Santa Cruz Good Times

Tuesday
Jul 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Breakfast With Obama (With a Side of Protest?)

obama1So ... there I was minding my own business, swimming around in my own self-induced fatigue—so many deadlines, so many commas, apostrophe and periods—when I received an email mid-week from a colleague and friend, Annie Sprinkle. I had penned several stories about Sprinkle in the past and had attended/performed in two of her performance art weddings—see loveartlab.org—to Elizabeth Stephens, a UCSC prof.

The email was wonderfully flowerly, as Annie's always are. She was alerting me and those cc'd in the note that a friend of hers had purchased two tables at an Obama Victory Fund breakfast at the posh St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. Annie couldn't go, her partner Beth, could ... And would any of us like to attend?

What fun, I thought, and immediately wondered if they'd serve Blueberry Buckwheat Pancakes. Well, and President Obama would be in attendance. see video below

I was intrigued. I scrolled down further. And then ... breakfast became the farthest thing from my mind. The "friend"—Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn—also wanted to let Obama politely know that she was concerned about the treatment of Pvt. Bradley Manning, the alleged leaker of U.S. military docs that were posted on WikiLeaks—the concerns stemmed from Manning being been held in solitary confinement in Virginia since his arrest in May, 2010.

Well, I thought, I suppose Naomi, has every right to voice her concerns. I read on, only to discover that she wanted to do it in song.

OK. Now that was original! As in ... "Glee?" A la "American Idol?" I was confused. I kept reading.

Oh—as in ... “performance art.”

With the President?

And that's when I thought: I won't be eating pancakes with Obama on Thursday morning.

Admittedly. I'm not much of a protester and activist. (I do enjoy writing about some of them, though). In fact, I tend to wave more poms poms and scream, cheer, jeer—whatever—not so much for political affairs, but for any number of psychologically rich, or emotionally fruitful discoveries of the heart, mind and soul. I’m better at managing mood swings. (Debatable actually.) And really, a simple plate of eggs, toast and applause for what the president had been doing for the country thus far—and some encouragement to keep forging ahead— seemed more my speed at the moment. Especially since I had been feeling pulled like taffy of late.

Besides, I'm a horrible singer. (Protests have been held against me.)

Needless to say, I let it go. Timing, logistics and other events didn't seem to align. Perhaps this wasn't in the stars for me.

But then it hit me—hard. Hello—how many times is somebody invited to a breakfast gathering for the Commander in Chief? I could still go, couldn't I? And, if I didn't quite jive with the whole singing-a-song-and-protest thing, I could still honor the originator's position to feel she had the right to do so. (It’s America, after all.) Besides, I'm a "writer" in this world. I observe. I write about my experiences in books and magazine articles. Perhaps this would unravel into quite the “experience?”

It did.

A posse of nearly 200 supporters, who doled out anywhere between $5,000 to $35,000 apiece to attend, were on hand. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, former SF Mayor Willie Brown, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, among others, were all in the house. (So was Will.i.am. and MC Hammer.)

Pelosi introduced Obama, who received a standing ovation from the crowd—he had already generated buzz with his appearance at Facebook and Masonic Auditorium earlier in the week. The president looked dignified and spoke eloquently about a hopeful future and making politics work. I was so entranced that I forgot about Pitcairn at the other table. But then ... I, too, was genuinely surprised when she stood up and said, "Mr. President, we wrote a song ... can we sing it for you?"

Obama suggested that the ditty happen after his speech, but then the group at Pitcairn’s table smoothly launched into their song, a Cappella. It’s hard to illuminate quite how everything unfolded next. The proverbial elephant had walked into the dining room and it wasn’t going to go away.obama2

This, I thought, watching the entire scene unfold, was clearly a breakfast to remember.

A few of the lyrics in the song, which was sung in a pleasant, polite manner, noted the $5,000 ticket price for the event. Later, the singers crooned: "We paid our dues. Where's our change?"

This went on for about 60 seconds or so. I turned to scan the room. Pelosi’s face was pale white, her eyes suddenly wide open. Politicos looked stunned; others amused, and most, simply curious. And Obama? He listened graciously, giving Pitcairn et al some time. When I saw Pitcairn remove her shirt, I thought, ‘That’s it! They’re going to tackle this chick for fear of ... what—threat by nudity?” But she seemed to only want to reveal a T-shirt underneath that protested Manning's treatment. Others at the table held up small placards that read: Free Bradley Manning. (Which room attendants quickly came and removed.)

Heart racing, I wasn’t sure what would happen next, but then Pitcairn collected her belongs and asked Obama if he liked the song. He smiled, complimented the singers and noted that it was much better than he could have sang it. He also noted that the song was creative.

And then he thanked them. And then I grinned, remembering that, yes, Obama can be, and is a classy guy.

And off he went, gracefully getting back on track with his speech. Later, he shook hands with those lined up to greet him. (Firm handshake—always a good sign.) He even took time for an extended discussion about Manning with somebody in line who had questions about the issue.

Meanwhile, outside Pitcairn greeted broadcast crews, garnering attention for what unfolded. As for me? Well, I (re)learned that there are rare moments in life when the stars align so curiously—make that unusually— that you suddenly find yourself witnessing something completely original and unexpected. (You just have to move yourself out of your own way.)

Could Pitcairn have illuminated her point in a different way? Sure. But few would have turned their heads. Did the incident thwart the overall Obama experience? Hardly. From where I was sitting, it actually enhanced it—in only the way Northern California could.

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Art Files: Opposites Attract

Using found objects, Victoria May seeks beauty in dichotomy and tension, the creepy and absurd

 

A Year of Creative Self-Expression

Wednesday, after a year in Cancer’s nourishing waters, Jupiter enters fiery Leo. Next Tuesday, the sun joins Jupiter in Leo. Leo is the sign of the three fires of life, of seeking our individuality, our gifts and talents. Life for the next year will be quite dramatic, expressive, creative and generous. Jupiter, the heart of Aquarius, is the planet of expansion and truth, distributing Ray 2 of Love and Wisdom.

 

Final Cut

Cedar Street Video to close after 10 years at downtown location

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 18

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Posted

Desserts at Seabright’s La Posta, a pop-up breakfast, local ethnic cuisine, and a long-lost varietal 

 

What is the most outrageous thing you did as a kid?

Santa Cruz | Retired

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Loma Prieta’s Pinotage

Although drinking alone is not half as much fun as drinking with others, after a busy day of dashing around, I came home and poured myself a glass or two of Loma Prieta’s Pinotage 2010 (saving a bit for my husband). There’s something about taking that first sip of a worthy wine that gives one an all-over glow.