Monday, January 6, 2014

Meeting the Mayor at Gracie Mansion

On December 18, I got an invite to meet the new NYC Mayor an an open house event at Gracie Mansion, where he will reside during his term. A couple of days before that I read about that event and that tickets would be on a first-come, first-serve basis. I never do well with things like that, so although I really wanted to go, I ruled it out immediately. Getting that email was so exciting. It's like the universe new! All I could think of as to why I got it was because I was on his mailing  list as a campaign worker.

To be fair, I did very little. I made some phone calls and talked to some people. What I got out of that was a real sense of the man and his City experience. I do not deny, either, that his family had something to do with it. Even in this day and age, being in a mixed-race family is not easy. I loved that Derek can see it from the White House and in his own back yard.

So I wasn't about to look this gift horse in the mouth. I hoped it would be a networking kind of thing, so I secured 3 tickets, as Derek was supposed to get in without one, for me, John, and my friend Jess. I worked with Jess at the Waterfront Commission and we just hit it off first day. I've always counted myself as lucky when I make a friend at first sight. I've been very fortunate in my female friends and Jess is no exception.

Perhaps I should have taken a fellow NYLS alum (Jess went to Brooklyn Law), but she and I had dinner 2 days before and she reminded me she went to Wellesley College, where Chirlane McCray, aka Mrs. Mayor, also went. Again, it felt like the universe was lining stuff up, so I asked her if she wanted to go with us. She was kinda meh.... JK!!!!!!! She lost her mind! And said yes. She's a big fan of Mrs. Mayor and she works for the City. What could be better!?

Sunday, January 5, dawned, chilly and rainy. We met up for 11am to wait for doors to open at noon. Smartest idea I ever had was to get there early. There were people in front of us and I don't even want to know what time THEY got there. Brrr. But I discovered later that 5,000 people showed up. We were definitely in the first 100. Whew!

The cold and rain wasn't the worst it could have been and for that I am grateful. However, none of us prepared our feet as well as we could have. I have never experienced such toe agony in my life! I was wearing stocking and fairly thick socks, but I wanted to die! Moving my toes around just made it worse, especially my left foot, for some reason.

There was a little ticket drama that got sorted reasonably quickly. We stood out in the cold for about 90 minutes before we got inside the mansion proper. It is a lovely place. I read one person say that it doesn't seem like the kind of place a family can really put their feet up. I have to say from what I saw, I agree. But we only saw a few rooms. We did see the dining room and it was a rather severe place for a close family to really enjoy themselves over a meal. Eight bathrooms sound lovely, but I don't really the de Blasios.

By the time we got to the room just before meeting the Mayor, aides were practically shouting at us to take our coats off for pictures. John had offered to hold all our coats as he wasn't getting his picture taken, but aides seemed to lose their minds when they saw him. It's like no one prepared for someone actually deciding not to pose with the Mayor! It was kinda funny. They had him actually cross in front of de Blasio when the 4 of us were in the picture-taking room. I have no idea why they did not direct him to go behind the photographer and gathered media, which could have been done. If anyone even suggests that there was a guy that was so rude to cross in front of the Mayor I will personally hunt them down and slap them up. He had no choice and he didn't care and he didn't have to. He had even offered to step away from the roped off area, which also would have been fine. Protocol is weird sometimes.

So here's why I think I got to be the media sensation! A few minutes before, de Blasio made a short statement to the press in the room and took the closest guy in the line to stand with him and be interviewed. Said dude was a white architect from Manhattan and had actually visited the mansion before. Not the best use of a photo op!

Brown pride served me well yesterday! I may not have been able to use the event as a networking tool, but I still made an impression! This article has the best summary of what happened with me and Derek  and is pretty accurate. What it left out was easily the best moment of my little time with de Blasio. I said I work for the City and am volunteering because I don't actually have a paying job. I gave the Mayor a sweet side-eye and he laughed, along with everyone else.

A really nice bit came just before I said that. Someone asked me what I'm doing and I said I just graduated law school (I already said I was 39). I was just about to say I went to NYLS and passed the summer Bar when the Mayor and everyone in the room began to cheer and applaud. I almost died dead!

I was so glad I was able to get a photo on my own and then with Derek. When I said I saw this as a once in a lifetime sort of thing and I brought my 11-year-old because he's old enough to remember this, de Blasio made Derek come over and chatted with him. Derek answered reporters' questions so confidently and loudly, it was adorable. He even got to tell them he went to Harlem Academy.

To say I was elated by the whole experience is the understatement of the last 6 days of the year!!! People said they felt rushed but I did not. De Blasio put his arm around me and he did not let go until he was done. It was endearing. And he is one tall man. Derek had told John that he didn't want to take a picture alone with the Mayor because he is so tall. He was happy he got to be in the pix with me and not have to stand by himself. I can understand that. The man is huge!

Jess even got a chance to chat with him a little. She told him about the Wellesley connection and to give Mrs. Mayor her regards. He actually asked her for a business card, which sadly none of us had. Both Jess and I got held up by the press after our chats to talk more: how long did we wait? we were cold? how do we spell our names? We both got to give our jobs a little shout-out and that was nice. Never hurts. Jess even told them that she and I met interning at the Waterfront Commission.

So, contrary to the majority of news reports, the cold wasn't so bad, except for toes, we saw a bit of the mansion, had a highlight of an experience with the Mayor, who chatted us up, and no one shoved us along. Normally, I get terrible anxiety about doing things like this, but not this time. A new Mayor in my new home was to good of an opportunity to let slip by and I am so glad I got to share it with Derek and my wonderful woman friend, Jess.