The art of politics in Ohio (#USx16 Day 9)

I wake at 7.30am, I feel fresh and I begin tidying the room. I get confirmation from Suzy that I’m excused from today’s group event — a trip to the Amish community.

As I walked Columbus on Sunday I said to myself I absolutely needed more time on High Street and the Short North getting to know the galleries, art centres museums and the general scene. Andrew was also excused as he is keen on the arts as a force for regeneration and he wanted to spend some time at the city’s LGBTQ centre.

We met for breakfast a little later than usual in the huge ceilinged ground floor of the bank turned hotel. It was nice to eat at a more leisurely pace. We depart for the Short North 9am and begin our walk in the cool Ohio air under a blue American sky.

Today was Columbus Day, but you wouldn’t have known it. No parades or formal events that I could detect. Not much changed save for government employees who had a day of leave.

When we reached the Short North 8 blocks or so up from our hotel in downtown Columbus we realised that the city galleries don’t open on a Monday. This was not good.

We went back to Blick art supplies for some more specific advice.

We would go to the Wexner Centre and some other art spaces.

We took our time going up the road today in comparison with Sunday. We took photos of the street art, as well as the art information points dotted around the sidewalk.

We went for coffee and met a guy called Matthew who worked for a local bank. Andrew quizzed him on the election politics and the role of the US in the world. Matt as a former military serviceman believed that America had to curb its presence and role in many parts of the world.

I go outside and get some time lapse shots of the street. We leave around 11.30 and continue our urban ramble.

We pass the dive bar and the run down buildings and approach the OSU campus, the largest in America. It is green and expansive and very well kept. Once again I have a sense of being on set, the students cutting from one side of the campus green to the other with books under their arms.

By complete accident we stumble upon the Billy Ireland cartoon museum. Who would have thought. I was elated. This is more than making up for the gallery closures.

We go in and are greeted by a Ms. Liberator who is, as the Americans always are on this trip, more than helpful. She explains the centre’s online resources and the materials available on site. She even took my card and said she would make a note of me.

We leave and head round to the Wexner Centre, quite a lot like the MAC in Belfast, with exhibition space, a shop, a cafe and a theatre. Andrew strikes up another conversation with the shop staff.

Then we check out Hopkins and Hayes Hall, for fine art and design respectively. There are students floating in and out and work on display. The facilities are fantastic, clean and sharply designed with fantastic detailing.

We get an uber, Andrew jumps off halfway to the LGBTQ centre, while I go back to the hotel to do the usual, clean up my phone and keep everything around me in order.

I hear from the group about the same time, around 3.30pm that they’re getting ready to head towards USC campus for the Clinton rally.

I don’t leave the hotel until 4.30 or 5pm. Andrew a little later. I’ve made my way up most of High Street by the time Andrew passes and picks me up in his uber.

We jump out near the USC quadrangle that has been turned into an amphitheater.

The crowds and energy is insane. We snaked our to security, signing a sheet and then going through airport style security. Half way down the line there was a line of very loud Trump supporters shouting “lock her up!” There was also a black lady protester who highlighted the Democrats historic is link to the Klu klux Klan.

As I approached the airport-style security I was notified that I would not get in with my selfie stick. I really need it. I can’t put it in the bin. So I think. I run over to a bus and conceal it under a low hanging branch and some leaves. I quickly rejoin the queue. Next thing I look up and a huge sheriff is looking over me. I was terrified. I’ve watched banged up Brits abroad and lots of documentaries about US policing and the prison system, and I know they’re hard.

“What did you just put under the bush sir?”, said the sheriff in a palpably serious voice. I explained that it was a selfie stick.

I was escorted over to the bush. As i walked over other officers jogged over, all super serious. I lift up the branch and pick up the selfie stick.

The sheriff inspects it and confers with his colleagues. “I’m sorry sir”, I say a few times. I’m asked if I did anything else.

Next thing I’m let go and allowed to stow my selfie-stick under the bush. Crisis averted. But heart is still racing.

Finally I rejoin the queue and reconnect with Andrew. We find a space that will be to the left of Hillary when she speaks, just behind and a little left to the stand.

Music is blasting and warm up speeches begin. A young black girl speaks. Then a young Muslim woman. Then that guy who wouldn’t add me on Instagram from yesterday speaks and speaks very well.

Ted Strickland, the Ohio Democrat running for Senate, also spoke. He railed against the republican incumbent and his opponent for his unwavering in his support of Trump.

All the spectators were young people, this is campus, and the speeches all reflected that.

Time passes and on our right we see big swat style cars blast into the adjoining area. People rush to the side gates. Secret service seem to be doing tests as the same men shuttle up and down the entrance run way. The commotion becomes louder as it becomes clear we’re about to witness the grand entrance.

Hillary takes to the stage. Dramatic music is playing and there is much whooping and shouts of support. She begins her speech and continues for what feels like an hour.

When I was a child I used to play the Nintendo when my dad went to Makro. It was always on a shelf and you had to strain your neck upwards, and it would hurt after 10 minutes. It was kind of like that all over again because you stood on your tip toes strained trying to make yourself as tall as possible.

I can’t really remember much from the speech. You can read a report here. She did spend a lot of time presenting her policies for young people and attacking Trump.

The GOP nominee “spent his time last night attacking when he should have been apologizing,” she said. “We all heard on that tape what he thinks of women and how he treats women.”

Once the speech was over we make a rendez-vous by the public toilets. We were split into three groups. Kathleen, Catherine and Lynsey got right to the very front and the others were somewhere in the middle. Everyone was full of excitable energy, enthused by the enormity of the event we just attended.

We walked off campus and back onto High Street. The whole group went for some food while I went to meet up with Johh Stewart to get a quiet beer at the dive bar.

On two stools we sat by the bar with two cool beers with the baseball playing above us and the local students rolling and yelping at the events on-screen.

We chatted generally and quickly got speaking to some of the people around us, and the barman was good conversation too.

We spent another hour or two there then moseyed back to the hotel ready for a busy Tuesday ahead.