The Ironic moments of Saturday:
The powers that be threw a big bash for the more than 10,000 media representatives who’re in Boston for the DNC. As you may know, loads of cash has been raised for this event and the campaign in general, but the irony of this struck me: the bartenders serving the free (corporations paid, reporters didn’t) booze at the media party were not allowed to have a tip jar. Seems the party poohbabs and the politiicans can solicit money whenever possible, but the 58 bartenders who probably were making a pittance to serve the media were not allowed to solicit a tip. Tips were accepted, though, and I tipped for the “lite” beer that was handed to me.
Second bit of irony: the delegates who were arriving to participate in this little bit of democracy are greeted/protected at the airport and in the “convention zone” by law enforcement types toting machine guns (I am not an expert on guns, so I have no idea on make or model, but kinda like the old cartoon saying, I could tell they were bigger than the average gun). So, it’s looking a little like a banana republic around here. When I see a Panama hat, I’ll let you know.
The Platonic & Neurotic:
I was escorted into the media party by Chicago Trib newsman John McCormick (former DSM Reg reporter) and AP newsman Ken Thomas (now of AP’s Miami bureau after a stint in DSM). I got to eat supper earlier with these two gentlemen and catch up on their lives. Others in the dinner party included Iowa Dem Party chair Gordon Fischer & his wife, Monica (Radio Iowa exclusive to follow); former Howard Dean campaign spokeswomen Sarah Leonard & Tricia Enright; Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver & his wife, Mary (the Culvers didn’t eat, but socialized — more news on the Culver front later) and a man who was probably quite fascinating but as he was sitting at the other end of the table and since I am not good with names, I don’t remember his name or his connection to Iowa. The get-together was held at the Union Oyster House, established in 1826. It claims to be America’s oldest restaurant (find it on-line at www.unionoysterhouse.com). The food was quite good. (For those of you who’ve dined with me before: Yes, I ordered the salmon.) Newsman McCormick was in fine militant consumer mode, as he haggled with the hostess about the readiness of our dining table. “Are we talking five minutes or forty minutes?” Mr. McCormick asked twice as he tapped his watch. “Just tell me which it is.” In Lenox, Iowa, we wouuld describe both Mr. McCormick and the hostess as “huffy” with each other. The wait turned out to be approximately 10 minutes. Misters McCormick & Thomas shared a big old lobster; Ms. Enright offered suggestions on how to eat it. Table talk included discussion of Ralph Nader’s candidacy, the Bush/Kerry race in Iowa, convention intrigue, Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, the importance of not filling up on bread before the main course arrives, the ability to have oysters as a meal (Yes, Ms. Leonard was able to have oysters) and the desire to have a baked potato with the meal rather than fries or Boston baked beans (Ms. Enright insisted).
After walking out of the restaurant, the three news hounds & the Fischers piled into a cab and headed to the Boston Convention & Exhition Center, allegedly New England’s biggest building (it’s big enough to have 16 NFL games played inside all at once according to the helpful details provided in a media packet). Loads of food laid out for the hoards, but I didn’t partake. I did get the tape recorder out for an impromptu Jesse Jackson sighting, but he said nothing of news value. Bill Richardson, the New Mexico Governor, was posing for pictures with people. Why reporters would want their picture taken with him is beyond me.
I had the pleasure of meeting a couple of other Chicago Trib reporters & talking of their U.S. Senate candidate, Obama. A meet-up with DSM Register reporter Tom Beaumont occured on the convention hall floor. He was accompanied by Laura Capps who had been John Kerry’s Iowa campaign press person. Capps is staying in a college dormitory during the convention run; she’s working on the Kerry campaign, as is her boyfriend Bill Burton, the former Iowa campaign press person for Dick Gephardt. Burton is now working for Kerry, too, and they allegedly share an office in DC. Burton caught up with our group, chatted a bit, then the happy couple walked away, hand-in-hand. Apparently the romance that started during the Iowa Caucus campaign is still in bloom.
Beaumont, McCormick and I headed out of the convention center after I changed into my “sensible shoes for walking.” The trek back to the hotel was probably a tad over a mile, I collapsed into bed and slept in on Sunday because, as you’ll read below if you’re still reading this drivel, I HAD A MASSIVE TRAVEL NIGHTMARE.
It all started out so well. Despite carrying a laptop, a bunch of chords and a cast iron mic stand, I made it through security at DSM airport without a hitch on Friday afternoon. The three young women in front of me who looked like they were members of that Swedish Bikini Team featured in a long-ago beer commercial were not so lucky. They were searched; their film was taken out of its canisters; I have no idea why. Apparently blond, attractive, young women who do not speak English well are a security risk.
I made it into the DSM airport bar with my 22.6 pound carry-on bag (yes, I weighed it at home), where at 3:15 p.m. on Friday afternoon I finally had the beer I had wanted at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Uno pizza accompanied the diet beer and it was just about the first time in four days I had actually been seated while eating (standing up in my kitchen eating tuna fish out of a can at 8:30 on Wednesday night does not count as fine dining). The flight from DSM to Minneapolis was splendid, aided by the fact one beer made me sleepy so I snoozed. But my flight to Boston was cancelled due to weather, which means the airline has no responsibility to either pay or help you line up accommomdations, which means the nightmare begins at this point. I spent an hour getting a ticket booked to Boston the following day and getting my name on the stand-by lists for the first two flights to Boston.
Then, the baggage odyssey began. Because of a late-shipment of equipment, I had to carry-on most of my radio gear, but one importance piece (it’s called a mixer for those in the know) didn’t fit in my briefcase and had to be in a checked bag. So, I decided to get that checked bag before leaving the airport, and it took approximately 2 hours and 12 minutes (ok, I timed it) for me to be reunited with that checked bag. Perhaps I brought all this bad karma on myself, though, as I was sitting on the floor in the baggage claim area reading a book loaned to me by a woman who was laid off by Northwest last year. I finished the book, by the way, so I’m hoping any bad vibes have vanished.
Next, finding a hotel. It seems there was a big soccer tournament near the Twin Cities and I am NOT exaggerating when I tell you there were NINE HUNDRED TEAMS participating. This meant that every hotel was booked solid. And I know this because I called several hotels and when I type several hotels, I mean over a dozen. Finally got the last $99 room at a Holiday Inn Express. Checked in about midnight. Checked out about 5:20 a.m. Went back to the airport, where I was unlucky enough to not be able to fly on either of the morning flights to Boston. I can admit to shopping in that airport mall in Minneapolis, as I had lots of time on my hands as I waited between waiting to be called from the stand-by list. I also walked every terminal in the place to get some exercise in rather than sit on my fanny and read. Once airborne in the 1:11 p.m. flight to Boston, though, I did pick up and read through the new Grisham novel, Bleachers. Don’t ask to borrow it, though. I gave it to somebody else on the flight when I finished.
Next time I check in I can tell you how much beer the Iowans consume at a Tom Harkin reception I’ll be covering this evening (I won’t be drinking the booze; I’m on assignment).