Biking Into History With Hillary and Bill

I was at LA's Greek Theater Monday night watching Hillary Clinton speak after the AP announced she had clinched the nomination. It was an electric, historic turning point that reminded me of another time I saw Hillary on another electric, historic turning point years ago. Except that for me, that long-ago night was less historic than outright surreal.

It was July 15th, 1992. The Democratic National Convention had just nominated Bill Clinton in Madison Square Garden while I watched in my Manhattan loft on 6th Ave and 25th Street, not far away. Suddenly CNN announced that Bill and Hillary were going to make a surprise appearance at the convention.

This defied tradition. Nominees don't normally appear until their victory speech on the last night of the convention. But CNN said the Clinton's were watching from a suite in Macy's, just a block from the Garden, and had decided to walk over and wave to the assembled thousands. As the news spread, the crowd went wild.

But sitting on my couch, I thought: Walk over? Now? From Macy's to the Garden? That's just a couple of blocks away.

So on an impulse I jumped up from my comfy couch, raced downstairs and leapt on my bike. A summer storm had just ended and Herald Square was practically deserted, but there was a small commotion near Macy's side entrance so I peddled over there. Suddenly, everything lit up and out came Bill, Hillary and Chelsea, holding hands, striding down the middle of 34th Street towards 7th Avenue, waving to the crowd.

Except there wasn't much of a crowd. There were tons of cops and secret service types and a lot of TV news people following their progress. And behind them was a big gaggle of followers waving Clinton signs. But the sidewalks were pretty thin, mostly just some surprised pedestrians - and me, waving and ringing my bike bell. It was easy to follow their progress as I yelled pithy slogans like Bill and Hill, Way To GO!!!

After a minute or so I swear they began to notice my indispensible moral support and wave back, smiling and laughing. We were only maybe 30 feet apart. They could hardly miss me.

This went on until they reached the corner of 7th Avenue and approached the entrance to the Garden. There the crowd grew much thicker so I yelled out, "Alright, I'm gonna go back and watch the rest on TV." I swear Hillary mouthed: "Okay! Bye!" but maybe I just dreamed that part.

Five minutes later I was planted back on my couch in front of CNN, refilling my wine glass. And maybe two minutes later, as a band played a Sousa march, the confetti rained down and thousands roared, Bill, Hillary and Chelsea entered the Garden in triumph.

As I sat there I remember thinking: Did that just happen? Did I just go from being a couch potato watching this on TV like everybody else, to actually kind of hanging with Hill and Bill, to back here on my couch like it never happened? It already seemed like a dream.

Historians say that night was a game changer. Bill Clinton's electrifying appearance ignited a run-up in the polls that never abated until he was elected three months later. And of course his presidency led directly to Hillary's ascent, and the historic events of this week that led me to Hillary's rally at the Greek Theater on Monday. This time, I drove.