We lined up in the warm Oakland sun. Excited human beings, snaking through downtown Oakland for what was probably miles, all elated just to be waiting in line. Sunscreen was passed around and shared, as were joints and bottles. Good vibes reverberated through the canyons of buildings like echoes from the future we all so desperately wanted to see. Sen. Bernie Sanders and his political revolution were in town, set to be at Frank Ogawa/Oscar Grant Plaza, and it was the hottest ticket in town — even if it was free.
For many people, Monday was something they’d been waiting for their entire lives, even if they hadn’t always known it. Forced to choose between the less evil of two con men over and over again for as far back as anyone could remember, Sanders came on the scene a little more than a year ago doing the most dangerous thing a politician could ever do: speak the truth.
The environment is heading toward monumental disaster. Women, people of color and the LGBT community deserve the same rights and treatment as white men. Income inequality is reaching horrifying proportions. And more, so much more. The man became a goddamn lightning rod for all that was possible. The future looked bright if it came with a short, old Jewish guy with crazy hair. Bernie was ours — he spoke for us, all of us — and here he was in Oakland, bringing his message and asking for our support.
The vibe was a half-step from a Grateful Dead show, but far more lucid and focused. Old friends walked by, gave hugs and joined in line. New friends were made and stories passed around.
“We’ve been to 15 rallies,” the woman selling cute handmade buttons told us. “We came down from Bend, Ore., and will go to any rally we can drive to.”
After waiting for a couple hours, the line started to move, and we filtered into the plaza like excited acolytes abuzz with anticipation. Sanders was finally going to be here. Damn, it felt good to be a Berner.
And then we waited. And waited … and man, it’s hot out here. And we waited some more. And then there were speeches by people like Robert Reich and Danny Glover and — holy crap! — Bernie Sanders is here! You can almost see him if you stand on your tippy-toes and launch off the back of the person in front of you.
If Bernie had been a band, it would’ve been like he was only playing his greatest hits. None of that “from the new album” shit. The crowd hung on every word even though we knew what the next one would be. We could practically mouth the speech ourselves because we’d seen his speeches on the Internet before. The man has been running for president for what feels like forever now, and he was our man and spoke our truths. And finally seeing him in person was vindication for all the stupid fights we’d gotten into on Facebook.
Twenty thousand, thirty thousand, nobody really knows how many people were there. But there were oodles, and when the speech was finally over, we all drifted out onto Broadway — half dazed from the sun, half high on the senator from Vermont. The river of human beings flowed straight toward BART, while little tributary streams headed towards bars and restaurants. But the day wasn’t quite done yet.
We watched on TV screens as The Warriors trounced OKC right there in Oakland, practically down the street. Those of us who had seen Bernie speak that day and watched our boys win the game, put our heads on our pillows that night and thought “there might just be some hope after all”.
Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.Bernie SandersBroke Ass CityBroke-Ass StuartOaklandSan FranciscoStuart Schuffman