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Coming Down Out of the Clouds

It’s all over – as ephemeral as a rainbow or the enchanted village of Brigadoon rising out of the Scottish mist for one day every hundred years. In one instant, my husband Rob and I were lifted up into rarefied air to soar for a short time at heady altitudes. And then we were gently dropped back to earth. And it’s a good thing. No one can keep living that high up without a lot of protection.

I’m referring to the political campaign contest I won where the prize was for me and one guest to attend a dinner in L.A. at a very prestigious address with very prestigious guests. [Apologies to folks who want even more pictures and juicy details than what reputable media outlets have already provided. But I’ve seen what shady media hounds can do to their prey. So for this post, I’m leaving out names, keywords, and certain photos.]

Without a doubt, it was the experience of a lifetime.

To be honored guests at an event with people most of us would never have access to, except from a distance in a mad throng of gawkers and paparazzi, is pretty thrilling, to say the least.

And to realize you got there simply by using your fingers to click on a contest link, enter an email address and a phone number, and then answer a few phone calls, is incredulous.

So what stands out to me from all this? Things you may not expect:

  1. Winning a contest like this is stressful. I’ve learned that there were 50,000 entries randomly whittled down to 100. I later pieced together that the two *polling* calls I received in the weeks prior to learning that I won were, in actuality, vetting calls. It’s understandable that the campaign would need to ensure they weren’t awarding the prize to someone who might embarrass or threaten the event in some way. But the call telling me I’d won came with just six days’ notice.

Along with the all the excitement comes conflicting energy: Is this a hoax or not? Are we being groomed for something illegal and financially catastrophic?

All communications were friendly and seemingly legit until the night before our trip, when we were asked for our Social Security numbers – allegedly requested by the Secret Service. It made sense, in a way, that they were needed. But it wasn’t until we were actually admitted into the venue that we could finally release that niggling doubt. We had to show our photo ID’s twice, got hands-in-the-air scans by the Secret Service at the door, and our car was bomb-sniffed by this dog:

security dog
  1. CLOTHING. I am a woman. Ladies. Need I say more? I was told “business attire.” Rob spent $12 on new socks and $5 on dry-cleaning. I spent…a little more.

  2. My daughters – Leslie, who lives in Baltimore, and Lauren, who lives in L.A. (my remote fashion consultants) – didn’t approve of the purse I had brought. So the morning of the event, Lauren took us shopping at the Beverly Hills mall. After about 10 stores of justnotquiteright clutches (ranging from $39-$950), and jet-lagged with emotions that had been stretched tight as a high wire for six days, I finally said, “I can’t look anymore. I need to go back to the hotel and rest. Let’s just take the one at T.J. Maxx.” The reason why we didn’t buy it in the first place was because of its color. I had thought it was perfectly black. But keen observer Rob wasn’t so sure. “I think it’s blue,” he said. “It won’t match.” We’d had other disagreements over color before. (Men are more color-blind, especially about blues and greens, right?) So I got impatient. “It’s light black – charcoal, maybe,” I insisted. “But it’ll be fine. NO ONE WILL NOTICE!” Rob dug in his heels, perfectionist that he is. I dug in mine, stubborn as I am.

Lauren mediated the dispute by checking the tag on the clutch: midnight navy. “So we’re both kinda right,” I said, choking a little on my forkful of humble pie. Here’s what the purse looked like (to me) in store lighting:

black purse

And wouldn’t you know, a large part of the big event took place in the low evening sunlight, and you can see for yourself, there was no midnight about it:

I began to wonder whether this was a lesson in political persuasions. Maybe we all need to take a deeper look at our entrenched positions.
  1. We had some deeply engaging conversations with some VERY rich and famous people. One tech investor couple moved out of Silicon Valley because they didn’t like the vibe there. Their favorite thing to do is to stay home with their young children. “We’ve earned our money,” this young father said. “Now we just want to help people.” We felt the same thing from the host couple, whose lives reflect their deep concern for human rights around the world.

  2. With my compare-and-despair tendencies, and a body that mimics every phase of the moon, you would think it would be intimidating to be photographed next to possibly the world’s most exotic, sleekest, smartest and classiest woman who happens to be married to the Sexiest Man Alive (1986 and 2013). But it wasn’t. We had things in common – like being enrolled in different graduate programs at the same university in the same year. (Okay, one thing.)

  3. The campaign delivered everything they promised – and more. They were nice enough to extend our stay beyond the one night (on our own dime) so we could visit with our daughter. The other winner and I, along with our guests, were guided through everything by top-notch, smart, affable campaign staffers. We were given a private 15-min. meet-and-greet photo session with the Three Big Names, seated at their head table, introduced by name from the platform by the Presidential Candidate, and given goodbye handshakes as she left early to get to the next destination on her schedule. We were also treated with fascination by so many VIPs who were intrigued about the contest, some of whom were also thrilled, like us, to be guests in the home of this particular celebrity couple. Imagine.

It was a heady, convivial time with the glitterati. When we landed in Chicago on the way home, and I took my phone off airplane mode, it lit up with about 10 media requests. Rob said, “Gosh, we need an agent!” But it’s all died down now. (We ignored most of them, but that didn’t stop some from swiping our photos and twisting our information anyway.)

We’ll probably never again see the people we talked with at the dinner. No business cards were exchanged, and we’re not going to be on each others’ holiday card lists. And while we got all this for free, we will have to pay taxes next year on the prize (winnings estimated at $2,200).

It was a lovely time in the clouds for sure.  But it’s also very nice to touch the ground again.

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