The Reader goes to Grant Park—four years too late



Grant Park looks a lot different this time around.
  • Alison Green
  • Grant Park looks a lot different this time around.
As the clock passes seven and the votes pour in, I'm in the front row of a screening room in the basement of a DePaul University building, watching a movie about the Brazilian rain forest.

Great flick, by the way. It's called Xingu. Directed by Cao Hamburger. I urge you to run, run, run to see it.

I'm here because I thought it would be a fun idea to follow Alderman Robert Fioretti on election night—and Fioretti's here 'cause he made the opening remarks for the Brazilian film festival.

But . . .

At the last minute, Fioretti breaks the news that he got passes to the VIP section of the Obama election-night party.

So, ugh, no offense, but, well—I'm getting dumped!

Not that I blame him. I'd probably do the same thing if it was the other way around.

I think Fioretti feels sorry for me, 'cause when the movie ends, he asks: "Can I drop you somewhere?"

"Yeah," I say. "Grant Park."

"Grant Park? Why would you want to go to Grant Park?"

"Well, there's this photographer from the Reader there and she's taking pictures. Sort of like, you know, this Grant Park four-years-later thing."

He gives me a look that says: OK, if you say so.

And he drives me to Columbus just south of the Art Institute and I walk out of his warm, cozy car into a cold drizzle.

I find the photographer, Alison Green, not far from Buckingham Fountain. No one else is around, except for two traffic directors—one tall, one short—in their yellow rain parkas.

"Who's winning the election?" I ask the tall guy.

"I don't know," he says. "We're not getting that kind of information."

The rain picks up so I take out my umbrella.

"What are you doing out here?" he asks.

"Going to Grant Park," I say.

"Grant Park?"

One traffic director looks at the other.

"Why would you want to go to Grant Park?" the tall one asks.

"We thought it would be kinda cool to go to check it out, you know—four years later."


"Suit yourself," the tall guy says.

We walk into the park, which is muddy and damp and covered in goose shit. Within minutes my shoes are soaked. I take out my notebook, like, you know, I'm going to interview someone. Except there's no one in the park to be interviewed. Except for Alison. And she's really busy setting up her equipment.

"I really wanted to be here four years ago," I say. "But I was out of town."

"Uh-huh," she says.

"Hey, I know—take a picture of me!"

And I start doing this little dance, while chanting: "Obama. Obama. Obama."

Then I switch up the chant. "The whole world's watching. The whole world's watching."

That keeps us entertained—and almost warm—for a while. Then we head back to the traffic directors.

"Any word?" I ask the tall guy.

"Nope," he says.

"I know—I'll call my sister," I say. "She's at an election party."

When she answers the phone, I have to yell to be heard above the noise going in the background.

"Did he win?" I yell.

"What?" she yells.

I yell even louder: "I said—did Obama win?"

"I don't know. They're still counting votes. Where are you?"

"Grant Park."


"Grant Park."

"Grant Park? What are you doing in Grant Park?"

"It's complicated. Just keep me posted."

I hang up. Several cars pass. I get a text from my sister: "He did it!"

We start jumping up and down. Me, Alison, the traffic directors. We're all hugging each other, like we're old friends, and chanting: "O-bam-a! O-bam-a! O-bam-a!"

Then we get tired of jumping up and down. And I realize: it's cold, I'm wet, and I could use a drink.

"I know," I tell Alison. "Let's go to a party."

So off we head to Lance Tyson's postelection gathering at a bar on the near-west side. Only by the time we get there it's not a party—more like a postmortem. Tyson having been clobbered by Derrick Smith in their race for state rep.

Maze Jackson, the campaign manager, sits at a front table, looking dejected. "C'mon, Maze, cheer up—there's always another election," I tell him. "Let me buy you a drink."

We drink our drinks and watch Tyson and his wife dance to Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. "The love I lost was a sweet love . . ."

At least they're playing good music.

I look up to see Tommy O'Donnell, former 47th Ward aldermanic candidate. Turns out he and Lance are old pals.

"Where were you tonight?" he asks.

"Grant Park," I say.

"Grant Park? What the hell were you doing in Grant Park?"

"You know, Tommy—it's a long story."

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