Field Notes: Florida, Hyde Park

From Katie Buitrago:

I voted absentee in Florida since, you know, it might actually matter there, so I didn’t get the joy of waiting in line and getting free donuts. My ballot showed up more than a month in advance and wasn’t particularly confusing, so no tomfoolery there.

But I decided to scope out Hyde Park election mania anyway for the sake of historicity, and I stopped by Obama’s polling place at 50th and Kenwood around 9 a.m. The line had about twenty people outside the school and as many press people and two WGN trucks. I snapped some photos and was interviewed by a Yale Daily News reporter about what it’s like to be a U of C student with Obama on the trail (do they really have enough money to fly students out to Hyde Park? Jesus).

I then went to the Valois cafeteria on 53rd Street, which has been anointed by the media as the epitome of Hyde Parkiness: racial and economic integration and tolerance. Which, as I told the Yale kid, is nonsense – there’s a long, long history of tension between University and non-University residents that everyone seems to have completely forgotten about. “Woo, it looks like Saturday in here!” a cop observed. It was as busy as the weekend rush.

I biked down past Obama’s house on Hyde Park Boulevard and slowed down as I passed, which got me some nasty looks from the Secret Service. No photos here, no siree. There were cops and Secret Service in a two-block radius around his house.

It was time for class, so I headed to campus where about 90% of the people I saw – no exaggeration – were wearing some sort of Obama paraphernalia. People haven’t really been able to concentrate, and it’s midterms, which is creating problems (I originally had one tomorrow; the prof graciously moved the deadline to Friday). Two kids smoking outside the library debated whether they should finish their problem set or go to Obamapalooza. “I guess it’s history,” one sighed.

At Walgreens in Hyde Park, shit was crazy by the Obama hoodies section. The pickings were slim – mostly 2XL and above – and a group of women argued over sizing. “It might shrink when you wash it,” one cautioned. “I only care about tonight!” the other laughed. I snapped some pictures of the bootleg Obama merch suffocating the store – will there be a mega-sale tomorrow? – before getting kicked out.

More news vans were on 53rd street, this time outside the Hyde Park Hair Salon – home of Obama’s barber. They’ve draped their windows in black curtains, perhaps for the privacy of their customers, but it seemed weirdly funereal given the circumstances . . .

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