Lost in Boston
It's only the first day of the Democratic National Convention here and there's just no polite way to put this: Boston has been a city under siege with pontificating, fustian blowhards not seen in years.
But now that the Yankee fans have gone home after their three-day series with the Red Sox, the incoming hordes of Democrats can focus without further annoyance on the giant question before them: Can America's party of the people find itself in just four short days? Not on the spectrum of candidates and issues - but where they are on the local map.
Journalists here will be telling you ad redundum that Boston is a "historic" city. What that means in practical terms is that it's really, really old. Streets are based on serpentine moccasin trails and cow paths that once confused even the likes of Paul Revere and Samuel Adams.
Incoming delegates are having to postpone romantic notions of the Democratic process, the clash of ideas, the direction of the nation. For now, their first big test is one of pure logistics: Where's my hotel, where's the Green Line subway, and how did I end up at this Irish pub in Dorchester (pronounced Dahchestuh) with three bartenders who all look like Larry Bird?
Here's a window into the part of participatory democracy you won't see on TV:
Half of the button-and-hat festooned delegates are jamming themselves like cattle onto subways that creak through the oldest and most pungent tunnels in America (replete with July humidity thicker than Louisiana swamp gas). The other half are spending countless hours in satellite-guided rent-a-cars passing back and forth under the Fleet Center Arena (site of the DNC) lost in Boston's Big Dig - the nation's most expensive public works project ever, which was supposed to modernize the town's transportation.
That transformation may yet happen. For now, fuddled first-time visitants are stuck in the Kafka-esque underground gulag singing a broken-record refrain from the 1950s hit of the Kingston Trio ("Charlie and the MTA"): "Well, did he ever return? ... No, he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned ... He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston, he's the man who never returned."
To be fair, even a Republican dirty-tricks operative couldn't find this arena. Shrouded by Beantown's Italian North End, surrounded by construction, barriers and encampments of security, even many locals shrug when you ask for directions to it.
Once inside, it's all about pomp, pageantry, and spectacle - and that's just from the armies of blow-dried anchors getting helmet hair and faces sprayed on by platoons of personal assistants. The journalists and their tech supports outnumber the delegates by the tens of thousands.
If you think people with choo-choo train hats and red, white, and blue underpants have puffed-up ego issues, wait 'til you see two Jesse Ventura-sized cameramen butt heads over a 12-inch slice of "standup" space with prime backdrop.
The Beatles' John Lennon said, "Life is what happens to you while making other plans." Saddled with traffic jams, packed subways, police union picketers, protest threats, cordoned streets, restaurant lines, choked hotels - and Louis XIV-coifed journalists - this is what is "happening" to Democrats as they prepare to anoint their leaders.
It could affect the platform. These tattered, sweaty delegates could opt for a presidential ticket that promises Americans better maps, cushioned seats, air conditioning, and fewer journalists.