Madrid. 5:15 a.m. Killing time in a neighborhood bar next to Atocha Station in Madrid. A typical Spanish bar with one guy following the news on his IPhone, a table of four with their eyes glued to the TV news and then there’s Rubén, a Chilean bartender who’s literally jumping up and down as the results are coming in.
“Obama just needs 20 more electoral votes and he wins, can you believe it? Four more years,” he explains to the table of four. I nudge Joseba and say: “looks like we have a political analyst in the bar this morning.” Joseba laughs.
We’re both wearing suits and I have a pin on my jacket with the US and Spanish flags and an Obama button that they had given me at the US election party held by the US Embassy earlier that night:
I say to the Obama fan: “hey, here’s a present for you. A big Obama supporter like you should have an Obama button for his jacket.” The guy can’t believe it and starts speaking in his best English: “thank you so much. Yes we can. Obama: four more years.” He immediately orders the bartender to open a bottle of champagne.
I can’t believe this surrealistic situation in a dodgy bar near the train station toasting to Obama with champagne that this complete stranger has just ordered. Joseba and I try to refuse, but he’s not having any of it, “of course not, you MUST have a drink with me to celebrate Obama’s victory.”
Now, how can you say no to that enthusiasm? I put down my coffee and pick up the glass and toast with him. I couldn’t stop laughing with Joseba about how funny this situation was. We had just come from the Intercontinental Hotel, where we had been since 11 p.m. The ambassador and other important figures were there following the action on CNN and Fox news and just 10 minutes later we were having champagne in a tiny bar you probably wouldn’t walk into alone.
The early morning/late night champagne was completely unexpected, but was a great way to end the long presidential campaign. Obama had won a very tight race that had started over a year earlier and I was very proud to be part of the “national conversation” even if I was in Madrid, 6,000 km away from home in Ohio. Ambassador Solomont and his wife threw a great party and it was enjoyed by all of those attending.
The party was typically American with live music, unlimited popcorn, beer and turkey sandwiches. All of Spain’s media outlets were there covering this little piece of American in downtown Madrid. I had the opportunity to talk to several members of the diplomatic corps in Madrid and was pleased to see how welcoming and friendly they were.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to meet Ambassador Solomont, but never mind, toasting to Obama’s victory with Rubén was the icing on the cake.
Written by: Joe McMahon
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