Editor’s note: Last Wednesday, the FBI received a tip about a possible ‘dirty bomb’ in a parked car near the Pepsi Convention Center. Closer inspection however showed it to be a ‘dirty bum’ sleeping in his van…
by Nelson Holmes
To most people, a week of sleeping in the back of a van and bathing with antiseptic hand wash and baby wipes wouldn’t constitute a dream vacation. But I’m not most people and the chance to see one of our major political party’s nominating conventions, gonzo style, was not likely to happen again. With e-mailed promises of press and parking credentials awaiting me I headed north full of excited anticipation. I remembered, as a child, watching both party’s conventions on my family’s ancient, Canadian made, black and white TV. I can’t say why I was transfixed, but that flickering electronic portal relayed images of the electoral process that seemed almost sacred in their import. And now I was embarking on a pilgrimage to experience them at their source.
As I exited onto Colfax from I-25 I could feel the aggressive and unforgiving demon Angelino return from his psychological exile. It’s good to know I haven’t lost my traffic “chops” and I cut through the crowd like a warm knife through… cinderblock. I could tell that Denver was in a state of frenzy, kind of like a hyperactive kid fed a diet of doughnuts and Dr. Pepper. The police were adorned in body armor that made them look like extras from Blade Runner and the traffic seemed to be stalled in all directions at once. Since parking fees were not in my budget I slid into an unattended lot near downtown and dashed off to pick up my credentials, hoping that the tow-trucks would be busy with bigger fish. Prepared for the worst, I was greeted by smiling competence and was soon running back to the van with visions of parking tickets dancing in my head. Noting no official looking stationery tucked under my windshield wiper I navigated my way to Pepsi Center.
There is something oddly empowering about being waved through a roadblock by a gendarme in riot gear. Soon, I was in a prime spot on the second level of a parking structure with a view of Elitch Gardens. Anxious to see what was in store at the press pavilions I adorned myself with the appropriate credentials and started my trek to the first security point. Here I was met by the only relaxed and smiling officers I would run across. Seems the Lakewood Police are more easy-going than some of their brothers in arms (or this duty was a cake assignment) and they offered greetings, glanced at the paperwork hanging from my neck, and sent me on with wishes of good luck. “That’s it?” I thought. Sneaking Everclear into a high school dance was more difficult than entering the convention area. Then I saw the line… and the multi-gate entry… and the Secret Service officers.
I was going to make a friendly observation that the vests that the officers were wearing with the words Secret Service seemed a little oxymoronic, but I thought better of it after being prompted with a detection wand to the ribs. After it was determined that my beeps were coming from a belt buckle and other areas easily explained I was sent on my way with nary a rubber gloved digit to my nethers. Now the adventure had truly begun. CNN has a bar and grill for staff and invited guests and, as I walked past the outdoor seating, I was confronted by faces that had once been familiar when TV was still a part of my world. I’m sure I came off as a hayseed as I gawked, hoping for a passing glance of Robin Meade or maybe to offer a shout-out to Wolf Blitzer, alas, all came to naught.
The media was everywhere; huge trailers toting tech stuff were parked next to dressing-rooms on wheels. The Daily Show had its gaudy transport parked next to pavilion tents which housed press headquarters for every news outlet you might imagine. The print media had stacks of their publications ready for voracious swag-hounds like me. Free pens and notebooks, memory sticks, and, If you played it cocky and confident, you could walk into, say, the Boston Globe’s area and walk out with one of the meals they had stacked up for their reporting staff. In the midst of the big pavilion tents, of which there were four, were the media lounges. In the lounges cappuccino flowed like water and, should you arrive between five and nine, cocktails were served in a frat house frenzy. One Pavilion even had an oxygen bar so that dizzy flatlanders could recover their senses by inhaling of the O2 tainted by the soft scent of their choice. Hand and neck massage were available as one turned to mush in recliners gyrating and buzzing in therapeutic wonder. Needless to say, I started feeling that, soon, someone might catch on that I was with the Huerfano Journal and cast me into some small media limbo; the geek tent where real journalists would come to point and laugh and toss us the occasional chicken head. My fears were unfounded and soon I gladly spoke of my paper of origin while stuffing my pockets with anything not tied down.
Part Two continued next week…