A Report From The Trenches

from: Delegate-X
12:26:00 AM

Philadelphia, August 3, 2000 Note to Al Gore: Whatever you do in LA, do not give your delegates yard-long inflatable penises.

Instructions at the base of ThunderStix read, "TO INFLATE: Hold plastic open with thumbs and fingers. BLOW IN HERE UNTIL FIRM."

On the last night of the Republicans’ Philadelphia convention, George W's followers, male and female, young and old, were provided plastic phalli known as ThunderStix, which they diligently blew up and banged together with pre-Freudian abandon. Believe me, the full bacchanalian scope of that night did not come across on television. I found myself deep in the heart of the Texas delegation, pressed up against various body parts and sweat-soaked garments belonging to men and boys in ten-gallon hats. Stoked into a frenzy of compassionate conservatism, the Texans screamed and flailed wildly, inadvertently beating me with their ThunderStix for three solid hours. Thankfully, ThunderStix are the least menacing of all the long, narrow objects that Republicans are accustomed to wielding, including baseball bats, rifles and fetuses in jars.

When I had first arrived on the floor, there was no shortage of air or space. I ambled around at will, noting that each empty chair was bedecked with a flat, oblong, plastic casing in either red, white, or blue. Little did I know. I focused on the handmade signs, all bearing suspiciously similar messages, paint strokes and coloring techniques. I traced the work of one anonymous artist from his or her "Montana Bush" to "P.R. Bush" to "W.V. Cheney." The best homespun poster: "Coherent Foreign Policy."

By 8:00, I was struck by the overwhelming smell of hard liquor. The show had started, and most of the delegates had taken their seats and were gripping their newly inflated plastic sausages. I caught the following exchange between George W and Laura on the arena's gigantic video screen:

I was now standing in an aisle surrounded by people who were all wearing white cowboy hats, with the exception of George Stephanopoulos, his producer and cameraman. I realized a little too late that Stephanopoulos and I, as the least enthusiastic and the shortest people in the Texan mash, had much to fear when the Lone Star state got its moment of roll call glory. Indeed, the people around me started screaming and winging hats as high as they could, and all I could do was watch the projectiles spin towards the stadium ceiling and then pick up speed as they fell towards my head (which I couldn't shield because my arms were pinned to my sides by the crowd). Only one hat actually hit me, and its plastic faux-straw weave hurt just a bit.

Meanwhile, Stephanopoulos was trying to deflect a florid, middle-aged Texan who was glaring at him and saying what seemed to be words of drunken menace that I unfortunately couldn't catch due to the twanging of penile balloons and the chant "Help is on the way." Once the ABC crew escaped, four boys crammed in front of me, and I saw that one of them held a sign clearly painted by him personally that read, "Bush is Bueno." .

But even zealots grow weary. When W said that his administration would give "low-income Americans tax credits to buy the private health insurance they need and deserve," I saw a sixtysomething woman in a red, white and blue sequined vest and baseball cap nodding off in her seat. The poverty and homelessness part of the speech wasn't going over well with the Pundit either. "Think this is a little long?" he asked. "Yeah," replied one of his buddies. But the spirit returned when W uttered the magic words "life of the unborn." My boys let out a sustained "Yaaaaaa!" with their fists pumping in the air. It was then that I spotted an abandoned ThunderStick on the floor. I bent down to fetch it, my fear of getting squashed outweighed by my need to bring proof of this deeply unsexy fertility rite to the outside world.

From partial-birth abortion on, W paused for scripted mayhem after almost every sentence. The mob presciently chanted "It won't be long now" about fifteen applause lines before W said that slogan himself. Meanwhile, the boys were readying their cameras for the final release: the red, white and blue balloon storm. I stopped taking notes and did the same—it seemed more important to prepare for things dropping on my head than to listen to the end of W.

The confetti blizzard hit first, then the balloons started flowing to the tune of "Signed Sealed Delivered," which was syncopated by the pops of thousands of balloons as they slipped between bodies and under cowboy boots. As the closing prayer was delivered, I experienced the new and uncomfortable sensation of sticky legs and ankles resulting from standing up to my waist in balloons. The throng started loosening up, in body count (as some headed for the exit) and in body language (as those who remained squirmed to Chaka Khan's rendition of her 16-year-old song "I Feel for You.") The boys pushed towards the stage, where the speakers and presenters from the entire convention were now milling around awkwardly the way the cast of "Saturday Night Live" mingles at the end of a show. Besides Chaka's backup singers, the only one on stage who could dance was Windy Smith, the 26-year-old with Down's Syndrome. Unlike those around her, Smith comes by her retardation honestly.

As I pushed my way towards an exit carrying my notebook, my red phallus and the sweat of Texans, a woman wearing a patriotic vest adorned with a rhinestone Bush 2000 brooch gripped my shoulder as I passed. "I had a very terrible time," she said. "I hope you had a better time."



21 20 19 18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 X 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1