|YO, WHERE THE PARTY AT?|
|BOSTON -- Bostonians anticipated the Democratic National Convention as if it were a weather prediction of a massive blizzard. No one knew what to expect. Possible terrorist attacks. Naked protesters running amok in the streets. A massive police presence.|
Fighter jets and helicopters overhead. Random searches. Worst of all -- the traffic jams. With all the promised security restrictions, traffic would transform from the normal hellish to the far worse wicked bad once the DNC arrived. Bostonians talked about it more than we talk about the weather, and we like to talk about the weather a lot.
Clearly the only possible bright spot of the DNC invasion of Boston
would be all the parties.
Massachusetts has been loosening its puritanical collar in recent years. It is now legal to own ferrets, for example. You can get a tattoo without driving to New Hampshire or Rhode Island. And for the first time since Sam Adams was in diapers, booze is for sale every Sunday of the year. Perhaps Boston, giddy with the excitement of the national spotlight thrust upon it, would relax its nightclub curfews?
Yeah, not so much.
The city government systematically turned down every request for extra hours of tavern operation. A request by one nightclub to simply remain open until 3 a.m., not serving alcohol, for a party in Kerry's honor (on Thursday, right after he accepts the nomination for president in his own state) was denied.
"So what?" said Mayor Thomas "Mumbles" Menino, "Boston is unique; our commercial districts abut residential districts. We've done well with the hours in the past." "There will be nothing past 2 a.m.," declared Patricia A. Malone, director of the Mayor's Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing.
Would the Dems be able to get their drink on in the city that still submits to the stern precepts of its long-dead Puritan forefathers? They certainly were going to try.
Sunday, Boring, Sunday.
On Convention Eve, Sunday night, the city's nightlife was nonexistent. Sure, there were plenty of people out, but they weren't, well, out. Hundreds (including me) were at an outdoor concert of the Boston Pops, organized as a thank you from the city of Boston to its citizens for putting up with all the DNC brouhaha. Because we certainly don't get enough of the Boston Pops here in Boston. A phalanx of well-heeled 50-somethings strolled by, proudly clutching newly autographed copies of My Life to their chests. Outnumbering
Even though he was a strapping bronze statue, Mayor Curley was striking out with all the ladies.
everyone were officers from every type of law enforcement agency, from Park Police to Secret Service Agents.
But the bars? The bars were empty. I walked all over Faneuil Hall, and the bars were deserted. In front of one, the bartenders dejectedly stood outside, cursing amongst themselves. "They expected 30,000, they got 2,000." I overheard one say. Even
the statue of Mayor Curley seemed a little crestfallen.
Clinton Saves Monday... Barely.
Mercifully, Monday's opening night brought about a complete reversal. The bars were all doing brisk business, as happy conventioneers bar-hopped all over town. But the Bostonians were nowhere to be found, leaving the keys to their city and asking the DNCers to lock up when they're through. Residents left in a frenzied exodus that can best be likened to the biblical story of the Jews' flight from Egypt.
Traffic jams are non-existent. The MBTA (The "T"), possibly the worst public transportation system in the country, is running smoothly. The delays on the trains, thanks to the much-publicized searches of passengers' bags, are shorter than the delays experienced during normal commutes. Locals who do venture into town found a Bizarro Boston. All the landmarks and buildings were there, but populated by strangers.
The bars were all full, but I couldn't get into them. Not for the normal reasons (being a guy, not having the right trendy look), but because most were closed for private parties. The Young Democrats of America, God bless them, stepped in to save the night, hosting a public Convention Watch Party all week at the Red Hat Cafe.
Inside it was loud, raucous, and hot. A few people were huddled around the TVs straining to hear the speeches, but, for the most part, no one else was watching. Until Hillary was announced. Her introduction was cheered, and then the cheering grew louder whne Bill was shown waiting in the wings. As Hillary's introduction ran into her husband's scheduled start time (shocker!), interest dwindled and conversation grew louder.
Watching, I was struck by how closely the whole Convention resembles a televangelist's broadcast. There are the slick video productions showing messages of hope. Middle-aged men and women dancing awkwardly in the aisles. Passionate orations delivered to the faithful. Southern accents. Hands waving in the air. Bill himself opened his speech with an "Amen."
And boy, his speech. If this whole book deal never works out for him, he could be the most successful televangelist ever. We were deep in the Clinton thrall. The Red Hat was quiet as a church; not even the ice cubes clinked. Those who spoke were quickly shushed into silence. He was mesmerizing. Smokers held off going outside for a quick cigarette; Clinton is more powerful than nicotine. When he finished, the trance broke. Everyone erupted into wild cheers. Had there been any Red Sawx fans in attendance, a "Yankees Suck!" chant would have broken out (this chant is constant in Boston, no matter what the season or occasion -- from concerts to Super Bowl victory parades to weddings).
And then everyone left. Ketchup (Heinz?)-stained YDA flyers and some balloons were the only evidence of a party.
Outside saw none of the usual drunken commotion of a night out. Everyone quietly headed to their next destination, talking quietly among themselves. Perhaps the horde of police, state troopers, and MPs everywhere had something to do with that.
The eerie Boston ghost town feeling returned, but was quickly shattered by the sound of explosions echoing off the skyscrapers. The terrorist attack everyone feared? No, just a grand fireworks display over the harbor. Keeping the bars open an hour later would ruin the citizens' sleep, but exploding fireworks in the middle of the night with no warning? Totally fine.
Tuesday: A Return To The Regularly Scheduled Nothing.
DNC Night Two brought more of the same. People partied everywhere, but unless you knew someone, you were not getting in. Bostonians even emerged from their bunkers. Guys nicknamed "Sully" and "Fitzie" cruised the town, looking for hot Donkey "action."
The YDA came through again for us, with an open event honoring
|inductees into their newly formed Hall of Fame. Free appetizers, cash bar and all the wasabi peas you can eat. Special appearances included WWE wrestlers Chris "Harvard" Nowinski, Mick "Cactus Jack/Mankind" Foley and Ivory. Also, from Showtime's new reality show "American Candidate", Malia Lazu. Honorees in attendance included Representative Steny Hoyer (MD), Cheryl Jacques (President of the Human Rights Campaign), Donor Jonathan Lewis, and YDA Principals Marsha Scott and Paul Yandura. Thanks to Jesse Ventura, the correlation between politics and wrestling seem like a natural match. Wrestlers are||
Mick Foley tries his best to wrassle up some excitement.
excellent at grabbing a mike and firing up a crowd. They are used to the grueling travel a campaign requires. And after suffering such horrific injuries as, say, losing most of your ear (as Mick Foley gleefully showed), political mudslinging would be painless in comparison.
More important, it leads to such outstanding comedic scenes as Ivory and Congressman Hoyer holding their hands up, raising the roof with cries of "Whoop! Whoop!"
To cap off the evening, we were treated to a sneak peak of a new project produced by Babyface, Russell Simmons and Jonathan Lewis. It can best be described as the "We Are The World" of hip hop.
Just like that, the party was over. Everyone disappeared. At 8 p.m. The YDA organizes great parties, but they either have a stricter curfew than Mayor Menino, or have all scored invites to the private bashes.
Wake Up Sully. The Party's Over.
Anyway, now we're pretty much done. Thanks for locking up DNC. It's been a week of great weather and no traffic. When the rest of the locals return, we'll have nothing to talk about. Not like last summer. Remember that, Sully? Stuck in traffic on the Tobin Bridge in your '78 Caprice Classic. It was wicked hot that time.
Matt Callahan lives in Boston but is a Yankees fan. Shh!!