Monday, August 25, 2008
Sunday in Denver: Confusion, Cops, But No Cigar
Whose streets? Our streets.
Go to top of DFNM's main page to see our Zannel vids & photos.
Lesson of the day: it takes much longer to do things than it appears it should. It starts with the slow wireless connections that seem to be the norm, at least where we've been. Our "economy studio" hotel's connection is often slower than dial-up. Last night, for instance, it was taking forever even to load a web page, let alone watch or upload a video or photo. It makes me think of how countries like Japan and many European nations have nationwide broadband that's many times faster than the fastest connections we have -- and many times cheaper.
Good job telecoms and Bushies. Let's have more of this infrastructure neglect for four more years. No way to have advanced, public-wide broadband when the incredibly underregulated telecoms are so busy doing illegal surveillence on our citizens. Ironically, when we finally did get our first day's "media credentials" we discovered that Quest had apparently donated the strings used to hang the plastic-coated pass around your neck because the Quest logo was all over them.
Rats in a Maze
Then there's getting around town if you can get accurate information on where you might want to go. We ended up bouncing around town like ping pong balls, following bad directions, only to be denied entry to events we were encouraged to attend. We did this to the point of exhaustion so we didn't go to events we really could get into -- at least if we played the childish game that seems to dominate interactions at this kind of event. It mostly consists of waiting around for long periods of time, cutting through crowds, battling credential checkers and sidling up to certain people to get the secret password that permits you to go here or there and drink free liquor while in the vicinity of people you've seen on TV.
Chasing Our Tails
It helps to be connected to a media organization of any sort, that's helping to pay the bills by the way, and tossing tips your way as to what's going on. These sorts are used to running after "stories" and waiting for hours to get a quote that pretty much says what everyone would expect the person to say. They have the process down.
On-their-own partisan bloggers like us aren't really there to get a "scoop" or a nonstory story, we don't have a stipend from a news entity to pay for anything and we're women to boot, so we don't really fit in with the pushin' and shovin' to get in and grab free food and drink crowd. We don't have rooms close in, we have certain health issues that make it difficult to get around -- and so much going on in Denver seems joltingly disorganized and spread out.
One guy with sign, many cops
For instance, we're encouraged to attend our delegation's 7:30 AM breakfast meetings that usually feature prominent speakers and such. But we're staying in a room assigned to us by the DNC housing office that's in a "hotel zone" so far out that the shuttles that take you downtown don't start until 10 AM. Convenient.
At any rate, we spent much of yesterday on the phone trying to get information, going through a disorganized process of getting our credentials at the downtown Sheraton, and then walking the length of Denver's long 16th street pedestrian mall because we got bum information from a Sheraton employee. Imagine an employee at a major downtown hotel not knowing the way to the Convention Center. It boggles the mind.
Cops Playing Soldier
It was a fascinating trip down 16th street and downtown Denver though. The "police" presence was way over the top -- they are everywhere in large numbers, on bikes, horses, on foot, hanging off the sides of trucks and in patrol cars -- often congregated in tense bunches, watching for "terrorists" domestic and foreign, or any lone person with a sign. Many of them are dressed like faux soldiers in battle gear, roving clumps of SWAT-like intensity. It was a common sight to see one or two people holding signs or wearing message tee-shirts surrounded by 10 or so cops in battle regalia. Provides that all-American, 21st century vibe to the town.
The Party, However, Goes On
Of course, in the midst of the intermittent cop-mobbing of citizens, there's also a festive, devil-may-care feeling in Denver. Despite the seriousness of the nation's problems, people in town for the Convention seem generally jazzed and excited to be there. There really IS a sense of hope in the air, no matter how idealistic or illusory it may be in the final analysis. People like parties and there are definitely tons of parties going on in the streets, suites, bars, restaurants and ballrooms. IF you have the right pieces of paper and/or the right connection with the right people and/or you are persistent.
You'd never know a war or two was going on if you look at the faces of folks strolling around downtown or emerging from black Lincoln Towncars. And, I admit, that upbeat mood can be infectious, at least until you see another clump of cops or think of what's going on elsewhere in the world at that very moment.
We eventually cabbed it to the Convention Center for a delegate welcome event were told we could attend, struggled along the building's entire length to the one elevator that most "welcome" people didn't know about -- only to be told that we weren't allowed in. No one knew why. The DNC people blamed the non-DNC people and the non-DNC people blamed the DNC people.
By then we were so starved we cabbed it to Union Station to get some dinner before the next event we were told we could get into. The closest place recommended by the cabbie was the pricey but world-famous Morton's, known for its steaks, seafood and elegance. We split everything we ordered so the cost wasn't too bad, considering, and the food was really top notch. Respite in the storm. We spotted a number of other Dems there too, including former NM Party Chair John Wertheim, Caroline Buerkle, who managed the Patricia Madrid and Don Wiviott campaigns, and former Ambassador Ed Romero. Our waiter told us Tom Brokaw had reservations there that evening, but he later cancelled. It was that kind of hobnobbing place.
By the time we finished eating, the NM Chairman's welcome event was winding down at an old rail car at Union Station. We heard media credentials were again being questioned, but we don't know if that was true because we said to hell with it and grabbed a cab to get to our car to make the 40 minute drive back to our room in Aurora.
It had been mentioned that we might want to attend a stogie puffing confab of Dem bigwigs at the historic and luxurious Brown Palace hotel, but we passed on that too. Somehow, the thought of pushing our way into a smoke-filled room populated mostly with well connected males sipping expensive booze didn't sound that appealing. But then, that's just us. You know how females are. The scent of male power and privilege -- and the spectacle of others trying to sniff it to gain an edge -- can be a bit tiring after awhile. Put me in a room full of grassroots activists any day. Now that's exciting.
Hey, so where ARE you guys? I've been looking :-) email me! I really need to get in touch with the NM folks/delegation.
Posted by: Page van der Linden | Aug 25, 2008 12:16:14 PM
Better you than me!
What mockery of Democracy.
Posted by: qofdisks | Aug 25, 2008 12:28:42 PM
This is just how my visit is going. Everybody gives you a different story and it takes an hour or more to do the simplest thing. But underneath it all is a current of excitement and optimism that's downright infectious.
Posted by: Ellen | Aug 25, 2008 2:24:29 PM
On TV, the convention looks boring!
Posted by: | Aug 25, 2008 8:32:29 PM
Have a great time, Barb and ME. Be safe and take care of yourselves in the mob scene. I'm sure there's a Whole Foods in town, and Tattered Cover bookstore is a refuge in a storm.
Posted by: Ms. Ann Thrope | Aug 26, 2008 7:19:27 PM