Postcards From Boston | The Nation


Postcards From Boston

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Bob and Jon's Oysterfest

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For most of the New Jersey delegation to the Democratic National Convention, Thursday night was spent cheering John Kerry with a drink in hand at the Union Oyster House, the oldest restaurant in Boston. Bob and Jon's Oysterfest, hosted by Congressman Bob Menendez and billionaire Senator Jon Corzine, offered lobster salad sandwiches, raw oysters and the restaurant's famed New England Clam Chowder--along with the omnipresent convention open bar. All over the city, at similar fetes thrown by publications, corporations and delegations, Democrats reveled in the most unified party they'd thrown in years.

New Jerseyans started their Thursday at a breakfast sponsored by Jersey Central Power and Light. Women swooned at the arrival of the Dems' new celeb-in-residence Ben Affleck, and Senator Corzine and Governor Jim McGreevey shared the stage with a representative of the state's energy industry. The party continued later in the day at The Black Rose, a pub that offered delegates the chance to hobnob with state notables like famed ex-governor Jim Florio. But the main event was the Oysterfest, which began with crowds of those unable to snag passes into the Fleet Center huddled around television sets watching Kerry's speech, with bottles of Bud Light and plates of shrimp to amp up their enthusiasm.

When the speech closed, the DJ opened with "Born in the USA," delegates and elected officials began to stream in from the Fleet Center, and a line of those who aspired to party with the Garden State's representatives formed outside. As the night wore on, the party grew in size and strength. Governor McGreevey agreed to pose for pictures on the dance floor but did not dance. Senator Corzine remained on the upper level of the restaurant, while Congressman Menendez shook hands as he made the rounds downstairs. By 2 am, the party had to wrap up, subject to Boston's mandatory closing time. Reality would set in soon enough--New Jerseyeans would return home to discover that Newark's Prudential Building had been targeted by terrorists--but Thursday night was about the free gear, the chance to mingle with the state celebrities and the promise of what might be accomplished once the party was over.


Color Barriers in Boston

In Boston at the DNC, little was of more importance than the color of one's credentials. With credentials, you were a somebody, or at least you could pretend to be. Without them, you were out on the street, a creature of the city banished to the largely boycotted Free Speech Zone.

And while the theme of the week may have been a party united, the reality inside the Fleet Center was a delegation divided. The Democrats were even so kind as to categorize a brand new hierarchy of hues. Blue (podium and backstage access), not surprisingly, trumped red (floor access). The color purple (building access) looked with envy upon green (hall access). And the yellow brick road (perimeter access) led one around but not into the FleetCenter.

Color mania was everywhere. I watched as one couple took a picture with a young staffer simply because he had a blue podium pass. I watched as Ben Affleck's celebrity credential (his face) allowed him access to the floor despite a fire marshal ordered closure. And I watched as a single security guard turned away nearly fifty people in half an hour as they tried to climb the credentialocracy.

No matter what one's God-given color, no one seemed satisfied. I had a purple pass (except for brief moments of social ascendancy when I would swap for a green), but I knew I deserved more. It was a simple matter of mind over color. The reality is that without a name or a picture ID, any credential could belong to anyone. So I talked my way to the elite Suite level for a cocktail and a seat for the Clintons's addresses and I sauntered onto the convention floor to hear General Wesley Clark on Thursday. And when I looked to be the odd man out of The Nation's credentialed contingent, I simply coerced an extra credential out of an oversupplied convention staffer. (So much for this being a National Security Special Event.)


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