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Breaded chicken and stranded delegates: day two


WEDNESDAY, July 27, 2004 -- A thousand delegates getting down is not a pretty sight. But this is what the out-of-towners did yesterday evening at the Fleet Center as Peter, Paul, and Mary launched into a rendition of "If I Had a Hammer." For some reason, the delegates from the Midwest were the most fevered -- one young Michiganite twisted and jerked as if trying to free himself from a fishing net. Other than the senescent folk trio, though, the pre-7 p.m. proceedings at the convention were somewhat slow, providing attendees with the opportunity to get other business out of the way, like picking their teeth with their floor passes while staring blankly into space. Indeed, you had to pity the likes of Reg Weaver, president of the National Education Association, whose "As Democrats, we honor education" was met with intense apathy. Even the jazzy, chat show-like music that preceded each speaker didn’t help matters.

Such was the torpor of the early-evening DNC, an announcement advising us to avoid trampling each other to death in the "unlikely" event of an evacuation lifted nary an eyelid, even with the second use of the word "unlikely." Things were more somber still over in the so-called Media Hospitality Lounge (actually, a curtained-off section of hallway), where bleary-eyed reporters sipped cans of complimentary Budweiser and chewed on breaded chicken that had the consistency of foot. Things were different, of course, in the bustling, tech-heavy enclaves of the larger dailies. The Boston Globe had a Chinese buffet set up, with actual spring rolls. You could smell the damn things in the Lounge.

Back on the convention floor, things picked up shortly before seven, as Kwame Kilpatrick, the linebacker-heavy mayor of Detroit, gave a booming pep talk. The arrival of cultural icons like Maya Angelou and Benjamin McKenzie ("Actor, The O.C.") ratcheted things up further still. By the time the bang-bang-bang lineup of Kennedy, Gephardt, and Daschle graced the gigantic Drone-A-Tron, the audience was very nearly awake. The VIP meter was rising too. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson fought their way through crowds of admirers, while outside, Michael Moore’s arrival couldn’t have been matched if Jesus Christ had put in an appearance. As I watched the Moore mania unfold, I was reminded of Pig Pen, the character in the Charlie Brown comics, a brume of journalists substituting for the cloud of dirt, consuming the heavy-set filmmaker, following him wherever he went. The man must need his own personal oxygen tank.

Security, as ever, was tight to the point of comedy (those who suffer from a fear of ATM muggings may want to try the ones near the Fleet -- you get your own S.W.A.T. team). One of the guys manning the metal detectors seemed to be getting a little punchy, crying "Outstanding!" every time someone passed through without a beep. "He’s been here for 14 hours," explained one of his comrades. But the security guy wasn’t the only one. "Donna!" cried a woman into her cell phone. "I need Donna’s cell number! Donna! Donna! Oh my God! The black girl! DONNA!" The woman was close to tears, oblivious to the attention her desperate tirade was attracting. "Deadlines," remarked a passing journalist, rolling his eyes.

Inside, too, things were heating up. Howard Dean took to the stage to applause so loud and sustained that he visibly cringed. "I was hoping to get a reception like that," he said. "I was just hoping it would be on Thursday night." Poor bastard. Dean was good, but for me -- and everyone else, apparently -- the highlight of the night came with the arrival of Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama, who spoke with such eloquence that I found myself wishing he were running for president. Ron Reagan left me cold -- his exposition of stem-cell research seemed less pertinent than his last name. Then came 12-year-old Ilana Wexler, Annie lookalike and founder of Kids For Kerry. When the red-headed firebrand suggested that Dick Cheney should suffer a time out for swearing, I found myself wishing that she would run as Obama’s running mate. But maybe I was getting punchy, too.

By the time Teresa Heinz Kerry took the stage -- following a drooling introductory video montage and an introduction from her son, Chris -- I could barely bring myself to waggle my we love teresa! sign. Still, I stayed, just in case she said something crazy. "Your father would be very proud of you," Heinz Kerry said to her son (at least she didn’t say "Your real father"). Then the potential First Lady began speaking in tongues -- okay, we know you’re a polyglot -- and I was ready to leave. On the train, the delegates, many of them still clutching the kerry/edwards signs, discussed how the hell they were going to get back to their hotels. "Someone lied to me," said a delegate from California, who had recently made the painful discovery that the town of Lexington is not close to the Fleet Center. Yes, well, people sometimes bend the truth to get what they want from you. Especially politicians. Inside the Fleet, a sign reading "Democratic Convention" had been partially obscured, so it read: "Democratic Con."

A fluke, hopefully.


Issue Date: July 28, 2004
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