At approximately 11 o’clock on Friday night, I found myself curb-side, amidst a crowd chanting “Go on strike” to the cops decked out in riot gear. (BTW, I was observing, not chanting and as background, the cops are working without a contract.) Seems a bunch of protestors on bicycles had completely shut down 2nd Avenue here in the city, causing chaos, providing entertainment, and making people miss dinner reservations.
I was in the East Village for a meet-up with former DM Register reporters Jeff Zeleny & Kirsten Scharnberg (Everly, IA native, BTW). Both work for the Chicago Trib now. Kirsten lives in NYC, so we’ve in her town. Z is the Trib’s chief political reporter. Anyway, Z picked this nice, laid back Italian restaurant. And for those keeping scroe, I passed on the salmon and had the lasagna, which will come as a shock to everyone who has dined with me in the past, or should I say shared a repast in the past. But enough of the crafty wordsmithy. After cappucinos and gellato, we adjourned to the street which was devoid of traffic. At the intersection to the north were the protestors, bicyclists who apparently were anarchists or something. The three news hounds jumped into our reporter mode and started assessing the scene. News helicopters hovered above, casting their lights on the scene. We passed a WABC news van, poised to go live for 11 o’clock news. Z snapped pictures, capturing the three of us in reporter-mode with, for examle, a squad car behind us. I overheard (or perhaps eavesdropped is a better description) a woman on a cell phone doing an interview with some reporter. She mentioned imagine04.com or org as the protestors website. THey are just a loose-knit group of folks who came together over the Internet, they don’t have a real phone line, and they just wanted to spread their message. That message wasn’t exactly clear to me from listening to the one-sided conversation, but my guess is they’re not Bush backers. Oh, and they have the mainstream media.
Second Ave. was shut down for at least 15 blocks by the protestors, who employed some anti-abortion protestors’ tactics and meshed themselves together in intersections with duct tape and other materials, making it more difficult for the police to ‘cuff ’em. Once our little crew of three made it past the last clogged intersections, we bid one another good-bye for the evening, jumped ih separate cabs and headed to our hotels or our home (Kirsten lives in NYC and works in the Trib ‘s NY bureau).
I ended up sleeping 12 hours, which was a good thing because I had not slept on Thursday eve/Friday morning getting my stuff together to come on this biz trip. Pulled one of those college-style all-nighters, without the benefit of youth so by the time I got to the DSM airport $4 a day parking lot at 5:04 a.m. on Friday morning I was uncoordinated and goofy. It didn’t appear others were fully-functioning either, so I didn’t feel that alone in my clumsiness. My plane continued on to LaGuardia from O’Hare, so I stayed in the seat at the gate in Chicago and slept. At one point, a flight attendant did shake me awake and tell me they had delayed seating for the NY leg by about 20 minutes, so if I wanted to go see my husband in the terminal, I might want to do that. As you may know, I don’t have a husband, so I guessed she thought Dave Roederer, the Bush/Cheney IA camnpaign chair, was that person. Dave was on the same flight and stopped to chat before getting off in Chicago to “stretch my legs” so that’s probably why she thought I had a hubby. I quickly explained Dave & I are business acquaintances on the same flight, she blushed and apologized. I immediately dropped back into lala land.
So, back to the 12-hours-of-sleep thing on Friday night/Sat morning. I got up Saturday, then and made my way down to the Hotel Pennsylvania, which is right across the street from Madison Square Garden where this convention shindig is to be staged. The walk down there is about a mile and a half from the IA delegation hotel, straight down 7th Avenue. That’s the route IA delegates will probably be hoofing the next few days because it’s going to be nearly impossible to get there via taxi or other mass transit. They started issuing press credentials on Saturday, a day early, because Sunday protests will take 250,000 expected chanters, sign-wavers and cheer-uttering people right through the crush down by Madison Square Garden. I was the very first in line, walked right in, picked up my stuff, and walked back out. This varies significantly from the 2 hour wait in line in Boston for my convention credentials.
I made my way back to rhe hotel with one quick detour through Macy’s, where my friend Susan would have gone nuts over the big purse sale. Oh, and for the others in the gal posse who I traveled to NY with last October, a quick but important side note. On Friday as I was riding in a taxi to dinner, I rode down the street where I was when I discovered the heel on my purple suede shoe was broken. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, I fell down three stairs as we exited the third-story bar where we saw the Irish rock band Black 47 play, and a few blocks later discovered the fall was probably because the heel of my very fashionable purple suede shoe had broken. Yes, it took me that long to realize it.
So, back to the present and this convention stuff (although that purple suede shoe & its mate are probably here in Manhattan somewhere since they were thrown in the trash bin at the hotel that night). Met up with some of the Iowans who’re here in the hotel bar area last night. State Representative Jamie Van Fossen, son of a cop, said he was a bit wary of sitting with his back to the door but he got over that phobia. Nick Ryan, Jim Nussle’s campaign manager, stopped by. He’s a “whip” at this convention, a sort of on-the-floor choreographer who’ll make sure the cheers are cheered and the signs waved. He’s getting a special cap to wear, and only 70 of them have been made, so it could bring top dollar on EBay (or not). He will not reveal the color, for security reasons. It would be wrong to let an infiltrator mess up the cheers (oh, and there’s also the terrorists to think about).
And speaking of, there are about eight cops stationed on the sidewalk in front of the Iowa delegation’s hotel. Cops with AK47s at the airporth, cops all over. And there apeared to be a cop convention yesterday afternoon in our hotel lobby, as 18 were milling around. And then I rode in the elevator yesterday with a Secret Service agent (a talkative one, which was shocking). The agent’s staying here in the hotel. And I’ve seen the cops in riot gear, too, with their special plastic cuffs hanging from their belt loops. Ain’t America sweet?
The city hasn’t exactly put out the welcome mat for these republicans. There’s the protestors, and then the billboards in Times Square. One reads: “Democracy is best spread by example, not by war.” Another is a new “clock” which is counting the cost of the Iraq war by the second. And the God-hawkers in Times Square reminding me and the rest of the throng on the street on Saturday that we’re “going to burn in Hell.” Although that message may not be directed specifically at the repubs.
More on the bar chit chat from Saturday, and a bit about “I don’t know nothin’ about no church” when I blog again this evening. Plus, those protestors are going to march right by the hotel in a few minutes, so I’ve gotta see that. Ta ta.