August 30, 2004
RNC Update: The State of the City
The population of New York has undergone a critical shift this week: a lot of delegates and media people are here, even more protesters are here, but it would appear that the added population of these visitors is outweighed by the number of New Yorkers who have left the city. The sidewalks in midtown were nearly empty this morning, a lot of restaurants and shops were closed, and there were far fewer cars on the street than on a usual weekday. The usually packed outdoor set of The Today Show at Rockefeller Plaza had only a few dozen tourists screaming at the cameras. So where is everybody? Where are the thronging masses of anarchists breaking windows and drinking the blood of patriots' babies? Perhaps the Republicans are all safely ensconsed in the militarized zone around Madison Square Garden, and all the protesters are still in their sleeping bags on the floors of host apartments in Forest Hills. One older gentleman strolling along 48th Street was wearing a t-shirt featuring a cartoon Uncle Sam holding up his two middle fingers, which were drawn to look like the twin towers of the World Trade Center, with a caption reading WE WON'T FORGET!, but he was probably just a regular mental New Yorker.
However, the few cars that are on the street are being herded by five helpful cops at each intersection, all of whom are directing traffic simultaneously. Drivers are looking a little confused about which cop's directions they should follow, but certainly aren't having any trouble with traffic.
As I passed my neighborhood firehouse this morning, I noticed that all the trucks were in the garage with the motors off, but their flashing lights were all on. The firefighters were sitting around drinking coffee. I guess that giving the apperance of alertness and preparedness is what really matters here.
Since all the protests thus far have been so sedate and uneventful, it looks like the real action will be on TV. Last night Mark Shields interviewed the sour-pussed Robert Novak on CNN, during which Shields called the Republicans "a bunch of cross-dressers" trying to play both sides by bringing out pro-choice, pro-gun control, pro-gay rights speakers like Giuliani, Bloomberg, and Pataki. Novak retaliated by calling the Democrats "Stepford Wives" for following their party platform so rigidly. Meow! Perhaps more fur will fly among televised news anchors than on the streets.