talked to barack obama, the president of the united states, about pitchfork
okay so did you ever read that really long New York Times Magazine piece called like “All The Obama Twentysomethings” about all the really young White House staffers, kids in their twenties who went to like Harvard and Yale and now work as liasons or advisers or coordinators in the Obama Administration?
okay well so on Saturday i was at a party and i was gushing about Obama to this kid who said he was with the Democratic National Committee, i told him how i didn’t think Obama was getting a fair shake from the press right now and a bunch of other stuff. i also told him about the night i was DJing at Lit and Obama won the election and people were dancing out on the street, on 2nd Avenue, and how it was like fucking magical and i really wanted to run outside but i couldn’t because i was working
and then he told me that if i wanted to, on Wednesday (which is today), i could volunteer to drive a van in the presidential motorcade. so we emailed back and forth a few times to set it up, and what i am doing today is driving a 12-passenger Ford E-350 van in the presidential motorcade as he passes through new york today to do two democratic fundraisers and tape an appearance on the daytime TV show The View. right now he is reportedly eating a sandwich at a sub shop in Edison, New Jersey and i am sitting in the lobby of the heliport just south of the South Street Seaport with like five hundred cops and secret service agents monitoring the perimeter.
my van’s name is Press 1 and i am supposed to keep my mouth shut around the press that i’m chauffeuring because anything i say is “on the record” and could embarrass the administration.
if you’re wondering why some random 22-year-old is doing this, there’s three reasons: 1) the president is doing Democratic fundraisers, which are political, so using enlisted military men or policemen to drive his people around would be ethically questionable because those dudes are apolitical by nature 2) it’s expensive to fly in drivers from DC, and there’s no real reason to 3) there is a culture of volunteerism within the Obama administration. like apparently when he does a rally in St. Louis there are like a hundred people doing what i do. they did an extensive background check on me to do this too. i wonder if secret service agents read this blog?
also if you’re wondering if Secret Service agents are gonna be tapping on my window for blogging about this, i was told that they won’t be as long as i don’t include any sensitive security stuff. also if you are a terrorist and you’re reading this to obtain national security information i’m gonna tell you right now that there’s nothing sensitive here and i’d also like to take this opportunity to recommend to you the new Big Boi record entitled Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty because it is so good
so anyway today i took the day off from work to drive this van in the presidential motorcade and i hope that by the end of the day i can ask Barack Obama what his favorite indie rock band is and if he’s familiar with Pitchfork (i know he’s 48 but he’s pretty hip and from Chicago and lived there for years while the festival was going on and before he was president) and i’m gonna ask him what he thinks of it if i can!!!
so as i just said, i am sitting on a bench in the lobby of the South Manhattan Heliport. the president’s car is out back and i just took a video with it. on the drive from midtown to the seaport i listened to the lunchtime old school hip-hop/r&b show on Hot 97 on the radio, i was driving a 12-passenger van by myself with my Google Maps directions printout stuffed under my leg so it wouldn’t fly out the window and listening to Mariah Carey’s Fantasy, i was so scared i was gonna crash the van but after like 2 minutes on the road i felt okay about it, it’s not as hard as i thought it was gonna be, maybe i’ll try to drive a bus sometime?
now i am sitting in the van because the president’s helicopter just left new jersey and the woman who is the press liason just opened the passenger door to the van and she startled me because i was writing that post about pitchfork being searchable by writer and i was like “ahhhh hi!!” and turned the radio off really fast because i’m listening to Hot 97 and the new Young Jeezy single featuring Plies was playing really loud and the Plies verse was on and he was saying “ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS, THAT’S WHAT THE ***** (pussy, it was bleeped) COST ME” right as she opened the door. i think i just got off on the wrong foot with that woman
then i wait another five minutes and a different woman gets into the passenger seat of my van and introduces herself and i ask if she was in new jersey and if flew on the helicopter with the president and she says “yes” and i ask her what kind of sandwich he got at the sub shop in New Jersey and she says he got a “super sub” which she assumed had “everything” on it, and then she told me that the prices at the sub shop were quite reasonable and she remembered a lot of the prices. she said “the sandwiches were $7.50 or $8, a small bag of chips was 50 cents, a large was $1, a small potato salad was $1.69, a large was $2.49…” her memory was impressive
then we drove to ABC studios and the president went on The View. me and the other drivers stood around in a basement room with all the press people watching the president on The View. the press people were using their laptops, many of their laptops had extra batteries and wireless receivers taped up with black electric tape to the back of the laptop screens which i thought looked pretty hardcore
then we went out to a space they set up for the president to take pictures with people. it was a red carpet with flags and fake trees and a curtain. all six of us, the drivers, stood in photo-ready formation for awhile waiting for the president. david axelrod walked by, he looked a little disheveled, he waved to us. and then the president walked down a hallway with some secret service dudes around him and into the room we were in and looked at us and said “hi guys!!” and we all said “hi!” and he thanked us for driving and then looked us over, we’re all pretty young, and said “are any of you students?” and two of the drivers say “yes” and he goes “where do you go to school?” and they say “yale” and he says “what do the rest of you do?” to each person individually and they each answer. he shakes all of our hands
i’m last and when he gets to me he shakes my hand and i say “it’s great to meet you!!” and he says “what do you do?”
and i am looking barack obama in the eye and i say, “i write a blog about a popular music website!”
and he looks at me quizzically for a second, i guess he was sort of piecing it together, and he goes, “oh, which website?”
and i say, “it’s called pitchfork. it’s based in chicago! are you familiar with it?”
and he says, “no, but i’ll have to look into it!”
and then he walks around behind us and stands next to me and the photographer takes our picture twice and then we go back out to the vans to drive him to his next event, where he’ll meet Anna Wintour.
so now i am sitting on like 44th street in the line of vans and a man in military garb carrying a huge rifle just strolled by. that Young Jeezy song is on Hot 97 again. i just ate my tuna salad on a bagel. so i’m driving a white house staffer, a photographer, and two people who have not clarified their roles here to me yet. as the motorcade goes around new york, the streets are lined with people. someone in the car remarked on how amazing it is to be in new york but mostly they stay silent. we pass a man who is holding up a sign that says something like SPACE ORBITAL PSYCHOSOCIAL WARFARE or something and the photographer takes a picture of him and i wanna lean over to the staffer in the front seat and say “do you think he’s on to something?” but i don’t think we’re on the same sense of humor wavelength. then later the photographer is looking over his pictures and realizes that the man standing in front of the man with the sign is Luis Guzman
whenever we are not with our vans, we are told to leave the vans running with the air conditioners also running (so the van isn’t boiling hot when the staffers get back to it), but to leave the windows down in case a staffer needs to get into the vans and we aren’t there to let them in. the vans are still boiling hot. one of the other drivers notes, “motorcades aren’t good for the environment”
i tell the staffer who asked me to volunteer for this about talking to the president about Pitchfork and he says he didn’t think barack knew about pitchfork. on The View they asked Barack Obama what music is on his iPod and he said “everything” and they asked “justin bieber?” and he said “no” and my friend jokes that it’s because justin bieber got a bigger ovation at the white house easter egg roll this year than the president. i guess they’re just used to obama at the white house and justin bieber being there was novel. but i just can’t imagine that obama would be listening to justin bieber even if that hadn’t happened
we drive to the west village, where barack chills with anna wintour at her apartment. we park on houston and sullivan. houston street was blocked all the way from the FDR to maybe the West Side Highway and there are people standing behind barricades looking at the motorcade. one of the women who i am driving asks what neighborhood we are in and i tell her “Greenwich Village i think”. she said that one time she ate at a restaurant that frank bruni recommended to her on this street. she said they’re friends.
in the van outside anna wintour’s house i talked to one of the staffers about music. she really likes the avett brothers and doesn’t really like the jonas brothers. she’s friends with the avett brothers from when they were like a local band in north carolina. then she saw the book i was reading, michael azerrad’s Our Band Could Be Your Life, and she told me about going to rock shows in the 70’s. then the motorcade dropped barack and his crew off back at the helipad and they flew to new jersey in their helicopters and then back to DC. the new york times writer who was in my van filed a brief report about the whole day from the back of the van. you can find it on the New York Times Caucus Blog. it’s pretty different from my report but you know what they say: there’s your side, there’s my side, and then there’s the truth