DAY ONE: MONDAY MORNING EDITION
Last updated Sunday August 24, 11:42pm MST
Two entries on this page: Daily Street Report and Fun and Jokes in The Mile High City
We're in Denver for
DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION
WELCOME TO EP.TC
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New for Sunday August 24, 2008, p.m.
Welcome to Denver
I'm going to begin this by saying I am sure there are hundreds of supporting photos for the atmosphere of police here in Denver for the week. The level of camera and videocamera coverage has been unbelievable -- and also neccessary. I'm sure thousands of good images are already on flickr and youtube ... so if you'll forgive me, I'll be writing without many supporting images. Photo opportunities will show up, like the one above of the camera cop - but this will mostly be a text show. We do think you'll enjoy our report, however.
DAY ONE JOURNAL
I sort of knew today was going to be exciting when greeted with an intercom message while riding Light Rail, the city's mass transit. It's an efficient service but the train itself flies through the city streets and has been known to hit unsuspecting visitors, even killing a few. So, about to exit, I hear the conductor anxiously alert us: "Hi folks, with the DNC this week, the city downtown is Crazy. So we need to mention that while we're going to do everything we can to ensure a safe and comfortable ride - don't be surprised if this train comes to any sudden and extremely loud stops ...to keep from hitting people." I exit the train sure this isn't the last time this poor guy is going to have to say that over the loud speaker. It's technically only the day BEFORE day one and city services are already sounding very stressed.
Exit off at the convention center, which is a zoo outside its doors. There's a carnival of businessmen, gawking locals, and a bunch of newly credentialed delegates and reporters storming down the street pretending to be on the phone and in a hurry. Many pick today to flash their credential badge out on the street. Not unlike a musical festival. It's a little tacky in that new rich way, especially when you spot a person displaying their badge blocks away from any door requiring it. But who can blame em? You only get one of these every four years, and the things are good mating calls, too ... Good humor seeing a bus with a guy dressed up as McCain in a rubberized mask, similar to the classic Nixon and Reagan ones.
First stop on foot is the state capitol building. I've already connected violence with this part of the city (see 'fun and jokes' entry below) and walking through the park to see my first flock of one hundred police officers is fairly disconcerting. I'll soon find out that there are four packs of police today: the ten pack bicycle unit, the forty pack gun and rifle division, the one hundred unit mass, and the tank guys. Denver feels like, and resembles, an occupied city. And all the cops here are in heavy brain-bashing riot gear.
I wanted to be here the day before the start of the DNC because my curiosity was pinched by a foolishly titled endeavor called recreate68 - a kind of odd fantasy dreamt up by self-titled anarchists who hope to rip off a lot of beautifully unique Abbie Hoffman ideas and, if their dreams come true, get their skulls pounded flat by the largest assembled military police force in the history of mankind. But steal this book, right? Today is day one of these young soldiers' days of resistance. But there's a problem: has anyone ever hung out with self-titled anarchists? I don't mean the classic independent variety, but the post-punk one. I will stereotype my experiences with the demographic to a couple descriptors: pricky, antagonizing, partial to blaming others and storming out of discussions in bitchy spats that rival the best drag queens - or the fun one, ending arguments with FUCK YOU. And the buzz killer: humorless. Seriously. If a light bulb required a clever sense of humor to be screwed in, you'd be rather at a loss to find any number of punk anarchists to do the screwing.
I've done my fair share of time meeting a lot of anarchists. They ruin parties, often getting drunk and puking up uneaten potato chips on your sofa. They're the most prone to tea bag unsuspecting friends when passed out drunk, and they rarely keep tidy records of their bits and pieces, which is just to say the first choice of anarchy is that of man against soap. I'm making a lot of jokes here - besides, the real anarchists know I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the group-think sort, and if I'm wrong about that, recreate68 has done the stereotype no favors through today's over-serious unclever paint-by-the-numbers acts of protest.
Today's premiere event for recreate68 was like watching Live Action Roleplaying, or LARPing, as its called, where one is allowed to live out its fantasy of a previous time (the civil war, the renaissance) decked out in costume and scene. Seriously, let's take recreate68 on their word of re-creation for a moment. I interpret 'recreate68' to mean recreate the spirit and not the story. And what a spirited, creative time to cull from. There's the Diggers street theater, the Hoffman/Rubin Pentagon levitation, the LSD pranks. I don't mean copy the stuff (though this planned act is funny in its obvious reference to the levitate the Pentagon one - even apes the yippies use of spells, magic, and costumes) - what I was hoping to see was a sense of imagination. Instead today's protest was essentially a modified 10k walkathon full of the rote expectations you'd guess to see in any protest for dummies book: 1) speakers/music and then 2) a walk to a decided 'other' location. 3) what, world change?
And I must mention: The anarchist costumes. A recreationist's fantasy. Ninja masks or pantyhose, covering faces, speaking into cel phones, spoken on speaker like they are CB radios. Others dressed with dangling black scarves over their faces to evoke terrorism or street commando. For many, the one missing detail was the plastic replica suicide bomb or molotav cocktail. Here's where my problems with lacking a sense of humor hits most. Their trip was to appear menacing and a threat. They're fantasy is not anti-war; the only soldiers they are regarding is their opinion of themselves. The fantasy is to earn live-action hitpoints by being pounded by the police twenty sided dice. But for the most part, other than saying fuck you alot, the march is pretty much without incident.
The counterpoint of this is the police presence, which is genuinely very real and very terrifying. It's not an overstatement to call the ratio of persons to policemen an almost even ratio of 1:1 - the largest difference being the cops are decked out, each with about fifty pounds of violent gear: black nightsticks, black guns, black tasers, black riot helmets, black heavy machinery everywhere.
At one moment, in the craziest show of psychological police force I have seen, there was a route where the march was supposed to veer to the right. But this wasn't done with cones. No, instead the entire block detour was created through a row of shoulder to shoulder cops, maybe fifty or a hundred right there. And there were many more cops if you needed any. I was wondering when the manhole was going to pop-off to reveal an additional army of cops waiting in the sewer. It was completely ridiculous.
For a sense of volume, I'd put the marchers at about 250 people, thirty of which visibly recreate68 folk, and the number of cops in riot gear at 400.
Quote of the day:
"No, it's for personal use. Strictly personal use" -- A policeman in riot gear's response to questions about his videotaping marchers, onlookers, and journalists during DNC protests. (one of seven police with videocameras seen)
CONCLUDING COMEDY BIT
Finally however, after about fifteen blocks or so, the 1968 Recreation Society finds its way to the parade route end: A closed gate in front of the very baricaded Pepsi Center, home to tomorrow's DNC. And it's here that I enjoyed the funniest moment of the day:
Whole crowd of marchers arrives at the Pepsi Center, immediately confounded. What now? Many are acting as if they expected the gates to open and present them Oz, or at least welcome them in to muck it up with the delegates. Nothing happens. Well one thing: more and more cops shove in. And more and more cops. And more. Delivered in transport devices, and jumping off of larger buses. And yet even more cops. Each new delivery of police seems to provide a larger size of cop and equipment and gunfire. And they're really wanting to do something about these fucking hippies in terrorist outfits telling the cops to fuck themselves, you can definitely tell. So, beginning the comedy routine, a leader from the group screams into a megaphone: "We're going to the streets of Denver, NOW!" and half the group follows them, walking up the hot cement (it's a closed off highway) ... Meanwhile though, still waiting to seige the Pepsi Center, is about half or 2/3 of the marchers. There's clearly an authority struggle. Which is to say, if you can't expect authority from anarchists, who can you?
The original group lowers their faces and quietly RETURNS to the Pepsi Center group. Slowly walking, defeated and kicking dirt. Ten minutes later, a call once again, "We're going to the streets of Denver - COME ON THIS TIME - NOW!" and this time roughly the same people leave to go storm the streets of Denver.
I follow them to the first major traffic light. It's a long block and there's no shade, due to barricades preventing shaded sidewalk access. We're on pavement, people are sweating. Another leader notices they're just a group of about twenty people. "HEY! He screams. "We need more people. Go back and get more people!"
So in a total punchline they turn around and once again meet the group at the Pepsi Center. This requires a long slow walk BACK down the highway. And it's less spirited each time.
I should say by this point that any energy that was there in the march (and there -was- a nice point where you could feel something that made your heart beat in a good way) but by now it's gone, totally fizzled and this splintering of the comatose vegetables staring up at the Pepsi Center gate and the others who aim to 'storm the streets' is pretty palpable.
But group one returns to group two and for a while there's a caucus on where to go. The volume slowly ceases to nothing but an occasional drum beat or yell. And even the outfits start to get removed. It's hot, especially in a ninja mask. And that's where I left them.
New for Sunday August 24, 2008, a.m.
Fun and Jokes in the Mile High City
Greetings. We're happy to report from Denver this week. I grew up here (until 18) and it's always a good feeling to return. We'll be posting throughout the week, at least once a day, with a good and offensive 1980s comic halfway through the week posted especially for the convention season.
Denver, of course, is a much different city now. Growing up here in the late 80s/early 90s was a strange time in its history. It was a boring place, but I have some very good memories. Namely, the town was rich with clean drugs, mainly acid and pot - and there was an entire subculture built around a few streets and clubs. The farther I get away from Denver the more I like it, too, and love that I grew up here. It has a vast cultural history, from being the opium capitol of the west in the 1900s, a magnet for the beat movement, Cassady especially (Hi Neal) and then the strange ones like Jello Biafro, Hunter Thompson, Tom Waits, Jeff Mangum ... Roseanne Barr. Well, scratch that last one. Anyway, the older I get the more I realize Denver's a fine fucking place. Nature dominates in a bold way that seems to affect the city's disposition. Every day ends on a massive sunset, too.
Of course Denver had its severe problems, too. Some of the history from back then veers off into the ridiculous. My last year in town, 1989 or so, had a mass killing in a Chuck E Cheese by a pissed off ex-employee, who then shot himself by the skee ball table, bleeding out onto the air vents and filling the thing up. Other local news seemed to color the city as a place of oddly funny unpredictable violence, peaking later with Columbine. Unrelated, but also worth mentioning was the national news of Denver's Amendment II, which was a vote to legally discriminate against gays, or a person's right to scream faggot in a crowded theater. It narrowly got defeated by a vote.
We had a massive cult of Psychic Youth here, which were religious decendents of Psychic TV. I dated two girls who proudly displayed relics of the band, including jars of Genesis' urine and bags of hair. One of the weirder members of the group got involved in a big child porn scandal. We also had a big Charles Manson revival filled with some great music. But some of the Psychic TV attempted a copycat that ended terribly, with some animal torture I don't want to go too much into detail on. This stuff -or rather my reaction to it- was character defining, however.
The worst and most ridiculous Denver story I experienced was the one about how the KKK shuttled hundreds of families to move here, dubbing Denver a 'city of focus'. This was during the David Duke days - and a time where the Klan was flexing to become a political power. This makes sense when you consider Denver's economy at the time, mixed with tensions from forced busing. It sounds like a bad episode of Law and Order, but all of a sudden my suburban highschool filled up with skinheads and very violent racist jocks. It became a common occurence to go to a club and have it full of skinheads, or to hear about a football game where a black player was put in a coma by an over-aggressive set of white tacklers. The whole thing peaked with a KKK rally on Martin Luther King Day that happened during the MLK parade - that caused a riot. It was a riot, too. I returned with a few friends to the MLK parade the following year. KKK there again. It was a depressing catastrophe, including, once again, Klansmen barking from the state capitol steps in full nazi regalia. We left for coffee. Walking back to the car I saw a bunch of large guys walking towards us, black and hispanic. I was what you'd refer to as a goth - blue-haired with fish stockings and makeup, and walking with girls. And the instinct was to cross the street. But we had all just walked in this parade, still chanting 'we shall overcome' like douche bags, and the thought was that racism didn't exist anymore. A magic wand had swept it away because four or five teenage kids walked with the negros. So we continued walking on the same side of the sidewalk and avoided street sense to move out of the way. Long story short, I got punched so hard in my face it felt like the world kept rotating without me. These are some of the things that always seem to surface whenever I return to Denver. I love it, though.
As noted in yesterday's entry, we produced a limited set of replicas of the 1934 George Bush John McCain Tijuana Bible. You can see scans of the actual item here, but these repros are pretty damn close to looking like the real thing. Each day of the convention I'll be placing five of them somewhere around the city.
Today's five Tijuana Bibles can be found at:
Two copies left in the window at City O' City coffeehouse, 13th and Sherman.
One copy left in an outdoor potted plant, The Division of Theatres & Arenas, 1245 Champa.
One copy on the public bulletin board at Paris on the Platte. And:
One copy left in the old beat hangout, My Brother's Bar. They were actually closed, so we left that one in the mailslot.
Individually we handed out 73 Tijuana Bibles to various fortunate recipients.
CSPAN and uncivilsociety on our DNC distribution of the Tijuana Bibles.
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