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Convention road goes on and on and on

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2000

Im in a taxi, somewhere in Los Angeles. Or it could be Oklahoma. We just passed, I swear, some oil rigs.

Im trying to get to the Democratic convention. I gave up on the official shuttle-bus system, which apparently was designed by the same person who decided how many lifeboats there should be on the Titanic. So now Im in a taxi on surprise! a freeway. Under strict California law, you cannot go anywhere, including the bathroom, without going on at least three freeways, two of which must be the 10 and the 405.

After a few hundred miles we arrive at the Staples Center, which is named for the giant office-supplies chain, OfficeMax. To give the Staples Center a friendly, laid-back California vibe, the city has accessorized it with barricades, razor-wire fences, police dogs, police horses and hundreds of police officers with large police biceps from lifting weights and dropping them on the heads of alleged perpetrators resisting arrest. Theyre polite and professional, but its hard not to be a little nervous around them; you cant help but remember that shocking videotape a few years back, showing a group of LAPD horses beating up on Rodney Kings horse.

Outside the perimeter fence, baking in the heat, is a vast parking lot that has been designated as the Protest Area, because it would be rude to call it the Raving Loon Area. Up on the stage, bellowing into a microphone, is a man wearing (why not?) a hard hat with a huge flip-down sun visor, flipped up. He is bellowing about God. Listening to him are a total of two pro-God people, and maybe a dozen bored, heckling protesters, who are waiting for Democrat delegates to arrive so they can call them fascist corporate sellouts. These listeners are all within 25 feet of the speaker; he could easily talk to them in an unamplified voice. But he chooses to bellow at them via the huge, stadium-quality public-address system. Its like using an Army tank to crack a walnut.

THERE IS ONE GOD! he bellows.

No! shouts a protester. Two!

Thats right! shouts another. Two gods!

The speaker informs them that they will go to hell (presumably via the 10 and the 405). He then asks if there are any questions.

Yes! shouts somebody. Where did you get your hat?

YOU CAN GET IT AT A SAFETY-SUPPLY STORE, bellows the speaker.

As I walk away, the speaker and the protesters are arguing about the Third World.

THE THIRD WORLD DOESNT KNOW WHAT TOILET PAPER IS! bellows the speaker, his words echoing across the parking lot. THEY DONT KNOW WHAT A TOILET IS!

Youre a toilet! shouts a protester.

And so it continues, the vital ideological struggle for control of the Protest Area.

Meanwhile, inside the convention hall, the Democrats, at least the ones who got buses, have boldly come out in favor of both prosperity AND children. They put these positions right in their platform, which places them in stark contrast with the Republicans, whose platform calls for worldwide depression and the shooting of children for sport. Both parties platforms will, in accordance with tradition, be buried in a landfill in New Jersey and never heard from again.

In other political news, we have these updates on the Democratic ticket:

AL GORE UPDATE: Al is practicing for his big speech, which according to one of his aides will feature several near-human hand gestures.

JOSEPH LIEBERMAN UPDATE: Sen. Lieberman, who has been critical of Hollywoods lax morals, apparently has softened his stance following a nine-hour meeting in a luxury hotel suite with the cast of Sex And The City.

This issue is WAAAAAAAY more complex than I thought, he told the Los Angeles Times, moments before passing out.

Dave Barry is a humor columnist for The Miami Herald.



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