The Rabbit Hole

12th August 2004

I return a rental car about a mile from the Fleet Center, and a bomb-sniffing dog searches my car. As I walk over to the convention space, I’m struck by how many men in dark suits seem to have descended in the last twelve hours. On every street, there are packs of men having a Reservior Dogs moments.

I pass through the barbwire-encased free-speech zone on my way in. It’s the size of a football field, and it’s utterly empty except for four or five people listening to a man with an unusually loud megaphone. He screams, “THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE TO LIVE IN A POLICE STATE, PEOPLE!” I can hear him in my teeth.

As I wait to get in, a small group of protesters marches past. They are shirtless, even the women, and are wearing hoods over their heads to mimic the plight of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. A boy in the front has a whistle that he blows at regular intervals to match their footfalls.

I go through the metal detector, give up my umbrella and my bottled water, and show my credentials to the woman at the door, and then the guy at the escalator, and then the guy at the next door. Near to the boiler room I stop to watch a class of grade-schoolers pass. The union workers offer high fives, and the kids jump to reach their hands. A volunteer pushes past with a huge taiko drum. He thumps it with his thumbs and sings, “I bang my drum for you, a rum-pum-pum-pum!” Larry King is behind him.