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What a long strange trip it’s been…

This is the final part in a series by Nelson Holmes, who attended the Democratic National Convention in Denver two weeks ago.

Denver- The First Amendment is a personal favorite so I set out to go wading in protest and lively political discourse.  I’d heard that the free speech “cage,” where the angry and strident had been sequestered for the convention’s duration, was nearby.  After asking a number of folks (cops, reporters, scruffy teens, etc.), I found the “zone” in its anticlimactic splendor.  Behind highway barricades, and enough steel to construct a gulag that would make Stalin proud, were half a dozen underfed pseudo-anarchists adorned with the “arrest me” bandannas that served no real purpose other than to alert the authorities to their presence.  Dejected, and pondering the sorry state of protest in America, I wandered to the Sixteenth Street Mall and found what I was looking for, kind of.  The Mall was really an over policed street fair where capitalism was abloom in oddities.  Uncle Sam on stilts selling Obama watches, free T-shirts offered to those willing to make a You-Tube video as a Mexican restaurant menu item (“I’m a taco salad for Obama!”) and old ladies selling Obama playing cards.  The protests downtown were much livelier too, with PETA folk in pink piggy suits and meditating Falun Gong riding on a float in search of a parade.  The Hillary die-hards, all sixteen of them, marched around in vocal inconsequence entertaining only themselves.  A couple of hyper Christian anti-choice folk informed me of my upcoming journey to Hell, which I thought somewhat presumptuous since I hadn’t said a word to them.  I must exude infidel or have that heretic funk about me.

    I was always a step behind, or an hour ahead, of events and celebrities.  But I can say that I caused the adrenal glands of two top shelf politico’s to express the “flight or fight” juice.  I was walking near a press tent as one of the black land yachts pulled up to the curb.  I must fit the “dangerous, lone white male” template that the Secret Service uses to instruct elected officials on potential threats because, as he was exiting his vehicle, Governor Ritter caught sight of me, started and blanched.  Had he smiled I might have attempted a couple of quick questions, as it was I limped, Igor like, along my way.  Later, incensed that some mucky-muck would double park in front of me, I lurched erratically around a black Town Car and found Louisiana Senator Mary Landreau, all wide eyes and standing hair, in my sights.  Later, when I had parked for the evening, I was relieved that there were no strips of pastel-colored pant suit hanging from my bumper.

    I’m a sucker for the convention mystique and Pepsi Center was like a great garish shrine to the American Electoral process.  And my seats… rocked.  I gazed longingly at the beautiful Al-Jezeera reporter and hung over the railing to see the top of Dee Dee Myer’s head.  The business of a convention is somewhat tedious and, unfortunately, most modern politicians are not skilled orators. I sat through mind numbingly stiff deliveries and wooden pontificating.  Fortunately,  the Governor of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, rocked the house, and Bill Clinton, however you feel about him makes public speaking look incredibly easy and you’d swear that he was speaking only to you.  The moment I’ll always remember was the roll-call.  When Hillary called for an end to the vote and asked that Barack be made the party’s candidate by acclamation. I lost it. Tears streamed down my face and I hoped to excuse my hypersensitive display to the reporter sitting next to me and found her weeping.  Turning to my left I saw a dapper ”Financial Guest,” whom I expected to be distracted by his Blackberry, and saw his chin quivering and his cheeks moist… at least I wasn’t alone in my embarrassing blubbering.

    Thursday night was insane.  I arrived early and watched the sound checks and practice performances.  Mile High rocked as 85,000 pairs of feet stomped the plate steel floor.  At one point I saw the crowd before me turn and stare in my general direction.  Did I win something?  Was a savvy Dem suggesting me for a cabinet position?  No, it was Oprah, and she was in the box right behind me.  I’d like to say that I could identify the others in her party but age has distanced me from pop-culture.   Luckily, a beautiful reporter from Access Hollywood asked to climb overtop of me to request an interview of Oprah, who declined.  As “Miss Access” dismounted she told me that Gayle and Mary J. Blige were also on board.  I oohed like I had a clue and relished my moment as a human jungle gym.  By the time Barack arrived the crowd was ripe with anticipation and emotion.  As his speech began I became aware that this was a pivotal moment in the nation’s history.  I relished being in the presence of a manic throng that had regained a sense of hope and shed their cynicism.  All the madness an­d incongruity had led to this wondrous moment when, it seemed, America was again on the threshold of Greatness.  Even the drive home couldn’t kill the afterglow!