I’m not likely to forget the first time I met Deon Gordon.
We’d arranged through correspondence to meet for coffee one afternoon at Urban Standard. One glance at the distinctive young professional strolling confidently across Second Avenue North was enough to confirm identity, even if I hadn’t already seen photos of him. From halfway across the street, Deon filled the coffeehouse with an unmistakable presence and charisma.
“Gin and tonic with a lime twist,” he told Baxter as we took seats at the bar earlier this week.
“Been a while since we were in the same place at the same time,” I said. “What brings you by the club?”
“Drumming up volunteers for Paint the Town Red.”
“Ah. That’s…this Saturday?”
“April 20, correct.”
“Things never slow down for you, do they?”
“Not often, bro.”
Deon wouldn’t know what to do if they did. Besides being a driving force behind Birmingham’s annual benefit block party extravaganza, the boulevardier serves as volunteer coordinator and an executive committee member for Artwalk, a junior advisor for WBHM, a member of the Railroad Park Foundation Junior Board, and a member of the Birmingham Community Foundation Grant Review and Evaluation Committee.
“Come of think of it,” I said, “I don’t believe I’ve seen you at all since you got back from D.C. That must have been some experience.”
“Oh, man, you know it. I’ll be telling my kids about it.”
Through his connection with Gen 44, an under-40 fundraising arm of Obama for America, Deon scored tickets to the presidential inauguration ceremonies in January. “They were incredibly hard to come by, but I had to go to this one,” he told me, launching into stories about talking a private limo driver into taxiing him (for $60) to the Commander-In-Chief’s Ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center after failing to find an empty cab, encountering friends from Birmingham and Atlanta while riding on the Washington Metro, and leading his entire Metrorail car in a sing-along of “Killing Me Softly With His Song.”
Classic Deon Gordon.
“What was it like being there?” I asked.
“Man, it’s hard to describe. I’m not one who’s easily moved, but I felt a real sense of the huge opportunity I had to be there. I think we all felt that we were taking part in a historical moment.”
“I’m sure you did.”
“It just made it tangible, more real. Being there for something like that gives you a deeper sense of responsibility for the political process, to either get involved or stay on the sidelines and deal with the consequences.”
“Have you been an Obama supporter from the start?”
“Not without my disappointments, but, yeah,” Deon replied before sipping gin. “And I think it’s regrettable when someone is so beholden to party of ideology that it prevents them from appreciating the historical role of an event like an inauguration. We’re at the most polarized point we’ve been in a long time, and that’s a sad reflection of the state of affairs. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the only I could really put it.”
“You still seem more hopeful than cynical.”
“Well, at the end of the day, this is still the greatest country. I honestly believe that, and a big part of the strength of our nation is that if you don’t like the way things are going, in four years, you can do as much as you can to vote in change. It’s still an ongoing experiment, but for all of its problems and all of its faults, it’s still a pretty great system.”
“Interested in going back for another inauguration?”
“Oh, yeah. And who knows? Maybe I’ll get to go when a candidate I didn’t support wins. It might be fun to see the different side of the coin.”
“Was that your first time in DC?”
“It was. Fun town. Great restaurants. I have a strict rule: I don’t go to a new city and eat something I can get somewhere else. I had to do that a couple of times there, though, when McDonald’s was all that was open.”
“You had a McRib, I hope.” My tone was grave. “Tell me you ate a McRib.”
“You know, I did!” Deon said with a laugh.
“Good. I was going to be ashamed to know you if you didn’t eat a McRib.”
Deon laughed again, clapped my shoulder, and rose from his stool. “Gotta get moving. Thanks for the drink. We can still use some volunteers for Paint the Town Red. If you know anybody who’d like to, send them our way.”
As Deon left, I was struck by the idea of suggesting to Chef Guy that he add a McRib-style sandwich to the club’s menu. I quickly dismissed the thought. As talented as Guy is, some masterpieces of perfection – such as the McRib – just can’t be improved upon.