few weeks ago by praising his ability to tie up a yacht? That Marriott?
Okay, off we went to the Marriott, our least favorite hotel in that tourist-trap stretch of Copacabana Beach. We found the surprisingly young consular official, who accepted our ballots and stuffed them into her very unofficial-looking pocketbook. We met the indefatigable Melissa Mello e Souza, our group's leader and secret weapon, off in a corner indefatigably registering new voters. I looked around, searching for other familiar faces from my Facebook group. I saw instead an awful lot of people who looked as if they knew how to tie up yachts. We ate the over-priced Tex-Mex food offered by the hotel, and then settled in to watch the debate. Our very well-behaved crowd even paid heed to Jim Lehrer and foreswore partisan reactions. No applause, no booing, no cheering, and no throwing of nachos at the screen.

Watching the debate-watchers
Melissa's voter-registration table

I admit to having felt a tad uncomfortable in this Republican redoubt, at least initially, but as the debate slogged on the audience began to react a bit, and the reactions made it clear that the Democrats Abroad turnout far out-numbered that of the other associations involved in the event. And I don't know whose hand was guiding this, but the couple that sat at our table turned out to be extremely affable and gratifyingly like-minded. You know you can relax when the conversation flows from the very polite "And how long have you been in Brazil?" to a discussion of the emotional significance of a New York deli sandwich. You know you can rejoice when they pull out their "Vote for Obama" T shirts. And you know all's right with the world when your only worry is whether or not you've got enough guest rooms back home to lodge all your new friends.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, TROPICAL DAYDREAMS! Tomorrow marks my one-year blog anniversary. When I started blogging, I thought I would do it for just one year. What could I possibly find to blather about beyond one year? Well, I've been so heartened by my readers' comments and feedback, both on the blog itself, via e-mail or Facebook, and in person, that I feel I must blog on. And so I shall. One year more?

1 comment:

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