A Day with the Delegates from Texas

by

09/10/2004

W 53rd St & 6th Ave, New York, NY 10019

Neighborhood: Midtown

I’m a long time Texan currently living in New York City, and I recently spent some time in the company of the Lone Star delegation, when they came to New York for the Republican National Convention. Most were esconced at the New York Hilton on 53rd and Sixth Avenue—“Avvnoo of the Amuricas,” as the delegates pronounced it.

**

Tuesday, August 30.

Today is “compassionate conservatism” day at the RNC, when delegates from every state are urged to visit soup kitchens and other non-profits that comprise unfettered capitalism’s mop up detail, to show how caring and faith-based-charities and thousand-points-of-light Republicans can be. The Texans are heading out from the Hilton, over to the Passaic River to pick up trash.

But first, a speaker says, everyone should check to see if they’ve used up the complimentary 60-minute calling cards they got in their RNC goodie bags, courtesy Verizon, or the complimentary bus and subway passes provided by the city. If they are still good, the delegates are instructed, “Give them to April and she’ll give them to the Salvation Army to help those who are less fortunate and can really use them.”

The mass, high-pitched “Oooooooh!” and applause that follows is exactly like what happens when a yellow-duckie receiving blanket is unwrapped at a baby shower. I consider telling April that 60-minute cards last far less than an hour when you’re homeless and lack a cell or residential phone — when you use a Verizon pay phone in New York, a calling card gets docked 15 minutes even before you get a dial tone. But I keep quiet.

**

Oh, that troublesome nanosecond when English speakers grope unconsciously for the proper word! Most buy time with “uh” or “um” or “you know.” (College students and professors – particularly those plugged into the deconstructionist and social constructionist disciplines – often use “sort of”). Then there’s the Texas delegation.

At a sumptious breakfast in their honor, sponsored by Halliburton a man giving the invocation demonstrates the Christian fundamentalist, GOP version of “um.”

It is “just.”

As in, “Lord, we just pray for the police officers. And we just thank you for the great country we live in. We lift up the New York Police Department, and we just thank you for their leaders. In Jesus’ name amen.”

**

Out on the street after breakfast, not far from the Hilton, across the street from the horse-drawn carriages and park so gorgeous that it might be that non grata nationality for Republicans: French.

On the side with all the luxe hotels there’s a chilling absence of people except for cops cops cops and more cops, and pedestrians in male and female power suits, their big RNC credentials hanging on grosgrain like royal dog tags.

Well, there are a few others. For instance, the two fellows shaking their fingers at a credentialed couple of a certain age – she with still slim ankles, silver hair and expensive reading glasses on a chain, he just as tasteful and patrician. “Go back South where you came from, fucking Republicans,” shouts one of the men. “Goddamn hicks,” adds the other in a voice dripping venom.

The RNCers look stricken, perhaps not so much by the verbiage as by the demographic of their hecklers. No smelly, raggedy kid anarchists: Both are pushing forty and wear Docker pants and nice sport coats. Both have good, recent, blonde haircuts. If not patrician, certainly tasteful enough. The social equality of their fury is breath taking, and the Republicans choke as they scurry to a carriage.

That evening there is a gigantic party for the Texans at a ballroom on 34th and 9th Avenue.

Two days earlier, when I was walking on Broadway and 95th Street, someone stopped to admire my “NYC to RNC: Drop dead” button and confessed to managing the catering company that agreed to work this gala. “My employees are FURIOUS!” complained the manager. “Some of the chefs are joking about poisoning the food. We were asked to serve – get this – PIGS IN BLANKETS! Well sure, we know how to make pigs in blankets; we use kosher hot dogs. The chefs want to wear tee-shirts under their uniforms that have something anti-Bush on them.”

The T-shirts remained hidden and the food was not poisoned.

**

Inside the Hilton, a button seller had set up shop on the plush, quiet carpet of the mezzanine hallway. There’s the usual inventory: “Bush and Cheney,” and “W for President.”

But I’m drawn to the girl material. One button says simply, “Woman Republican,” bordered all in sweet, art-deco flowers that look just like those femmie courageous posters that hang in the waiting rooms of … abortion clinics. “All my men are cowboys,” says another button, with a picture of the president in a ten-gallon. And then there is: “I only sleep with Republicans.”

My absolute fave shows a red-white-and-blue elephant straddling a donkey, fucking it. “Keep Bush on Top,” it says. “Hey,” I say to no one in particular, “Here’s the sex area!” No one seems to think that’s cute — a couple of Texan women wince and turn away.

Sotto voce, the vendor delivers a lecture about how he’s a button-history expert, and the elephant/donkey sex motif is almost a hundred years old in U.S. political iconography (first attested during a Teddy Roosevelt campaign, he intones). I want to buy that button but do not wish to donate $3 to the Republicans. “Do you sell at Democratic conventions, too?” I ask.

“Uh, yeah,” he says, still confidential-like.

“Do you do protest buttons?”

“Uh yup,” even quieter.

Turns out he’s just a button guy from Kalamazoo, Michigan, trying to make a living. I plunk down the $3 and pocket my RNC bestiality souvenir.

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