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When a Buffalo Roams Into a Donkey Show

This is a piece I wrote for Artvoice that they didn’t have room for due to their fall program guide special issue. I would have adapted it for the WORD, but we’re already printed, so blogger it is.
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Within an hour of my flight landing in Denver, a dread locked hippy offered to sell me some acid. DNC be damned, Colorado hadn’t changed since I’d last been there. This was going to be quite the interesting four-day-long advertisement for a political party. Having lived in Denver for a handful of years, this Western New Yorker was determined to get to the seedy underbelly, or at least give that belly a friendly rub.

As American cities go, Denver‘s doing pretty well for itself. Commercial strips are bustling. Unlike Buffalo, their downtown is happening and there aren’t any empty buildings. What’s the secret to their success? Booze and sex. It’s the perfect place for hosting a political party.

Denver has the most craft breweries, the most single people and is regarded as the drunkest city in the United States. The MileHighCity was founded on whore houses and whiskey bars, and a lot of that culture is still predominant. Strip clubs serve the best steaks, and are the location for any high powered luncheon within the city. And while the downtown whore houses that won the Wild West are now live music venues, newspapers are full to the brim with escort advertisements, specially catered to the Democratic National Convention. Strip clubs circle downtown in convertibles with signs and scantily clad girls, alerting convention goers to their existence.

“It sure is lots busier, but nobody except reporters admits they’re in town for the convention,” a tall, raven haired exotic dancer calling herself Kat, who would be drop dead gorgeous if she weren’t so extremely thin, tells me. “I’d love to give Anderson Cooper a lap-dance. You tell him that if you see him.”

She’s not the only one. Everywhere I go; women are talking about Anderson Cooper. He’s the Elvis of TV news personalities. When I finally do see him, he’s so guarded by personal security that I can’t pass on Kat’s message to him. Women shriek at him like teenager girls would for the Jonas Brothers. Anderson, I LOVE You!” a milfy looking soccer mom shouts to him, as I wonder if the rumors about Anderson being gay are true.

Many of the fast food restaurants serve beer here, and earlier this year voters used a ballot initiative to decriminalize up to an ounce of marijuana for personal use. With so many police in from out of town to help secure the DNC, I decided I better ask if Denver‘s liberal pot policy would be going up in smoke for the week.

“We’re not going to mess with Denver‘s laws,” said neighboring Arvada police officer Kensington. “I mean, if someone starts selling pot right in front of me, I’ll have to do my job, but we’re not here to mess with pot smokers. There’s real crime to worry about.”

I inquired about State and Federal drug laws superseding the Denver pro-pot agenda, and the officers gave me smirks and nods as reply.

While the images of so many hundreds of cops dressed in full-on riot gear is somewhat frightening at first, you couldn’t ask for a friendlier group of people. Officers were quick to give convention goers directions. Many gave me tips of where to go to cover various aspects of protests and lobbyist parties. Every time I saw an arrest, I saw the officers and detainees laughing together. It wasn’t at all what I expected to see. No protester was detoured from voicing their opinion.

No street

vendor was denied. Throwing things at cops and gumming up traffic were the only crimes I saw enforced.

Sure, the PepsiCenter speeches tied up most of the press coverage from Denver last week, but the most interesting things happening were at the protests and lobbyist’s parties. While Barack Obama had kicked lobby money out of the Democratic Party, there’s no legal limit to what lobbyists can spend throwing parties at the conventions. From what I understand, the only prohibition is on buying politicians meals, but any food with a tooth pick in it is just an appetizer.

It was quite difficult for any member of the press to get invited to a lobby party. Luckily my friend Darlene was invited to one and brought me as a date. Being that she’s from Denver, I just had to wait for her to get stoned first.

The Distilled Spirits Council is the lobby group that represents big liquor in Washington, DC. As you can imagine, they put out quite a spread. I was immediately greeted with an 18 year old cigar and 40 year old bourbon, before being escorted to the shot station, which was full of voting aged bourbons and scotches. Despite someone repeatedly saying that the group supports moderation over the microphone, I knew this party was about debauchery. I liked it.

We’d also stopped by Rolling Stone magazine and Trojan Condom’s party, which I was invited to. Venerable New York Post gossip reporter Cindy Adams was working the red carpet, which graced big names like Spike Lee and Susan Sarandon. I asked Cindy how she liked Denver so far. “Uck! It’s NOT New York,” she scowled back at me. After Bill Maher compared vagina to shoes, my date asked me if we could leave.

Despite all of the hoopla, I was hoping to remain skeptical about Senator Obama’s speech at Mile High Stadium Thursday, but he chiseled down my inhibitions the night before, and in result, like everyone else in attendance, I was full of pride for my country.

The day before, after the Iraq Veterans Against the War and TentCity sponsored Rage Against the Machine protest concert, a crowd of over 9,000 was encouraged to march on the DNC. Led by the Vets, the group marched over three miles to the fenced in free speech area surrounding the PepsiCenter. The group easily filled in and bottlenecked the free speech zone. Protesters were thirsty, hot, dehydrated and angry.

That’s when Senator Obama met with the leadership from Iraq Veterans Against the War. This resulted in the veterans tearing up. I did too, as the crowd behind them chanted “Yes, We Can,” as passionately as the Democrats inside the PepsiCenter did, if not more so. Senator Obama, with one act of diplomacy and by taking interest in the concerns of his fellow Americans, diffused the protesters and turned them into supporters. The hundreds of riot police who had gathered in fear of violence, as well as the protesters, dispersed.

And so, this Buffalo resident on a working vacation to Denver fully drank the Kool-Aid. Obama could have shown up at Mile High Stadium Thursday and recited lyrics from a bad 80s song, and he would have had me won over. Fueled up on Mile High strippers and booze, it was hard not to believe in the change that man was slinging in the Wild West. Even now, in lower altitude, here at home in the NickelCity, I’m still riled up over everything I saw there. I guess that once you’ve been to a donkey show, that stuff stays with you for life.