Dave Barry

Denver rolls out the spittoons


This vibrant Western city has pulled out all the stops to make Democratic convention visitors feel welcome right from the moment they arrive at the huge and modern airport, conveniently located in nearby Kansas. From there it's less than a day's drive to downtown Denver, which has been spruced up for the convention with the installation of thousands of brand-new, state-of-the-art spittoons.

No, I'm just poking a little fun at the Denver folks, who are a bit defensive about Denver's stereotyped image as a ''cow town'' -- the kind of place with cattle mooing in the streets, and cowboys drinking in honky-tonk saloons, and a mayor with a name like ''John Hickenlooper.''

These stereotypes are totally false, except the one about the mayor, who actually is named John Hickenlooper. I happen to semi-know Mayor Hickenlooper, because I belong to an all-author rock band called the Rock Bottom Remainders, and when we performed in Denver two years ago, Mayor Hickenlooper joined us on stage to sing the classic Troggs song Wild Thing. Really. He took the difficult vocal solo part that goes, ''You MOVED me,'' and he totally nailed it. You would have sworn you were hearing an actual Trogg. The mayor got a nice round of applause from those audience members still able to clap without falling down. I mention this story because I really like saying ''Hickenlooper.'' Hickenlooper Hickenlooper Hickenlooper.

But my point is that, despite the mayor's name (''Hickenlooper''), Denver is a modern and sophisticated city with huge quantities of culture in the form of museums, latte machines, flush toilets, etc. And the city has done a fine job with the convention preparations, which include many ''green'' touches, such as the ''Freewheelin'' free-bicycle program. As I understand it, the way this works is, there are nearly 1,000 bicycles in special racks set up around Denver, and if you feel like offsetting some carbon, you just go to one of these racks, and you realize that all the bicycles have been stolen.

At least that's how it would work in Miami. Apparently in Denver, people actually return the bicycles. Ha ha! What a bunch of cow-town Hickenloopers.

No, seriously, I applaud this program, as well as the many other ''green'' efforts at this convention, such as the bold plan to take the 19,000-seat Pepsi Center ''off the grid'' and power it entirely with delegate flatulence, even though this has forced Barack Obama to move his Thursday acceptance speech outdoors.

Speaking of the convention: It got off to a rousing start Monday night with speeches by three or four dozen important Democratic party dignitaries, who sounded the convention's official Monday theme: ''A Whole Lot of Speeches.'' But the big news was the decision to seat the entire Michigan and Florida delegations, which means they will be able to participate fully in the roll-call vote, which means you just know the Florida delegation will mess up the buttons somehow and accidentally nominate Walter Mondale.

Meanwhile outside of Denver, Joe Biden has wasted no time acting vice presidential, attacking John McCain for being out of touch with ordinary Americans because he couldn't remember how many houses he has. I think this might backfire. For one thing, Joe is not really one to accuse anybody of being out of touch, seeing how he has been a U.S. senator for 200 years. But also there's the question of fairness. I mean, do YOU have a perfect memory? Can you look yourself in the eyeball and honestly say that you have never forgotten how many houses John McCain has? I know I have. Sometimes I forget my own pants.

Speaking of which: I am shocked to report that there are lavish parties being held here, financed by huge evil corporations giving away free food and liquor to advance their evil corporate agendas. As a journalist concerned about corruption, I cannot BELIEVE I have not been invited to any of these parties. Give me a call, giant corporations! I'm right here in my hotel room! With about 45 bicycles.

©2008 Dave Barry

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