DENVER – There are a number of irreplaceable lifetime memories that I regret having missed in my now rapidly-advancing years. I haven’t kissed a lover on a gondola beneath the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. I haven’t witnessed the birth of a child. I haven’t seen my written works translated into six different romance languages and Urdu. And I haven’t been clubbed senseless by riot police while I try and claw my own eyes out from enough tear gas to drop the ’86 Chicago Bears. There are some things, like the silly and inconsequential birth-of-my-child thing that I can let go and surrender to the reasonable give-and-take of life that has afforded me to sleep more and watch more reruns of Law And Order: Criminal Intent instead.
But with my second day in Denver for the biggest political event of my sentient lifetime, it felt like a rebirth that the city was packed to the gills with heavily-armed police, and that I might have a chance to experience the exhilaration of one my heretofore elusive once-in-a-lifetime transformative events. We were a mere half-hour into downtown when we experienced our first fully-armed Enhanced Gathering Management Detail, riding a fortified Denver PD Escalade three abreast on the side running boards and two standing on the back bumper, decked out in face shields, protective head-to-toe body armour, tasers, Costco-sized cannisters of mace, and a baton you would normally use to beat down a raging steer. The message was unmistakable: Keep that johnson at ease, hippie, or you’re going to be watching next year’s WTO from the orthopedic rehabilitation day room in an underfunded county hospital. I could only imagine how energizing that constant tension must have been, living in mid-1980s Soweto.
As it turned out, as colorful as the day was, we didn’t get any of the intimate meet-and-greet from the local gendarme that might have made this year’s first real vacation for most of us a Denver to remember. Perhaps we could have done more to encourage a more an enthusiastic response, like the gangly young man with the “Fuck The Police” surgical mask, who is probably on a pay phone outside a Denver Urgent Care as we speak trying to remember the number of the mother he hasn’t spoken to in a year to find out if he’s still on her Blue Cross policy.
It’s oddly how banal the police presence gets after just a few hours of it being a part–albeit a dominant one–of the local landscape. I’m sure it’s much different if you look like you just got back from Coachella and they suspect you might be poised to chuck a brick through a Starbucks window at any second. Wayne and I looked fairly harmless, but probably worthy of a watchful eye, what with the cameras trailing us as we spoke to the some of the more pronounced colorful convention-area attractions, from the Rednecks For Obama (rednecks4obama.com) to the outspoken, well-meaning Bob who was marching the downtown core with a sign championing the unimpeachable integrity of FoxNews election coverage. He was gracious enough to speak with us on camera for a nonpartisan, nonjudgmental discussion about the evolution and current state of the Vice Presidency (surprisingly, he was actually a Biden supporter). When we saw him again several hours later, near the Pepsi Center, he was surrounded by an angry semi-circle of snarling hecklers, but he did manage a hearty proffer of recognition to our passing shouts of hello.
In the end, we came back to our Denver HQ without any greater injury than we had begun the day with, save the angry blister on my feet. No columns of smoke were rising and we came back home only a bit disappointed.
More to report, not the least of which actually occurred at the Convention this evening (where we were unable to attend, not being among the credentialed elite). But sleep calls. Look for more detailed accounting of the week’s activities in the hours and days to come.