My Sunday Afternoon With Rachel Maddow

(Okay, I spent about 45 seconds one-on-one with her.)  But oh yes, I did meet her, and it was a fantastic day!  The best part was hearing what she had to say…everything she had to say.

A month or two ago my trusty fellow liberal co-worker mentioned that Rachel was coming to Portland because she had a book out, and that his wife had bought tickets.  Of course I jumped online and bought a ticket!


I haven’t been to downtown Portland for over a year and I don’t go to the area she was appearing very often, and the venue’s frigging website wasn’t very helpful for dummies like me – especially because there are 2 locations, 2 blocks apart.  So I had to do a lot of map researching to figure out where the location even was, where the closest good parking garage was, where to pick up the streetcar, which way to walk when I got off, etc.  (You see, in Portland, more often than not, you’re not operating with your relevant streets laid out in a grid – and it’s fairly uncommon for businesses to have visible street address numbers – you’re expected to already know where you’re going.  Most importantly, unless it’s Summer, you absolutely must expect it to be raining, which doesn’t make for a fun 8-10 block walk followed by sitting soaking wet with hundreds of other wet people for several hours…only to get up and go for your 8-10 block walk back to your car, by which time you will be fully drenched and gasping for air because you could very well be half-drowning.  And if you wear glasses you’ll probably have gotten run over anyway, because you can’t see and all the SUV drivers don’t care.)

But enough about that – because Alas, it was a dry and sunny day, so even though I overslept by nearly an hour I still made it before the 12 noon start time.  I sat in the very back row because there were few free seats by the time I arrived, but more importantly, I noticed I had a clear sight line up the aisle to the podium.

A nice hippie-ish guy went up to the microphone right at noon and told us what to expect with the talk, Q&A, and book-signing, and when Rachel took the stage mere minutes later, the place erupted.  She is a rock star to all of us who attended, and she received due acknowledgment in the reception we gave her…which she was characteristically embarrassed by.

One of the first things she said was that she’d have to take her glasses off because she could see every one of us.  To preserve her dignity (and sanity), we eventually shut up and sat down.

She read a bit from her book, Drift, after having asked us if it was okay if she spent the bulk of her time answering questions rather than reading from the book.  Of course we would have been satisfied if she chose to throw icy, sticky, drinks on us, so that was fine with us.

Here’s a snippet of a portion she read, having to do with the U.S. capture of Osama bin Laden:

(Apologies for the camera movement in all of these vids, btw.)

She talked about the book’s subject – the drifting of America towards the “ease” of war, and the blind eye turned to it’s many far-reaching consequences.  A bit of it here:

Then she answered questions from the audience, which were evidently gathered and put on cards for her (questions from attendees who were much more timely in arriving than I was).  This is video of a question about her dedication of the book to Dick Cheney, and her response, in it’s entirety:

That was fascinating to me.  In fact, it was all fascinating.  As I listened to her, I realized I had the same feeling I often used to have while at a rock concert, seeing some band that I lived half my life listening to…not quite believing I was seeing and hearing them in person.  I knew I wanted to say something to her when I got my book signed later, but I had no idea what it might be…maybe offer to walk her dog or release fish from her fishing pole or brush dirt out of her path as she walked down the street.  But I was faced with the opportunity to say something which could provide an opportunity to hear what she had to say back!  (Did I mention I’m enthralled by hearing super smart, funny people speak?)  I needed at least a coherent sentence formed in my head.

As I continued listening, I realized that she reminded me of Bill Clinton…and then I realized, oh –  Obama, too.  It’s a unique triad.  These three people have uber intelligence – how many people THAT smart actually have a personality, too?  And not just any old personality, but these three people are extremely charismatic.

Now it seems like that was a ridiculously obvious connection and maybe I’m slow in many of my observations…but better late than never – and suddenly I knew what I wanted to say to her!  And then it occurred to me that she’s also the only woman I have any knowledge of with those qualities.  That’s just crazy cool, if you ask me.

She finished with the Q&A period and we were asked to remain in our seats while she got settled for the book signing.  I was fiddling with my camera or something, and heard or sensed some kind of movement to my right.  Just as a I looked up, I saw a large sort of a translucent golden, glowy orb and there she was, surrounded by staff but nevertheless in the middle of the glowy orb, walking right in front of me down the aisle to the back of the room.

It was really weird – I’d had no idea she’d be coming my way and when I looked up I couldn’t even see her at first because the staff was surrounding her like she was R Diddy or something, but I did see the big glowy orb thing, even for that initial split second before she was visible.  So her aura precedes her…or something like that.

(For those of you who think I’m due for a psych evaluation, obviously you’ve never been in the presence of The Rachel.)  Moving on….  So then the nice hippie guy tells us that for the book-signing they’ll call numbers like 1-50 first, and we’ll go stand in a line in the groups as he calls them.  We couldn’t get in line until he called our group of numbers or letters.  I had letter “A” so I thought, hey, maybe after 1-50 he’ll start calling letters.  So I went out for a quick smoke.

I came back in and there were still a ton of people in the room so I asked someone where they were…they were at 100-150.  😦  I wound up going out for a smoke two more times…it turns out they went to 250 or 350 (I’d stopped paying attention to any numbers being spoken) before calling the A’s – which of course comprised the last  group.

While I was waiting, I rolled my head around on my neck a lot and stared at the ceiling and walls – The Crystal Ballroom is a beautiful venue for these types of events.  The hardwood floor-on-springs is interesting, but…different.

Long before the A’s were called, I’d started worrying about my back…which happens to be a bad back…and there is no way I can stand in any line for 20+ minutes without being in a lot of pain.  But seeing as how it was getting late, and surely Rachel was getting tired, by the time the A’s were called to get in line, the line was moving really fast.

Nice for my back’s sake, but I took this to mean they were rushing us along…which meant I might not get a chance to speak with her other than a ‘hi’.  When she was on Howard Stern recently she said she wasn’t taking time off from her TV show for the book promotion, and this was a Sunday and it was after 2pm – I thought the chances were high that she’d be catching a flight back to the East coast that afternoon and would need to leave soon.  (Turns out she wasn’t on her show on Monday, though.)

I was wearing my Bad Wolf t-shirt, and a guy whom I think was on the staff asked me about it, and he walked with me throughout my time in line as we talked about Doctor Who.  Before I knew it, it was my turn to hand my book to the guy who sets up the page at the right spot before he hands the book to Rachel to sign!  Crap! I wasn’t at all prepared like I wanted to be!

On the plus side, I didn’t have time to get very nervous. I relaxed for a moment as she was having an interesting conversation with the people in front of me, as you can see from the pics above.

Suddenly it was my turn, so I stepped up to her.  She looked at me and with a big smile, brightly said, ‘Hi!’, as she had to the previous 300 or so people.  I think I may have said ‘hi’, and then quickly leaned forward (because it was noisy and I’d seen other people doing that so she could hear them) and took a big breath and said, really fast, because I was worried they’d rush me off:  “Okay – three people in the world who are uber-intelligent, with uber-charisma and personality – Obama, Clinton, and you.” And I pointed at her.

She looked at me and said, “Oh my gosh…!”, and cocked her head a tiny bit, with an expression similar to what I’d imagine she’d have if I’d told her I ran 3 miles in golf-ball-sized hail to get to the venue and had a concussion from it and my dog got run over by a car but he was at the vet hospital and would probably be okay and that I’d call and check on him as soon as I had my book signed and oh no I couldn’t possibly miss her appearance and my dog would be okay without me in emergency surgery I’d be right there as soon as I could and then later I’d go get an MRI.

I don’t think I scared her, I think she understood I was being sincere.  However, sometimes my delivery leaves something to be desired….

And then I said, “and you’re the only woman!”, and pointed at her again.  D’oy…  WTF is up with the pointing?  Sadly, that is actually how I talk and gesticulate in real life when I feel like I have to rush and I have a point to make.  I’m maybe a little overly assertive?  Or just overly ass?

I’d basically recited rather than spoken, and was like a person in serious need of Ritalin (or had had way too much of it).  Anyway, then she was kind of looking ahead or at the book or table or something (or anything that was not me, the pointer who made the strange, rapid declarations), and I am not sure whether I’d rather have made her laugh like hundreds of other people had, than made her…shocked(?).

Who knows, maybe she was just thinking she was really frigging tired and hungry and can all of these liberal people PLEASE get the hell out of the room already.

Clearly not having the social graces to know when to leave well (or bad) enough alone, then I said it was an honor to meet her, with my ridiculous unworthiness exhibited by my downcast eyes – and I found myself unconsciously in the midst of doing a small bow (my Japanese genes pick now to take control over my body?).  And when I raised back up I saw that she was looking away – she was looking at the guy who was getting the next person’s book ready for her!  Damn….

(Okay, seriously – at least they weren’t calling Security.)

Obviously I can’t just be a normal person and say I love your show and your politics and I’ll read your book and it’s great to meet you. I’ll take some small comfort in knowing there are a lot dorkier people than me whom she’s been subjected to (and she tends to be highly tolerant of dorks, perhaps because of their/our entertainment value).  But mostly, as long as I didn’t scare her, I’m happy that I got to tell her a small bit of how highly I think of her…which for some reason has some importance for me.

From all I’ve seen and heard of Rachel, despite her deep understanding of the political powers that affect and even control our lives, she has an awesome outlook that can (almost) always find the humor in things.  And she does it with so much more intelligence than I’ll ever grasp, which must mean that things in general, in life and in the world, aren’t necessarily as bad as I often think they are.