Notes from the Fringes of the Circus

Yes, the Circus came to town this week, and when I say "Circus," of course I mean "the Democratic National Convention," and when I compare the two, I do so as a proud registered Democrat and fervent supporter of the next President of the United States, Barack Obama. The oft-quoted words of Will Rogers ring as true today as ever: "I do not belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat."

I was excited when Denver was named the host city for the 2008 DNC, thinking I might volunteer. Then I learned that the campus where I get edumacated was going to be closed down for the week of the convention. "Security reasons" are the stated cause of the closure, and it's no doubt true, as the campus is right next door to the Pepsi Center...but it also allowed the campus to make a few extra bucks by selling parking to conventioneers. Anyway, the convergence of the convention and a week free of other obligations meant that I could volunteer for sure.

For the past three days, I've been working as what they amusingly call a "Caucus Runner" at the Colorado Convention Center. It's amusing because a Caucus Runner does not run in the sense of administrating or organizing, nor in the sense of running to and fro or running errands. My job has basically been to stand there, be present in case something happens that swarms of police don't handle immediately, and to look handsome and dead sexy in my DNCC VOLUNTEER t-shirt. Standing quietly and looking good while doing it are things I've always been good at, so I suppose I'm rather well-suited to the job.

For those not in the know about just how a political convention works - which, I assume, is most of you - the big action happens, of course, at the primary site, the local sports arena (and in this year's case, for one night, the local football stadium). That's the Pepsi Center, affectionately referred to by sports columnists in the Post and the Rocky as "The Can," but mostly referred to by locals as the Pepsi Center. That's where the bigwigs make the speeches and the delegates wave signs and the TV talking heads muse about what it all means.

But during the day, leading up to all this, there's lots of smaller events going on. In the past, I'm told, this has always taken place at the area hotels, but due to the size of the event, this is happening at the Colorado Convention Center. The convention offices are all there, along with office space for interested parties like the AFL-CIO, the NAACP and all the other usual suspects. And there's the caucuses. This is basically where a bunch of people gather, make lots of speeches about how awesome the Democrats are, how awesome Barack is, and in some cases how awesome Hillary is. There's lots of applauding and back-patting and talk about how important it is to get out the vote and such.
So on Monday, I performed my important duties in the Black Caucus. Howard Dean, who is about as white as anyone can be, made some opening remarks. Wellington Webb, the former Mayor of Denver, who is definitely not white, made further opening remarks. Both were briefly interrupted by protesters, both of whom jumped up to scream about how Obama's pro-choice stance was, in fact, support of "black genocide." The police were on both of them like white on rice inside ten seconds. Webb quipped, "See, that just shows you how much things have changed. Now, when we get together for a meeting, the police are on our side." It was really moving to watch this group of people, to whom Obama's candidacy is probably most meaningful, gather and make a show of their support. Great stuff.

Monday Celebrity Sighting: Tom Brokaw, not covering the convention, just signing books, looking relaxed and as tan as George Hamilton.

Better still was my post on Tuesday, in the Women's Caucus. I'd guess it was about 1,500 people there, more than a few wearing Hillary buttons and t-shirts and such. Donna Brazile made a great speech, as did Cecile Richards, daughter of former Texas governor Ann Richards and current president of Planned Parenthood. She had my favorite line of the day: "Women voting for John McCain is like chickens voting for Colonel Sanders."

After that, I was assigned to watching a door, making sure that people went out the exit door instead of the entrance door. Not exciting, and kind of frustrating when people - usually the people with the most different kinds of credentials on their lanyards - completely ignored me and did whatever the hell they felt like, 'cuz they were important and busy or something, I guess.

Tuesday Celebrity Sighting: Rosario Dawson, who briefly addressed the Women's Caucus in support of her organization, Vota Latina, which works to register latina women to vote. Ten times hotter in real life. Also, Eva Longoria, who was there with Rosario, and Fran Drescher.

Today, I was assigned to the Asian American & Pacific Islander Caucus. Not as large or quite as interesting as the others, but still pretty cool. Maya Soetoro-Ng, Obama's sister, spoke briefly about Obama's Hawai'ian background and sympathy with Asian/Pacific Islander causes and concerns. L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spoke as well, and was pretty darn good.

Wednesday Celebrity Sighting: Kelly Hu - Lady Deathstrike from X2 - made a brief appearance at the caucus. Like Rosario Dawson, absolutely smokin' hot.

And of wouldn't be the Circus without the sideshow. Here's a bit of the scene outside the convention center: