Potential Hurricane Isaac ravaged the Tampa Bay area on Monday, slamming the coast with winds that sometimes approached the speed of a fully-loaded forklift and leaving a trail of devastation in the form of water that occasionally fell from the sky and got things wet.
OK, so it really wasn’t much. Thus far, Isaac has been the Loch Ness Monster of storms: The TV reporters on the beaches keep claiming that they’ve seen it, but they can never actually provide us with visual proof. “Right now, it’s pretty calm,” they say, as bathers frolic in the surf behind them, “but a few minutes ago, we had a very strong gust. Really! My hair was all over the place!”
Despite not being particularly noticeable here, Isaac forced the Republicans to cancel almost all of Day One of the convention. The official theme of Day One was supposed to be “We Can Do Better”; that has been officially changed to “We Can Do Better, But Not Until Tuesday.”
The Republicans did have a brief session on Monday at which party Chairman Reince Priebus (pronounced “Reince Priebus”) gaveled the convention open and then, in a matter of seconds, gaveled it into recess, thereby getting a big hand from several hundred Republicans who were on hand to witness this event for reasons I cannot begin to fathom.
But most of the day was free, which meant that thousands of delegates
had to find other ways to entertain themselves. Fortunately, this was not a problem, because there are literally tons of fun things to see and do on a rainy day in a sodden town walled off by chain-link fences and swarming with police officers. Have I mentioned that Tampa boasts the world’s longest continuous sidewalk?
My point is, there has been some drinking going on. I witnessed this firsthand when I attended the big GOP welcoming cocktail party at Tropicana Field, the domed stadium that is home to the area’s professional baseball team, the Tampa Bay Continuous Sidewalks.
I rode to the party in a bus filled with delegates, and as we neared the dome, somebody on the bus shouted “Protesters!” Peering through the gloom and the rain, we could dimly make out, on the other side of a chain-link fence guarded by police, a few dozen figures waving signs.
“Do we have to walk through them?” one woman asked.
“No,” said the man with her. “You see that fence with the razor wire?”
I was actually a little disappointed that we didn’t get near the protesters, because according to news reports some of them have been sporting interesting attire. I quote here from the Tampa Bay Times:
“... [M]embers of the San Francisco women’s rights group Code Pink stood outside a GOP event at the Tampa Theater dressed in full-body vagina costumes.”
If that doesn’t cause people to give thoughtful consideration to whatever their cause is, I don’t know what will.
Inside the dome, a major party was in progress on the baseball field, with food stations and open bars everywhere, and thousands of people milling around eating and drinking and enjoying a series of perky stage acts, including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cheerleaders, who entertained the crowd by wearing outfits made from a grand total of maybe six fabric molecules.
At one point, the P.A. announcer, introducing the next act, said, and I swear I am not making this up: “To celebrate diversity in culture, please welcome to the stage Busch Gardens’ own belly dancers!”
And sure enough, out came a group of culturally diverse and extremely energetic gyrating belly dancers, who got more than a few members of the crowd lurching around to the music in a semi-rhythmic manner.
In my opinion, one of the greatest things—if not THE greatest thing—about the American political process is that every four years it gives me the unadulterated joy of watching Republican convention delegates attempt to dance.
But before you sneer at the Republicans—for being unhip, for having a convention attended by (this is a rough estimate) maybe 14 members of minority groups—consider this: The party at Tropicana Field, huge as it was, was well organized; the food and drink were plentiful throughout the evening. When the Democrats hold events like this, there are always giant lines, and they run out of everything in 20 minutes.
You should think about that when you’re deciding which of these two parties should run the country for the next four years.
Notice I say, YOU should think about it. I have already thought about it, and decided to go back to drinking.
This article appears in the August 28, 2012, edition of NJ Convention Daily.