Wednesday, July 28, 2004
I have recently received several emails from you reader-folk who know that, since it's summer break, I am currently spending my days in the Boston area. You want to know if I'm one of those bloggers with 'official credentials' who are in the Democractic National Convention with the Real Reporters. The answer is, of course, "Ha ha ha! Ha ha! Hee hee. God, no."
Although I am flattered that people actually thought I would be covering the DNC from the inside, there are a few obstacles to this. One: I didn't even know about this whole 'bloggers with official press IDs' thing until after the Convention had already started. Two: Despite the name of this blog, I am not a terribly vociferous political activist. I am, yes, very thoroughly Democrat, I'm very much pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and all that, but for crissakes people. I've only been able to vote for a year.
Three: I. Am. Not. A. Professional. Writer.
I would feel extremely unqualified and very, very stupid getting into the DNC with a press pass simply because I have a blog and happen to be in the Boston area. Unless you count the 'Artvark' newsletter at the Arts at Tower summer camp a million years ago, and the occasional illustration for my high school paper, I have never done any work for a newspaper. As interesting as being at the DNC would be, as much as I would probably enjoy it, I really have no actual credentials that would make my presence there appropriate.
If you want a list of the bloggers who are there, you should have a look at the Blogger list of Boston DNC bloggers.
Of course, this doesn't mean that I didn't somehow get my sticky little paws into the whole event.
I may not be anything remotely approaching a writer, but I can make some mild sort of claim for being an artist. Not a particularly good one, and not a particularly successful or widely-known one, but as I'm still a student we'll let it slide. So. Since I wasn't going to be going to the DNC as a writer or a political commentator, why not go as an artist?
On Monday I packed up my sketchbook, pencils, and pens, drove out to Wonderland (where the auxiliary parking lot was crowded, but not entirely full) and hopped onto the blue line. There were a couple of policefolk at the turnstiles, but no one was checking bags that I could see (and I had my great big backpack on).
I got off at Government Center and trotted down to Faneuil Hall to see what there was to see. I had a vague idea of sitting somewhere and drawing all the crazy people who were walking around. Most unfortunately, I had made the mistake of showing up right around noon. Faneuil Hall is crowded during lunchtime under normal circumstances; the media tents and crowds of people handing out Kerry stickers made it worse.
So I wasn't in Faneuil Hall for a very long time. I got a delicious overpriced coffee beverage from Starbucks, and had a long chat with an older gentleman wearing a 10-gallon hat and a 'Texans for Kerry' pin, which was interesting. Although, when you think about it, there have to be some people in Texas who are for Kerry. He was complaining about the weather, which he said was cold. It was in the 70s. Since I apparently had 'college student' written all over me, he asked where I went. I told him Michigan, and we spent a lively 10 minutes chatting about the joys of being liberal in a decidedly non-liberal place. For him, the entire state of Texas. For me, the entire state of Michigan sans Ann Arbor. And maybe Detroit.
After deciding that this was the most Faneuil Hall had to offer that day, I dashed back into Government Center and departed for my default sitting-and-drawing-stop in Boston, i.e. Copley. I should note that the security in Government Center, being near City Hall and relatively near the FleetCenter, was impressive. There were MPs with submachine guns, regular Boston police, some people in army uniforms, and the Transit Security people, who came as something of a surprise. I had expected Transit Security to just be regular T employees wearing bright orange vests or something that declared their official presence. Instead I got a bunch of serious-looking people dressed in crowd-control black, with boots and bullet-proof vests and lots of guns and things. Woah. Subway cops to the max.
Faneuil Hall at dusk. I do love the place, for all its inherent tourist-y kitsch.
At Copley I set up shop on a bench by the little lawn in front of Trinity Church. On this lawn were the Falun Gung and Falun Dafa people, who were protesting the fact that China apparently likes suppressing and killing them, and the fact that I may have misspelled their names. You probably know who they are. They sit still in one position for a really long time, and sometimes do slow and graceful tai chi-like routines. There's usually one of them sitting in the Diag at U of M, with a sign explaining why he's protesting. I'm always impressed when they do this on the really cold days. But I digress.
I set about drawing Trinity Church with an inky vengeance and the full expectation of sitting there for several hours. It was pretty noisy, since every five minutes or so a police car would go screaming by with the sirens on, and numerous helicopters kept flying around overhead (or the same helicopter kept making passes, who knows). Occasionally a vehicle decked out in DNC-related goodness would drive by and honk madly to get everyone's attention. My favorite of these was a truck carrying a giant stick, atop which rested Bush's head sporting a moronic expression. The sides of the truck were emblazoned with the address Pants on fire.net.
After I had been sitting there for about an hour, a group of three Vietnamese children somewhere between the ages of 8 and 4 came by, carrying a big tray of complicated origami flowers with tags telling you about the trials and tribulations of Falun Dafa practitioners in China. They were offering these flowers to everyone in the area, saying "For you!" and generally being the cute small non-English-speaking children who will tug at your heartstrings and win you over to their cause. They handed me one, for which I thanked them. They then caught sight of the drawing I was working on.
Now, these poor kids must have been bored out of their brains. Their parents were clearly spending all day sitting on the lawn in front of the Trinity Church, and the kids were left to run around and amuse themselves as best they could without leaving the area. Apparently watching someone sit and draw widdly little ink lines for hours and hours on end is more interesting than watching your parents sit motionless for hours and hours, because the oldest little girl ensconced herself on the bench next to me and leaned over to watch me draw, with the other two dangling over my shoulders. They did this for almost exactly three hours.
Not consecutively, of course. They would jump up at intervals to offer more flowers to people, or to run around on the lawn and poke people they presumably knew. But then they would come right back over. They didn't know much english at all, past "It's beautiful!", "For you!", and "Thank you!", and I clearly didn't a speak a word of Vietnamese or Chinese, but they seemed perfectly content to sit there and watch me draw, leaning all over me and marvelling at the fact that some of my hair was purple. I felt like I'd been adopted by these three kids for the afternoon, which was decidedly odd, but not altogether unpleasant, since they did let me get on with the drawing. After I'd finished all the pencilling and had gone entirely over to pen I let them play with my kneaded eraser, which fascinated them. The oldest one (who looked around 8) made little sculptures of ducks out of it.
Since I was sitting there for around three and a half hours, many people ended up eventually talking to me. I had a long conversation with a woman sitting on the bench next to me, who had a son who was going into his freshman year at UMass (again, I apparently have 'college student' stamped on my forehead). A lot of the Falun Gung/Dafa people kept coming over and saying things like "Oooh, that very nice! You have such good vision!", which I took as a compliment on the drawing and not my eyesight (which, for the record, officially sucks at 20/500).
I also had a lot of people come up and ask me if I was with the Falun Gung/Dafa people. This was due, no doubt, to a combination of the fact that I had these three little girls all over me, and the fact that I was wearing a tshirt in exactly the same shade of bright yellow as the Falun folk. A happy coincidence made possible by the University of Michigan color scheme.
Around hour 2 one of the Boston police officers who was beadily watching Copley Square came over and expressed his admiration of my rather overwrought doodle. I thanked him and we chatted for a bit. He asked if the kids were mine, to which I replied that they were not, but they appeared to have adopted me for the time being. We then talked about how the protesters were behaving throughout the city ('It wasn't bad this weekend, but they're starting to get a little hairier now') and how the media was affecting things ('It's not bad out here, but I wouldn't want to be stationed up by City Hall right now'). It was very pleasant.
So, one size two micron pen and several unwelcome hours of sun exposure later, I separated my reluctant posterior from the bench, retrieved my kneaded eraser, and made my way to my dad's building. He was leaving work early and had said he would drive me out of the city to Wonderland. I was waiting outside his building, watching the road in front of it, when a cavalcade of large trucks came by. They were broadcasting something or other from loudspeakers, but I wasn't really listening. As they drove by it became clear that the images on the sides were not innocuous pictures of produce or donuts, but were instead large, technicolor pictures of bloody fetuses (fetusi?). Yum. The anti-abortion lobby has such subtlety.
As we were walking to his car we also were treated to the sight of a small white convertible car driven by a perfectly normal person. In the backseat were a large carrot and a large ear of corn. Waving. The side of the car said to vote for someone or other whose last name was Carrot. We waved back at them. Naturally.
So, while perhaps not the typical DNC experience, I certainly had my own obscure level of involvement with the madness. I plan to head back into town tomorrow and this time actually draw people. Hopefully I will steer clear of small children. Charming as they may have been for one afternoon, I have no particular desire to repeat the experience.
I shall close with a fascinating little tidbit I came across today during lunch.
According to a recent New Yorker article by Lawrence Wright, the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades (which isn't Al Qaeda, but claims affiliation with them) sent a message to a London newspaper. In this letter they claimed responsibility for a train bombing in Spain that was one of the worst acts of terrorism in recent Spanish history. The letter also says that "We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections," as his "idiocy and religious fanaticism" are useful for "stir[ring] the Islamic world to action."
So, apparently, a vote for Bush is a vote for the terrorists. Just a little something to think about.