Day 1 (technically day 2) Tuesday, August 26, 2008
7:31 am EST - I arrive at my gate in LaGuardia airport in New York and await the departure of my plane for Denver. I have not been to Denver since I was eight, but I do own cowboy boots. I wear them to the airport along with jeans and a western-style-button-up shirt. I have packed two other western-style-button-up shirts in my bag with the hope that I will look local. I have also brought a black western-style guitar.
In the waiting area with me is a guy with a peace corps patch on his backpack and a spiked wristband. The clash in symbolism doesn't seem to bother him.
10:35 am MST - I arrive in Denver. The stewardess gives a cheery welcome to convention delegates and thanks us for flying with Denver's own Frontier Airlines.
11:30 am MST - upon taking an airport shuttle into town (filled with delegates), I arrive at the Grand Hyatt, where my parents are staying. Cowboy boots and a western-style-button-up shirt identify me as an outsider. I abandon my western-style black guitar and change into a suit.
12:15 pm MST - Landfall! I meet my parents for a lunch with other fundraisers. There are Democrats everywhere. And a celebrity: I spot Star Jones. I plan to tell her that I am a fan of her work, but fear that I may be questioned further. I am pretty sure she is on The View, but really I just recognize the name Star Jones. While we eat steak (steak! I haven't had steak in months). The mayor of Denver, an affable guy with a preposterous last name (Hickenlooper), gets a quick laugh from the room when he asks us all to be sure to spend gobs of money so that the city can reap the sales tax. It's funny because it's true. Every business in the city has convention-specific advertising: 'Qwest - the most qualified candidate'; various convention-related coffee advertising; and my personal favorite 'Veldkamp's flowers - the florist for all your convention needs.' Barring tragedy, I anticipate no floral needs.
It's not just the businesses. The city has dolled itself up for our arrival. Or so it seems. I haven't been here since I was eight, so my two memories of the city are the building with the curvy top where daddy worked, and a park - I am fairly certain it was nearby - that had a swimming pool. The building with the curvy top is still there. I no longer call him, or anyone, daddy. I have yet to locate the swimming pool.
Still, barring the disappointing lack of my childhood swimming hole, I am impressed. There is a light rail here. There are clean streets. Permanent homelessness is down a third in the past few years (this stat courtesy of Hickenlooper). There are even blindingly clean storefronts. One was in fact so clean that a well-dressed delegate leaving the dress barn walked full tilt into the glass. Even her sympathetic friends found it funny.
2:30 pm MST - Second City is in town for some well-meaning political punditry. The line of the show comes in a quick blackout where a man walks in on his wife making love to a stranger. 'Honey,' she says 'I'm doing this for us.' The cuckolded husband stares in disbelief. 'No, really, she is' says the stranger 'I own a gas station.' Pause. 'Can I get you a glass of water?' asks the husband.
4:30 pm MST - Pepsi center bound. Thank god for the right wing. Every time I get down about this election, every time I wonder whether the Democrats have been pure enough or good enough or decent enough, some bat-brained right wingers remind me that at least the other side of this whole brutal angry mess of an electoral process is meaner and more vicious. Today it is the pro-lifers.
Let's be fair: abortion is a subtle ethical decision where neither the pro-lifers nor the pro-choicers have an absolute moral high ground. I sure as hell don't know what I would do if I were the one to have to make such a decision. But the standard protesting tactic is to show pictures of aborted fetuses. They are hideous and disturbing. So is a picture of open heart surgery. So would be a picture of an arrested pregnant woman coming out of a back alley clinic in handcuffs. The nice thing about protestors is that they turn a difficult moral decision into a propaganda blitz and it reinvigorates my fury. Screw the speeches, you want to make democrats unify: sit them down with the pro-lifers and the bible-verse-screaming semi-lunatics outside the convention center. Nothing helps define you so much as seeing what you are not.
5:24 pm MST - Through security. I join my sister in a nosebleed seat way up and to the right of the stage. There is no beer available in the cheap seats.
My sister works for communications at the convention. She schedules surrogates to speak to radio stations around the country. She has become something of a feared personality around town. A friend of hers informed me that she had to be pulled away from a bouncer the other night and last week she received a $100 citation for disturbing the peace. Apparently she was singing 'I Will Survive' at 2:30 in the morning. 'I wasn't even drinking,' she complains. I grew up with my little sister singing. Never mind the time, it certainly disturbs a person's peace.
9:14 pm MST - let the post-parties begin! It's very hard to tell how good a speaker is from the seats. This event is so clearly choreographed for national television that being there is like trying to figure out how a movie looks by observing the set. Nonetheless, there were definitely a few great moments. Ted Strickland won the line of the night competition with 'it was said [by Molly Ivans] that the first president Bush was born on third base and thought he hit a triple. Well, this president came into office on third base and stole second.'
I leave the Pepsi center (Coke is an official sponsor of the convention, it is served everywhere except inside the center) shortly after Hilary's speech. My parents are on the Colorado fundraising committee so we head to a party stuffed-full of Jeans clad specimens of physical fitness. Something about the water here or maybe the air grows Coloradans into six-foot megapeople. Everyone has either done a triathalon or is about to.
11:45 pm MST After a few too many cocktails, some convention gossip (general consensus: Hilary was great, Schweitzer was fantastic, Deval Patrick - my favorite speaker of the night - was good but should have been better), and a couple pounds of southwestern food, we head back to the Grand Hyatt for people watching. Among those spotted: Congressman Barney Frank, former mayor of San Francisco Willie Brown, and Tony Podesta - Pennsylvania state director for Kerry and brother of Bill Clinton's former chief-of-staff. Podesta now works as a lobbyist and wore a jacket embroidered with a scarlet 'L.'
1:00 am MST - Last call. Time for bed.