Protests? Sure, but less rancor in NYC than you'd think.
Strolling together, side by side, G. Gordon Liddy and Al Franken were chatting amiably in the upper section of the Republican National Convention. Mr. Liddy, the former Nixon dirty trickster-turned-talk-radio-host, leaned over, rested his hand on Mr. Franken's shoulder, and whispered something in his ear. The liberal commentator laughed, flashing his bespectacled squint and Joker-like grin.
It's been a week of the strange and bizarre.
During the first RNC to be held in NYC, in which the world's most famous arena was turned into Fort Knox, there were a number of scenes of such jarring contrasts and uneasy alliances. It's been a strange mix of New York cosmopolitanism and heartland conservatism all week, and the city's guests, those crunchy left-wing youth wearing dirty wife beaters and fatigues, and those suburban minivan owners wearing gaudy flag-inspired Polo shirts from Wal-Mart, remained relatively unruffled in one another's presence.
The expected rancor never really came. True, Zell Miller pursed his lips and delivered an acerbic, pit bull keynote, and a quarter of million protesters took an afternoon to flood the canyons of Manhattan and throw out taunting slogans at the Bush administration. But there were no '68-like riots. In fact, even in this most partisan of eras in decades, there were a number of moments bridging the ballyhooed red state-blue state cultural divide.
Take the music at the RNC. The country-rock group Brooks & Dunn banged out a distorted guitar version of the national anthem, a tribute to Jimmy Hendrix's famous (and scandalous at the time) 1969 rendition at Woodstock. No mud was seen on the floor, and most likely no hallucinogenic drugs, but the delegates were rocking.
And remember when a significant number of conservative Republicans agreed with former Interior Secretary James Watt, who tried to ban the Beach Boys from an '83 Fourth of July celebration because their lyrics were too racy?
Well, this convention featured a house band blaring funked-out Motown tunes. Clean-cut white guys in blue oxford shirts, yellow ties, and khakis were shaking their booty and overbite to the KC and The Sunshine Band lyrics "Do a little dance, Make a little love, Get down tonight." It wasn't Studio 54. (And maybe Mr. Watt had a point.)
Or take Debbie Turner, a Texas delegate, decked out in the typical cowboy hat and vest of colorful buttons the president's home state natives favor. But Ms. Turner was also wearing a huge George W. medallion around her neck, similar to the signature oversized clock worn by Flava Flav of the legendary rap group Public Enemy.
"It's a very friendly city," she says. "The news media, people say it's not very friendly - that's not right. It's a very friendly city. The majority of the locals we've run into were very helpful. They'd say, 'How's Texas?' "
Gone are the vigilante taxi drivers with freshly shaved Mohawks, apparently, who get in your face and ask, "You tawkin' to me?"
Dean Cooley, too, a delegate from Mesa, Ariz., found the mean streets of Manhattan quite tame. "I'm really impressed with what the city has done," he says, decked out in his own vest of buttons. "Coming here, we thought there would be problems. In fact, my wife wasn't too thrilled about coming to New York."
Texans finding New Yorkers friendly? Arizona natives finding Manhattan secure? As New York native Jerry Seinfeld might say, it's bizzaro world this week.