Originally Corinne and I planned on being out of town for the debate. We had some reservations about missing a historical moment, but decided that our church retreat and fellowship was more important. Apparently God didn't agree and the trip was canceled.
We still considered leaving since we're way overdue for a visit to Corinne's Mamaw, but after some misgivings, decided that it was a good idea to stay. I'm glad we did.
We were about one degree away from anything exciting happening to us. One couple we know actually scored tickets. One friend had their picture taken with Howard Dean. Someone saw Oprah. Someone else went to the Democratic viewing. All of these exciting things happened to someone we knew, but never us. However, we still had a great time.
During the afternoon we went to visit the Grove. It felt like going to a football game, except there were beat poets and random bands rocking the vote in the Grove and stickers everywhere. You know Mississippians love free stuff and people were covered head to toe in free support swag.
I saw a lot of disappointed looks on some of the booth sponsors who seemed to be hoping for a larger crowd. The crowd itself seemed pretty happy because they could act weird. There were a lot of people acting weird, apparently that's how you be political.
Charles and Elise had a lot of fun dancing and listening to the "flowetry". Charles was so excited he threw up. Actually he was crying because Elise took his American flag and then he threw up. Kids are funny like that.
The throwing up part was a good sign that we had been political enough and it was time to go home and take a break before the actual debate.
I love my kids, but yelling at them can be exhausting and we almost decided to call it a night and watch the debate on the Internets. After some thought and a beer, we decided it was a good idea to go, hell or high throw up. So we packed a stroller, camp chairs and blankets and headed to the Square.
Oxford projected the debate on two big screens off to the side of the county courthouse. I wasn't sure what to expect and was very surprised to find a polite crowd seated in rows of camp chairs waiting for the debate to begin. Oh yeah, they were showing the debate on campus at the Grove as well which is probably why the Square was so subdued.
Elise was asleep before Obama and McCain shook hands and Charles was busy playing with a toy. 30 minutes into the debate when he started to get antsy, I handed him the iPod loaded with cartoons. He'd occasionally look up and yell something like "what did you say?" Kids with earphones are funny. They just don't get the concept.
The night was cool, but not cold and the crowd politely cheered for their candidate. It was like watching the debate with your church, people you might not agree with but didn't want to piss off because you'd see them later.
It was wonderful really. Occasionally I'd look up out of boredom and stare at the stars and wonder how such a community could really exist. It's not utopia, but it's pretty damn pleasant.
I wrote earlier that I was concerned about all of the news coverage being biased against Mississippi. I, like much of Oxford and Mississippi, was defensive because we're often the target of abuse, not praise.
I was wrong to be concerned. I had underestimated Oxford's charm which managed to win over quite a few people. Our progress was more apparent then I thought and we had some nice write ups in the national media.
This is commendable because typically no one really cares much about the host city. It's a location where two greats are debating, a setting not a character.
What was most touching was the pride that Mississippians and people with ties to Oxford seem to feel about the whole event. I read a comment from an old MSU alum who congratulated us despite being Rebels. For one night, Mississippi wasn't just the poor, uneducated fat kid everyone liked to kick when down. We were the star and we held our heads high.
Here is a list of some of the articles written about Oxford.
My favorite is the NPR audio.
USA Travel fluff piece
NPR Scott Simon on Oxford
Giuliani in Oxford
Bob Schieffer returns to Oxford
AP video of Oxford preparation
New Orleans jealous, who knew?
Interesting behind the scenes
long video of debate events with pictures
Oh and to top it all off, the Rebels went down to the "Swamp" and beat the 4th ranked Gators. Really one of the best weekends I've had in a long time.