Okay, so I thought my old job had the political hookups, what with chatting with Babs Bush and eating lunch with Gordon the stormin morman Smith, but now I think this takes the cake.
So here's how it happened...I was working on pages this morning at work (I was the only one in the news room at the time) and I took a call from some guy named Nick who says that there is a slight possibility that Barack Obama will be stopping in Woodburn for lunch on his way to Albany today. I thanked him for calling, and he said he would call me around noon to let me know for sure. Needless to say, it didn't sound super promising.
Noon came and went, and at about 12:30 p.m., I got a call from Nick. He said Obama would be at the taqueria a block away from our office in 15 minutes. We picked up and moved out. We ended up waiting around for a good half hour with one of his campaign schmucks, who lied through his teeth as people asked him if Obama was coming. Apparently, it was supposed to be a surprise. I'm not sure how hard it was to figure out that something was going on, since it's not every day there are a group of caucasians with cameras just hanging out on the corner of Grant and Young Streets in downtown Woodburn. The campaign guy didn't even tell the restaraunt owners until the last possible moment.
Eventually, Clackamas County Sheriff motocops showed up and blocked off the street, signalling the main even had arrived.
Obama's huge coach bus pulled up and just parked in the street, followed by more police and a caravan of traveling press.
I took photos outside, much to the chagrine of the schmuck, who told me I couldn't because "the Senator doesn't like being bombarded with flashbulbs right when he gets off the bus."
Like my $700 Nikon with built-in flash is going to blind him, besides the fact that there is enough light outside to negate a flash. So I ignored him and asked the real guy in charge, and he said it didn't matter. The best photos I took were outside.
Anyway, by this time, people had figured something was going on, and were coming out of the woodwork with their camera phones and handshakes.
Obama wasn't in a hurry, and that was good because by the time he got into the now-packed taqueria, it took him 20 minutes to get to the counter and order his taco combo.
I managed to situate myself behind the counter, next to the Oregonian photographer. I felt pretty stupid with my 55 mm lens and weanie flash, but I did what I could. The closest I got to meeting Obama was after he ordered his food and signed an autograph for a kid, he winked at the video camera next to me and then smiled at me.
Jason, our editor got to shake hands and interview him, but Garrett and I stuck to the photos.
I felt a little like a paparazzi...which made me feel ashamed, but, hey, these opportunities come once in a lifetime, and I was going to get a good photo if it killed me. I was standing on chairs, got my hand whacked by a TV cameraman when I accidentally lifted my camera, obstructing his view, and I almost got nailed by a platter of Mexican food that went flying into the press during the hubub.
In the end, I'll let you be the judge, but I think a few of my photos turned out decent enought to provide a memory to last for a while.
You can read the article Jason wrote and see more photos at http://www.woodburnindependent.com/WINNews0.shtml.
He won't get my vote, but I might vote for him as the skinniest presidential candidate ever. I think my arms were bigger than his.