By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Photo by Jack GouldWho exactly the New York Delegation thought they were is anyone's guess. But the ones Commie Mom and I were sitting among on the shuttle from the Century Plaza Hotel to the Staples Center were young, hip, very self-satisfied legislative staffers of some sort or another who ignored us from the bottoms of their dark hearts. Even the muy charmant chestnut I told about buying "drugs"—which turned out to be a baggie of twigs and dirt; oregano would have been such a step up—in their native Washington Square Park fell flat.
"Don't they know who you are?" Commie Mom whispered—was she snickering?—in my general direction. Apparently, they did not!
We arrived at the Democratic National Convention(D2K) in plenty of time for The Prez's Aug. 14 speech. Since we had already begun sniping at each other, we separated to wander the teeming halls and eye the gorgeous, clean-cut young men in their snappy suits. Who knew young Democrats were so good-looking?
I wandered down to the door through which the California Delegation would enter the floor (we didn't actually have floor passes; they were harder to come by than brain cells in Huntington Beach), and whom did I spy? Darkly sexy (but very married) Assemblyman (and Assistant Majority Leader) Gil Cedillo! He knew who I was! Take that, New York delegation!
Commie Mom and I met up again, declaring a dťtente, and found ourselves seats in the very top row of the Staples Center next to a whole bunch of other nobodies—with the bizarre exception of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting's (FAIR) director Jeff Cohen. Perhaps he didn't want to be tainted by all the access farther down the bleachers. We had an excellent view of the skyboxes (including that for the Orange County Democratic Foundation, which, oddly, never offered us seats), where people were drinking champagne and appearing on the teevee and being generally important, and I was sad until I decided that the top row of the Staples Center (somewhat behind the podium; we really couldn't see a thing) was in fact the penthouse. I felt better immediately.
A long video nostalgically remembering the past eight years had a fonky wiggedy-wiggedy porn soundtrack. And Old Bill seduced us all back into the fold with a speech that was both funny as hell —goading the Republicans like nobody's business—and substantive; the man should really start a cult. The love for him in that room could have levitated the Pentagon—to which he (incidentally) allotted more funding than they'd even requested, and they've never been overly shy with their wish list.
While we were inside basking in Bill's love for us and ours for him, there was a small altercation in the streets of downtown LA following sets by Rage Against the Machineand Ozomatli. But we're sure the blithely random rubber-bullet-shootin' LAPD weren't at all to blame: the Los Angeles Times says so!
What this meant for us was the cops wouldn't let us onto Olympic Boulevard, where the shuttles were waiting, and it was really hard to find the bus back to the Century Plaza, temporary home of the New York Delegation. By the time we found the docking area for our shuttle, the New York delegates were getting antsy—if you could call rioting soccer hooligans "antsy." I had my small child in my arms, but was that getting us any respect? Well, kind of: a tall, rather twerpy man in eyeglasses begged me to stand in front of him so he could absorb the crowd's pushing with his own frail frame. Unlike on the New York subway, he didn't even try to rub on me!
Shuttle after shuttle passed us by, choosing instead the folks staying at the Beverly Hilton. The New Yorkers were crowding into the street, determined—the way New Yorkers are—to board a bus if one actually appeared. Eventually, a squad of bicycle police pulled up, parking their bikes in a line to protect the buses from the marauding horde of actresses and legislators trying to board. Mariette Hartley, tall and striking, was pissed. We all got on the very last bus; had we been zebras, ravenous lions would have already thinned us from the Serengeti herds.
I hopped on the Blue Line from the LBC to downtown Aug. 15 for some Shadow Conventioneering and a police state broke out. But I like cops (except when they're kicking my mom's 57-year-old schoolteacher ass), so I didn't mind. Arianna Huffington's alternative to the "Republicrats" was held in the deafeningly hot Patriotic Hall, a gloomy eight-story building some blocks from the convention center where some powerful B.O. was making itself felt. Jeff Cohen was wandering around, looking awkward (apparently that's what he does when he's not keeping the media honest), while celebs like Al Franken (sadly, not Al Baldwin) raked muck over the silly, silly War on Drugs, currently incarcerating 80 percent of our nation's astounding prison population of 2 million people. I immediately found the Press Room; being a denizen of OC's finer clubs, I like rooms where nobody's allowed but me. In the press room, four middle-aged white guys filed reports from their laptops. Boring!
I looked up the Independent Media Center instead, paying a $10 donation to register. There, commandeering the entire sixth floor, was the hive for dozens and dozens of kids in their late teens/early 20s, with more electronic equipment than I've ever seen outside the timeless Matthew Broderick vehicle War Games. Wires ran everywhere, jury-rigged in the most frightening fire hazard I've seen yet—and I once had a landlord whose methhead son was responsible for our electricity. I finally cornered a nice young punk rocker who was willing to talk rather than look at me like I was some kind of oozing scab; apparently, they mobilize for "actions" only, handing out video cameras like candy to anyone who wants to taunt some po-lice. They all looked like they're getting regular nookie—a major feat for activists and anarchists, though Huntington Beach City Council gadfly (and candidate) Joey Racano, reporting on Aug. 14's activities, joked (I think) that he wished he'd gotten himself a little anarchist girlfriend while he was downtown. "They'll do anything!" he roared, like he does.
Check out la.indymedia.org—though a friend of mine says the Indy Media folks are going around spray-painting the camera lenses of mainstream-media types. That is not nice, children!
I commandeered the only taxi in all of downtown (I'm good) and sped at a terrifying four miles per hour to uptown-downtown, where Commie Mom was mobilizing with United Teachers Los Angeles, for which she is her elementary school's shop steward. (Shockingly, Commie Mom isn't the UTLA's only commie; there were more Che shirts in the crowd than joints at a Libertarian convention.) Stopping traffic for our three-mile hike was a black-clad SWAT team that kept having to run ahead of us—in the boiling heat, with their scary equipment, up hills both ways—to the next intersection. Poor SWAT-team guys! They didn't even get to stop at the Kosher Burrito stand and get a nosh. And hey! Who was that marching and chanting "Schools Not Jails" along with the teachers? Fullerton minstrel-extraordinaire King Kukulele, who was there with SAG/AFTRA to support the teachers' union, and he knew who I was. Ha ha, New York Delegation! You're not all that.
And I don't have room for the NBC San Diego team discussing their per diems over an Italian dinner; the lady who pocketed the $40 a guy gave her, requesting that the next five people at the soul food buffet be allowed to eat free; the panel discussion where Paul Krassner and Tommy Smothers couldn't finish a thought, their short-term memories being shot to shit, and how they kept exclaiming to one another, "I understand!"; Krassner's comment that he's never done a legal drug—he took some aspirin once, but it was a social situation; negative nelly Alexander Cockburn declaring the Natural Resources Defense Council a bunch of lawyers working for the corporations to defang environmental law; the almost fascist quality of hatred on evidence at the Shadow Convention—if you were in fact voting for Gore or Bush, you'd better not say it out loud; the gorgeous mural of Bobby Kennedy, Cesar Chavezand others on the side of a downtown building that had the Mac logo ("Think Different"), and I'm not sure if it actually was an ad or if that was an ironic comment on commerce's appropriation of our heroes; the guys handing out leaflets that George Bush killed JFK Jr. (www.jfkII.com); how the downtown buildings were so beautifully lit with red and blue as though they were buildings in Oz; etc.
Write to the Girl: CommieGirl99@hotmail.com.