Elephant Walk: Triumph of the W
Triumph of the W
I've always loved circuses and I have an abiding fondness for whores. The coronation of George W. Bush at the Republican National Convention last week in Philadelphia was the Cirque du Soleil of contemporary American politics, a slick and brilliantly choreographed Nuremberg rally of friendly fascism. The delegates were a cheerful and surprisingly diverse bunch, brimming with confidence and relentlessly charming, surrounded by whores of every shape, size and description, from the corporate carnies with their lavish spreads and open bars to the beautifully coiffed bimbos of Big Media, dashing around madly with their cellphones in search of the perfect soundbite. As the event commenced on Monday, the Governor's name was placed in nomination without opposition. Laura Bush and Colin Powell delivered the opening speeches. Powell is a man of astounding presence.
I'm not cynical: I voted for McCain in the primary. Some people would call that naive. His unbelievably beautiful wife Cindy reinforced the convention theme of inclusion when she rose to "enthusiastically and unanimously" cast all 30 Arizona delegates for W. Cindy McCain might be the most beautiful woman inside the Beltway.
Outside the stadium, the world was encased in oppressive tropical heat, and the night had brought no relief. A storm was needed, a midsummer gullywasher to cleanse the atmosphere. I went back to the motel. The pool closes at 10, but the fence isn't that high and it was pretty late and I am Randall Flagg, at least as far as the front desk is concerned. I took a quick dip and hustled back to my room, where I mixed a Bloody Mary, got stoned and switched on CNN. I set the thermostat at 65 and considered the day's events. I had to get laid. The convention had made me incredibly horny; maybe the CIA was beaming libido waves at the media tents or something. Thinking about the convention and watching the CNN footage was making me hornier and hornier. Maybe this is some kind of new kink, or karma for being registered in this $50 a night anonymous motel as Randall P. Flagg.
I called an escort service from the yellow pages and ordered a white girl with munchkin tits. An hour later she arrived, cute, a little scruffy, somewhere in her mid-20s. She asked to use the bathroom. When she came out, I offered her a drink, which she declined. I gave her the money up front, as is the custom. She wanted to smoke. "The room is posted as nonsmoking. I didn't think I'd be allowed to." I offered her an American Spirit. She declined, saying that she smoked menthols. Hers were down in the car, she said. "Can I just duck down and get 'em?" she asked. "Of course," I said. And thus vanished $185 into the steamy Jersey night. Maybe I am naive.
Tuesday morning I got up at the crack of dawn and resolved never to trust a whore with my money except when paying my taxes. I headed over to the Annenberg Center to check out dope day at Arianna Huffington's theme park of political correctness, the Shadow Convention. Today's theme was the failure of the drug war, a subject certainly near and dear to my heart. I found a great parking space on Filbert St. and a nice construction-site dumpster to hide behind while I smoked a joint.
The Lindesmith Foundation was in there shilling for the rehab industry, pushing for more tax dollars for so-called "treatment" and beating the drum for legalization. I ran into Dana Beal, who is looking better than I've ever seen him. His color is good and he seems to have finally shifted out of rant mode. He was there with his traveling ibogaine show. I'd love to try that stuff. I'm not interested in shedding any habits, but I hear it's pretty neat.
Inside the hall some woman was going on about how the drug war disproportionately lands on "people of color." I hate that phrase with a deep, abiding passion. It is completely and blatantly racist, a tactic for the exclusion of whites from the discourse unless they accept the prescribed mantle of guilt. This is the punishment whites get for being the first race to ban the practice of slavery. We're still waiting for the Africans and the Asians to catch up.
I went out to smoke a cigarette. The LaRouche people'd had a booth set up on Sunday. I was hoping to hear their take on dope day at Arianna's World, but they were gone. Apparently Arianna doesn't think that the political group that was furthest ahead of the curve on the evils of the IMF/World Bank crowd deserves a voice. The vindication of Lyndon LaRouche is an interesting and seriously underreported phenomenon. Everything he warned against regarding the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank has come to pass. Not only was he right, but his ideas have been embraced by the ruckus crowd. Those people you saw in Seattle, those new activists hurling themselves against the New World Order, are acting out in the streets the very ideas that the LaRouche crowd has been quietly circulating for decades. They're closet LaRouchoids, these wonderful kids. He's been out of jail for six years. I wonder what he's up to now.
I ran into Bill Weinberg of High Times?pull his string and he makes a Stalinist comment. He's a nice enough guy, he just can't get laid and won't pay a whore because he thinks it exploits women. I called him a lesbian and he walked away. Sarah Ferguson from the Village Voice tumbled by with DJ Spooky in tow. It was so refreshing to meet an erudite and well-grounded young black man that I decided to join them for a beer. I had missed Jesse Jackson, thank God, and Sarah was gushing about his appearance and how she yelled, "Run Jesse run!" at him. Well, she just got back from a couple of weeks in Amsterdam, so maybe it's just some form of postorbital delirium or something.
Spooky was readying for some event he was working that evening and Sarah was off to join up with her anarchist buddies and maybe spend a night in jail if possible. I decided to go back down to the FU Center for the afternoon festivities. I smoked another joint on the way, the buzz taking the edge off the excruciating humidity. After clearing the remarkably well-organized security checkpoint, I made my way to Media Tent #3 and scanned the day's press releases. I saw where Rudy Giuliani and Little Ricky Lazio were going to put in an appearance at 5:30. I never miss a Rudy appearance if I can help it, and the idea of Rudy in Frank Rizzo's town just had too much appeal to pass up.
Back while I was watching my hometown go up in flames courtesy of the race relations industry, Frank Rizzo was the mayor of Philadelphia. Frank held the line and took no prisoners and no bullshit to keep Philadelphia from burning. He once raided Black Panther headquarters, had them stripped and lined up facing a wall on the street, and graciously allowed the newspapers to photograph this event. When he took office the second time, he made his most memorable quote: "I'm gonna make Attila the Hun look like a faggot." He once left a black-tie dinner to accompany his bomb squad in defusing an explosive device left in midtown. The photograph of him wearing his tux and carrying a billy club is the quintessential portrait of Frank Rizzo. I lived in Philly for a little while, under Rizzo. People who cry and whine about Giuliani have no clue: Rizzo makes Giuliani look like Gandhi.
Local law enforcement agencies from sea to shining sea will be conducting seminars on the absolutely stellar performance of the Philadelphia Police Dept. during this convention. Uniformly courteous and the absolute masters of impulse control, they refused to take the bait and completely disarmed the ruckus crowd. Their tactics will be the defining characteristic of law enforcement response to provocation from now on. This was a remarkable surprise, perhaps the least expected development of the whole convention.
I was hanging around the alley between the media tents and the second security checkpoint smoking a cigarette when I thought I spotted Don King heading my way. Alas, it was only Al Sharpton. I was puzzled as to his reasons for being at the convention site; the riot potential was centered around the crowd up in Center City, and the moneyed liberals swarming around Arianna's World seemed like a more likely audience for Fat Al's routine. I followed him into Tent #4, where he held a little press conference to blather away about "racial profiling" and his skepticism about the new image of the Republican Party.
I went back outside to shake off the stench of the man and ran into Rev. Jerry Falwell. He's a really big guy. He looks like a well-aged linebacker. He seems very happy. I introduced myself and we strolled together down the alley exchanging pleasantries. I explained to him that I'd just spent a few moments in the company of Al Sharpton and felt like I needed a bath. He laughed, a great hearty kind of laugh, almost the classic "Ho ho ho!" He was very nice, and it occurred to me that with a white beard and the red suit he'd make a perfect Santa Claus. (I mentioned my encounter with Falwell to Dr. Michael Aquino, founder of the Temple of Set, and he said, "A retired guard from Alcatraz once opined that Machine Gun Kelly was a very nice fellow, except when he had a machine gun in his hand.")
Inside Tent #3, I got a front-row seat for Rudy's appearance and spent a little time chatting with a very enthusiastic young man from a college newspaper in Oregon and Marie Cocco from Newsday. Marie was lamenting the fact that Rudy wouldn't take her questions anymore, and this college kid offered to ask a question for her. Rudy and Ricky swept in exactly 15 minutes late and Rudy stepped up on the podium to introduce Lazio to the crowd. New York Republicans are the red-haired stepchild of the Republican Party. The whitebread Stepford bourgeoisie that dominates the party is unsettled by the unwillingness of the New York crowd to go along with their squeaky-clean Midwestern agenda, especially as regards the dancing fetus issue. The anti-abortion crowd is completely batshit; they're as bad the gun control idiots. I'm anti-abortion, but I'm pro-choice. You can't legislate morality, just as you can't legislate racial tolerance. It just doesn't work, and the attempt infringes upon everybody's rights. As the saying goes, "Never try to teach a pig to sing: it only wastes your time and annoys the pig."
Rudy's looking good, and he's adapted a new, slightly self-deprecating style that plays very well with the out-of-town crowd. He works a room as well as any stand-up comic I've seen. He seems very real. Little Ricky is a nice-looking kid, and he's smart enough to let his mentors do most of the talking, for now. George W. is by no means the sharpest pencil in the box, but he knows enough to listen to good advice and let his best talent address their various areas of expertise. He listens to his father. He knows how to delegate. I hope Lazio continues to do the same.
They canceled Halloween and Thanksgiving in DC this year because the witch is flying north and she's bringing the turkey with her. It occurred to me that George Bush the Elder might have morphed into the Wizard of Oz when we weren't looking. The choice of Cheney over McCain seemed to reinforce this feeling.
George Bush the Elder has always given me the creeps; he's the Lee Harvey Oswald of presidents?too many lines converge there. I had to have a drink. I found it odd that there was no source of alcohol in the four huge media tents. I got a tip from a Texas delegate in a cowboy hat that there was booze on the opposite side of the stadium from the media tents, in something called the Victory Pavilion. Whoa, I thought: booze at the Victory Pavilion. Maybe Leni Riefenstahl will be there, I can get her autograph.
I hustled my sweaty ass through yet another smooth, well-run security check and made straight for one of the four bars set up in the foyer area of a labyrinthine complex of flexible transient structures. It turned out that this Victory Pavilion was the nexus of the corporate rave scene going on, the wildly private and opulent soirees being thrown in various hotels and restaurants around town sponsored by various multinationals and other huge corporate entities. Here they had nice spaces under the tent, stuffed with cozy rented furniture and a cornucopia of delicious-looking spreads.
Phillips 66 threw me out of their little party just as it was beginning. I was circling the hors d'oeuvres, trying not to drool, when some really cute little Midwestern-looking white girl with a cellphone appeared and asked me if I was a delegate. I told her I was media, and she told me to leave. She wasn't nice at all, not like Jerry Falwell, that's for sure.
Merck Pharmaceuticals patented MDMA ("ecstasy") in 1914, and I figure that now that the litigation industry has scored big with tobacco, pharmaceuticals are moving into range. I wanted to talk to somebody from Merck about this. I didn't even try to get into the party, but the barely articulate rent-a-cop at the gate got really nervous for some reason, and the various gray suits I cornered were no help; no one would talk to me.
I got another beer and walked out behind the media tents, where I smoked the last joint I had in my pocket in preparation for John McCain. I wanted to be ripped for this. I'm a Frank Capra fan and he's good at hitting that button. He took the stage to the theme from Star Wars and proceeded to reinforce the inclusionary theme of the convention with a beautifully crafted and wonderfully delivered speech in which he made a couple of glaringly fallacious assertions, mainly that "Americans don't like sore losers" and that "Cynicism is now suffocating the young." Considering how America is still smarting from the Vietnam debacle and examining the naivete of the ruckus crowd, I'd have to say that he was just dead wrong on both points. McCain does talk a good game, though.
George Bush the Elder resembled the Wizard of Oz especially during the tribute to Presidents Ford, Reagan and Bush. A favored anecdote regarding young wild W has to do with his meeting the Queen of England for the first time at a state dinner at the White House. He drunkenly blurted out to Her Highness that he was "the black sheep" of his family and queried, "Who's yours?" to which Elizabeth replied, "None of your business."
Wednesday I caught Ralph Nader at an event billed as the National Youth Convention up at Drexel University. I made it a point to inspect the media sign-in sheet. There were 15,000 media personnel in town to cover the 4000 Republican delegates. Out of those 15,000 media hypes, the number covering Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader consisted of myself, one person from The Washington Times, two from the Philadelphia Daily News, one from the Hearst chain and Joe Klein from The New Yorker.
Nader is Nader, the rumpled übermensch of American politics. I'll bet he drives his own car. If he has Secret Service protection, they're invisible. He answers any question put to him in a sincere and forthright manner. He's the real Frank Capra character in this election, but the age of Frank Capra has vanished with the clarity of purpose that drove the fight against the Axis. There is nothing crafted about Ralph Nader, he is not a market research-driven being. He spoke at length about how we are amusing ourselves to death, and said that "You used to hear that a rising tide would lift all boats. Now you have a rising tide lifting all yachts." He went on to point out that we should "never confuse charity with structural justice," suggesting that charity is a pressure valve for the corporate state. There were echoes of Guy DeBord in his presentation, particularly when he quoted Cicero as saying that "freedom is participation in political power." He reminded his young audience that turnout among voters aged 18-24 averages 30 percent.
Nader mentioned that he'd written both Gore and Bush regarding an old proposal by Richard Nixon for a guaranteed minimum income for Americans, something that Nixon called a "negative income tax," which was denied him by Congress. He emphasized that the economy is now twice the size that it was when Nixon proposed that, and informed us all that as of yet, neither Gore nor Bush had taken the trouble to reply. Nader may yet capture my vote from Pat Buchanan; God knows I have more respect for him. The absence of media coverage and his almost certain exclusion from the debates is reprehensible and distinctly Orwellian. W is going to win in November, but Ralph Nader should, and this is one of history's great "they should have" moments, like Adlai Stevenson or Barry Goldwater.
I went downtown to a reception honoring Henry Hyde sponsored by William F. Buckley and National Review. Every thinking woman I have ever known has at one point or another had a crush on Bill Buckley, regardless of politics. I hear he's a major pothead and has been advocating decriminalization since the Nixon administration. He was red-eyed and grinning his trademark 1000-watt smile as he entered Mitchell Hall at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. This fete was held in the same building that houses the Mütter Museum, America's premier freakshow, and I got a wonderful and enlightening private tour of an exhibit on presidential maladies by Dick Levinson, director of public affairs for the facility.
I shook Mr. Hyde's hand, thanking him for his service to the republic and promising him that the next time I lay eyes on Alec Baldwin I will kick the fat son of a bitch squarely in the nuts with all my might and inform him that Henry Hyde sends his fondest regards. It's the least I can do. Mr. Hyde was quite amused.
I met the young Turks of the infamous Young Americans for Freedom, the Yippies of the right wing. DC Chairman Darren Marks filled me in on their latest pranks and provocations, including their stalking of the Free Mumia contingent bearing large syringes and jumper cables. When I mentioned my brief tenure at High Times a couple of guys from National Review opined that High Times has the best softball team in New York media.
One extremely satisfying turn of events was the political burial of Newt Gingrich. The slimebucket had no significant role whatsoever in the convention: no speech, no photo ops, no attention at all. His name wasn't even mentioned in the course of the official events. He was sighted by a Philadelphia Daily News reporter at a White Castle in South Philly, which is thankfully as close as he'll ever get to the White House. It's heartwarming to see a vile creature like that finally achieve the disgrace he so richly deserves. There's a lifesize statue of Kate Smith on the south side of the Spectrum, facing the FU Center. When they say, "It ain't over till the fat lady sings," she's the fat lady in reference. She finally sang for Newt: It's all over now, Baby Blue.
Thursday I rested up and got laid in preparation for W's climactic appearance before the convention. A brief thunderstorm rolled through as I bobbed around in the pool, motel personnel striving in vain to persuade me to quit the water. I pointed out that worrying about lightning is like worrying about sharks or Lyme ticks: there's no end to it and I will not be bothered with it. Either it happens or it doesn't.
I drove over to the FU Center and caught W's excellent speech from the bar overlooking the media seats. He was a cheerleader in school, and that quality served him well as he whipped his troops up to victory in an impassioned speech in which he cited the missed opportunities for change and social justice that have streaked past the Clinton/Gore administration.
Gore is a goner, a hopeless case. The George W. campaign is a juggernaut unlikely to stop or turn in its relentless and seemingly inevitable path to the Oval Office. The only possible threat is the vast Silent Majority of American voters who fail to turn out at the polls owing to cynicism and disenchantment with the process. If they were to turn out in numbers and vote for Nader or Buchanan, the entire shitbag of American politics would be turned upside down and the kleptocrats would be forced to resort to their tactic of last resort: assassination. This entire election is a Stephen King novel; the only question is whether it is The Stand or The Dead Zone.
The sun is rising over the pool. To the west, Los Angeles is still in darkness. In Las Vegas, the spiritual heart of America, statistical anomalies are piling up and fortunes are being made and lost in whimsical gestures fueled by piped oxygen and free booze. Today, Randall Flagg is checking out and moving on. There is no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to comprehend what is happening.
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Putting the ‘Home’ in Nursing Home
Lifelines in the neighborhood Op-Ed
From Dancer to C.E.O.
The Big Read on the West Side
Seniors Claim Their Street Space
New York’s Deadly Traffic Problem